White Sox

White Sox agree to one-year deal with pitcher Mat Latos

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White Sox agree to one-year deal with pitcher Mat Latos

Mat Latos will attempt to get back on track with the White Sox, who found a deal too hard to bypass.

Slowed by injuries the previous two seasons, the veteran pitcher signed a one-year contract for $3 million on Tuesday.

A 14-game winner three times, Latos has been limited to 40 games the last two seasons by a knee injury. Latos made one trip to the disabled list in 2015, finishing 4-10 with a 4.95 ERA in 24 games (21 starts) for the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels.

Even so, Latos produced 1.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs.

Latos, 28, produced 16 WAR from 2010-13 when he averaged 32 starts per season. He is 64-55 with a 3.51 ERA in 177 career games (174 starts).

“Mat adds another quality veteran arm to our rotation and also increases our overall pitching depth, which always is essential to having a successful season,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a press release. “While we believe in the futures of several of our young starters, the chance to add a pitcher of Mat’s caliber was too good of an opportunity for us to pass up. He has proven over his career that when healthy, he takes the baseball and logs quality innings.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

During that four-year run of dominance, Latos went 51-35 with a 3.27 ERA in 799 innings. But he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow before the 2014 season and then tore cartilage in his left knee that spring, which delayed his 2014 season debut for the Cincinnati Reds until June.

Latos was traded to Miami in December 2014 to help the Marlins combat the loss of Jose Fernandez. But the right-hander had fluid drained from his knee during spring training and told the Miami Herald in May he tried to do his job at “60, 70, 80 percent” health. He went on the DL from May 23-June 12.

Latos went 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 16 starts in Miami before he was traded to the Dodgers in a three-team deal in late July. There he went 0-3 with a 6.66 ERA in six games (five starts) before he was released in September and picked up by the Angels.

Latos has also been traded by the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati, for whom he went 33-16 with a 3.31 ERA in 81 starts from 2012-14.

Latos gives the White Sox depth at a position at which they were previously thin. Beyond their original projected starting five, the White Sox have a shortage of major-league ready pitchers to contribute in the case of an injury. The White Sox prefer to take their time in developing last year’s first-round pick, Carson Fulmer, and Chris Beck had elbow surgery last July, leaving only Scott Carroll and Jacob Turner with MLB starting experience.

The Latos signing also could be the precursor to another move, though the White Sox are likely satisfied to have depth. With Latos on board, the White Sox have six starting pitchers. The club previously had plans to employ Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Erik Johnson and John Danks in their starting rotation. Turner, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs and later signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million, could also figure into those plans.

ZiPS projects Latos will produce 1.0 WAR this season.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.