White Sox

White Sox balancing long-term process with players' desire to compete in 2017

White Sox balancing long-term process with players' desire to compete in 2017

The White Sox find themselves at the intersection of the front office staying on course and a clubhouse trying to compete now as the 2017 season kicks off.

Only two trades into their first rebuild since 1997, general manager Rick Hahn has been up front that the White Sox are in the early stages of what could be a long and painful process.

But one area where the club believes it has already made serious gains is in an overhaul of the clubhouse culture, and that's why the White Sox could be at a crossroads.

Under the influence of manager Rick Renteria's upbeat, energetic style, White Sox players believe they tapped into something special this spring. Despite the losses of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, White Sox players believe they can compete right now. That could potentially force the front office into a tricky position where it must navigate the proper route if and when opposing teams come calling for its most tradeable assets.

"Our goal is to remain focused on the long term and building something sustainable," Hahn said. "If this team puts itself in a position to contend this year, we aren't going to proactively hinder their ability to contend if we feel it's real and sustainable and that the performance level and health and depth of the roster indicates that it could conceivably take the club into October.

"At the same time, that also entails being honest with ourselves about where we're at and as objectively as we can, evaluating our chances and what's best for the franchise in the long term."

The long-term view isn't part of the consideration of anyone within the White Sox clubhouse.

Reliever Zach Putnam said Renteria's style has energized a room full of previously unfamiliar players.

"Rebuild has some kind of negative connotations that you're almost accepting that you're going to have a losing season or a poor season," reliever Zach Putnam said. "There's not a single person in this clubhouse that believes that and I mean that."

[MORE WHITE SOX: Opening Day rained out, rescheduled for Tuesday]

Veteran Todd Frazier understands the reality of the situation but said he isn't trying to pay attention. Along with closer David Robertson, outfielder Melky Cabrera and starting pitchers Derek Holland and Miguel Gonzalez, Frazier is one of many players who could be traded before the season ends.

But the free agent-to-be said he refuses to think that far ahead.  

"They only made two changes, so at the end of the day let's see what they're trying to do later on," Frazier said. "But you can't really think in the future. We're basically playing for what we've got and what we've got right now is a pretty good squad. We're pretty happy with where we're at. It's going to be a fun team to watch."

But as Hahn has stated, the White Sox intend to be honest when determining their direction.

Part of the current plan is to not rush any of the team's prospects to fill voids. If a starting pitcher goes down early in the season, the White Sox are unlikely to fill that spot with one of their top prospects. And while the White Sox have a number of highly talented prospects, the top of the farm system is still relatively thin.

The fifth-year GM and Renteria both said they have an open-door policy if veteran players have questions about where the team stands. Hahn encountered a few of those during the course of the spring as well as several veterans' requests to be part of the team's plan. But Hahn would only commit Monday to determining the future of those veteran players on a "case-by-case" basis. But for now the White Sox like the culture that has grown in the clubhouse.

"What we're trying to accomplish in 2017 goes beyond just wins and losses at the big league level," Hahn said. "We're trying to build something sustainable and part of that is environmental and cultural and how the players and coaches prepare for games, how we expect the game to be played, and how the coaches hold the players accountable.

"The things we're trying to accomplish aren't going to show up in the wins and losses over the course of a season.

"Now we're all going to be tested because we're all competitive and want to win every game we're a part of. But we're going to have to remind ourselves from time to time that there are some other big picture items that are more important toward the long term than winning individual games."

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

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AP

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

Coming to you from Washington DC, we speak with Dylan Cease who competed in the MLB Futures Game along with his Birmingham Barons teammate Luis Basabe. 

Cease talks about the White Sox loaded farm system, what players have impressed him the most, where he gets his composure on the mound and more. 

Check out the entire podcast here:

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fernando Tatis, Jr. is one of the brightest future stars in the game. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, one spot behind Eloy Jimenez.

He’s a five-tool shortstop slashing .289/.359/.509 at Double-A San Antonio with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 85 games. He’s bilingual, charismatic, the kind of guy who could be a face of a franchise.

And two years ago, he was property of the White Sox.

That was until they traded Tatis, who was only 17 at the time, to the Padres for James Shields. Tatis had yet to play a single game in the White Sox farm system, so it was tough to predict his future. However, speaking with Tatis before he competed in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday, the trade was definitely a shock to him.

“I was surprised. It was weird. For a kid that young to get traded, I had never heard of it. When they told me that, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Tatis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

No front office is going to bat 1.000, and when it comes to Tatis, this is a trade the White Sox would love to have back.

But first, more perspective.

In June of 2016, six months before the White Sox started their rebuild, they were 29-26, a game and a half out of first place. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a healthy Carlos Rodon anchoring their rotation, they felt that with the addition of Shields, they could compete for the division.

Unfortunately, perception didn’t meet reality. Shields struggled on the mound with the White Sox in 2016 and 2017. His numbers have improved considerably, and he could return the White Sox another prospect if he’s dealt before the trade deadline. However, it’s unlikely they’ll receive a player with the potential that Tatis has right now.

“(The trade) was about getting a good starter so they could get to the playoffs. I understood. I know this game is a business,” Tatis said.

Before the trade occurred, Tatis looked into his future and saw a day when he’d be the White Sox starting shortstop.

“Yeah, that was my goal when (White Sox director of international scouting) Marco Paddy signed me,” Tatis said. “We talked about it when I started and that was the goal.”

His goal now is to make it to the major leagues with the Padres.

“I’m pretty close. I want to keep working. When they decide to call me up, I’ll be ready.”

As for his former team, he’s impressed with the talent the White Sox have assembled.

“They’re building something special. They have really good prospects. I wish the best for them.”

You can’t help but wonder what the rebuild would look like if Tatis was along for the ride. He’s the one who got away.