White Sox

Ventura: Dunn likely to see more time at first

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Ventura: Dunn likely to see more time at first

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Adam Dunn is likely to log more time at first base next season in an attempt to lighten Paul Konerkos workload.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said thats the plan for now several months before the club heads to Glendale, Ariz. for spring training. Ventura addressed that and several other topics when he addressed the media for 15 minutes on Tuesday at Day 2 of the winter meetings.
Konerko, who is headed into the final season under contract, turns 37 in March.
I think that will probably happen, Ventura said. I think, for Paulie, what goes through the course of the year is a lot. Its a lot to have him be the everyday first baseman. I think Adam proved to be at the end he can play first base and give Paulie more time and when you get to that age, not that hes done by any means, its going to help him to have time off and not be on his feet so much.
Dunn made 52 appearances at first base for the White Sox last season.
He finished the season with an ultimate zone rating -- a metric that measures how many runs a player saves per season over an average defender at that position -- of 0.4. Prior to 2012, Dunns season-best UZR at first base (in more than 100 innings) was -3.1 in 2010.
Hes athletic, Ventura said. Thats another part of it. Youre not sticking a guy over there who cant play. He can play. So getting him committed to do it isnt going to be hard to do. He likes being on the field.
Ventura said hes on board with it if the White Sox opt to make Tyler Flowers the starting catcher next season. Flowers defensive skills and game-calling are solid, though Ventura wants to see what the backstops bat can produce with regular plate appearances.
Youre going to be comfortable, Ventura said. If thats what happens, just seeing Tyler, youre just going to have to give him at-bats and I think he needs more at-bats for us to have a very good sense of what hes going to be offensively.
Ventura already has a good sense of what to expect from John Danks and his rehab from an Aug. 6 shoulder surgery: a pitcher determined to help out the club as soon as possible. With that in mind, Ventura plans to make certain Danks is ready before he gets back on the mound.
I would like to be very cautious with him because he wants to pitch, Ventura said. Hes that kind of kid that having been hurt for the whole year, he wants to pitch as fast as he can. But I think for us knowing what kind of pitcher he is, you have to be careful to make sure hes 100 percent healthy when he comes back.

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

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USA TODAY

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching. So why not take a cue from the fine folks at Jewel and think local?

J.A. Happ is an Illinois native and attended Northwestern, and he’s a free-agent starting pitcher coming off a mighty fine season in 2018. Following a midseason trade to the New York Yankees, he posted a 2.59 ERA in 11 starts. While his numbers vastly improved after he left the Toronto Blue Jays, he finished the 2018 campaign with a career-high 193 strikeouts. In addition to last year’s success in the Bronx, he had an ERA under 4.00 in each of the three seasons prior, playing in Toronto in 2016 and 2017 and splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.

What Happ doesn’t seem to be, however, is a long-term option. He just turned 36 years old, meaning he likely doesn’t align with the White Sox rebuilding timeline and the planned opening of the team’s contention window.

What Happ could do, however, is serve as a bridge (however long) to that future, a future where Michael Kopech is recovered from his Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease has reached the major leagues. You could certainly do much worse than Happ when it comes to finding a one- or two-year fill-in, and the White Sox were reportedly "working to sign" Happ during last week's GM Meetings in Southern California.

Happ would also serve as a veteran presence and potential mentor for the team’s young pitchers, the kind of role James Shields filled last season. Rick Hahn discussed the importance of that role last week.

“Having someone in there who provides a level of stability for the rotation and dependability every fifth day has some appeal that you would allow young players to go through some of the growing pains that are inevitable in their development,” Hahn said. “Having someone who can play that veteran, mentor role who can help teach guys whether it's from a game prep standpoint ... or any level of alteration with certain pitches, which is where James had the biggest impact in the minors.

“Having a guy who can play that role has appeal. It's not just what a guy can do between the white lines, it's what a guy can do for you in the clubhouse, is part of this equation.”

Happ might not stoke fans’ imaginations in the same way fellow free agents like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel might. But he’s a more realistic option that would allow the White Sox to continue to develop a homegrown rotation of the future.

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White Sox free-agent focus: Michael Brantley

White Sox free-agent focus: Michael Brantley

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

White Sox fans know Michael Brantley all too well.

Brantley spent the first decade of his major league career as a Cleveland Indian and faced off against the South Siders on a regular basis. For the most part, he did quite well against them, the owner of a .280/.326/.418 slash line, 12 home runs and 59 RBIs against them in 116 games. So the best reason for the White Sox to sign Brantley this winter might be so they don’t have to pitch to him anymore.

Seriously, though, Brantley has put together a quietly strong big league career to this point. He’s slashing .295/.351/.430 in his career with a trio of All-Star appearances under his belt and a top-three AL MVP finish from 2014. There are certainly bigger names on the outfield market — Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock come to mind — but Brantley would be a nice fit just about anywhere.

The main concern with Brantley is his health. He played in just 101 games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. But he played in 143 games in 2018, a positive sign.

The White Sox don’t need an outfielder like Brantley, necessarily. They’re not expected to contend for a championship in 2019, and the outfield is perhaps the deepest area in their minor league system. If they’re content to keep playing the waiting game in 2019 while all those prospects develop into the team of the future, the outfield would figure to stock itself over the next couple seasons. Eloy Jimenez, the team’s top-ranked prospect, figures to reach the majors early on next season and would figure to command an everyday corner-outfield spot. Brantley played all but seven of his games last season in left field, the same spot where Jimenez spent most of his time in the minors.

But the White Sox current major league outfield leaves a lot to be desired, with subpar offensive seasons from Adam Engel, Nicky Delmonico and Avisail Garcia in 2018 and Daniel Palka seemingly best suited for a DH role. Brantley would be an obvious upgrade from an offensive standpoint.

Plus, Brantley would bring some veteran experience to a very young team and could act in a mentor-type role among position players that James Shields was able to fill among starting pitchers last season.

But Brantley is also 31 years old, and it would be a worthwhile question to wonder whether he would align with their long-term plans.

Like with any potential signing, the White Sox have the financial flexibility to make a Brantley addition work. But it seems there are more pressing needs that need addressing and additions that could make a greater long-term impact.

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