White Sox

White Sox sign reliever Nate Jones to multi-year extension

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White Sox sign reliever Nate Jones to multi-year extension

Healthy after two seasons, Nate Jones showed the White Sox enough in 2015 to earn a lengthy contract extension on Friday.

The team announced it signed the right-handed reliever -- who had reconstructive elbow surgery in July 2014 -- to a three-year, $8-million deal that includes three options. Jones, who could have filed for free agency after only two more seasons, potentially could stay with the White Sox through 2021.

After he returned from Tommy John surgery last season, Jones went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 19 innings. With improved velocity from two seasons ago, Jones averaged 12.79 strikeouts per nine innings.

“It was a long road,” Jones said. “But this definitely makes it worth it. That’s for sure.

“I’m glad they think of me that way, enough of me to offer me this. I want to be a White Sox for a long time. They are doing things right and building their team to win. I want to be a part of that winning.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The deal calls for Jones to earn $900,000 this season, the same amount he was projected to earn in arbitration, according to mlbtraderumors.com. The right-hander receives raises to $1.9 million in 2017 and $3.95 million in 2018, which would have been his first year of free agency. The club holds options for 2019 ($4.65 million) and 2020 ($5.15 million) and the deal includes a $6 million mutual option for 2021. The contract has a $1.25 million buyout if any option is decline.

With closer David Robertson under contract for three more seasons, Jones is slotted as one of the team’s top setup men along with Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Zach Duke. Given how abysmal the team’s bullpen was in 2014, when Jones was only available for the first three games, general manager Rick Hahn has opted to mostly keep last year’s group intact. Of the key performers in 2015, only Matt Albers, a free agent, is unlikely to return.

“We view Nate as a key component in the back end of our bullpen,” Hahn said in a press release. “Nate is a homegrown pitcher with a power arm and tremendous work ethic, so we are excited to be able to reward him for what he has accomplished thus far in his career and potentially keep him in a White Sox uniform for the next six seasons.”

[MORE: White Sox didn't empty cupboard for Lawrie, Frazier]

Jones made a nice comeback in 2015 following a series of injuries that limited him to two games in 2014. What began as a strained gluteal muscle in spring training 2014 ultimately led to surgery, a micro discectomy to take pressure off his nerves and relieve back pain. Later that summer, Jones tore his ulnar collateral ligament while rehabbing and had elbow surgery on July 29.

The White Sox encouraged Jones to go slow in his recovery, pushing back the start of the throwing portion of his rehab by a more than a month and into the start of the new year. Jones flourished in the process, making all of his side sessions once he did hit the mound and throwing harder than he did before the procedure. His fastball averaged 97.6 mph this season, according to fangraphs.com, up two miles per hour from the early part of 2014. He also averaged 89.4 mph with his slider, up nearly two miles per hour from 2013.

Jones said the lengthy rehab process allowed him to repair his mechanics, including taking a straighter path to home.

“I was very pleased,” Jones said. “The rehab gave me an opportunity to clean things up, make sure my direction was going towards the plate and not towards first base.

“They very well could have gave up on me at any point. But they didn’t. They stuck with me and they saw enough of results from last year when I came back and they like what they saw. They know what kind of work ethic I have and they know I’m going to give it everything I got all the time.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.