White Sox

White Sox in talks with free agent SS Ian Desmond

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White Sox in talks with free agent SS Ian Desmond

They’d prefer to retain their compensatory draft pick, but the White Sox have said all along they’d relinquish it for the right player.

Sounds like they may soon need to make that choice.

The White Sox -- a team some see as a bona fide contender with at least one more addition -- were listed Thursday as one of six clubs in pursuit of free agent shortstop Ian Desmond, according to Jon Heyman. A baseball source confirmed the report.

Desmond -- whom the White Sox have reportedly kept tabs on along with Dexter Fowler -- has averaged 3.8 f-Wins Above Replacement the past four seasons and would provide a surefire solution to one of the team’s biggest question marks.

But, because Desmond rejected a qualifying offer from the Washington Nationals in December, the White Sox would have to surrender the 28th overall pick to sign him. The team would still retain its first pick (10th overall) as all top-10 selections are protected.

“We’ve engaged on players this past offseason that would have cost us the pick,” general manager Rick Hahn said at SoxFest last month. “At some level, you balance the ability to improve this club versus the long-term impact that losing a pick like that would have. Obviously we are lucky -- it’s good we have the 10th pick and it’s protected. If for whatever reason we did wind up without the 28th pick, we still would at least have a full complement of our picks.”

Instead of trading away Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to restock the farm system, the White Sox have attempted to improve this offseason after three consecutive losing seasons.

[MORE: Statistically, Mat Latos could be a bargain for White Sox]

The club has made several nice moves, particularly at second and third base, with the additions of Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier. The White Sox ranked 30th in OPS at those spots in 2015.

They also believe they’ve upgraded at catcher with Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila and have strengthened the back end of their rotation by signing Mat Latos.

But there’s a consensus (see: nearly every national writer) among those in the industry that the White Sox could use more.

The Latos signing occurred several weeks after ZiPS projected 84-85 wins from the White Sox. At the time, ZiPS creator Dan Szymborski believed the White Sox could enter April with the highest projection in the division, though he still hoped to see the club add more players. Desmond is one of the first names he mentioned.

Currently, the White Sox have second-year man Tyler Saladino, who has played in 68 big league games, penciled in at shortstop. The White Sox believe in Saladino’s glove and think he should improve upon a .602 OPS. Top prospect Tim Anderson also could make an impact in 2016, though he’d likely benefit from more development time in the minors.

“It’s a franchise that still has some holes and it’s a division that’s ripe for the taking,” Szymborksi said. “A few average adds here would really improve the chances of the White Sox and kind of even out that risk.

“Fortune favors the bold.

“Baseball’s structure favors the teams that are bold because .500 teams don’t get the high draft picks and they don’t make the playoffs.

“I think they could do more simply because of the opportunity. It’s kind of almost like being pot-committed in a way -- they’ve thrown in most of their chips, and at some point you’re going to throw in all your chips.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Though his production was down in 2015 -- his .674 OPS was the lowest of his career -- Desmond finished the season strong. He produced a .777 OPS in the second half, hitting 12 of 19 homers in 72 games.

Desmond has averaged 22 home runs per season each of the last four years. He also is considered a good, athletic defender at short with a strong arm. The veteran shortstop also carries a positive reputation among teammates.

The White Sox have to weigh those factors against what their extra pick could bring.

They’ve been selective about players for whom they would surrender the comp pick.

They pursued outfielder Alex Gordon until the day he returned to Kansas City last month. But aside from Desmond, Fowler and Justin Upton -- and that was just a whisper -- they haven’t been linked to any of the other 12 players who received a qualifying offer.

The compensatory selection would move up to No. 27 overall if the Baltimore Orioles sign Yovani Gallardo -- a deal that is reportedly close. Last year, the slotted signing bonus for the 27th pick was worth $2,004,600 million.

[RELATED -- Sale: Frazier, Lawrie bring fire to White Sox]

With their top three picks, including the No. 49 selection, the White Sox would have nearly $6.5 million in their bonus pool. That amount would help the White Sox replenish a system left thin by two free-agent signings (Melky Cabrera and David Robertson) and three significant trades (Frazier, Lawrie and Jeff Samardzija) completed since December 2014.

The White Sox surrendered seven homegrown players -- Rangel Ravelo, Trayce Thompson, Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt and Zach Eflin -- and two additional prospects acquired in trades (Frankie Montas and J.B. Wendelken) to complete their deals. They also forfeited their second- and third-round selections in the 2015 draft to sign Cabrera and Robertson. On Thursday, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the White Sox as having the No. 22 farm system in baseball.

But if Desmond -- or Fowler -- is the right fit, the White Sox gladly would surrender one more pick.

“The draft pick has real value,” Hahn said. “A couple of million dollars worth of bonus money or pool money, which allows you to be flexible with that draft or pay some forward or pay some back. That said, we would still have two in the top 48 or so and our second round would remain in tact.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski rips Manny Machado

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski rips Manny Machado

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski comes on the podcast and tells Chuck Garfien why he’d sign Nolan Arenado over Manny Machado (6:15).

Pierzynski criticizes Machado for saying that he doesn’t play hard everyday (7:08). Would he make Machado the face of the White Sox franchise? (12:30)

He also talks about how bullpenning cost the Milwaukee Brewers a spot in the World Series (14:45).

He reveals the former White Sox player who had a gift for recognizing players who tipped their pitches (21:00).  Pierzynski tells behind the scenes stories about former teammates Nick Swisher, Bartolo Colon, Gavin Floyd and more (28:00).

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

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USA TODAY

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

The White Sox are not playing in the World Series. A 100-loss season will do that.

But just because the South Siders aren't playing doesn't mean White Sox fans shouldn't pay attention to the Fall Classic. There's plenty to take from this matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that applies to South Side baseball past, present and — most importantly — future.

Chris Sale

The guy who will throw the first pitch of the 2018 World Series is one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all time.

Sale's been grabbing headlines the last few days for an alleged belly-button ring, but the only body part of his that matters come Tuesday night is his left arm. Since the White Sox traded Sale away in the deal that kick-started the rebuild, he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, putting up a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular-season starts, with 545 strikeouts in his 372.1 innings. He's made five postseason appearances with the Red Sox and hasn't fared quite as well, the overall numbers ugly thanks to a seven-run outing against the eventual-champion Houston Astros last year. But this fall, he's given up just four runs and struck out 14 batters in 10.1 innings.

Sale's status as one of the game's best hurlers is a reminder of a couple things for White Sox fans watching him wear differently colored Sox this fall: 1. why they liked him so much in the first place, and 2. what kind of price it took for Boston to get him. The K Zone can be reborn, if only briefly and in the comfort of White Sox fans' own homes, for Sale's appearances in this World Series. But more importantly to the future of the South Side franchise, Sale's continued excellence is a reinforcement of the potential of Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the two biggest names in the return package. It took those guys and their incredibly high ceilings to get a pitcher as good as Sale, and that's still a good sign for the White Sox future.

This is how you rebuild

The Red Sox have a reputation as one of baseball's biggest spenders, but their roster is rife with the fruits of player development, something the rebuilding White Sox are trying to yield in their contending team of the future.

Boston has a couple big-ticket players in David Price and J.D. Martinez, but they're two of just four free-agent signings on the Red Sox World Series roster. Meanwhile, a whopping seven were drafted by Boston, including the entire starting outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and likely AL MVP Mookie Betts. The left side of their infield is a pair of international signings in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, so that means five of the Red Sox starting nine position players (five and a half if you count Christian Vazquez, one half of the Red Sox catching tandem) have never known another organization.

The Red Sox might not win this World Series, but their roster makeup isn't dissimilar from the last two teams that hoisted a trophy, the Cubs and Astros, who boasted their own groups of homegrown stars. And here's something you might not realize: Boston had back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL East in 2014 and 2015, during which they rid themselves of veteran contracts and earned a couple high draft picks. They made the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft for all that losing. The result? Benintendi.

And so it's another October with a team proving that the tear-down-and-rebuild method can work wonders. White Sox fans might not be rooting for the Red Sox this fall, but their victory would be another for the rebuilding strategy — and should give plenty of hope to South Side fans envisioning their own group of homegrown stars leading a championship run one day.

Manny Machado

The World Series will allow White Sox fans to do a little bit of scouting on some free agents that the South Siders could pursue this winter, and there's no bigger name in that category than Machado, the Dodgers shortstop expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this offseason.

Many a Twitter-using White Sox fan have had Machado on their wish list for years, though that number might be declining following some of Machado's words and actions during the NLCS. He didn't run to first on a grounder, then ignited a PR disaster by saying hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a pair of double-play turns by sticking his hand up while sliding into second base (the same play that, during a Crosstown game last month, ended with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson screaming at umpire Joe West). And Machado most notably dragged his foot over Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's leg in a play Aguilar's teammates called dirty after the game.

So with all that in mind, Machado and his extreme amount of talent — he's at the end of a career year that saw him slash .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs during the regular season — will be on the game's biggest stage for all to see. That includes his future team, whichever that might be. Those White Sox fans still hoping he lands on the South Side to help kick the rebuild into overdrive can watch this World Series to see just how good he is with the bat and with the glove. On the latter, should the White Sox be willing to rearrange their infield for Machado, who is insistent on playing shortstop despite his two Gold Gloves at third base? Watch and see.

Other free agents to be

But Machado's not the only player in this matchup who'll be hitting the free-agent market this winter.

Before either of these teams punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, I wrote about a pair of pitchers who will be free agents this offseason and who could make sense for the White Sox, and lo and behold they're both going to make starts in this World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to get the ball for the Dodgers in Wednesday's Game 2, and though yet to be announced, we'll likely see Nathan Eovaldi go for the Red Sox when the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Rick Hahn said the White Sox will be looking to add pitching this offseason, and Ryu and Eovaldi will both be available. Either would be an upgrade in a South Side rotation that led baseball in walks this season. Eovaldi walked just 20 guys all year, 12 in 54 innings with the Red Sox and only eight in 57 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's compared to a season strikeout total of 101, for a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ryu, meanwhile, walked only 15 batters in his 82.1 innings, compared to 89 strikeouts. His ERA was a pencil-thin 1.97, significantly lower than Eovaldi's still quite good 3.81 number, which was 3.33 after the midseason trade from the Tampa. Could either one be a future White Sox starter? Maybe.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is also heading to free agency and could be of interest to White Sox fans who don't see a future closer among the team's crop of young relievers. He's going to cost a lot, though, a seven-time All Star with a 1.91 career ERA and eight straight seasons of at least 31 saves (40-plus in five of those).

Other bullpen guys who will be looking for jobs this winter: Joe Kelly of the Red Sox (one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings this postseason) and Ryan Madson of the Dodgers (one run allowed in 6.1 innings this postseason).

Oh, and Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw could be a free agent, too, if he opts out of his current contract. The White Sox would figure to be quite a longshot to lure him away from Southern California, but if Kershaw were to go somewhere else, that could shake up the whole market and open up other possibilities for teams like the White Sox. Something to keep in mind.

The next important trend

The World Series and the postseason in general have been ground zero for some of the game's latest sweeping changes in recent years.

Specifically, the emphasis on relief pitching has dominated the last couple Fall Classics, and teams like the Brewers and Rays showed how good a team can be while leaning as heavily on the bullpen as any team ever has. While this World Series might not feature teams practicing "bullpenning" to those extremes, the relief corps again figure to play starring roles. If that happens, how does that impact the White Sox rebuild? Does a heavy focus on starting-pitching depth need to shift to a bigger focus on relief-pitching depth? Or do the lists of future free-agent relievers become of greater interest than players at any other position?

Or perhaps an entirely new trend is born this fall that the White Sox will have to react to while constructing their teams of the future. You won't know unless you watch the World Series.