Eloy Jimenez

After Luis Robert’s extension, here’s how long every member of the White Sox core is under club control

After Luis Robert’s extension, here’s how long every member of the White Sox core is under club control

Thursday’s six-year contract extension for Luis Robert that includes eight years’ worth of club control is just the latest long-term pact inked by the White Sox, part of the team’s carefully crafted long-term planning with the goal of keeping its contention window open for as long as possible.

That window technically hasn’t opened yet, as the White Sox have yet to finish in the top three in the AL Central standings since 2012. But Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project seems on the verge of shifting into contention mode in 2020, not just because of the breakout campaigns from so many of the team’s core members in 2019, but because of the aggressive approach the front office has taken this winter, bringing in impact veterans like Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and, reportedly, Edwin Encarnacion.

So how long will this window stay open? As should be plenty obvious to anyone who’s followed what’s happened on the other side of town, those seemingly wide-open windows can shut in an instant. And for all of Robert’s confident talk about winning “multiple championships” on the South Side, it’s difficult enough to win one.

But looking at how Hahn has positioned his club, with a strict adherence to the long-term vision that’s put it in this position, we can start to get an idea of what that window looks like. So many of the team’s young players — and some of the just-signed/extended veterans — are under contract for a while, allowing the White Sox to compete with this roster for an extended period of time.

Under club control through 2020: Alex Colome, James McCann, Leury Garcia

Let’s get the short-termers out of the way first. These three players are all due for free agency following the upcoming campaign. Who knows what 2020 holds for these White Sox, though playoff expectations are suddenly real and deserved. Regardless, Hahn could be in the market for a new closer come next winter. If McCann continues his All-Star level production, he’d likely be able to find a new home a starter after the 2020 season. But if he proves more of a backup type, perhaps the White Sox would want to keep him around in that sort of role.

Under club control through 2021: Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara, Carlos Rodon, Gio Gonzalez, Kelvin Herrera

Encarnacion’s deal reportedly includes an option for the 2021 season, so we’ll include him here, though it’s possible the White Sox make a decision that could put him on the free-agent market a year earlier. Andrew Vaughn’s development figures to have something to do with all that. Rodon will have a limited window following his recovery from Tommy John surgery to prove he belongs in the White Sox long-term plans. The recently acquired Mazara is just 24 years old, with Hahn talking a lot about the unlocked potential the team believes exists inside its new right fielder. If they can uncover something Mazara didn’t show in his four seasons with the Texas Rangers, perhaps he becomes a bigger factor in all this.

Under club control through 2022: Jose Abreu, Evan Marshall

Abreu, the face of the franchise, turns 33 at the end of this month. That means he’ll be 36 by the time Opening Day 2023 rolls around. The next three years will determine whether or not Abreu’s tenure will be extended. Considering the White Sox have reportedly signed a DH who turns 37 next week, we know they’re not opposed to someone of that age on a short-term deal — and at what could be Abreu's more regular position by the time 2023 rolls around. We know Abreu’s love for the South Side and the South Side’s love for Abreu, so if he remains productive over the next three seasons, his White Sox tenure doesn’t have to end with his current contract.

Under club control through 2023: Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Jace Fry

So here’s where things get really interesting. The four-year deal for Grandal and the three-year-and-an-option deal for Keuchel end at the same time as the rookie contracts for Moncada, Giolito and Lopez. There will obviously be some important decisions to make. Keuchel will be 36 for the 2024 season. Grandal will be 35. Moncada and Giolito, of course, will be much younger and should they keep up the kind of production they put up in 2019, they’ll be in high demand. The White Sox have shown with Robert and Eloy Jimenez that they aren’t shy about locking up their young players, so maybe an extension or two could come before we get all the way to free agency following the 2023 season. The biggest takeaway here is that Keuchel, Grandal, Giolito, Moncada, Lopez and the players yet to be named will all be together for at least the next four years. That speaks very well to the White Sox chances over that period of time.

Under club control through 2024: Tim Anderson, Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer

That’s right, Anderson’s team-friendly contract extension signed way back when doesn’t expire until after the midway point of the decade that just started a couple of days ago. Kopech still has to go out and show he’s the elite pitcher that was promised prior to his Tommy John surgery. His next appearance on a big league mound will be just his fifth. But should he live up to the hype, he’d figure to be someone the White Sox would want to lock up, as well. Bummer could be a Colome successor, should he be able to repeat how he impressed in 2019, meaning having him in the fold for the next five seasons could prove quite fruitful — and potentially alleviate some spending on the back end of the bullpen over the next several offseasons.

Under club control through 2025: Dylan Cease

It’s still a bit of a mystery how the rotation of the distant future will look, but Cease will be a controllable option for that group, at the very least, for the next six seasons. His first taste of the majors in 2019 didn’t go great, from a results standpoint, but he still has as high a ceiling as any of these young arms and is someone the White Sox believe can be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Under club control through 2026: Eloy Jimenez

A middle-of-the-order hitter for the next seven years? Yeah, sounds like the White Sox made a good deal when they inked Jimenez to an extension last spring. All he did in his rookie season was launch 31 home runs, including those of the jaw-dropping variety that bounced off the Fan Deck in center field. And everyone asked said that he was simply scratching the surface. If Jimenez makes a similar jump to the one Moncada made from his first full season in the bigs to his second, then look out. That’s what will be mashing on the South Side for the next seven seasons.

Under club control through 2027: Luis Robert

And at the top of that lineup for the next eight years? Robert is a true five-tool threat who put up insane numbers in the minors in 2019. All the talk coming from minicamps, the Arizona Fall League and the minors the last few years have suggested Robert might end up the best of all these youngsters. Hahn said Thursday: “We are obviously extremely excited to put our money where our mouth is in terms of our level of excitement about this player. … We truly do think he has a chance to be very special.”

Under club control through seasons yet to be determined: Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn, Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert, Jonathan Stiever

Yes, the White Sox core still extends into the minors. Guys who have yet to even make the major league debuts — and might not even do so in 2020 — are part of this window staying open, too. Unlike many (but not all) of the players mentioned to this point, these ones have not had any kind of success at the major league level because they haven’t been there yet, so we can’t classify them as players to bank on. But it goes to show that there’s more than just the current major league roster playing into the length of this contention window. That’s the organizational depth Hahn is always talking about. Some of these guys, specifically Madrigal, are expected to take over as everyday players sooner rather than later, meaning they’ll be part of that core quickly.

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The point: That’s a lengthy window. Yes, there’s a lot of decisions to be made over the course of it. But that’s how these things work. There will be more free-agent signings and trades and more players added to the minor league system. Heck, we’re looking at the vast majority of an entire decade here.

The White Sox window technically hasn’t even opened yet. But they’ve put themselves in the position that when it does open — which could, and at this point should, be very soon, like March 26 soon — it could stay open for a mighty long time.

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How the new-look White Sox offense might line up

How the new-look White Sox offense might line up

The White Sox were 13th out of 15 teams in the American League in runs scored in 2019. In order to field a competitive team in 2020, the offense had to get better.

At least on paper, it figures to be much improved. The White Sox have added three bats to their lineup this offseason (Yasmani Grandal, Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnacion) and have two prospects (Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal) who figure to become regular starters early in 2020.

Most of the everyday regular lineup figures to be different from what it was last season. Manager Rick Renteria goes from having major question marks in right field and at DH to having to figure out how to fill out his batting order with a number of quality bats.

Forgetting any delays in seeing Robert and Madrigal come up, let’s figure out how the lineup could look like when those two arrive on the South Side. Positionally, it seems somewhat clear.

C Yasmani Grandal

1B Jose Abreu

2B Nick Madrigal

SS Tim Anderson

3B Yoan Moncada

LF Eloy Jimenez

CF Luis Robert

RF Nomar Mazara

DH Edwin Encarnacion

All-Star James McCann can spell Grandal at catcher with Grandal and Encarnacion filling in for Abreu at first base when needed. Abreu played 34 games at DH last season, Grandal made 16 starts at first base and Encarnacion only played 109 games so there will still be openings for McCann to get playing time.

Now for the tricky party: What will be the batting order?

The only sure thing would appear to be Abreu hitting in the No. 3 hole. Abreu hasn’t been anywhere else since 2017 (and even then he made most of his starts batting third) so until we see otherwise, Abreu stays in that third spot.

There aren’t any obvious leadoff candidates. Last year’s primary leadoff hitter was Leury Garcia, but he figures to be a bench or platoon player once Robert joins the team. Robert led off for Triple-A Charlotte, but that’s asking a lot for his rookie season, especially for a player who doesn’t really profile as a leadoff hitter. Robert has leadoff caliber speed and might be able to hit for enough average, but he doesn’t walk much. He’s more of a power hitter than an on-base guy.

Tim Anderson just won a batting title and also has enough speed to put at the top of the order, but also doesn’t walk much. He moved around in the batting order in 2019, including four games at leadoff, but was used most in the No. 2 hole.

Madrigal was often hitting second behind Robert in Charlotte and also could be a decent all-around leadoff hitter, but like with Robert, the White Sox might hesitate to put that much pressure on him so quickly.

For argument’s sake let’s say Renteria goes with Anderson leading off. Robert could go after that, but Moncada played most of his games batting second last season and is the team’s best overall hitter. The top three is Anderson, Moncada, Abreu.

The bottom third is easier than the middle third. Robert, Mazara and Madrigal are the least proven hitters in the lineup so they start at the bottom. Robert can start batting seventh with Mazara behind him and Madrigal batting ninth as a secondary leadoff-type hitter when the lineup rolls around for Anderson and Moncada, who both have some pop.

That leaves Jimenez, Encarnacion and Grandal for the 4-6 spots. Encarnacion had the highest OPS of the trio (.875) last season, but Jimenez has the highest upside and projects as an elite cleanup hitter. It might be aggressive to place him in that spot this early in his career in a strong lineup, but if he takes a step forward in his second year he’s the best hitter of this group. After that, Grandal fifth and Encarnacion sixth to stick the switch-hitter (Grandal) higher in the lineup.

So there you have it, a totally made up lineup for the White Sox to play ball with in 2020:

Tim Anderson

Yoan Moncada

Jose Abreu

Eloy Jimenez

Yasmani Grandal

Edwin Encarnacion

Luis Robert

Nomar Mazara

Nick Madrigal

This doesn’t factor in how different the lineup could look against lefties as opposed to righties. For example, Mazara struggled against lefties last year and is a likely candidate to have someone platoon with him in right field.

As it is listed above, Mazara, the lone lefty, and the switch-hitters, Grandal and Moncada, are spaced out enough. There’s speed at the top, power for the next several spots and no clear weak spots assuming the rookies don’t struggle too much when they come up.

Of course, there are numerous permutations with numerous talented hitters. No matter what order they are in, that will be a pleasant change of pace for White Sox fans.

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Eloy Jimenez 'is not going to stop until he reaches what he wants to be'

Eloy Jimenez 'is not going to stop until he reaches what he wants to be'

White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez showed some of his massive potential as a rookie with a 31-home run season despite playing only 122 games.

There’s still a long way to go for him to become the player the White Sox think he will be, though. He had just a .315 on-base percentage and struggled in left field.

Instead of recuperating for the upcoming season, Jimenez is heading home to play some winter ball. He will debut for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League this weekend.


This is the third straight year Jimenez will play in his home country for the winter. Two seasons ago he hit 11 extra base hits in 19 games with a 1.120 OPS. Last winter, Jimenez hit .448 with a 1.259 OPS in eight games. He could put up more video game numbers this season.

Jimenez heads to the Dominican fresh off his 23rd birthday (which was Wednesday), but manager Rick Renteria prefers Jimenez take more of a break. Renteria told that to reporters on Tuesday at the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in the West Loop, where he was serving Thanksgiving dinners.

“For me I would rather just have a little break, put himself ready for the next season,” Renteria said. “But this kid is not going to stop until he reaches what he wants to be.”

Renteria did say he wants to see Jimenez continue to work on his outfield defense, but he remains confident that Jimenez will come around on that front.

“I think, Eloy, in terms of just playing in general, whether it’s here or in winter ball, defending is the biggest thing for us that we want him to continue to work on,” Renteria said. “We talk about that a lot. I know a lot of people have questions about that. I don’t. I’m one of the ones that doesn’t. I’m in there with him in the dugout watching him work on the field. This young man is going to be a really, really outstanding Major League Baseball player on both sides of the baseball.

“I think that as we move forward you don’t usually have a lot of guys play winter ball, but he’s a guy that just loves playing.”

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