White Sox

White Sox reverse course, send Micah Johnson to Triple-A

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White Sox reverse course, send Micah Johnson to Triple-A

In a surprising reversal, the White Sox have sent Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday.

The club, which is off today after it won the second of three games in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, announced the move two days after saying they would stay patient with their rookie second baseman despite his early struggles. Fellow rookie Carlos Sanchez, 22, is expected to join the team Friday on the road when it begins a three-game series against the Oakland A’s.

While Johnson has fared well at the plate, his defensive play and base running isn’t at the level the White Sox want.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox option 2B Micah Johnson to Triple-A]

“Obviously from an offensive standpoint, (Johnson) was contributing,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “But from a defensive standpoint, he wasn’t quite as consistent play-to-play as we needed him to be at the big league level and as we expect him to be in the future. He also had a couple of questionable baserunning decisions, which I think is a part of being young and things, much like the defensive side of things, will get ironed out with repetition.”

On Tuesday, Hahn gave Johnson, who has a .270/.333/.297 slash line in 83 plate appearances, a public vote of confidence, noting the club needs to produce its own talent on an annual basis to sustain success.

But in that night’s game, Johnson, who is last among 23 qualified second baseman with minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com, dropped a pickoff throw. He also ran into an out at third base, the third time he has run into one this season along with a pickoff and two times caught stealing in five tries. Tuesday’s performance came on the heels of a play Monday where Johnson and shortstop Alexei Ramirez didn’t convert what appeared to be an easy double play, which cost Jeff Samardzija an extra run in a 10-7 loss.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We’re not going to show all our cards, or reveal that we’re going to make a change in the coming days,” Hahn said. “I don’t think that’s real productive to maximize a player’s performance. At the same time, we have consistent conversations with our players about where they sit and what we’re expecting. And while I’m sure Micah was disappointed with the ultimate decision, I don’t think he was surprised that it was a possibility or didn’t foresee it as a possibility.”

Though Johnson entered spring training as the favorite to win the starting job, Sanchez made himself a strong option as he produced a .425/.489/.425 slash line with six RBIs in 45 plate appearances. The performance was good enough to earn Sanchez a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Sanchez, who is thought of as a glove-first infielder, has proven he's a capable defender during his short time in the majors. He also carried over his hot start at the plate to Charlotte, where he hit 344/.368/.466 with two homers and 17 RBIs and was twice named the International League player of the week.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Quintana pushes White Sox to a much-needed 2015 first]

Sanchez, who already has 107 major league plate appearances is expected to take over as the starting second baseman while Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio stay in their utility roles, Hahn said.

“Carlos is going to bring a little bit more defensive consistency,” Hahn said. “Solid base running. He’ll be a tough out for us. He’s going to help stabilize that position.

“We do like the fact that he is a kid that got an extended taste last year and that at the start of the year he got beat out for his job, but as opposed to hanging his head, he went down and worked his tail off and obviously had a great amount of success.”

Hahn believes Johnson, 24, is capable of success in the majors. He compared the move to the demotions of Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede and said Johnson just needs more repetition.

“We still think (Johnson) has a very bright future and he’s going to have a long and successful big league career,” Hahn said. “There are just some elements of his game that we want him to work on consistently at the minor league level and get ironed out prior to having him back in Chicago.”

This is an interesting development, given what Hahn said Tuesday:

"There’s a balance. It’s important for us to build something sustainable to introduce our own young talent on a pretty much annual basis. The Braves did that on that long run of theirs, every year adding a homegrown piece that became a mainstay to their core as it evolved. That’s where we want to get to. We anticipate and hope we’re going to follow a model like that and have our own homegrown talent integrated in. At no point do we expect those guys to carry the load, so to speak. So our expectations for Micah and Carlos now in the rotation is on Day 1, you have to show up and you’re responsible for this. It’s a matter of performing up to their ability and showing progress and our ability to project out that they’re going to be the type of player their capable of being and they’re best served doing that at the big league level.

 

"It is a good problem to have. We’d much rather have options, especially at premium positions and Carlos is doing a great job. If and when the need arises in Chicago, we know that Carlos at the very least will provide quality defense and be a tough out. There’s some elements of Micah’s game you can’t replicate. The pressure he puts on a defense in the way he’s able to disrupt a pitcher’s rhythm which helps the hitters behind him when he’s on base. Which is why he’s here now and he’s the right guy."

Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

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USA TODAY

Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

SAN DIEGO — The White Sox still need two pitchers, and the pool of free-agent options is shrinking.

Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the two names at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market, might never have been true possibilities for the White Sox, but they sure won’t be now, each signed to a massive deal at this week’s Winter Meetings.

Zack Wheeler spurned the White Sox and their high bid to take less money and pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. Jordan Lyles is now a Texas Ranger. Tanner Roark is now a Toronto Blue Jay. Josh Lindblom is now a Milwaukee Brewer. Michael Wacha is now a New York Met.

Yes, the options still out there remain attractive. Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel or Hyun-Jin Ryu would do the job of firing up the fan base and pairing with Lucas Giolito atop the South Side starting staff. But those are just three pitchers. And there are a lot of teams on the hunt for starting pitching.

Of course, it’s also not that simple. Hahn might have said this in talking about losing out on Wheeler: “You either get the guy or you don't. When you don't, you move on to the next one.” But it’s not as easy as just moving down to the next biggest name on the free-agent market.

“Any guy we target is because we feel strongly that they fit in for the long term, in terms of a big-ticket free-agent acquisition that we feel is going to help make us better throughout the good portion of this upcoming window,” the general manager said Wednesday. “There does come a point on any list, whether it's after the third guy or after the sixth guy or after the 10th guy, where you're no longer describing that type of player. So it's up to us to figure out how quickly we drift into that group.”

The price tags are getting high for these pitchers, and Hahn admitted that the prognosticators missed the mark a bit when it came to predicting the massive paydays Cole, Strasburg and Wheeler received. Those big deals could drive up the price on the Bumgarners and the Keuchels and the Ryus.

It’s not that the White Sox are incapable of spending in that area — they reportedly offered more than $120 million for Wheeler’s services — they just might not be as enamored with those options as folks on the outside might be.

Hahn is still committed to the idea that “the money will be spent,” though he’s not 100-percent committed to it all being spent in one place.

“I think it would be awfully foolish to say we're going to go out and spend whatever the amount of the offer (to Manny Machado) was immediately,” he said. “The point of that comment was there's other ways for us to allocate this money, and it's going to be allocated toward player acquisitions.

“You could argue some of it went to (Yasmani) Grandal, you could argue some of it went to the Eloy (Jimenez) extension or re-signing (Jose) Abreu or whatever we have coming down the pipe next.

“That offer was over an eight- to 10-year period, so to say it's all going out the door in Year 1 just because it's sitting there, maybe, but it's got to be for the right players.”

But does the right player exist anymore? Wheeler certainly seemed to be that for the White Sox, but he’s off the board and they still need two arms. It might be time to get creative.

What about David Price?

Hahn’s been throwing the spotlight on trades this week, talking at length Wednesday about an intriguing proposal the front office was considering, one that might not line up perfectly with the White Sox rebuilding plans.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday that multiple teams have targeted Price, the Boston Red Sox playoff hero who is still owed a whopping $96 million over the next three seasons. The Red Sox, interested in ridding themselves of salary, could attach him to another player to incentivize a team to take that contract off their hands.

This is where the White Sox could come in. They have the financial flexibility to eat up Price’s remaining dollars. And they’d probably be pretty interested in acquiring one of Boston’s bats to stick in the middle of their lineup. The Red Sox have a lot of hitters who could be of use to the White Sox, but certainly Andrew Beninitendi comes to mind. He’s under club control for three more years, and while his addition would probably require a bit of realignment in the outfield, it’d be a good one to the South Side batting order.

The 34-year-old Price, meanwhile, wouldn’t exactly be, from a production standpoint, the high-quality add to the starting staff that other, still-available arms would be. He had a 4.28 ERA in 2019, the second highest of his career and his highest in a decade, even though he had positive stretches during the Red Sox otherwise miserable World Series hangover.

There are more concerning elements with Price, too. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase writing last week: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Certainly none of that is terribly appealing.

But the White Sox need pitching. They need it. They can’t go into next season with what they’ve got or we’ll see the same parade of ineffective fill ins that we saw in 2019. Price might not be Cole. He might not be Wheeler. He definitely is preferable to Manny Banuelos and Odrisamer Despaigne.

And if he brings Benintendi with him? What if he brings J.D. Martinez with him? What if he brings Mookie Betts with him? Well, you can probably forget about Betts, the White Sox not at all interested in trading their top-flight prospects for one year of anyone, but the other two are worth thinking about.

There’s another element to all this: the return cost. When discussing that mysteriously appealing trade offer Wednesday, Hahn alluded to the popularity of the White Sox prospects. That comes as no surprise. What does is that the White Sox would consider trading any of them away. It’s near impossible to envision Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Michael Kopech going anywhere. But what about Andrew Vaughn? Or Dane Dunning?

It’s all speculative at the moment, of course. But the White Sox pitching need isn’t going to go away until they make some moves. Other teams are doing just that, making Hahn’s job harder by the minute.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Hawk Harrelson joins Hall of Fame

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Hawk Harrelson joins Hall of Fame

SportsTalk Live is on location at Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings.

0:00- Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Scott Merkin join David Kaplan to react to Hawk Harrelson making the Hall of Fame. Plus, they share their thoughts the Nomar Mazara trade and what may be next for the White Sox this winter.

10:00- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer joins Kap and Tony Andracki to talk about the Cubs slow offseason and the importance of staying under the luxury tax. Hoyer also responds to Anthony Rizzo's agent's comment that the team will not be signing the first baseman to an extension this offseason.

19:00- Kap, Chuck, Vinnie and Tony discuss Gerrit Cole's record contract with the Yankees.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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