Leury Garcia

White Sox non-tender Yolmer Sanchez among flurry of roster moves

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USA TODAY

White Sox non-tender Yolmer Sanchez among flurry of roster moves

Yolmer Sanchez's tenure on the South Side is officially over.

After it was reported last week that the White Sox put the Gold Glove second baseman on outright waivers and that he was slated to become a free agent, the team announced they decided not to tender Sanchez a contract for the 2020 season. They announced the same decision for relievers Ryan Burr and Caleb Frare, while saying they tendered contracts to all other unsigned players, including arbitration-eligible guys Alex Colome, Evan Marshall, Leury Garcia and Carlos Rodon.

Certainly the White Sox moving on from Sanchez wasn't difficult to foresee. Nick Madrigal, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is on the doorstep of the major leagues and is expected to be the starting second baseman on the South Side for the bulk of the 2020 campaign. While Sanchez plays some exceptional defense, he can't match what Madrigal — a top-40 prospect in baseball who has also been touted as an elite defender — can do with the bat. Sanchez slashed just .252/.318/.321 in 2019, while Madrigal tore up the minors to the tune of .311/.377/.414 and struck out only 16 times in 120 games. In the end, Sanchez would have been an expensive reserve infielder, projected to make $6.2 million in arbitration.

Despite some potential red flags given the first- and second-half splits, the White Sox made the expected decision to stick with Colome in 2020. Though opposing hitters slashed .265/.347/.422 against him after the All-Star break in 2019 — and he's projected to received $10.3 million through the arbitration process — Colome has been one of the more productive ninth-inning men in baseball in recent seasons, with a 2.78 ERA and 126 saves since the start of the 2016 campaign. His remaining at the back end of the bullpen gives the White Sox stability and prevents another potentially expensive item from being added to Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list.

Marshall was also a key member of the White Sox late-inning corps in 2019, with a 2.49 ERA in 50.2 relief innings. Hahn is always reminding us about the volatility of relief pitching, so it's difficult to say we should expect a repeat performance from Marshall. But he's slated to hold a key bullpen position in 2020, as well.

Garcia is likely destined for the role of utility man on the 2020 roster after playing in 140 games in 2019 and starting in 135 of them. He can play all three outfield positions in addition to three positions on the infield Sanchez can play, providing versatility off the bench — once Madrigal and Luis Robert arrive from the minors — for Renteria and the White Sox.

The White Sox are still hoping that even after a long layoff while recovering from Tommy John surgery that Rodon can become the pitcher they envisioned he'd be when they took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. That has been a bit of a challenge for Rodon, who's shown flashes of strikeout-heavy brilliance, as well as frustrating bouts of ineffectiveness. Prior to having the surgery this year, he had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts. But the White Sox figure to crave all the starting pitching they can muster in 2020. On the hunt for a couple offseason additions, they also have plans to limit Michael Kopech — who's returning from his own Tommy John surgery — and can't be 100-percent certain what they'll get out of still-promising youngsters Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. The contributions of pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert remain mysteries, too, as they return from Tommy John in the middle of the season, making Rodon a valuable piece of depth, if nothing else.

Burr and Frare were, at a time, part of a group of young relief pitchers who might've made some impact in the White Sox bullpen. Burr had a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 innings before his 2019 season ended in Tommy John surgery. Frare was knocked around in limited big league action in 2019, tagged for a 10.13 ERA in just 2.2 innings over five different appearances. In 27 appearance at three different minor league levels, he had a 6.35 ERA in 28.1 innings.

The White Sox also announced they released relief pitcher Thyago Vieira in order for him to pursue an opportunity in Japan. Earlier Monday, they announced a one-year, $5.4 million deal for All-Star catcher James McCann.

Got all that?

The White Sox 40-man roster now stands at 36, allowing the White Sox to continue their aggressive pursuits this offseason without further trimming. Two starting pitchers and a right fielder — and possibly a DH and more relief help — remain on Hahn's to-do list, and he has four open spots to work with a week out from the Winter Meetings.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that any of the three players non-tendered Monday could return to the White Sox organization in one form or another. But they are free agents now.

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What to expect from the White Sox at the non-tender deadline

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USA TODAY

What to expect from the White Sox at the non-tender deadline

It's non-tender deadline day, perhaps more often greeted by the casual observer with a question mark as opposed to an exclamation point, but an important day on baseball's offseason calendar, nonetheless.

The White Sox, along with their 29 major league compatriots, have until Monday night to tender contract offers to their arbitration-eligible players or to decide not to, sending them to free agency. The White Sox have decisions to make on six players: Alex Colome, James McCann, Leury Garcia, Carlos Rodon, Yolmer Sanchez and Evan Marshall.

Here's what to expect.

Yolmer Sanchez

Sanchez has been the most discussed of this group, and indeed his time with the White Sox already appears to be over. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported last week that the team placed its Gold Glove second baseman on outright waivers and that Sanchez cleared those waivers and will head to free agency. Sanchez, who had repeatedly said he wanted to stay with the only organization he's ever known, followed with a social-media post or two indicating he was going to try to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. The team, aside from a comment from manager Rick Renteria, has not officially announced anything involving Sanchez's status.

Certainly the White Sox moving on from Sanchez wasn't difficult to foresee. Nick Madrigal, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is on the doorstep of the major leagues and is expected to be the starting second baseman on the South Side for the bulk of the 2020 campaign. While Sanchez plays some exceptional defense, he can't match what Madrigal — a top-40 prospect in baseball who has also been touted as an elite defender — can do with the bat. Sanchez slashed just .252/.318/.321 in 2019, while Madrigal tore up the minors to the tune of .311/.377/.414 and struck out only 16 times in 120 games. In the end, Sanchez would have been an expensive reserve infielder, projected to make $6.2 million in arbitration.

Alex Colome

There are certain corners of the White Sox internet that look at Colome's second-half splits and lack of strikeouts and see doom coming around the bend. Indeed, Colome did fare much worse after the All-Star break than he did before it, with a 3.91 ERA and a frightening .265/.347/.422 slash line against in the second half after posting a 2.02 ERA and holding hitters to a .127/.194/.288 line in the first half. Is that worth a projected $10.3 million? That's the decision the White Sox face.

But Colome has been one of the more productive ninth-inning men in baseball in recent seasons, even if the second half of 2019 didn't look so good. Since the start of the 2016 season, he's posted a 2.78 ERA and saved 126 games, a total that would be significantly higher if not for his playing setup man for the majority of 2018.

In a 2019 season featuring plenty of problems from the rotation and lineup, the bullpen was a reliable unit for the White Sox, with a 4.31 ERA that ranked seventh in the American League, behind only the five playoff teams and the Cleveland Indians, who narrowly missed the postseason. Stability at the back end with Colome and Aaron Bummer is a good thing to head into 2020 with, especially with so many other holes that need filling on the roster. The White Sox likely don't want to add potentially expensive bullpen help to their offseason to-do list.

James McCann

The White Sox tendering McCann a contract is a no-brainer, but he's been talked about an awful lot since the team inked free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to the richest contract it's ever given out a couple weeks ago. McCann doesn't figure to go anywhere, even with another All-Star backstop now ahead of him on the depth chart. McCann was a heck of a find by Rick Hahn last offseason, and having two good catchers is better than having one, especially considering the lineup permutations Rick Renteria might be forced to come up with if the White Sox front office opts for a DH rotation of Grandal, McCann, Jose Abreu and Zack Collins.

But McCann will be talked about on a variety of levels as the offseason goes on, too. If the White Sox could sell high on a guy who made the All-Star team last season — but who also batted just .226/.281/.413 in the second half — would they take that opportunity? Or will McCann stay on and serve as a personal catcher of sorts for Lucas Giolito after the duo had such incredible success in 2019? The White Sox have options, but no matter which path they end up traveling down with McCann, they'll almost surely do so after tendering him a contract Monday.

Leury Garcia

Another seeming no-brainer, Garcia is likely destined for the role of utility man on the 2020 roster after playing in 140 games in 2019 and starting in 135 of them. His projected $4 million is less than Sanchez's projected $6.2 million, and he can play all three outfield positions in addition to the three positions on the infield Sanchez can play. His .310 on-base percentage and relative light-hitting ways might not have been what some fans wanted to see from an everyday player last season, but as a guy off the bench once Luis Robert and Madrigal reach the major leagues, Garcia figures to be an asset for Renteria and the White Sox.

Evan Marshall

Marshall is also a seeming lock to get a contract tendered Monday after he was a key member of the White Sox late-inning corps in 2019. They picked him up as a minor league free agent, and he turned in a 2.49 ERA in 50.2 relief innings. Hahn is always reminding us about the volatility of relief pitching, so it's difficult to say we should expect a repeat performance from Marshall. But he's slated to hold a key bullpen position in 2020, as well, making him well worth a projected $1.3 million.

Carlos Rodon

The White Sox only have two years of team control remaining with Rodon before he's slated to hit free agency. Between the contract situation and all the significant arm injuries he's suffered in recent seasons, it's not at all easy to project him as a long-term member of the rotation. That being said, it would be shocking to see him non-tendered Monday. The team has suggested all along that he's still very much part of their plans. The White Sox are still hoping that even after a long layoff while recovering from Tommy John surgery that he can become the pitcher they envisioned he'd be when they took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. That has been a bit of a challenge for Rodon, who's shown flashes of strikeout-heavy brilliance, as well as frustrating bouts of ineffectiveness. Prior to having the surgery this year, he had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts.

But the White Sox figure to crave all the starting pitching they can muster in 2020. On the hunt for a couple offseason additions, they also have plans to limit Michael Kopech — who's returning from his own Tommy John surgery — and can't be 100-percent certain what they'll get out of still-promising youngsters Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. The contributions of pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert remain mysteries, too, as they return from Tommy John in the middle of the season.

Bottom line: Whatever the White Sox can get out of Rodon in 2020, they'll happily take, making the projected $4.5 million seem plenty doable.

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State of the White Sox: Center field

State of the White Sox: Center field

Previous: Left field | Catcher | Shortstop Third base  Second base | First base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re moving on to center field.

What happened in 2019

Fans weren’t too pleased that a second straight season of service-time issues kept the White Sox top-rated prospect away from the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field. In 2018, it was Eloy Jimenez who stayed in the minor leagues. In 2019, it was Luis Robert who didn’t make his big league debut despite a monstrous season in the minors.

Robert is undoubtedly the team’s center fielder of the future, and he showed why this season, earning minor league player of the year honors thanks to an absolutely ridiculous campaign that put his five-tool potential on display. All in all, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 homers, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases in 122 games between three different levels.

Robert hit for power, he hit for average, he showed speed on the base paths, he made some jaw-dropping catches in the outfield, and he showed off a strong arm. He can do it all.

“It's pretty incredible to see. Whether it's on the base paths, in the outfield, at the plate, you just see how special a player he is,” fellow top prospect Nick Madrigal said in July. “It seems like one at-bat will go by and he'll look fooled at the plate and the next one he'll be on every single pitch. He makes adjustments on the fly.

“And it's fun hitting behind him, it seems like he's always on base with a chance for him to score every time I'm up. It's been great to play with him.

“At the beginning of the year, playing at (Class A) Winston-Salem, I feel like he definitely boosted the lineup. Even the way he runs the bases, the way he runs (on a ball) in the gap getting triples, he definitely sparks your team. Baseball's kind of contagious, and once he gets on it's easier to hit. The pitcher feels some pressure. It's just great playing beside him.”

And that’s what made the team’s decision to keep Robert in the minors such a bummer to a lot of fans who were demanding to see all that at the big league level all year long. Much like the way they handled Jimenez in 2018, the White Sox did not say and will not say that service time played a role in their decision, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that by delaying Robert’s debut until the middle of April in 2020 the White Sox gain another year of control of a guy expected to be an impact player.

While Robert was blowing minds at the minor league level, the White Sox trotted several fill-ins out to center in the majors. Adam Engel played the most games there and had the best offensive season of his major league career to go along with his typically strong defense. Leury Garcia played nearly as many games there, too, and had a solid start at the plate, carrying a nearly .300 average into the All-Star break. But his numbers took a dip in the second half, exemplified by his .327 first-half on-base percentage dropping to .288 in the second half.

What will happen this offseason

The biggest thing to watch for this offseason — and into spring training, potentially — will be whether the White Sox can work out a similar multi-year deal with Robert to the one they worked out with Jimenez before the 2019 campaign got going. That contract allowed Jimenez to start the season on the big league roster as opposed to waiting around at Triple-A for a few weeks until the White Sox could call him up with that extra year of club control intact.

It’s purely speculative, but there might not be as much incentive for Robert to ink a deal and delay his eventual free agency considering the many millions he received when the White Sox signed him out of Cuba in the first place in 2017. We’ll see how that plays out.

Otherwise, the White Sox have a decision to make with Garcia, who is much more valuable to them than just a backup center fielder. He’s arbitration eligible and will probably get a raise that won’t make him that much cheaper than Yolmer Sanchez, who’s in the same situation. But Garcia can play six different positions and is beloved on the South Side for his versatility.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

Robert, and a lot of him.

It might be Garcia or Engel or someone else patrolling center field for the first handful of games in 2020, but once the White Sox can bring Robert up and earn that extra season of club control, he’ll be on the South Side, wowing as a major leaguer. And doing so, eventually, alongside another highly ranked prospect in Madrigal.

"I don't know when exactly Luis Robert will arrive come 2020 or when Nick Madrigal will arrive in 2020," general manager Rick Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "I would say based upon their seasons, probably have Luis a tick ahead of Nick in terms of projected arrival time. But we'll see how they show up in camp and how that unfolds. I think we can sit here and say that, similar to Eloy a year ago, that we expect Luis Robert to be playing center field for most if not all of the 2020 season. Nick Madrigal playing second base? Probably most of the 2020 season."

As we saw with Jimenez this season — and Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito before that — it might not be fair to expect Robert to start putting up All-Star numbers the second he gets here. That being said, he’s also been lauded as the player to perhaps end up as the best among the many highly touted youngsters the White Sox have acquired during their rebuilding process. For him to reach the major leagues and instantly be the team’s best player should not shock, even if it also shouldn’t be necessarily expected.

The biggest mystery with Robert might be where he’ll end up in the batting order. Rick Renteria has, in the past, stuck new arrivals down in the order to get them better acclimated to the big league game. But if Robert lives up to the hype and quick, will he be in one of the top two spots to best utilize his speed? Or will he be a run-producer in the middle of the order?

Like so many other players around the diamond — Jimenez, Moncada, Madrigal, Tim Anderson — Robert is expected to be a long-term lock at his position in center field. If everything goes according to plan, the White Sox won’t need another center fielder for a long time.

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