Francisco Lindor

Sox Drawer: Getting the hot stove cooking early with potential White Sox targets

1127_madison_bumgarner.jpg
USA TODAY

Sox Drawer: Getting the hot stove cooking early with potential White Sox targets

The business of free agency and trades doesn’t begin until after the World Series, but you White Sox fans are a lot like me. You can’t wait till then. So, without MLB’s permission, I have plugged in baseball’s Hot Stove a little early (don’t tell anyone). And while I cannot personally bring you Madison Bumgarner, Trey Mancini, Francisco Lindor and Charlie Blackmon, I talk about them (and a lot more) in this edition of the Sox Drawer.

What position do you feel is at the top of the list for a major offseason signing? — @BJBumgarner

Thanks for the question, B.J. And sorry if I’m blowing your cover here, but any chance you’re related to the aforementioned Madison Bumgarner? If so, I know a baseball team on the South Side that can definitely use him. Feel free to pass that long at the next family gathering.

Seriously though, it’s tough to say if starting pitching is at the very top of the White Sox offseason wish list, but it’s right up there with right field and designated hitter. I’ll call it a three-way tie. And since I brought up MadBum, he really would be an interesting fit for the White Sox: a left-handed veteran who’s won a World Series (or three) and a World Series MVP. He’d be like the Jon Lester signing on the North Side ahead of the 2015 season, a plant-the-flag deal that would signal to the rest of the league that the White Sox mean business in 2020 and beyond.

He’s not the same dominant pitcher he was from 2013 to 2016, but he started 34 games in 2019, finishing with a 3.90 ERA with 203 strikeouts in 207.2 innings. However, at 30 years old, does he want to cash in his chips and pitch in the American League where he has to face a DH instead of a pitcher every five days? Bumgarner also loves to hit. He’s won two Silver Slugger awards. Maybe he can be a starting pitcher/DH for the White Sox? OK, maybe not.   

Who’s the most realistic free agent the White Sox will sign? I’m thinking someone like Zack Wheeler or Jake Odorizzi. Thoughts? — @arkennedy47

In terms of starting pitching, I agree that the Wheeler/Odorizzi tier seems more realistic for the White Sox. In the past, they’ve tried to stay away from signing pitchers to deals beyond three years. The biggest and most recent exception was when they signed John Danks to a five-year, $65 million extension in 2011 — and he proceeded to go 25-48 with a 4.92 ERA in those five seasons that were supposed to be right in the middle of his prime. Pitchers. They can be a dicey bunch.

What kind of deals will Wheeler and Odorizzi get? Tough to say, but they might be more in line with what the White Sox are willing to stomach in terms of years for a starting pitcher. If you want my full list of realistic free agents for the White Sox this offseason, I shared them on our most recent White Sox Talk Podcast. We all made a wide range of predictions. Take a listen.

After last season, I refuse to dream of or even ponder a wish list for the White Sox. Heart still being put back together. — @AdamTeacher

Adam, I hear you. The failed attempt to sign Manny Machado last winter still lingers as we head into this offseason. Some of you have moved on. Others have not. Under the circumstances, the breakthrough seasons of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson in 2019 hopefully helped lessen the blow:

Moncada: .315/.367/.548, 4.6 WAR

Anderson: .335/.357/.508, 4.0 WAR

Machado: .256/.334/.462, 3.1 WAR

Hello, Our Chuck. First let me say I wasn’t too disappointed the Sox didn’t acquire Manny, because here’s a name I would REALLY love to sign when he’s available in 2021, Francisco Lindor. How can we make this happen? He’d kill it with this new brand of youth on the Soxside. — @panchrio

With two years left on his contract, Lindor’s free agency when he turns 28 is likely going to be Machado and Bryce Harper all over again. The switch-hitting, all-world shortstop would certainly look great in a White Sox uniform, and I appreciate your forward thinking, but we’ve still got two more seasons before we get there. But since you asked the question, I’ll give you an honest answer. If Tim Anderson continues to trend upward offensively and improves defensively, I don’t think it would be wise financially to spend $300 million on Lindor. Better to use that money elsewhere.

But if the White Sox end the 2021 season and Anderson is not the player they envisioned he’d become and they have a glaring need at shortstop, then sure, the White Sox should go down the Lindor path, and White Sox fans can buckle their seatbelts for another rollercoaster offseason. Until then, I expect the Indians to trade Lindor (possibly as soon as this winter) so they can get something for him since they will likely lose him to free agency and end up with nothing in return.

Is it possible the Sox could trade for the Orioles Trey Mancini? Is he even available? What would it take to get him? — @JayDBaseball

On paper, give me Trey Mancini right now, all day, everyday. He’s 27, he plays right field and isn’t a free agent until 2023. He’s not the best defensively, but everyone loves the swing and his numbers from 2019, which was a big breakout season for him: .291/.364/.535 with 35 home runs.

The Orioles are dreadful. They’ve just started their rebuild and are coming off a 108-loss season. Think of the White Sox when they started their own rebuild in 2016. If the Orioles are going to trade a cost-controlled player like Mancini, they’re going to be asking for a big haul in return. We’re probably talking two of the White Sox top prospects.

A more realistic player the Orioles could be open to trading is Jonathan Villar, a 28-year-old switch-hitting, second baseman/shortstop who played all 162 games last season and stole 40 bases. He only has one more year left on his contract. With Nick Madrigal seemingly close to the majors, maybe this isn’t a perfect fit. But if the White Sox decide to give Madrigal more seasoning in the minors, Villar could be a possibility.

What is a likely timetable for Abreu to get a deal? When could we expect that? — @JesmarGuzman

Since the free-agency window doesn’t officially begin until six days after the World Series (there’s a five-day quiet period where teams can exclusively negotiate with their own free agents but can't sign them), the earliest Abreu can reach a deal with the White Sox is some time in early November, depending on how long the World Series lasts. I know Abreu told reporters during the season that if it was up to him, “I would sign myself,” but when it comes down to doing actual business, negotiating usually doesn’t start with, “I’ll sign myself to whatever number you put on the table.” That said, both sides have expressed a strong desire to continue together, and I expect that to happen with Abreu and the White Sox.

Still, after winning the 2005 World Series and publicly handing the baseball from the final out to Jerry Reinsdorf during the victory parade, Paul Konerko didn’t re-sign with the White Sox until Nov. 30. He considered offers from the Orioles and Angels before agreeing to come back to the South Side.

Maybe they come to an agreement during the exclusive negotiating window and it’s a quick, done deal. But if that doesn’t happen, don’t be concerned. It’s just business.

Corey Dickerson ... yay or nay? I think he’s a great fit. — @JustinGranzin

Dickerson might be a great fit as a left-handed hitter and clubhouse guy, but he’s only played four games in right field in his career. I’d want to look into that before paying him around $10 million a year.

I know there’s a lot of noise to sign a left-handed power bat in right field, but shouldn’t one be prioritizing defense for the right-field spot? IMO, I think defense and on-base needs to improve more than power. I don’t think MLB is going to allow as many homers next season. — @bmarsh442003

All good points here. Defense, on-base percentage and power. It would be great to have all three of these traits in one player if you can find it. “Hello Boston Red Sox, can we have Mookie Betts, please?”

The White Sox do need more balance in the middle of their lineup, and they will get that from a left-handed power hitter. Maybe that guy becomes your DH and you acquire a right fielder who can play defense and draw walks? A different baseball could drastically reduce the amount of home runs next season, but unless you know for certain it will happen, it’s tough to plan a whole season around it. But I get where you’re coming from.

What will it take to get Blackmon from the Rockies? Heard they may be shedding payroll. I think he could play either corner spot. — @Wrighthood24

I like everything there is about Charlie Blackmon except this: his home and road splits. Playing in the high elevation of Coors Field, he’s a perennial All Star. Away from Denver, it’s been a different story. Check out his numbers in 2019:

Home: .379/.435/.739

Road: .256/.299/.432

Unless the White Sox move their home games to Denver, I’d probably stay away from a Blackmon trade.

Pitching and defense win (games) and basic baseball fundamentals. Too many mental errors last year. — @JohnFab91929303

Yes to all that.

What is your prediction for 2020 win total? Over/under 81? Sox finally back to a winning season? — @shoopcapone

Get back to me in spring training.

And finally ... 

When will the people get what they want? A Chuck Garfien bobblehead. — @DCeaseTheDay

If that’s what people want, we’ve got serious problems.

Thanks everyone for your questions. We’ll do it again next week.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

jaaaaaavy.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

David Kaplan and Luke Stuckmeyer are joined by former Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  In part 1, Hendry looks back at some of the players he drafted during his time with the Cubs and getting a deal done with Theo Epstein at the trade deadline in 2004.

00:45 - What he does now for the Yankees

02:30 - How involved is a GM with drafting a player

04:30 - Looking back at the drafting of Javier Baez

05:45 - What made Javier Baez so appealing as a draft pick

09:00 - Josh Donaldson moving to 3rd base after the Cubs drafted him

11:45 - On having to trade prospects at the trade deadline to put the team over the edge for a postseason spot

13:10 - Looking back at the 2004 3-way deadline trade that brought Nomar Garciapara to the Cubs

14:35 - On Willson Contreras' growth in the Cubs organization

16:40 - On going over budget to sign Starlin Castro

17:20 - Carlos Zambrano's growth within the Cubs organization

19:10 - How good could Gleyber Torres be?

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

Javy over everybody? The Cubs are buying it

Javy over everybody? The Cubs are buying it

Instead of debating about which team is better, the latest installment of the Crosstown Series has now become at least partially about Javy Baez.

The White Sox have been out of playoff contention for weeks in a season that has been tabbed a "rebuilding" year from the outset. Meanwhile, the Cubs are marching toward a fourth straight postseason berth.

So what else do Chicagoans have to argue about?

As Hawk Harrelson steps down from the booth this weekend, maybe it's Baez who is emerging as the central polarizing figure in this crosstown "rivalry." 

Cubs fans love them some "El Mago" and some corners of the Sox faithful can't stand to think of Baez as the NL MVP.

Just watch/listen to the crowd every time Baez steps up to the plate at Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend.

Hours after Cubs manager Joe Maddon raved about Baez's value to the North Siders, the NL MVP candidate went out and had himself an eventful first inning Saturday night — drilling a two-run shot, committing an error that led to an unearned run and then making a slick sliding stop to end the opening frame:

He later added a seventh-inning walk and a ninth-inning RBI single, bringing his season slash line to .293/.329/.569 (.898 OPS) in helping the Cubs to an 8-3 win and extending their lead to 2.5 games in the division.

"It's gotta be really exciting for him and his family right now," Maddon said. "We've been through it before a couple years ago with [Kris Bryant]. It's nice to see Javy arrive at this point. I mean, when we first got here, all the talent in the world — big swing, little bit out of control with his game, errors on routine plays and now all of a sudden, he's making the routine play routinely and then he's still able to make the spectacular play.

"And he's on the verge of accepting walks and when he's on the verge of doing that, that's when his hitting's gonna really take off. Lotta credit for him — he plays every day with energy, mentally and physically."

At this point, the NL MVP race probably comes down to Baez, Milwaukee's Christian Yelich and Atlanta's Freddie Freeman over the final week of the season.

"For me, what puts him above everybody in that talk is his ability to play multiple positions," said Jon Lester, who improved to 17-6 on the season in Saturday's win. "I think it's easy to show up every day and know what spot in the order you're gonna hit and what position you're gonna play. I think that's kinda the ease-of-mind type thing. Javy's done it at second, short, third for us all year. So I feel like that puts a little bit of added burden on him as far as showing up every day and not knowing where exactly he's gonna play.

"The offensive side of it speaks for itself. People want to nitpick at the fact that he doesn't walk, but I think the numbers speak for themselves — .300 with 34 [homers] with [110 RBI] and that's hard to argue. I know the other guys are good and I'm not taking anything away from those guys, but I think when you add multiple positions to a guy, I think that changes my vote for sure."

With Addison Russell on administrative leave, Baez slots over to shortstop full time for the Cubs indefinitely.

Saturday marked Baez's 43rd start of the season at short, but he's spent the majority of his time at second base (75 starts) while also dabbling at the hot corner (18 starts at third base).

Regardless of where he's played defensively, Baez has put up numbers that very well may earn him some serious hardware this November.

"He fits," Maddon said. "Listen, look at our league — [Dodgers shortstop Corey] Seager's been out the whole season. [Brandon] Crawford is really good in San Francisco. But for the most part, think about it — [Baez] might be the best overall shortstop in the league right now.

"Grade it all out with his offense, defense, baserunning, etc. American League, there's some competition on that side. But overall, I mean, he's a Top 3/Top 5 shortstop in all of baseball right now, even though he has not played there a whole lot."

FanGraphs ranks Baez as the fourth-most valuable shortstop this year with 5.2 WAR, coming in behind Francisco Lindor (7.4 WAR), Manny Machado (5.7) and Andrelton Simmons (5.3).

Maddon didn't mention Trevor Story (4.5 WAR), the Colorado shortstop who has thrown his name in the hat for NL MVP with 33 homers, 102 RBI and an .894 OPS, though he's currently out with an elbow injury and his Rockies may be fading in the postseason race.

But Baez is pacing the entire NL (regardless of position) in RBI — 109 now after Saturday's 2-run shot — and he is tied for second in homers, second in slugging percentage, sixth in runs scored, eighth in OPS, ninth in hits and 10th in stolen bases.

It's impossible to truly calculate his intangibles (baseball IQ, disruption on the basepaths, all-around swag) and his value to this Cubs team, but one thing is certain: The North Siders would not have driven into the South Side Saturday morning with a 1.5-game lead in the NL Central if not for Ednel Javier Baez this season.

Not many teams could lose their starting shortstop 10 days before the end of the season and be able to replace a Gold Glove-caliber defender so easily.

"We're kind of lucky that Javy is able to do that as well as he does," Maddon said. "He's had a lot of play out there already this year. So yeah, I feel very comfortable about it. ... You don't even think twice when you put Javy's name at shortstop."