White Sox

Offensive upgrade will come at cost for White Sox

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Offensive upgrade will come at cost for White Sox

The White Sox must improve their offense this offseason and to do so likely means they have to do something they’d like to avoid — trade a pitcher.

Despite $67 million of high-end renovations and strong performances by Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, the 2015 White Sox finished last in the American League with 622 runs scored. Not only was their run total third-worst in the majors, slightly ahead of the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves, respectively, the White Sox also tied for the fifth-fewest home runs in baseball with 136.

But if they can, the White Sox want to avoid parting with their pitching to resolve their offensive woes. Even more so, they’d prefer to not even consider deals for Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon. While nothing is totally out of the question, general manager Rick Hahn has made it clear he has placed a premium on his top assets.

[MORE: Jeff Samardzija rejects White Sox qualifying offer]

“It’s conceivable, but at the same time we realize how special some of the arms we have under control for the foreseeable future are and we’re reluctant given the cost of replacing those to dip into those,” Hahn said last week at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “Everything is on the table. We haven’t closed off any avenues to make ourselves better. When you start talking about taking away from the strength of our rotation or even our bullpen part of the calculus you have to balance out is how much of a step back in our run prevention would we potentially take in trying to score more runs.”

The White Sox offense could use help almost everywhere across the diamond.

The team’s catchers ranked 17th in OPS, their first baseman were 16th, their centerfielders were sixth and left field ranked 17th. Aside from the designated hitters, who combined for the ninth-best OPS among 15 American League teams, every other position was in the bottom third for combined OPS. The team’s second baseman and third baseman ranked 30th, shortstop was 25th and right field was 21st.

Part of it was the power shortage and some could be attributed to the struggle to put runners on base as the White Sox finished with a .306 on-base percentage, which ranked 14th among 15 AL teams.

Hahn is likely OK moving forward with the current group of outfielders and Abreu at first base. But nothing else is set, although the White Sox like the defense Carlos Sanchez provided at second and they think he’s more like the hitter he was in the second half, when he hit .252/.302/.385 in 246 plate appearances.

[RELATED: Dealing Chris Sale unlikely, but could expedite White Sox turnaround]

“We’ve talked about behind the plate, we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do in the middle of the diamond as well as third base,” Hahn said. “Those are all areas where really there’s room for improvement offensively.”

So how will they get it done (and, yes, Hahn thinks it’s possible)?

Though a trade of Sale could easily provide an immediate remedy for at least three or four issues, the White Sox are more likely to try to replicate a deal that netted them Adam Eaton. In exchange for their center fielder, the White Sox parted with Hector Santiago in a three-team trade in December 2013.

They also tried to solve third base that offseason by trading closer Addison Reed for Matt Davidson, who has yet to reach the majors.

Hoping for better execution on the latter, they might try the same idea.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

With Spencer Adams, Tyler Danish, Carson Fulmer and Jordan Guerrero in the pipeline, the White Sox may be more willing to move Erik Johnson or Francellis Montas in hopes of getting young, controllable position players in return as painful as that option may be. They could also deal from several solid bullpen options, as David Robertson controls the ninth inning.

“We know the value of the talent that we have and the fact that they’re not only premium pitchers but controllable at affordable rates going forward makes them all the more valuable to us much less in the trade market,” Hahn said. “You don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul to a huge extent but we need to get better offensively so we may have to make some sacrifices.”

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.