White Sox

One thing is certain: 2012 Sox will be different

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One thing is certain: 2012 Sox will be different

By Jim Owczarski
CSNChicago.com

Robin Ventura probably didnt set out to change the minds of Chicago White Sox fans during the three-day SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton this weekend, but judging by the buzz in and around the various ball rooms and salons from Friday to Sunday, the new manager has affected some.

Though he did seem worn down as did Adam Dunn - by continuous questions about the failings of 2011, Ventura was mainly upbeat and funny, disarming fans with a quick wit and ability to get laughs at the expense of his coaches and general manager.

Is he laid back? Maybe. Compared to his former teammate and predecessor Ozzie Guillen? For sure.

As Ventura said Sunday in his final seminar of the weekend, hes different. And this team will be different, despite many familiar faces. Fans began to buy in, for the most part, even if they werent quite pushing up the expectation level to that of past seasons following the 2005 World Series championship.

Im excited, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. If they dont want to be excited, thats fine. Im excited and I know the rest of the guys are excited to get going. Were excited to have Robin here and a couple new coaches. Theres a lot to look forward for this year and for us. It really is.

General manager Kenny Williams was coolly received at the very start of the convention but left his last public appearance with cheers and thanks for 2005. Though he did say during the weekend that the Sox are tapped out financially, he afforded that the modified rebuilding process he oversaw this offseason may open some doors later.

We did a little bit of (re-tooling) to protect our future and we did some things to protect our present, Williams said. Hopefully its enough to remain competitive and hopefully if we have need in the middle of the season at some point maybe we can go and address it then.

But, Dunn felt like Sox fans will see a couple of important players this year that they didnt see in 2011.

We made two pretty good moves, I think, this offseason," he said. "That was hopefully getting me and Alex Rios back. Thats the way Im looking at it. We pretty much have the same team. We lost a couple of key players. We have guys capable of stepping in and filling that role and do a little better. Thats what were expecting.

One of outside elements putting a damper on fans initially was the news leading into SoxFest that defending American League Central champion Detroit Tigers signed All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder. But, as was his M.O. over the weekend, Ventura wanted to keep the focus on his team.

Were worrying about what we do, he said. The (players) know the Tigers won last year and now you add Prince, they know its out there. It doesnt guarantee anything. They know first-hand what can happen when youre the one thats supposed to be 20 games better than somebody else and all of a sudden youre not. Theyve lived it and theyve seen it. They know it can turn around also.

A turnaround is what many are hoping for, players and fans alike.

That started this weekend, but begins in earnest when pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 22 and with spring games beginning March 5.

Watch Luis Robert rope a triple for his first hit of spring training

Watch Luis Robert rope a triple for his first hit of spring training

Of all the excitement surrounding the White Sox entering 2020, Luis Robert might have the most juice right now.

After dominating three levels of the minors last season and fresh off signing a lucrative contract extension before even playing in a big league game, Robert has plenty of buzz around him. On Tuesday, he showed off a little bit of why in Cactus League action.

Robert roped a ball into the right-center field gap and raced to third for a triple.


Robert is known for his power and speed combination, which led to a 30-30 season in the minors last year. This is a good example of it. 

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Any Yoan Moncada extension would be in line with White Sox strategy

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AP

Any Yoan Moncada extension would be in line with White Sox strategy

Is a Yoan Moncada extension in the works?

Moncada's not aware of anything, or so he told reporters Tuesday in Arizona.

"Honestly, I don’t pay too much attention to that," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "My focus is just in the game and preparing myself to be in the best position that I can be for the season. Just work hard. That’s my goal right now. That’s where my focus is right now.

"If my agent calls me and tells me there is something ... then we’ll consider it. For now, I’m just focusing on my game and my preparation."

Whether winds blowing throughout the Twittersphere are onto something or not, indeed it is extension season. The White Sox just announced a long-term commitment to reliever Aaron Bummer over the weekend. It was in the run-up to Opening Day last spring that Eloy Jimenez signed his big-money deal that assured he broke camp with the big league club and could keep him on the South Side for as long as seven more seasons.

The big-money deal for Luis Robert — the second for a player yet to play a major league game in as many years — came well before the first full-squad workout at Camelback Ranch. But it shows the continued commitment by the White Sox to keep this core together as long as possible.

Seeing that kind of commitment to Moncada, who emerged as the team's best all-around hitter last season, after struggling through his first full year in the majors in 2018, would not be surprising.

"This tends to be the most productive time of year in terms of getting extensions done," general manager Rick Hahn said the day pitchers and catchers reported to Glendale. "Doesn’t mean anything is going to happen. But especially early in camp when things are a little quieter, it’s a little easier to have those conversations and certainly not distract the player from their in-season games or their late-camp preparation.

"In terms of whether any of those will materialize, we’ll see."

One already has, with Bummer. Could Moncada be next?

Though purely speculation, the White Sox third baseman would perhaps be less inclined than others to jump at big dollars now. After all, he received a record $31 million signing bonus when he signed with the Boston Red Sox as an international free agent. Since coming over to the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade, he's shown why the other color of Sox invested that much in him in the first place. While dancing around some injury issues in 2019, he slashed .315/.367/.548 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs. He was considered an All-Star snub by many in the home clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Whether Moncada and his representation want to cash in now or hold off for a bigger payday in free agency — scheduled to arrive after the 2023 season — is up to them.

The White Sox have shown their dedication to extending a contention window by keeping these youngsters on the South Side for a good, long while. Certainly they would be happy to employ Moncada for as long as possible, particularly if his 2019 breakout was merely a sign of things to come.

Take a look at how long the White Sox have their core under club control:

— Through the 2021 season: Nomar Mazara, Carlos Rodon

— Through the 2022 season: Jose Abreu

— Through the 2023 season: Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

— Through the 2024 season: Tim Anderson, Michael Kopech

— Through the 2025 season: Dylan Cease

— Through the 2026 season: Eloy Jimenez, Aaron Bummer

— Through the 2027 season: Luis Robert

That's a lot of club control, and moving Moncada down on that list a few spots would only make the long-term future look all the better.

"I feel comfortable on this team," he said. "I have been feeling comfortable on this team since the moment I came here. I actually see myself on this team for a very long time."

We'll see, to borrow a Hahn term, if anything materializes before Opening Day. But if something does, that would be right in line with the front office's strategy as they look to open that contention window.

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