White Sox

Robin Ventura: White Sox have 'improved, definitely'

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Robin Ventura: White Sox have 'improved, definitely'

He wouldn’t go so far as to predict a 2016 playoff appearance, but Robin Ventura is pleased with recent upgrades to the White Sox roster.

Ten months after he opened spring training with the suggestion his 2015 club was postseason worthy, the White Sox manager said Thursday he likes the additions of infielders Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both were traded for in an eight-day span in which the White Sox have dramatically overhauled their infield. Those additions came on the heels of the signings of catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.

Even though fangraphs.com’s early projections have the teams’ four newest players providing 8.1 Wins Above Replacement, a significant increase over last season, Ventura wouldn’t go overboard with any White Sox predictions.

“We’re improved, definitely,” Ventura said on a conference call. “We’re also in the division that has the World Series champion. We know it’s a tough division. Everyone in that division is getting better and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate, so we’re much improved from last year. Just look at the people that we got. And again, you’re going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen because it doesn’t happen on paper.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Rick Hahn: White Sox to stay 'aggressive on numerous fronts']

Until they can prove it on the field, the White Sox only have projections and scouting reports upon which to base their moves.

So far, the White Sox have done well in that arena.

A number of scouts and a National League executive praised the White Sox on Wednesday for their acquisition of Frazier, even though they had to part with three major league ready (or close to) players, including outfielder Trayce Thompson.

Responses ranged from “love Frazier” to “fantastic” to “real good deal for Sox.”

Frazier is expected to provide the White Sox with a middle of the lineup presence behind Jose Abreu and a strong glove at third base. The two-time All-Star projects for 3.7 WAR next season just one season after White Sox third baseman combined for minus-1.3 WAR.

Lawrie is predicted to provide 15 home runs at second base and 1.8 WAR, a number the White Sox hope is low given they believe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery.

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Last season, White Sox second baseman hit five homers and were valued at minus-1.3 WAR.

Navarro and Avila — who signed for a combined $6.5 million — are expected to produce 2.6 WAR, according to fangraphs.com, an increase of 1.1 WAR over Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto in 2015.

Though Ventura wants to see it on the field first, it’s reasonable to expect improvement over an offense that scored 3.89 runs per game and hit an American League-low 136 homers last season.

“We haven’t offensively got production out of some areas (on the infield),” Ventura said. “You have to try to go at it and try to improve it. This is one of the ways to do it. We did give up some young talent to be able to do it, but you have to give up something to get something. That’s the way it works in this game. Todd was definitely a target, and when you start to look around and look at the landscape of what you can do and the moves you can make and how you are going to do it, Rick (Hahn) is the one who went through it and figured out how to make it all work.”

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.