Daniel Hudson

Daniel Hudson reportedly agrees to deal to stay with Washington Nationals


Daniel Hudson reportedly agrees to deal to stay with Washington Nationals

The White Sox are in the market for relievers, but one of the more notable free agents just got taken off the board.

Daniel Hudson, who was drafted by the White Sox and made his MLB debut with the South Siders, has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal to stay with the Washington Nationals.

Hudson joined the Nationals at the trade deadline and became one of the team’s best relievers. In 25 innings with the Nats, he had a 1.44 ERA with 23 strikeouts and four walks.

The 32-year-old recorded four saves in the postseason and didn’t give up a run in 5.2 innings in the National League playoffs. Hudson struggled in the World Series, but he got a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out Game 7 for the Nats.

Hudson debuted with the White Sox back in 2009 when he was viewed as a starting prospect. The White Sox dealt him to Arizona in a deal for Edwin Jackson at the 2010 trade deadline. After Tommy John surgery in 2013 he moved into the bullpen.

He would have been a relatively high-profile addition to the White Sox bullpen if they could have landed him. Hudson’s hot run with the Nationals created a demand for him. There are still some noteworthy relievers on the market, but Hudson may have been top of that list at this point in the offseason.

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Five free agents who could reshuffle the White Sox offseason priorities

Five free agents who could reshuffle the White Sox offseason priorities

Rick Hahn laid out a pretty specific offseason to-do list for his front office: Get a right fielder, get a designated hitter, get some starting pitching.

The White Sox need to accomplish those goals this winter after seeing woeful levels of production in right and at DH, positions that appear to have no internal solutions. The rotation remains full of promising young arms, but it also remains littered with question marks.

The free-agent market contains plenty of options, of course, and pledged aggressiveness from Hahn and his front office has the potential to end in a spending spree. But that same free-agent market has some really good players who don't fit nicely into those three categories. What if the opportunity comes along to add one of those players? Would the White Sox reshuffle their priorities? Here's a look at guys who could force the South Siders to change plans on the fly this winter.

Anthony Rendon, 3B

The White Sox decidedly do not need a third baseman. Yoan Moncada transitioned to the hot corner in 2019 after an error-filled 2018 season at second base and performed very well. His bat was the more important development, with Moncada going from 217 strikeouts and a disappointing first full season in the majors in 2018 to the status of the team's best all-around hitter in 2019. Moncada slashed .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers and 79 RBIs in just 132 games, confirming that he's a cornerstone of this rebuilding process and one of the most important members of the White Sox young core.

But Moncada's emergence shouldn't prevent the White Sox from doing their due diligence on Rendon, who would provide the kind of middle-of-the-order bat the South Siders could very much use. While that core of Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and, in all likelihood, Jose Abreu has plenty of offensive promise, adding Rendon would cement it as a potential force to be reckoned with, and soon. Rendon has somewhat quietly put up MVP-level production on an annual basis for the last several seasons and had a career year in 2019: a .319/.412/.598 slash line to go along with 34 home runs, 126 RBIs, 44 doubles, 117 runs scored and a nearly 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 86 strikeouts compared to 80 walks. Oh, and a World Series championship.

Rendon might play a position the White Sox have covered, but that same situation didn't stop them from chasing Manny Machado last winter. So why wouldn't they try it again in the name of adding one of the best bats in the game?

"The talent pool is a little different free agent-wise this offseason, but I'm not going to say we won't be creative in a couple elements, whether it's via trade or free agency," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Our roster does have a little bit of flexibility in it, and we hope in the coming years to have more flexibility built in in terms of different positions that guys can go out and play."

Rendon is the caliber of player you realign your defense for. In addition to the incredible offensive production, he plays a very good defensive third base. No easy answer springs to mind when discussing what that would mean for Moncada. He likely wouldn't return to second base, not with Madrigal's major league arrival likely to come in the early portion of the 2020 season. The outfield?

“As far as he's concerned, he said he can play center, as well,” manager Rick Renteria said of Moncada in August. “He's a tremendously athletic individual. I think he has the ability to do whatever he wants, probably, like a lot of our guys. It's a simple game, but a lot of these guys have physical skills that allow them an opportunity to do a lot of different things.”

The White Sox will cross that bridge if they come to it, which obviously would only happen if they landed Rendon, one of the two or three biggest fish on this winter's free-agent market. But maybe they should try to get there and create one of those "good problems to have."

Josh Donaldson, 3B

Everything just talked about with Rendon applies to Donaldson, as well, another heavy-hitting third baseman on the market.

Donaldson is older than Rendon; he turns 34 next month. But he's similarly productive. After taking the richest one-year contract in baseball history last offseason, he was excellent for the Atlanta Braves, finishing the regular season with a .259/.379/.521 slash line to go along with 37 home runs, 94 RBIs, 33 doubles, 96 runs scored and 100 walks.

Like Rendon, Donaldson would be an incredible addition to the middle of the White Sox batting order. Like Rendon, Donaldson plays third base and plays it very well. Both guys were Gold Glove finalists.

While Rendon is the more obvious long-term fixture, Donaldson showed in 2019 that he's not going anywhere, and bringing him aboard could certainly be worth the defensive realignment it would necessitate.

Yasmani Grandal, C

Unlike with Moncada at third base, it's not quite as easy to say that the White Sox absolutely do not need a catcher. It's very possible they don't, but it's hard to say that with nearly as much confidence, which I understand strikes as potentially bizarre considering that James McCann was an All Star in 2019. Signed last winter to be a backup catcher for a year, McCann transformed his offensive game and turned into an incredible find for Hahn's front office. After slashing .240/.288/.366 in his five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, he slashed .316/.371/.502 during the first half of 2019.

But what happened in the second half is the cause for concern: McCann slashed just .226/.281/.413 after the All-Star break. Couple that with Zack Collins' .186/.307/.349 production in just 102 major league plate appearances, and it's difficult to say exactly what the production is going to look like from those two in 2020.

It's far easier, though, to forecast what Grandal will do. A two-time All Star, he's fresh off a strong season with the Milwaukee Brewers, reaching base at a .380 clip thanks in part to 109 walks, the fourth most in the majors. He banged out a career-high 126 hits, launched a career-high 28 home runs, drove in a career-high 77 runs and scored a career-high 79 runs. He's got a reputation as a very good framer behind the plate and is a switch-hitter, which would help add some balance to a heavily right-handed White Sox lineup.

Most importantly, though, Grandal on the South Side would provide some stability at a position that while not without its internal long-term possibilities still counts those possibilities as question marks. McCann gained rave reviews for his work with pitchers, particularly staff ace Lucas Giolito, and had one fantastic half season at the plate. But what if that half season was more mirage than permanent transformation? Collins still has the faith of the organization to be a long-term piece, but the questions about his defense that have existed since he was drafted still linger, with increasingly frequent conversation about what other positions he could play so the White Sox can get his bat in the lineup more often.

Grandal, who will almost certainly get a lengthy contract after turning down a four-year deal last winter and signing up for a prove-it year with the Brewers, would take the mystery out of things. And the opportunity to do that might be an enticing one for the White Sox, who with an expanded roster starting next season could afford to also keep McCann and Collins and benefit from the positives they bring.

Catcher is certainly not a hole like right field and DH are for this team. But the opportunity to upgrade there might be too good to pass up.

Mike Moustakas, 2B/3B

Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference that ideally the White Sox would add some left-handed power this winter.

"Ideally, that would be nice," he said. "Ideally, you'd like to balance that out and that would require adding some left-handed power."

He threw the word "ideally" in there a couple times because he wanted to make sure it was known that the offseason was not going to be a Thanos-esque quest for balance and that he'd be perfectly fine adding another good right-handed hitter to the roster instead.

"We don't want to get too hung up strictly on handedness in the end and sign an inferior, say, left-handed hitter when a better right-handed hitter is available and fits. But it's a consideration, and in an ideal world we would balance it out."

There are few better free-agent sources of left-handed power, though, than Moustakas, who launched 35 home runs with the Brewers in 2019, a left-handed total eclipsed by just seven players. Moustakas, quite familiar to the White Sox from his lengthy tenure with the division-rival Kansas City Royals, hit a combined 101 home runs in the last three seasons.

But he doesn't fill a specific positional need for these White Sox. After J.D. Martinez opted to stay with the Boston Red Sox and not hit the free-agent market, Moustakas' bat seems like an ideal place to turn in Hahn's search for a designated hitter. But Moustakas has played just 35 games as a DH in his career, not exactly the professional DH that Martinez and few others are. The White Sox have had some bad recent history trying to fit players with limited DH-ing experience into the designated hitter spot, including Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche and Yonder Alonso.

Moustakas has long been a good third baseman, but he's not that Rendon-level superstar the White Sox would blow up their defensive alignment to add. He also played 47 games' worth of second base with the Brewers in 2019. Hahn has said to expect Madrigal to be the White Sox starting second baseman for the majority of the 2020 season, but that leaves some time where Madrigal won't be there.

Would the White Sox leap at the opportunity to add Moustakas' left-handed power bat and figure out how to divvy up playing time on the infield later? Would they try again to roll the dice on a DH who hasn't done much DH-ing? Moustakas swings a pretty good stick.

Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B/3B

Kendrick figures to be a popular man after his spectacular age-35 season with the Washington Nationals that saw him post a .966 OPS, hit an NLDS-winning grand slam and get a World Series ring. He's an aging veteran but one who showed he's plenty capable of producing at a high level, playing a variety of positions and playing a positive clubhouse role for a contending team.

That all sounds like something the White Sox would be interested in, but it again doesn't necessarily address any specific positional needs. Kendrick's played just three career games in right field and only 26 career games at DH. While he swung a quality bat for the Nationals in 2019, he didn't do so as an everyday player, making just 70 starts despite playing in 121 games. So any addition of Kendrick would likely be as a reserve of some kind.

But what a reserve he would be, one the White Sox might want to think about, especially if the rest of the offseason features the kinds of big-name additions that could vault the team from rebuilding mode to contending mode right away. Kendrick might be more of a title-chasing piece, but it's not impossible, depending on other moves, for the White Sox to be in that position in a few months.

Bonus bullpen bonanza! Will Smith, Will Harris, Drew Pomeranz, Daniel Hudson

This winter's free-agent market is light on closers. That's fine for the White Sox, as they don't need a closer, with Alex Colome under team control for another season. Aaron Bummer, the team's eighth-inning man who was excellent in 2019, is a potential Colome successor and is under team control for another five seasons. Affordable price tags on Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero and the general effectiveness of the South Side 'pen in 2019 means fortifying the relief corps isn't exactly a pressing concern.

But could the White Sox do it anyway?

Hahn forecasted further addition to the bullpen during his end-of-season press conference, repeating a point he's made often about the difficult-to-predict nature of relief pitching and the constant desire for more of it.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," he said. "Obviously, the way Colome and Bummer have done over the course of the year makes you feel real good about their spot going forward. A now-healthy Kelvin Herrera is the kind of guy who's probably a pretty good reliever bounce-back candidate bet, if it hasn't already happened here in terms of seeing what he's capable of doing when he's 100 percent. Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

So expect some new bullpen arms on the South Side next season. But adding guys via waiver claims and minor league deals is quite different from spending big on relievers in free agency. While the White Sox have the late innings seemingly spoken for, would the opportunity to add to that equation, either to strengthen the back end or provide insurance in case things go awry, be a tough one to pass up?

Smith is the only real closer on this list; he saved 34 games for the San Francisco Giants in 2019 and combined for a 2.66 ERA in the last two seasons. Harris had a pencil-thin 1.50 ERA for the Houston Astros in 2019. Pomeranz was terrific after a midseason trade to the Brewers, with a 2.39 ERA in Beer Town. Hudson, the former White Sox pitching prospect, was sensational after a midseason trade to the Nationals, with a 1.44 ERA and some time as the team's closer in the postseason.

None of those guys necessarily scream "must buy," but the opportunity to reinforce the back end of the bullpen might be an intriguing one for the White Sox.

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Why should White Sox fans care about the World Series? Free-agent stars are a good start


Why should White Sox fans care about the World Series? Free-agent stars are a good start

The Washington Nationals swept away the St. Louis Cardinals, the Houston Astros walked off the New York Yankees, and we’ve got ourselves a World Series.

The final chapter to what’s been an immensely entertaining postseason should be mandatory watching for baseball fans across the country. But if even a titanic Game 1 showdown between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer isn’t enough to hook South Side fans irked their team is sitting at home for an 11th consecutive October, there are plenty of reasons to tune in to the Fall Classic — and that’s not even counting the fact that football season appears to be over.

The next South Side superstar?

The guys who will potentially be the three biggest names on this winter’s free-agent market are playing in this World Series: Astros ace Gerrit Cole, Nationals MVP candidate Anthony Rendon and Nationals hurler Stephen Strasburg. Cole and Rendon will be the top pitcher and position player available, respectively, while Strasburg can slide right behind Cole on the pitcher rankings if he chooses to opt out of the remainder of his current contract.

The prospects of any one of that trio landing on the South Side ought to have White Sox fans drooling, especially after Rick Hahn’s front office lost out on Manny Machado last winter. But Hahn has vowed to be aggressive once more in trying to bring in an impact talent to be the cherry on top of his rebuilding effort. That 11-season playoff drought isn’t irritating to just fans, and the team is setting up for an offseason that could bring the transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode as soon as 2020.

Hahn has already outlined his offseason to-do list, and the White Sox will have a new right fielder, a new designated hitter and likely a couple new starting pitchers by the time next Opening Day rolls around. Considering the rash of injuries and under-performances that affected the team’s mid-tier prospects in 2019, it looks like the free-agent market is a more realistic way to address those issues (at least when it comes to acquiring big-name pieces) than the trade market. So all eyes are understandably on the top of that market after the White Sox chased the two biggest names there last winter in Machado and Bryce Harper.

Cole has been downright outrageous all year, especially since his loss to the White Sox, coincidentally, on May 22. He hasn’t lost since, with a pencil-thin 1.59 ERA in that span. He finished the season with an AL-best 2.50 ERA and a baseball-leading 326 strikeouts. In three postseason starts, Cole has a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.

Basically, he’s been the best pitcher in baseball in 2019, so he would obviously look good at the top of 30 starting rotations across the game. The White Sox could pair him with Lucas Giolito at the front of their starting staff and produce a seriously fearsome 1-2 punch. Of course, Cole is expected to receive the richest pitching contract in baseball history, and whether the White Sox would be willing to hand out such a contract or not has been the topic of much social-media debate.

The White Sox certainly have the financial flexibility to do it, but until they do sign a player to such a deal, as Hahn will readily admit, the notion that they can’t will stick. Even if the White Sox plan to be in the race for Cole, though, they figure to face plenty of competition, and a couple of Cole’s teammates have already predicted that the Southern California native — who grew up minutes from Angel Stadium — will end up pitching in the Golden State.

None of that eliminates the White Sox at this stage, obviously, and if they’re looking to make the absolute biggest splash they can this winter, then Cole would be the guy. And he’ll pitch, probably multiple times, during the World Series.

Just below Cole on the list of top-of-the-rotation pitchers available could be Strasburg, and the “could” is hardly a reflection of his quality. The 31-year-old righty has been just about as filthy during the playoffs, with a 1.64 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 22 innings over four appearances, three of which were starts. Those numbers go along nicely with the 3.32 ERA and career-high 251 strikeouts he posted in an NL-best 209 innings during the regular season.

The “could” comes from whether or not Strasburg will even be available to sign, as he has an opt-out clause he can exercise if he wants, though he’d leave a guaranteed four years and $100 million in search of an even better payday. But while he’s had plenty of health issues throughout his now decade-old major league career, it seems like outdoing those numbers wouldn’t be a problem, especially if he turns in continued spectacular performances in the World Series.

Strasburg would fill much the same need that Cole would if we’re talking hypothetical White Sox additions. Cole is two years younger and performed objectively better this season, making him more attractive. But he’ll also be more expensive. Strasburg obviously wouldn’t be cheap, either, but adding a top-of-the-rotation pitcher who can help vault your rebuilding team into contention mode never is. Ask the Cubs about Jon Lester. Ask the Astros about Justin Verlander. Ask the Boston Red Sox about Chris Sale.

Given the White Sox history — a history of trends Hahn is trying to veer away from, or at the very least not remain beholden to — perhaps a pricey contract for a hitter is more likely than one for a pitcher. Hahn has already indicated that starting pitching will be tops on the to-do list, but considering there are offensive holes to fill, too, Rendon bears watching.

He’ll be the biggest name among free-agent bats, and that status is well deserved after several seasons of somehow quiet MVP-caliber production. In 2019, he had a career year with a .319/.412/.598 slash line (a 1.010 OPS, goodness) to go along with 34 home runs, a major league leading 126 RBIs and an NL-leading 44 doubles. That’s a middle-of-the-lineup stick, for sure, one that would look good alongside Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and in all likelihood, Jose Abreu.

Rendon’s postseason numbers have been similarly gaudy: a .375/.465/.594 line with a homer, four doubles, seven RBIs, eight walks and eight runs scored. The bat screams “sign him up,” and his glove is pretty great, too. Just one problem: The White Sox already have a third baseman, and a darn good one, in Moncada, who turned in his own career year at the plate and showed why he was ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball not long ago. So does that prevent them from even pursuing Rendon this winter?

Maybe. Maybe not. The White Sox chased Machado last year despite having shortstop spoken for in the long term, so we know they’re not shy about it. But this time around, they have more specific needs to fill. Their resources, while potentially ample, need to be deployed to get a right fielder, a couple starting pitchers and a DH. Would they divert a bunch of those same resources to get another third baseman?

That all remains to be seen. But you can see these three superstars take center stage during the World Series before they take center stage in the White Sox expected free-agent activity.

White Sox trying to follow the Astros’ plan

The Astros are baseball’s model franchise right now. In the World Series for the second time in three seasons, they have perfected the now-popular trend of undergoing a total rebuild, gutting through seasons as dire as 100 losses in the name of player development, building a core stocked with MVP candidates and bringing in players from outside to bolster their chances of staying on top.

This is the exact model the White Sox are trying to follow, and the Astros’ continued place at the top of baseball’s mountain should convince even the most skeptical fans that it’s a blueprint worth following.

The Astros’ success has been driven by patience while a young core developed, and that young core is still the driving force of a team that went outside to add its three best pitchers and an All-Star outfielder. More on that later. But how fitting that the guy who’s been around the longest, Jose Altuve, was the one who blasted the Astros into the World Series with Saturday night’s walk-off homer. Altuve grabbed an MVP back in 2017, the year the Astros won the World Series, but he could soon have company if voters picked Alex Bregman over Mike Trout this season. Regardless, Altuve and Bregman are two of at least four young Astros stars that can win the MVP on an annual basis, with Carlos Correa and George Springer falling into that same category. Yordan Alvarez might join the group, too, as he’s the logical favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year vote.

Sound familiar to what the White Sox are trying to pull off with Moncada, Anderson, Jimenez, Robert, Abreu and Nick Madrigal? Drawing such a comparison a year ago — when Anderson was a .240 hitter, Moncada struck out 217 times, Jimenez hadn’t played a major league game and Robert went an injury-shortened minor league season without hitting a home run — might have sounded like lunacy. But in the year since, Anderson won a batting title, Moncada turned into the team’s best all-around hitter, Jimenez blasted 31 homers as a rookie, Robert was the best player in the minor leagues, Madrigal had his own sensational minor league season and Abreu kept on being Abreu, with some of the best production in his six years as a big leaguer. It all adds up to a core that should have White Sox fans really excited.

Then there are the outside additions of consequence, which the Astros have made to perfection, bringing in Verlander and Zack Greinke in midseason trades, dealing for Cole two winters ago and signing Michael Brantley as a free agent last offseason. The Astros don’t win the 2017 World Series without Verlander, and the same will be true of Cole and Brantley if they’re champions again this time around.

Certainly the White Sox would like to make similar moves, hence their aggressive approach last offseason when Machado and Harper were on the market and their stated aggressive approach this winter with so many names out there that could get the team over the rebuilding hump. Signing a Cole, a Rendon, a Strasburg, a Madison Bumgarner, a J.D. Martinez, et cetera, et cetera, would be a very Astros-like move.

The Astros aren’t the only team that has done this kind of thing. But the Cubs, who succeeded with a similar strategy, fired their manager after playing all of one playoff game in the last two seasons. The Red Sox, who despite their frequent spending did something not too dissimilar in assembling their championship core, missed the playoffs the year after winning it all. So following the Astros’ plan is about more than just winning the World Series one time. It’s about that sustained success and that perennial contention that Hahn is always talking about.

Who won the trades?

Teams generally don’t care about winning trades. They care about winning championships.

But if the Nationals win the World Series this year, that will make back-to-back championships for the teams the White Sox traded with to kickstart their rebuild. Sale and the Red Sox won it all last year. Now it could be Adam Eaton’s turn with the Nationals.

Certainly, no one is going to claim that Eaton has the same level of importance to these Nationals as Sale did to last year’s Red Sox. Sale was that team’s ace and closed out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. But Eaton is an everyday player and the two will remain connected as the guys Hahn traded away to stock his farm system with top-rated prospects.

But if winning titles is the ultimate desired outcome of any big deal, then consider the Red Sox winners for what Sale did for them in 2018. If the Nationals win the whole thing this month, they’ll be in the same category.

Meanwhile, though, the White Sox are seeing some pretty big upsides from dealing away those two players. After terribly disappointing seasons of growing pains for Giolito and Moncada in 2018, they emerged as arguably the two best players on the team in 2019. Michael Kopech will return to the team in 2020 after his Tommy John surgery. The same goes for Dane Dunning. And while Reynaldo Lopez’s ups and downs provided a bunch of frustration this season, the White Sox aren’t counting him out of their long-term plans yet.

All those guys came over in those two trades. And so while the two teams who the White Sox made those trades with after the 2016 season could end up world champs within three years, the White Sox still have to be thrilled with their ends of those deals.

One more former South Sider

White Sox fans with any interest in rooting for their team’s former players will be forced to cheer for the Nationals, with no ex-South Siders playing for the Astros. And if you’re not about to jump into all that 2016 drama involving Eaton — or also can’t remember the Javy Guerra Era — you’ve got one option left: Daniel Hudson.

The White Sox dealt away Hudson when he was a youngster not long up from the minor leagues back in 2010. Hudson was shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson, had a couple Tommy John surgeries and has kicked around the big leagues ever since, getting traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the relief-desperate Nationals earlier this season.

Well, he’s been a remarkable find for the Nationals, who have turned him into their World Series closer. Hudson’s gotten some huge outs during this postseason run, locking down the ninth inning of the NL wild card game, making three scoreless appearances against the Dodgers in the NLDS and picking up saves in Games 2 and 4 during the Nationals’ NLCS sweep of the Cardinals. He hasn’t allowed a run yet and has 11 strikeouts in his 11 innings.

So celebrate Hudson, White Sox fans, if for nothing more than his cool late-career renaissance. Also, he’s a free agent after the season’s over. Just saying.

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