White Sox

White Sox hope to improve upon AL-worst home run total

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White Sox hope to improve upon AL-worst home run total

The White Sox are on a quest for power this offseason after their offense finished last in the American League in runs, home runs and slugging percentage in 2015.

Not counting the strike-shortened 1994 campaign, last season’s 136 round-trippers represented the fewest by a White Sox offense in a full season since 1992, when they hit 110. Over the past 20 seasons, the White Sox have averaged 192.4 home runs per season.

While general manager Rick Hahn wants to improve upon an offense that averaged 3.89 runs a game in any way possible, it’s clear that power has been a priority with the additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. The White Sox could be in the market for even more as recent reports have suggested they have shown interest in high-profile outfielders Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes.

“Honestly, it’s about getting better any way we can, whether it’s scoring more runs or preventing the other club from scoring as many as they have,” Hahn said. “We’re not going to close off any avenue from a run-scoring standpoint, whether it’s power, on-base capabilities or speed or from a defense, pitching or run-prevention standpoint. In the end, we have to outscore the other club, and there’s multiple ways to do that. We’re going to continue to look at ways to address that.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox sign reliever Nate Jones to multi-year extension]

Frazier and Lawrie should present immediate help.

Frazier, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds last week in a three-team deal, hit 35 homers last season and has 64 over the past two campaigns. Last season, White Sox third basemen belted 16 homers en route to a .612 OPS, the worst production from the hot corner of any team in baseball.

The two-time All-Star, who turns 30 this season, is projected to hit 25 homers with a .767 OPS for the White Sox next season, according to fangraphs.com.

At second base, Lawrie is projected by fangraphs.com to hit 15 homers with a .716 OPS for the White Sox in 2016.

The White Sox are hopeful a change of scenery for Lawrie (who hit 16 homers in 2015) means those projections are low. But even if they’re correct, it would be a vast improvement as White Sox second baseman hit five homers and had a .564 OPS that ranked 30th among 30 teams last season.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Robin Ventura: White Sox didn't empty cupboard for Frazier, Lawrie]

While catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro might not match the 18 home runs hit by Geovany Soto and Tyler Flowers in 2015, the White Sox expect contributions in the form of a higher on-base percentage by the new duo and tougher plate appearances.

The club is also hopeful Adam LaRoche can return to form after he finished with a disappointing 12 homers and a .634 OPS in 2015. LaRoche averaged 26.3 homers in the previous three seasons and has reached 20 on 10 occasions. They’d also like for Avisail Garcia to tap into the pull power that Paul Konerko once predicted could result in 40-home run seasons. Garcia hit 13 homers last season and his .108 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) ranked 115th among 141 qualified batters in the majors last season.

Of course, the addition of either Cespedes or Upton would provide a major upgrade.

Hahn never gets into specifics, and with the payroll already in the neighborhood of $114.5 million, a major signing would come as a surprise. But Hahn didn’t rule anything out when he last spoke Wednesday.

“We shall see,” Hahn said. “We’re going to continue to be aggressive on numerous fronts and certainly continue to talk to various free agents as well as other clubs about trades, and we’ll have to see how the coming weeks unfold.”

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Manager Robin Ventura wouldn’t mind another big bat in the lineup.

Currently, the 2016 White Sox lineup features a combination of Jose Abreu and Frazier in the middle backed by Garcia and LaRoche. But the lineup would become much more of a threat with the addition of Upton — who has averaged 23.5 homers with a .354 on-base percentage since 2008 — or Cespedes, who has averaged 26.5 homers with a .319 on-base percentage in four seasons.

“I don’t think you ever not want another power bat in your lineup,” Ventura said Thursday. “Right now you’re dealing with what you have and, you know, again, we knew we had some spots in there in the last couple years that might not have power or certain things. Now you’re trading that off and bringing in Frazier. That different bat, that different element having that guy go out — a true all-around player — that becomes a different thing. But you dare say no to more power or better players, adding a quality player.”

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

No one knows better than Joakim Soria that the more successful he is as the White Sox’s closer, there is an increased likelihood that the veteran right-hander will be headed out of town at some point.

Soria has not only solidified the back end of the bullpen, the 34-year-old has emerged as perhaps the Sox’s most valuable trade asset to a contending team in need of relief help.

Over this last 14 appearances, Soria has not allowed an earned run and has converted all seven save chances with five hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Soria said before the Sox defeated the Athletics 10-3 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I come to the ballpark expecting to pitch and … I try to be out there and help this team win.”

While the Sox haven’t done a whole lot of winning of late—Sunday’s win was just their second in their last 11 games—when they are victorious it’s accompanied by a Soria save. With the Sox’s rebuild in full swing, Soria understands that general manager Rick Hahn won’t hesitate to flip him in a trade.

“Players say they don’t think about it but you have to think about it,” said Soria, who was acquired from the Royals on Jan. 4 in a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. “When you have a family with three kids and a wife you have to be prepared for everything. But it’s not like I come to the field thinking about that. It’s just God’s plan and whatever happens it’s a business and you prepare.”

Soria has 215 career saves, including 162 in seven seasons with the Royals, but hadn’t been a full-time closer since notching a combined 24 saves with the Tigers and Pirates. With the Sox, Soria won the closing job over fellow veteran Nate Jones in spring training and has been nearly unhittable in recent weeks.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings pitched, Soria has held opponents to a .109 batting average and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. He has issued five walks in 28 innings and is averaging 10.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The two-time All-Star has settled in nicely in a Sox clubhouse featuring a mix of veterans and promising talents. Soria has to balance that with the knowledge he might not be around as the season progresses.

“It’s something I can’t control,” Soria said. “I have a really good relationship with these guys and the chemistry with this team is very good. I can’t think outside of the box because (a trade) hasn’t happened yet. You have to keep focused and be ready for today’s game.”