White Sox

Swept in Baltimore, White Sox keep an eye on top prospect Yoan Moncada

Swept in Baltimore, White Sox keep an eye on top prospect Yoan Moncada

BALTIMORE — Down at Triple-A Charlotte, opposing pitchers can’t seem to stop the Yoansanity.

Top prospect Yoan Moncada continued his reign of terror as he finished a triple shy of the cycle and reached base four times.

Meanwhile, the major league White Sox offense sputtered against a pitcher that Charlotte rocked only five days earlier. Combined with a few defensive misplays and another day of bad fortune for Jose Quintana, the White Sox dropped a 4-0 decision to the Baltimore Orioles in front of 31,806 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and went on to combine with two relievers on an eight-hit shutout to close out a three-game sweep of the White Sox. Manager Rick Renteria was ejected in the third inning, the first of his White Sox career.

“The first inning started off very well getting guys on with a couple of bases on balls and still ended up loading the bases with one out, weren’t able to drive a run across,” Renteria said. “He was probably able to take a deep breath getting through it.

“It gives you a little boost. I don’t think by the same token we were too focused on that it was just the rest of the time continuing to see if we could get anything started at that point and we weren’t able to do so.”

Looking to avoid a third straight loss and a losing road trip, the White Sox had Tillman in trouble almost immediately. Tillman was making his Orioles season debut and was only five days removed from allowing three home runs against Charlotte.

The right-hander opened the game with seven straight balls and walked the first two men he faced. But Tillman got Jose Abreu to pop out on a 3-2 pitch in and then wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam. Todd Frazier lined out to shortstop and Cody Asche grounded out to first base to strand the bases loaded.

That gave the Orioles an opening and they pounced on it. Quintana issued a pair of one-out walks in the first inning and Tyler Saladino double-clutched on Chris Davis’ infield grounder, which caused his throw to first to be just late. Chris Davis followed with a sac fly to put Baltimore ahead and Trey Mancini singled in a run to make it 2-0.

A pair of bloop singles in the second inning by Joey Rickard and Adam Jones kicked an Orioles’ rally into gear with the latter driving in a run. Manny Machado’s RBI single to left made it a 4-0 contest and effectively wiped out the chance of the White Sox avoiding a sweep.

Quintana allowed four earned runs and nine hits in five innings, walked three and struck out four.

“It was a battle the whole game,” Quintana said. “It was a tough day for me today.

“It was the first bad series we had. It was straight three games, but we have to turn to the page and keep doing what we were doing before. We were playing good, so we have to keep going. Everybody knows that. Turn the page and get ready for the next series.”

 The White Sox offense never quite rebounded from their first-inning failure.

They mounted only two other threat all afternoon. Tillman got Melky Cabrera to ground out to second base to strand a pair and end a fourth-inning rally. Brad Brach wiped out the other opportunity with a game-ending double play off Leury Garcia’s bat.

The White Sox finished 0-for-7 with 11 runners left in scoring position.

Down on the farm, Moncada continued a 15-game tear with three more hits and a walk in a Charlotte victory. Over the span, Moncada is hitting .400/.464/.617 with 16 runs scored, three homers and seven RBIs in 69 plate appearances.

The top-rated prospect in baseball has also made two key improvements as the season has progressed. Not only has he begun to lower his strikeout rate — 21.7 percent since April 20 — but Moncada’s play has improved in the field. By playing more aggressively in the field, Moncada has tapped into his tools, which has resulted in fewer mistakes and better turns of double plays. Earlier in the week, he drew rave reviews from general manager Rick Hahn, who spent part of the week observing the Knights.

“Had a chance to visit with all of (Charlotte’s coaches) and they were very impressed with Yoan and the progress he’s made,” Hahn said. “There were a couple things that Super Joe (McEwing) and (Renteria) were working on with him defense in spring training and mark and Vance (Law) and the staff down here picked up where they left off. And Yoan continues to improve in that regards. We’re real pleased with where he’s at. The fact is he does remain a 22-year old that coming into the year had fewer than 200 plate appearances above A-ball. His development is by no means complete at the minor league level, but he certainly is making a great deal of progress and we’re thrilled with where he’s at.”

If Moncada continues to perform at the same level, he could force the White Sox into changing his locale. The threshold to keep Moncada under team control for a seventh year is only a week away.

One of Hahn’s favorite sayings regarding prospects is that the best ones tend to force their way into the majors. If Moncada can continue to reduce his strikeout-rate, play sharp defense and be an overall force on offense, he could find his way to Chicago soon enough.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

Chuck Garfien speaks with Vinnie Duber who is covering the G.M. Meetings in Arizona where Rick Hahn spoke with the media for the first time in the offseason.

Why Vinnie's big takeaway is "don't take anything off the table" this offseason for the White Sox (1:45), Hahn talks about signing premium free agents and the Machado experience (6:00), weighing defense vs. hitting for who they get to play right field (9:10), would they move Yoan Moncada from third base if they signed a certain free agent?(11:45), where are things with Jose Abreu (21:00) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — What exactly will the White Sox do this offseason? If you have access to some truth serum, you’ve got a decent shot at finding out.

Despite the seemingly public nature of the White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, Rick Hahn doesn’t really talk about specific targets. So there was no word from the general manager Tuesday on whether there actually exist attempts to lure Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or your heretofore unnamed favorite free agent to the South Side.

But there was one big takeaway from Hahn’s roughly 45-minute session with reporters at the GM meetings: No move is off the table for the White Sox this winter.

We’ve long analyzed whether Player X fits better than Player Y, whether the White Sox are looking for a long-term piece or should be targeting short-term pieces, whether it makes any sense to pursue a player who plays a position the White Sox already have spoken for, et cetera, et cetera.

Well forget about all those disclaimers. There seems to be no door Hahn’s front office is going to close in the name of improving this team.

Just go down the list of potential additions the White Sox could make this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.

Short-term additions are on the table

Are the White Sox, who have long touted the importance of long-term fits, still shying away from shorter-term additions? No. Long-term additions are better, but … 

“We're getting closer to the point where it makes more sense to have one- or two-year fixes in place. Ideally, we want to find a way to add to the core, guys that are going to be here for a long time and continue to grow with what we've already accumulated. In reality, that's a little easier said than done, so some of the improvements may come on a shorter-term basis.

“Yeah, we've gotten to that point where it does make some sense to add a couple of those types.”

Older veterans who haven’t always seemed like the best fit for a young, rebuilding team? Now that the White Sox are nearing their transition from rebuilding to contending, those guys become realistic options. On the table.

A trade for a player with one year of control (like Mookie Betts) is on the table

Would the White Sox trade for a player with just one season of club control remaining on his contract? Yes. Guys with more control are better, but … 

“You want guys who are going to fit for the long-term,” Hahn said. “We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control, where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short-term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

Interesting, considering the Boston Red Sox might be dealing away Mookie Betts in their quest to get under the luxury tax. Betts seems set on heading to free agency after next season, meaning whichever team acquires him would only be doing so for one year. But the White Sox could use a player of that caliber in their lineup and a player of that caliber in right field. Sounds like they wouldn’t exactly lack confidence in their ability to make his stay last more than just one year, either. On the table.

A right fielder who plays suboptimal defense (like Nicholas Castellanos) is on the table

Speaking of right field, just how important the White Sox add a right fielder who can play some defense? Very. But … 

“It’s a legitimate consideration. We don't want to send somebody out there and it's going to, you know, tax our center fielder too much or tax the pitchers too much by not making plays,” Hahn said. “So it's a legitimate consideration.

“I pause half a step because we have discussed some pretty good offensive contributors who might not quite be up to snuff to what you want defensively that conceivably at some point in the offseason we wind up saying, ‘They're the best option, so let's move on it.’ So I don't want to just say it's the end all be all.”

Interesting, considering that the top outfielder on the free-agent market fits the description of someone who swings a difference-making bat but might not be “up to snuff” defensively. Castellanos’ offense is not a question, and while his defense is probably not as bad as his reputation would lead you to believe, the reputation exists for a reason. Putting him in the same outfield with work-in-progress Eloy Jimenez would be less than ideal. But putting their bats in the same lineup might be too much to pass up. On the table.

A professional DH (like Edwin Encarnacion) is on the table

When adding a designated hitter, do the White Sox want someone who has plenty of DH-ing experience and could DH on an everyday basis? No. But … 

“We're not eager to get locked in with someone positionally who can only DH,” Hahn said. “I think having a guy who can fill that role but also go out and play a defensive position would be a net greater benefit. We're talking about generic, hypothetical players.

“If you're talking about a guy Nelson Cruz, yeah, you're OK with that guy just being a DH. If you're talking about lower caliber guy than that, then maybe you want them to add some defensive value, as well, to move them around the diamond and get other guys off their feet from time to time.”

Ideally, the White Sox would like some versatility. It’d be nice to have a Cruz-esque thumper at DH, too. One of those exists on the free-agent market in Edwin Encarnacion. On the table.

A player who plays position the White Sox already have (like Anthony Rendon) is on the table

And what about Rendon? He’s the top position player on the free-agent market. He also plays third base, the same position Yoan Moncada does. Moncada had himself a terrific year playing third for the White Sox. Would they change his position for a second straight season? They don’t want to. But … 

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.”

Interesting. Rendon seems like the type of player you rearrange your defense for. He’s one of the best hitters in the game and would accomplish the White Sox goal of adding a premium talent to their rebuilding project. Moncada’s versatility could play a big role in that. On the table.

Top-of-the-rotation pitchers (like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg) are on the table

What kind of starting pitchers are the White Sox looking for this winter? Top-of-the-rotation guys or middle-of-the-rotation guys?

“We have room for improvement in both spots,” Hahn said. “We'll continue the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on.”

That’s extraordinarily all-encompassing, but instead of viewing it as the White Sox not saying much, view it as there being many different possibilities. Cole and Strasburg fit the mold of top-of-the-rotation arms, as do fellow free agents Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi might be more of the middle-of-the-rotation types. All of them and more are on the table.

———

That’s a breakneck assessment of the situations, but the takeaway remains: No move appears to be off the table for the White Sox in this stage of the offseason, and that ought to have folks looking for big splashes at every turn pretty excited.

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