Cubs

Sox Drawer: Infield Gets New Look

62441.jpg

Sox Drawer: Infield Gets New Look

Friday, November 6

When Kenny Williams hopped on a conference call Friday morning with the media, he didnt just break news, he smashed it into many pieces. And yes, there were some surprises.

Lets begin with Gordon Beckham. With Chris Getz going to Kansas City, Kenny said that his prized rookie from 2009 is now the White Sox new second baseman. Beckhams experience there is limited. He played second in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, but compared to his previous time at third base before the Sox put him there last season (zero), hes already got a head start. Williams said that moving Beckham to second was a priority. Interesting.

The move is a surprise since there are some who believe that Beckham should go back to his natural position (shortstop), and move Alexei Ramirez back to second base. But apparently, the White Sox are willing to give Ramirez another shot.

Mark Teahen becomes the Sox starting third baseman, a move which along with Beckham going to second, makes us better defensively across the board, said Williams. Teahen started at three different positions last year with the Royals, but made the most starts at third (99).

Its huge, Teahen said. The past three years I havent known what position Id play, and over the past 24 hours I havent known what city I was going to play in, so its huge. I came through the minors as a third baseman, and its my No. 1 position.

You might look at Teahens stats from last year (.271, 12 HR. 50 RBIs, 123 Ks), and not be impressed. But Williams said you cant evaluate the deal on raw numbers. Teahen played last season with two jammed thumbs, a sore elbow, and in our ballpark, he wont be pitched around as much. Williams added that hes a tough-nosed ballplayer who the Sox kept their eye on for the last couple years. In fact, they inquired about Teahen last season. When you consider his numbers against the Sox (12 of his 59 career home runs have come vs. the Sox), its no surprise.

Using that logic, maybe Kenny should trade for Placido Polanco, Miguel Olivo, Nick Punto, Jason Kubel, and every single Minnesota Twin who has crushed the Sox over the years. At least they dont have to worry about Carlos Gomez anymore. He was traded today to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy. Wait until I tell Bill Melton. Itll make his day.

Moving to the outfield, it seems like the Scott Podsednik sequel is over. When asked about Pods, who is a free agent, Williams said weve already had talks. Some back-and-forth dialogue. I think re-signing him is not likely based on what he wants. Well have to keep getting after it in other areas.

That means the White Sox need a leadoff hitter. Who might that be? Can you say the name Jordan Danks?

Thats right. John Danks younger brother has leaped into the conversation. Hes been tearing up the Arizona Fall League, batting close to .400, leading Williams to say on the conference call, Jordan Danks is certainly making things interesting, and giving reason for us to pause as to whether we aggressively pursue a veteran-type guy or not in the outfield.

Danks is 6-foot-4, hes considered the best athlete in the Sox farm system, as well as their top defensive outfielder. The lefty prefers to play center field, but has played all three outfield positions. He mainly batted second in the Fall League, but led off last season at Double-A Birmingham.

As for Jermaine Dye, the White Sox bought out the mutual option for 2010 for just under 1 million, making him a free agent. Williams said, I spoke to Jermaine this morning. I played around with some deals to possibly create some space to fit J.D. at this point. Obviously, that didnt happen, or couldnt happen at this juncture. But Kenny left open the possibility of re-signing Dye, saying, I dont think you can rule it out because its a long offseason.

And finally, the other big surprise: Jim Thome. Many figured that he was not in the White Sox plans for 2010, but Williams said, I have the ultimate respect for Jimmy, so we might have to revisit that at some point in time.

Some might interpret that comment as a token nod from Williams to the future Hall of Famer, but I actually believe the feeling is genuine. Thome made 15 million last season, and saw his numbers drop in all categories. Not playing much with the Dodgers had a lot to do with it. Still, if the Sox can get him at a hometown discount, which could be in the cards, its a distinct possibility.

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

kipnis-1030.jpg
USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.