White Sox

White Sox midseason report: Which current big leaguers have made case to be part of rebuild?

White Sox midseason report: Which current big leaguers have made case to be part of rebuild?

Since the White Sox front office made its rebuilding plans known, there hasn’t been much expectation for the South Siders to make a run in 2017.

Through the first half of the season, those expectations have been met, the White Sox a last-place team at the All-Star break.

Certainly, though, things haven’t been exclusively gloomy on the South Side. Several players have staked claims to being a part of the rebuild moving forward, playing key roles in all those times that Ricky’s boys didn’t quit. And all the while, the prospect watch in the minor leagues has been an entertaining pastime.

So, at the season’s midway point, here’s a player-by-player breakdown, looking not just at what each guy did in the first half but also looking at if they did enough to factor into the front office’s long-term plans.

Avisail Garcia

The Avi everyone was waiting for has finally arrived in 2017. In Miami this week for a well-deserved All-Star appearance, Garcia has been one of the White Sox top hitters this season, slashing .310/.353/.497 at the break with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs. Not to mention he's batting a Ted Williams-esque .400 against left-handed pitchers. Thanks in large part to hard work in the offseason, Garcia finally broke away from his mediocre numbers in his first few years with the team and now looks deserving of a shot at being a long-term fixture in the middle of the order.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Jose Abreu

As good as Garcia has been for the White Sox this season, Abreu has locked in the title of Mr. Reliable in his fourth big league season and currently leads the team with 53 runs scored, 103 hits, 23 doubles, 58 RBIs, a .522 slugging percentage and an .871 OPS. Barring injury or a serious slowdown, Abreu is likely going to wind up with his fourth consecutive 25-homer, 100-RBI season in a White Sox uniform. While it’s possible that track record could fetch a few intriguing offers for the 30-year-old — and Rick Hahn showed he wasn’t afraid to deal away his team’s best player with the Chris Sale trade this past offseason — Abreu has stated his desire to stick with the White Sox long term and be a mentor to top prospects and fellow countrymen Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Leury Garcia

Injury has quieted what was a mighty solid campaign for Leury Garcia, who emerged as an everyday center fielder after the White Sox started Jacob May there on Opening Day. Garcia’s slashing an impressive .298/.345/.459, but he hasn’t played since June 15 thanks to a finger injury. He might not be around when the rebuild is finished, but affordable and under team control for a while, he’s probably not going anywhere soon.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Todd Frazier

Following up on last season’s incredible distinction of having the lowest OPS of any 40-homer season in baseball history, Frazier has improved in 2017. He might not bash as many dingers — he’s got 16 at the break — but look at that on-base percentage: .335 with a team-high 47 walks. Last year, the on-base percentage was .302 and he had 64 walks in 158 games, a career high but a number he’s on pace to surpass this season. Still, Frazier’s hitting just .213, continuing a season-by-season drop in batting average that’s stretched on four years. Frazier would be a definite trade candidate with better numbers, but it’s unclear how much the White Sox would be able to get for him at this point. He’s set to become a free agent after this season.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Yolmer Sanchez

Perhaps the White Sox most pleasant surprise in 2017, Sanchez’s numbers won’t leap off the page at you, but he’s impressed with his personality, hustle and how much he’s improved from a season ago. In 2016, he slashed a nasty .208/.236/.357. That’s rocketed up to .265/.328/.398 this season. He’d probably have to make another big jump in production in order to really factor into the team’s long-term plans considering he plays the same position as top prospect Moncada. But you could see Sanchez sticking around as a reserve once the rebuild reaches it’s high point.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Anthony Swarzak

Swarzak’s been the team’s best pitcher so far this season, turning in a 2.41 ERA in 35 relief appearances. He’s been the best part of a tip-top bullpen that has one of the 10 best relief ERAs in all of baseball. Like Frazier, Swarzak is a free agent at the end of the season. Unlike Frazier, his strong numbers could fetch some interesting trade offers. As far as midseason trade candidates go, you’d have to figure Swarzak would be one of the leading ones on the roster.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Jose Quintana

The guy everyone thought would be traded by now is still here — and could still be for a long time. That’s the thing about Quintana is he gives Hahn & Co. plenty of options. When Sale and Adam Eaton were dealt in the offseason for huge hauls, most assumed the same would happen with Quintana, a 2016 All Star who had been as good as most American League pitchers over the past few seasons. Quintana’s numbers have significantly dipped in 2017 — he’s got a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts — which has led many to panic that Hahn missed his window. But Quintana is still just 28 years old, has a mighty affordable contract and could be with the team under that contract through 2020. For a guy who’s been among the league’s best pitchers, the prospects of either dealing him for a big contract now, this winter or beyond or having him at the top of the starting rotation for the next three seasons are all attractive.

Rebuild status: Trade chip OR penciled in for 2019

David Robertson

Much like Swarzak, Robertson has been great out of the White Sox bullpen. His 13 saves might not seem like a ton, but he’s converted all but one of his chances. He’s also struck out 46 guys in 31.1 innings of work and has a nice 2.87 ERA. Robertson is under contract for next season, but closers are often an extremely in-demand item at the deadline. Robertson isn’t as dominant as Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were last season, but those guys fetched massive hauls from two teams that wound up in the World Series. Robertson might draw similar interest.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Tommy Kahnle

Kahnle. See Swarzak. Just like Swarzak and Robertson, Kahnle has also been mostly solid out of the ‘pen. "Mostly" because he’s had a rough last couple weeks, with an ERA above 14.00 in his last five outings. But in the 30 appearances prior to that, he was virtually unhittable with a pencil-thin ERA of 1.19. It’s still a more than respectable 2.65 on the season. The difference between Kahnle and the other two aforementioned relievers is that he’s just 27 years old and under team control for a long time. That makes him less likely to be dealt this summer and could keep him in the relief corps for a good deal longer.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Melky Cabrera

Cabrera is also a free agent after this season, and while he hasn’t been stellar by most evaluations, he’s second on the team in runs scored, hits and RBIs with 48, 97 and 51, respectively. And don’t forget those game-winning knocks, too. While you wouldn’t suspect him to net any sort of gigantic return package, you’d also have to think some contender would be interested in Cabrera’s bat. Right?

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Omar Narvaez

While you should give Narvaez credit for having one of the four best on-base percentages on the team, he’s also slugging just .279. Catcher has been perhaps the White Sox worst offensive position this season, boasting an OPS of .655. Only two American League teams’ catchers have been worse. It’s about waiting for Zack Collins at this point.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Adam Engel

Engel’s been manning center field while Leury Garcia’s been sidelined with injury. Engel’s slashing .247/.330/.358 in 27 games.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Chris Beck

Beck’s been fine out of the White Sox bullpen and deserves credit for being much, much better than he’s been in the past. After posting a 6.39 ERA in 25 appearances last season, he’s got a 3.79 ERA in 33 appearances this season. Improvement’s always good.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

David Holmberg

Holmberg was fine as a spot starter, allowing 11 earned runs in 25.2 innings over six starts. He’s been very good as a reliever with a minuscule 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings out of the ‘pen.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Nate Jones

Yet again battling injuries, Jones is good when he pitches. He’s got a 2.31 ERA the season, his sixth with the White Sox. Problem is, only half those campaigns have seen him appear in more than a handful of games. All that said, he’s under contract for two more years. He’ll be 33 when the 2019 season starts.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Dan Jennings

Jennings has one of the highest ERAs of the qualified throwers out of the ‘pen at 4.14, which goes to show how good the relief unit has been overall this season. It’s a step back from the tiny 2.08 ERA he posted last season. He’s 30, making him look less of a long-term option than someone like Kahnle, but he’s under team control and figures to be part of the bullpen moving forward.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Tyler Saladino

You’re not supposed to lose your job to injury, but Saladino might’ve been Wally Pipped by Sanchez, who’s done admirable work while the team’s Opening Day second baseman has been sidelined with back issues since late May. Saladino’s numbers have been poor this season, a sharp decline from the .282/.315/.409 he posted in 90-plus games last season. This year it’s an ugly .200/.302/.273 slash line, making Saladino look like less of a long-term option, especially with Moncada and Tim Anderson penciled in as the middle infield of the future.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

James Shields

Finally back from the disabled list, Shields has not done well to make himself attractive to other teams. His ERA is 4.95 in just seven starts, and he’s given up 10 homers in just 36.1 innings. Even though the San Diego Padres are paying a big chunk of his salary, he’s still under contract for two seasons past this one. He’s a good clubhouse presence, but surely the White Sox are hoping he can put together a good stretch at some point that allows them to flip him.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Matt Davidson

There’s been good news and bad news with Davidson this season. The good news is he leads the team with 18 home runs, showing the power that made him a projected piece of the White Sox long-term plans. But he’s also cruising for a 200-strikeout season and has an ugly .284 on-base percentage. He’s also mired in a pretty nasty slump at the moment, with one homer and a .122/.140/.220 slash line in his last 12 games. The White Sox are obviously hoping for those numbers to pick up over the second half of the season and into the next few seasons and would like him to produce enough to warrant inclusion in a lineup of the future.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Mike Pelfrey

Another hoped-for sign-and-flip guy, Pelfrey is not doing much to make that possible for the White Sox. He’s got a 4.83 ERA in 14 starts. Despite a promising stretch in May and June in which he had a sub-2.00 ERA in seven outings, his last four outings have been disastrous with an ERA above 10.00 in those games. Doesn’t look the sign and flip is going to work out.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Carlos Rodon

A first-round draft pick that was expected to potentially reach near-ace status this season, Rodon spent almost the entire first half on the disabled list. He’s made three starts in the last couple weeks, the first two featuring just two earned runs in 11.1 innings — including a 10-strikeout performance against the Oakland A’s. But he gave up six in Sunday’s 10-0 crushing in Denver. That one start aside, there’s little preventing Rodon from projecting into the team’s long-term rotation right now. Along with fellow first-rounder Carson Fulmer and top prospect Michael Kopech, Rodon figures a lock for the starting staff of the future.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Derek Holland

Another sign-and-flip looking like it won't pan out, Holland hasn’t been very effective in his 17 starts, boasting a 5.01 ERA at the break. He’s given up 19 home runs, a number surpassed by only seven other American League pitchers.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Tim Anderson

Given a big-time contract extension before the season started, Anderson has disappointed with a nasty 2017 to this point. In addition to having committed 19 errors, the most in baseball, he’s slashing .240/.263/.369 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 78 games. A few bad months won’t change the White Sox long-term plans for Anderson, which is a lock for shortstop once the rebuild reaches its highest point. Still, a second-half turnaround would be nice.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Kevan Smith

As mentioned with Narvaez, the White Sox catching tandem has done little production-wise this season, with a .655 OPS that ranks third-to-last in the American League.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Paul Konerko ballot briefing

Paul Konerko ballot briefing

Paul Konerko debuts on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot.

He probably won’t get in, but I’m going to lay out his case regardless.

It’s easy to pull up his baseball-reference page, cite his 27.7 career wins above replacement and immediately dismiss him. But basing everything strictly off a WAR number is lazy analysis. And he deserves better than that.

Paul Konerko was a very highly touted prospect, reaching #2 on the Baseball America top 100 prospects list (behind Ben Grieve) in 1998. His November 1998 trade to the White Sox (from the Reds) was already his second time traded since being drafted by the Dodgers (as a catcher!) in 1994. When he joined the White Sox he began to realize his prospect potential. By the time he was finished, he was synonymous with White Sox baseball.

Konerko finished his career with 439 home runs. Only 43 players in the history of Major League baseball have more. During a 14-year run (1999 to 2012), he hit at least 20 home runs 13 times; “Paulie” is one of only 34 players in MLB history with at least 13 seasons of at least 20 dingers. The six-time All-Star finished with 1,412 career RBI, and if you look right below his name on the all-time list, you’ll run into a flurry of Hall of Famers, including Robin Yount (1,406), Johnny Bench (1,376), Orlando Cepeda (1,365), Brooks Robinson (1,357), Johnny Mize (1,337), Mike Piazza (1,335), Duke Snider (1,333), Iván Rodríguez (1,332), Ron Santo (1,331) & Carlton Fisk (1,330).

When he hung up his spikes, Paul Konerko had become an icon on Chicago’s South Side. His 432 home runs with the White Sox rank second to only Frank Thomas (448). In fact, Konerko (twice) & Thomas (five times) are the only two players in White Sox history with multiple 40-home run seasons; Konerko’s were consecutive (41 in 2004, 40 in 2005). His 81 round-trippers in 2004-05 stand as the most in Sox history over a two-year span. Nobody in White Sox history can match Konerko’s 29 career multi-homer games. He ranks highly on several career White Sox lists; no small feat for a team which has been around for well over 100 years. He’s 2nd in RBI (1,383), 3rd in Hits (2,292), 4th in Runs (1,141), 3rd in Doubles (406), and 1st in Total Bases (4,010); the only player in White Sox history with 4,000 or more. With his 40 home runs in 2005 to go along with a stellar .283/.375/.534 slashline and 100 RBI, Konerko was the best offensive performer on a World Series Championship team. He was 2005 ALCS MVP with 2 home runs & 7 RBI for the White Sox in their 5-game series win over the Angels. He homered in the World Series as well. Konerko’s seven career postseason home runs remain a White Sox record.

The fact that Konerko is one of the all-time greats for a storied franchise is something that isn’t discussed enough. He’s one of only 25 players in MLB history with 400+ home runs for a franchise, and 20 of those 25 are in the Hall of Fame. The five outside of the Hall are David Ortiz & Albert Pujols (who will almost certainly get in), Sammy Sosa & Barry Bonds (well, you know…) and Konerko. There aren’t too many players in MLB history who come to the plate in a game with their statue overlooking them from the outfield concourse. But such was the case in Paul Konerko’s final two MLB games. The White Sox unveiled his statue on the left field concourse on September 27, 2014 prior to his penultimate game. The next season, the Sox retired #14 in Konerko’s honor, joining Nellie Fox (#2), Harold Baines (#3), Luke Appling (#4), Minnie Miñoso (#9), Luis Aparicio (#11), Ted Lyons (#16), Billy Pierce (#19), Frank Thomas (#35) & Carlton Fisk (#72) among White Sox greats with their numbers displayed at the ballpark (Mark Buehrle - #56 - would join them in 2017).

When you walk into one of Major League Baseball’s 30 cathedrals, you get a sense of history of the team that plays there. As you enter Guaranteed Rate Field, you see the number 14 displayed in various spots. You see the statue on the left field concourse. You see the momentos of the 2005 Championship. Even if his career doesn’t ultimately place him in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls, Paul Konerko’s legacy is one worth celebrating. 

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White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

Would the White Sox pursue Anthony Rendon?

It’s one of the many things they’re not taking off the table as they embark on what’s expected to be a busy offseason. But it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to make the necessary corresponding move: switching Yoan Moncada’s position for the second year in a row.

Of course, Rick Hahn doesn’t talk about specific free agents, meaning he doesn’t get asked about specific free agents, meaning there’s no definitive answer on whether the White Sox are even interested in Rendon, the top position player on the free-agent market this winter. The rumor mill is already churning, though, and they’ve been connected to the All-Star third baseman, among plenty of other big names.

But the White Sox have a third baseman in Moncada, and they really don’t want to move him again. However, if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, maybe they would.

“We're not looking to move him again because we do think he's an MVP-caliber player over at third base and don't want to upset the apple cart with that,” Hahn said during the GM meetings last week in Arizona. “That said, he's also extraordinarily athletic and has the ability to play multiple other positions, whether it's second base, like you saw, or even potentially in the outfield, something that he's raised before.

“The general plan is to not mess with that, but we're at least going to go through this process and be open minded about, 'If we did this, what effect would that have on Moncada and how do we project him going forward at a different spot?' We project him awfully good at the spot he's at right now.”

Moncada had a breakout offensive season and at least appeared to play a good defensive third base in 2019 (even if some of the defensive metrics said otherwise). After striking out 217 times in his first full season in the major leagues in 2018, he blossomed into the White Sox best all-around hitter with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go along with 25 homers, 34 doubles and 79 RBIs in 132 games.

Rendon, meanwhile, is a perennial MVP-type producer coming off a career year featuring a .319/.412/.598 slash line, 34 homers, 44 doubles and 126 RBIs. He also plays a very good third base, a Gold Glove finalist this year.

He’s the kind of player you rearrange your defense for.

The White Sox are looking for that kind of major splash, a guy who can help vault their rebuilding project into contention mode. Rendon is the type of middle-of-the-order bat who could do just that, and the opportunity to sign him might be too good to pass up. And though we’re throttling our way down Hypothetical Avenue, the White Sox would have to figure out where to put Moncada if they were able to sign Rendon.

Moncada’s versatility, as Hahn mentioned, could help with that. Moncada spent the 2017 season at second base, where he made a whopping 21 errors. Manager Rick Renteria revealed during the season that Moncada has said he can play the outfield, and Moncada himself said he’d play wherever the White Sox wanted him to play.

We also don’t have to guess at whether the White Sox would chase one of the best players in baseball despite their playing a position the team already has filled. They did it last winter, going after Manny Machado while Tim Anderson was seemingly entrenched at shortstop.

But with three stated goals on their offseason to-do list — right field, designated hitter and starting pitching — the White Sox don’t seem to be close to putting all their chips on Rendon's number.

Hence the staunch defense of keeping Moncada at third base. But, in what is emerging as a theme for the White Sox this winter, the door remains open to anything.

“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.

“Part of it, though, and we don't take it lightly is: Moving him again defensively, what impact does that have on his performance? It's not an exact science, but it's a consideration. And given how good he's been this last year plus and the trajectory he's on, moving him is not something we take lightly.”

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