White Sox

Why White Sox roster should keep Rick Hahn busy through trade deadline

Why White Sox roster should keep Rick Hahn busy through trade deadline

The draft is done, the trade deadline is on approach and the vultures are surely about to start circling the White Sox.

Whereas certain teams are still unsure about what direction they’ll head this season before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, the White Sox are not. They made it crystal clear to the baseball world that they would entertain selling anything that isn’t nailed down when they traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last December. So with this week’s amateur draft finally over, general manager Rick Hahn suspects an influx of phone calls will arrive shortly for his team and any others considered to be sellers.  

“Over the next few weeks you're going to see more trade activity,” Hahn said on Tuesday. “Certainly, it's been fairly quiet here leading up to the draft. I expect it to be fairly rampant here over the next several weeks, throughout the game, not necessarily just here. We're certainly looking forward to continuing to engage with clubs and see where that leads.”

Hahn will likely have to keep his phone charger handy given the White Sox have a roster full of interesting pieces. While they’re less likely to pull off a Sale or Eaton-esque blockbuster with their best chip (Jose Quintana) underperforming, the White Sox still have enough assets for Hahn to stay busy.

Key among the White Sox most attractive pieces are closer David Robertson setup man Tommy Kahnle. Robertson has struck out 12.7 batters per nine innings this season and with 40 percent of the schedule complete, he’s owed $20.2 million, including $13 million in 2018. Arbitration eligible for the first time after this season, Kahnle has been even better than Robertson. He has struck out 44 and walked six in 25 1/3 innings.

After enduring injuries for the past three seasons, free-agent-to-be Derek Holland has postseason experience and looks to be healthy again. While his FIP is 5.37, Holland has increased his strikeout rate to 19 percent and offers good depth to a team in need of rotation help.

Third baseman Todd Frazier’s bat has heated up in June, which could make the future free agent an interesting option for teams in need at the hot corner. Headed into Thursday, Frazier’s wRC+ for June was 157, 60 points above his season mark. Same as Robertson, Frazier is also owed $7.2 million.

Also a free agent after 2017, Melky Cabrera has shown improvement in June. However, opposing teams may find the $9 million Cabrera is owed prohibitive.

Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez has had a rough run in his last seven starts but could provide depth to a team in contention if he gets back on track. Veteran reliever Anthony Swarzak, a free agent like Gonzalez, has performed well in high-leverage spots and is averaging and has struck out 29 in 30 innings.

Now that he’s figured it out at the plate, Leury Garcia could be a valuable utility man, capable of playing anywhere in the outfield, shortstop and second base. A career .460 OPS before this season, Garcia, who has three years of team control left after 2017, has an .810 OPS this season, including six home runs. Yolmer Sanchez, who has a .760 OPS and can play multiple positions, also could be made available to open up a spot for the arrival of top prospect Yoan Moncada.

While Jose Abreu has proven to be dangerous again at the plate, the Cuban may hold more value to the White Sox than they’d fetch given he could potentially mentor his countrymen, Moncada and Luis Robert.

Were they to deal Quintana, who is 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA, the White Sox might have to sell low, which it’s doubtful they would, given he potentially has three years left on his current deal.

Even though they might not have as high of a chance of pulling off another blockbuster, Hahn should stay busy through the Aug. 1 deadline.

“Every team is looking to improve themselves,” Hahn said. 

Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

Freshly cut Michael Kopech feels 'different energy' around White Sox

On the eve of the most anticipated SoxFest in recent memory, Michael Kopech got a haircut.

He likely won't be the only one sporting a fresh look when the White Sox gather for the annual fan convention this weekend at McCormick Place. But he's probably the only one who had his restyling attended by the local media.

Kopech got his trademark flowing locks clipped off Wednesday as part of a charity event that raised $20,000 for the Ronald McDonald House and White Sox charities, meaning there'll be a noticeable difference the next time he steps on a major league mound. There was bound to be a difference, considering he last pitched in a big league game in September of 2018. But how much of a difference there will be in his pitching style remains to be seen.

Kopech has long been promised as a flamethrower that can touch ungodly speeds like 101, 102 and 103 miles an hour on the radar gun. He'll still be able to do that, he says, but there will be a difference.

"I don't know if I'm going to necessarily be that type of power pitcher again in my career," he said Wednesday. "I think I'm going to be a little bit smarter and cautious about how I pitch. That being said, velocity will always be a part of my game."

We'll have to wait and see exactly how Kopech will attack opposing hitters after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. "Wait and see" will be a theme of at least the early portion of Kopech's 2020 campaign. The White Sox have signaled that he'll be limited in some capacity in an effort not to overwork him — remember that his next major league appearance will be only his fifth — but we don't know what that will look like yet. Will he be part of the rotation, but be skipped at times? Will he pitch out of the bullpen for a little bit? Will he start the season in the minor leagues?

According to Kopech, he doesn't know the plan, either, knowing only that he feels great and will be looking to earn a roster spot in spring training.

"Not really," he said, asked if he's talked with the team about what it has planned for him. "My plan for myself is to be competitive in the spring and give my team a chance to win, and hopefully that's giving myself the best chance I can.

"But for what the team has in store for me, I really don't know those answers. I'm just going to do my best when I get there."

Between the moves Rick Hahn's front office has made this winter and the way so many of the White Sox young, core players broke out in 2019, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side for the first time in a long time, with the expectation being that the team will make its long awaited leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. Kopech would figure to be a big part of that, still ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Even with plans to limit his workload, the White Sox would figure to want him to be pitching in meaningful games if they should roll around in August and September, or even October.

Of course, these kinds of expectations are nothing new for these White Sox players, who have long been willing to express their confidence in the organization's bright future. Kopech has talked about wanting to win the 2020 World Series. Eloy Jimenez has talked about being a part of a championship outfield. Lucas Giolito, "sick of losing," has been talking playoffs since the end of last year's 89-loss season. And the freshly extended Luis Robert is talking about winning multiple championships.

This group has always been about setting lofty goals. But now the fan base is buying in to all that, too, and setting its own set of expectations, ones that end with the White Sox reaching the postseason. Kopech can already feel a different vibe surrounding this team, though added that the expectations inside the clubhouse haven't changed from what they've always been.

"We were just talking about that a couple of days ago. We were out playing catch, me, Zack Burdi, Ryan Burr, Grandal was out there. It was that camaraderie, but more so, the underlining competitiveness in all of us. It felt like a different energy, was the word that was used," Kopech said. "We were all pulling in the same direction, which I think is kind of a glimpse to us what the future is going to look like.

"Not to look too far ahead, but I think we all are pulling in the same direction, not that that wasn't the case before. We're all starting to get that taste, sort of speak.

"(Playoff expectations are) what we've put on ourselves, as well. We're always going to want to be a competitive team, and we're going to want to be a competitive team at the highest level and that's to be in the playoffs.

"Those expectations that people are putting on us, we're going to also put on ourselves and try to achieve that."

It's still a bit of an unknown when and in what capacity we'll first see Kopech contributing toward reaching those expectations. But don't adjust your television set when he does make his first appearance. That's him, all right. Just lighter now without all that extra hair.

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Paul Konerko misses out on 2020 Hall of Fame, falls off ballot after receiving 2.5% of vote

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USA Today

Paul Konerko misses out on 2020 Hall of Fame, falls off ballot after receiving 2.5% of vote

Former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko will not be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. Konerko received 2.5% of the vote, less than the 5% needed to remain on the ballot.

Konerko came to Chicago in 1998 and played his first season with the Sox in 1999, hitting .294 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs. The following season, the White Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Konerko was with the team during their triumphant 2005 World Series win, hitting the first grand slam in White Sox World Series history and giving the Sox the lead 6-4 in Game 2 against the Astros.

Confused and frustrated? You’re not alone. Here's how the multi-step voting process works. Players become eligible to enter the Hall of Fame ballot five years after they’ve retired, if they’ve played a minimum of 10 seasons. From there, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America screening committee votes to determine which players make the ballot. Each voter can vote for 10 players. Players need to achieve at least 5% of the vote to be included on the next year’s ballot. If a player makes the ballot, they then need to achieve 75% of all ballots cast to be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Regardless of the voting, Konerko will always be a White Sox legend.

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