SoxFest brings the opportunity for fans to question team brass. And sometimes things can get a bit fiery.
This year, however, it was more of a victory lap for Rick Hahn after he loaded up the roster with an incredible amount of offseason acquisitions. Rick Renteria, too, got plenty of adulation after he came out and said the White Sox have their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.
But there were still questions. Fans stepped up to the microphone and got some answers out of Hahn and Renteria during a pair of panels Friday and Saturday.
Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent questions and answers from the two sessions.
Extensions for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito?
The White Sox have made headlines in each of the last two offseasons by handing out big-money extensions to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before they played a game in the major leagues. But Saturday brought a fan question about whether the team was planning more extensions, specifically ones for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two guys who broke out in a big way in 2019 and established themselves as the team's best all-around hitter and the ace of the starting staff, respectively.
These are not terribly pressing matters, obviously, as both guys are under team control for another four seasons. But the longer they go on their current deals and the longer they're allowed to keep improving, the more expensive they'll become to retain.
Hahn said that it's a White Sox priority to keep all of their talented young players together for as long as possible. He also mentioned that it has long been a part of the plan during the rebuilding process to be aggressive on extensions, as the team has shown with the deals for Jimenez and Robert. Players earn the right to reach free agency and explore the open market, but the White Sox do have a pretty good track record of retaining their own players, often on deals that have allowed them to keep some financial flexibility.
Tim Anderson in right field?
Whether it was a legitimate strategy proposal or a makeshift way to get Yolmer Sanchez back to the South Side, one fan suggested moving Tim Anderson to right field, pointing out Anderson's large number of errors at shortstop and that moving Anderson off the position would open room for Sanchez to work his defensive wonders on a daily basis.
Well, that suggestion didn't get much consideration from Renteria, who said rather definitively he will not be playing Anderson in right field.
The question might not have been the most realistic suggestion, but it allowed Renteria to express his belief in Anderson's defense. Though Anderson has made a ton of errors at shortstop — 88 of them in his four big league seasons — he continues to receive rave reviews from White Sox brass. Renteria said Saturday he believes Anderson will be "an elite shortstop in the big leagues," and Hahn said this weekend he believes Anderson will be a Gold Glove finalist one day.
As for Sanchez, he's still on the free-agent market despite winning a Gold Glove in 2019. And while the White Sox have shortstop spoken for with Anderson and second base spoken for with Nick Madrigal, eventually, Hahn was asked about the likelihood of a Sanchez return Friday night and basically reminded everyone to never say never.
More starting pitching?
Hahn said Thursday that while there likely won't be any more big-ticket additions, the White Sox busy winter might not be completely over just yet, with minor moves still being discussed by the front office. More starting pitching would seem to make plenty of sense considering there's not a ton of depth behind the five guys slated to make up the Opening Day rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez. Considering the plan for Michael Kopech has yet to be finalized and Dylan Covey is no longer with the organization, some small additions like the Ervin Santana deal last spring would be logical.
One fan asked why not add a slightly bigger ticket item, specifically bringing up free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, to further bolster the starting staff. Hahn wouldn't close the door on adding more starting pitchers but pointed out that because of the depth the White Sox have on the way — with Kopech factoring into things somehow and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all working their way back from Tommy John surgery — the White Sox might not be the most attractive destination for a mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, who could see his opportunity to pitch vanish once all those arms return to full strength.
A return for Dane Dunning?
Speaking of starting-pitching depth on the way, Hahn did offer up some sort of timeline for one of those guys, saying that Dunning could be pitching for a minor league affiliate come "June-ish." That's a made-up month on the same level as "Smarch," but it's also a good sign for the White Sox, who saw Dunning flying through the system before his injury.
Hahn said at last year's SoxFest that if not for the arm injury he suffered in 2018, Dunning could have factored into the Opening Day rotation for the 2019 season. Considering that level of potential readiness — a level most likely altered in some fashion by the surgery and long layoff — Dunning might be someone who could play a role in the 2020 season.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.
The transition from rebuilding to contending figures to come soon on the South Side. But the White Sox are still about that top-prospect life.
MLB Pipeline unveiled its updated list of the top 100 prospects in baseball Saturday, and the White Sox landed four guys in the top 40, including three in the top 20: Luis Robert was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the game, with Andrew Vaughn at No. 16, Michael Kopech at No. 20 and Nick Madrigal at No. 40.
White Sox fans, thanks to an offseason full of free-agent signings, have shifted the bulk of their attention to the major league level. Rick Renteria is talking playoffs or bust, and it seems the team's long-awaited contention window could open as soon as Opening Day. And these youngsters are a big part of the reason why.
Three of the four — Robert, Kopech and Madrigal — are expected to make significant contributions to the 2020 team, and they'll likely all be off this list the next time it's updated, as they'll be full-fledged big leaguers and no longer prospects.
Robert, who tore up the minor leagues last season, is likely ticketed to be the White Sox starting center fielder on Opening Day, thanks to the big-money contract extension that wiped away any lingering service-time discussion. He became the second consecutive White Sox prospect to get such a contract before playing a single game in the majors, following Eloy Jimenez, who received his own big-money deal last spring.
Kopech has already reached the big leagues, though he was limited to just four appearances prior to requiring Tommy John surgery in September 2018. His recovery wiped out his entire 2019 season, so even though it seems like he jettisoned his prospect status a long time ago, he's still considered one with so little playing time under his belt. The White Sox might slow play his return to the major league mound, and it's possible he might not be on the Opening Day roster. But the team is waiting until spring training to finalize a plan for the 2020 season.
Regardless, the White Sox brass continues to describe Kopech as someone who will feature prominently in the starting rotation.
Madrigal is also expected to reach the big leagues in 2020 after making it all the way to Triple-A Charlotte last season. His ability to make consistent contact remains the most impressive part of his game, and he struck out just 16 times in 2019. But he also has a reputation as an elite defender at second base, and that's where he should be taking over on an everyday basis once he reaches the South Side. When that will be remains to be seen; it doesn't sound like Madrigal will be expected to make the Opening Day roster after he played in only 29 games at Charlotte last season. But Rick Hahn said it's possible Madrigal could impress enough in spring training to force the issue.
As for Vaughn, the 2019 first-round first baseman is a little further behind the other three players discussed here. But thanks to his powerful bat, he's caught the eye of plenty of evaluators, as evidenced by his high placement on MLB Pipeline's list. Jose Abreu isn't going anywhere for the next three seasons, though Edwin Encarnacion's claim to the White Sox everyday DH role could last as little as one year.
If Vaughn follows a similar path as Robert and Madrigal — who both rose from Class A to Triple-A during the 2019 season — perhaps he'll be discussed as being close to major league ready for the 2021 season. Heck, if the White Sox find themselves in a pennant race in 2020, perhaps Vaughn is considered as a September addition. But that will obviously depend on how he fares in the minors.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.