Manny Banuelos

White Sox shed four from 40-man roster in advance of offseason business

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USA TODAY

White Sox shed four from 40-man roster in advance of offseason business

The White Sox freed up four spaces on their 40-man roster Monday.

That’s the biggest takeaway from the list of players who were outrighted, a quartet of guys who never figured to have too great a chance to be a part of the long-term planning on the South Side. Manny Banuelos, Ryan Cordell, Ryan Goins and Matt Skole are all Charlotte Knights, ever so briefly, before they become minor league free agents at the conclusion of the World Series later this week.

Cordell is probably the highest profile name on that list. Believe it or not, he made more starts in right field this season than anyone else on the White Sox roster. Acquired during the 2017 season in the deal that sent relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, Cordell was an outfield prospect of some promise before a pretty severe back injury wiped out much of his 2017 campaign. He had a chance to separate himself from the pack of mid-level White Sox outfield prospects, playing at the major league level over the last two seasons, but he failed to impress with the bat, slashing just .221/.290/.355 in 2018, contributing to the general lack of production that has Rick Hahn’s front office on the hunt for a new right fielder this winter.

Banuelos was supposed to be a much bigger part of the White Sox pitching staff than he ended up being in 2019. The team traded for him last offseason, acquiring the one-time prospect of note with hopes they could uncover a diamond in the rough. He was talked up as a potential member of the team's Opening Day rotation. But the injuries that kept Banuelos out of the bigs for the last several seasons yielded to a shocking amount of hits from opposing lineups, including the night he allowed ten straight knocks to the Boston Red Sox. In a little more than 50 innings, his ERA was a little south of 7.00.

Skole and Goins were up-from-the-minors fillers during the 2019 campaign. A major league veteran, Goins showed off plenty of versatility, playing six different positions in 52 games, but his bat didn’t exactly scream “lock him into a 2020 roster spot” and the White Sox will likely try to find more versatile depth the same way they did with Goins last winter -- on a minor league deal. Skole was part of the parade of plug-ins used at designated hitter after the Yonder Alonso experiment ended in an early summer release. Skole hit just .208 with only two extra-base hits in 27 games.

But, again, the big news here is four new spots on the 40-man roster, which currently stands at 35. The White Sox need a lot of room there, not just for the offseason additions Hahn’s front office is expected to make but also to protect some of their more notable prospects -- such as Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, Zack Burdi and Yermin Mercedes -- from selection in December’s Rule 5 draft.

While it might seem easy for the White Sox to do what they did Monday and cut loose players not expected to be part of the plans in 2020 and beyond, those spots will be spoken for fast. In addition to those six prospects, injured pitchers Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon will have to join the 40-man roster. And then there’s the business of making those free-agent additions, which will require more room.

It’s something to continue to keep an eye on as offseason business nears.

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How Manny Banuelos affects any White Sox September roster decisions

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USA TODAY

How Manny Banuelos affects any White Sox September roster decisions

Manny Banuelos was activated off the 60-man injured list and joined the White Sox roster on Sunday.

Given Banuelos’ 6.90 ERA this season, that won’t be big news among Sox fans. However, the move has some implications for the rest of September now that rosters can expand to 40.

Banuelos was joined by Carson Fulmer on the White Sox active roster on Sunday. Both were completing rehab stints in Triple-A Charlotte.

While Banuelos was on the 60-day IL, he didn’t count against the 40-man roster. When he was activated, he took the last open spot.

That means if the White Sox want to add any minor leaguers not currently on the 40-man roster for the final few weeks of the season, someone will have to be removed, leaving them free to be claimed by another team.

There are plenty of players on the 40-man roster that White Sox fans likely wouldn’t lose sleep over losing for nothing, but it still is an extra step and element to the thought process if Rick Hahn decides to bring up, say, Luis Robert. The same goes for 2018 first-round pick Nick Madrigal and Yermin Mercedes, who has been mashing in Charlotte. None of those players are on the 40-man roster.

Robert, the top-rated White Sox prospect, homered again on Sunday, his 32nd of the season across three levels of the minors, for Charlotte.


Robert’s promotion to the big leagues is a matter of when, not if, but the White Sox have stayed mum on the when. The company line has been to say they will wait until the end of the Knights’ season before making their final decision.

It’s not even clear when the Knights season will end. Charlotte is currently tied for the wild card playoff berth in the International League with one game left in the regular season. The Knights don’t have the tiebreaker (which is head-to-head record) with the Durham Bulls. The Knights need to win and have Durham lose on Labor Day to extend their season.

Whenever the Knights’ season ends, Zack Collins, Charlie Tilson, Seby Zavala and even Daniel Palka are a fair bet to join the White Sox since they are on the 40-man roster. If Robert is to join them in Chicago, someone will have to come off the 40-man roster.

 

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Manny Banuelos' IL stay sounds like it might be brief, though that only slightly eases White Sox starting-pitching concerns

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USA TODAY

Manny Banuelos' IL stay sounds like it might be brief, though that only slightly eases White Sox starting-pitching concerns

Over the course of the last 24 hours, the possibility of Manny Banuelos making his next scheduled start against the Houston Astros on Monday night became an impossibility.

The White Sox placed the starting pitcher on the injured list ahead of Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. It's Banuelos' 13th career trip to the injured list, a bummer of a note in its own right. But the more pressing issue for the White Sox is who will make that start Monday night.

The team's problem with starting-pitching depth has been well chronicled to this point, hence the mystery. The good news for the White Sox is that both Banuelos and manager Rick Renteria seemed confident that Banuelos' stay on the IL wouldn't be lengthy, Banuelos saying he might miss just one start. And so maybe it's just a bullpen day Monday night, when the White Sox play the first of four games against the best team in the American League.

"Hopefully I can come back soon," Banuelos said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "Obviously, I'll lose my next outing. But probably that's the only one. Right after the game, they performed an MRI on my shoulder, and everything came clean. That gave me the confidence that it's nothing really serious or bad. Right now, I think it's just inflammation. We're working on it."

Renteria refused to elaborate on any options Friday, sticking with his typical approach when a starting-pitching vacancy pops up: The White Sox haven't made a decision yet, but they'll have one by Monday.

The options, though, aren't many, which is why this is of more interest than finding a spot starter normally would be.

It's not going to be Dylan Cease, much to the chagrin of White Sox fans who want the organization's top-ranked healthy pitching prospect up yesterday. Despite a nice start to his season at Triple-A Charlotte, Cease's major league readiness will be determined independently of any needs at the big league level. That's the way things go in the thick of a rebuild and in a season where the major league squad isn't expected to contend for a playoff spot. Why jeopardize Cease's development and production over the course of the next five years for a few more wins this year?

Perhaps the White Sox turn to Ross Detwiler, the 33-year-old they plucked out of independent ball who struck out 10 guys in six one-run innings in his first start for Charlotte on Tuesday night. He's made just one major league appearance since 2016, but at this very second he's looking like a far more preferable choice than the rest of Charlotte's banged-up and roughed-up rotation.

But Banuelos' potentially brief stay on the IL might make a simple bullpen day the most realistic course of action. Only in the event of an elongated stint on the injured list would a more permanent replacement be necessary.

Though they might have dodged a bullet, the White Sox are hardly off the hook, as the idiom train steams down the track. Banuelos' performance has made him an easy target for complaining fans, who quickly tired of him after he put up a 9.15 ERA and allowed nine homers in his five starts. And while the White Sox are hardly ready to pull the plug on a guy they liked enough to trade for him over the offseason, under-performance could blow a hole in the starting staff just as easily, if not as quickly, as an injury could.

Should Banuelos' struggles continue, or should he or another one of the current five-man rotation require a lengthy stay on the IL, where would the White Sox turn? Detwiler seems a possibility after just one start in Triple-A, though his attractiveness could change with one outing that shoots his numbers as high as those of his new rotation-mates in Charlotte.

Carlos Rodon will be sidelined for more than a year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Cease will be here eventually, but not immediately. And so the starting staff's job is to hold on and bridge the gap between Rodon's injury-induced departure and Cease's arrival, because there are few to no options in the minor leagues.

Banuelos' injury came just one day into that timeframe. So, pardon the unintentional pun, but things are not off to a good start.

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