Mike Moustakas

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Kansas City Royals?

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AP

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Kansas City Royals?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Kansas City Royals?

When the Royals win, Kauffman Stadium plays the Beatles’ rip-roaring cover of Little Richard’s cover of “Kansas City.” When the Royals lose, Kauffman Stadium plays the Wilbert Harrison original, a more slow-paced version befitting the fans’ less-than-celebratory mood.

Expect to hear a lot more Wilbert Harrison than Paul McCartney this summer.

The Crowns got stripped of their finest jewels this offseason, Eric Hosmer departing for the San Diego Padres and Lorenzo Cain heading back to the Milwaukee Brewers. It seemed to signal the end of the Royals’ nice run in recent seasons that featured back-to-back trips to the World Series, a championship in 2015 and four straight finishes of .500 or higher, no small feat for a historically ill-fated franchise. The front office has already launched into rebuilding mode after a lengthy rebuild finally yielded not even a half decade of results. Back under .500 last season, Royals fans were left to saltening up their barbecue sauce. (With tears, get it?)

Mike Moustakas is back, a casualty of this weird offseason. One season after setting a Royals franchise record with 38 home runs, who knows how he’ll feel or perform after signing a one-year contract worth little more than 30 percent of the qualifying offer he rejected.

Jon Jay and Lucas Duda were other late-in-the-offseason signings that are supposed to slide right into the Crown’s less-than-terrifying lineup. Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez ought to provide a decent-enough middle of the order alongside Moustakas. But beyond that? Jorge Soler was horrendous in a small 2017 sample size, slashing .144/.245/.258 in 110 plate appearances. Alex Gordon followed up his flop of a 2016 season with an even worse 2017: a .208/.293/.315 slash line with just nine homers in 148 games. Alcides Escobar wasn’t much better at .250/.272/.357.

No matter how much brisket fans are ingesting, they won’t be happy about a lineup that puts up numbers like that. It spells doom for the Crowns with two of their best players, Hosmer and Cain, playing elsewhere.

And a team that won a World Series just three years ago with a hodgepodge of pitchers who no longer play in Kansas City has few answers in the starting rotation, either. Returning all five starters from a year ago is, in this case, not a positive. Danny Duffy had himself a nice season. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel did not, both sporting ERAs north of 5.00.

So this could once more be an arduous rebuilding effort for the Royals, who have no prospects currently ranked in the game’s top 100. It worked out well the last time they did this, and bringing a World Series to Kansas City was previously believed to be near impossible. So the front office gets credit there. But will the fans be willing to put up with this whole thing again so soon after just completing it?

It doesn’t look like they have much of a choice.

2017 record: 80-82, third place in AL Central

Offseason additions: Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Ryan Goins, Wily Peralta, Blaine Boyer, Justin Grimm, Burch Smith, Brad Keller, Jesse Hahn

Offseason departures: Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas, Melky Cabrera, Trevor Cahill, Mike Minor, Peter Moylan

X-factor: That Royals lineup has a lot of bad numbers in it, but Whit Merrifield was actually really good last year. The second baseman was especially good after the All-Star break, when he slashed .294/.328/.469 with 12 of his 25 homers, 45 of his 78 RBIs, 20 of his 34 stolen bases and 48 of his 80 runs scored. Way to go, Whit.

Projected lineup:

1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Whit Merrifield, 2B
3. Mike Moustakas, 3B
4. Salvador Perez, C
5. Lucas Duda, 1B
6. Jorge Soler, DH
7. Alex Gordon, LF
8. Paulo Orlando, CF
9. Alcides Escobar, SS

Projected rotation:

1. Danny Duffy
2. Ian Kennedy
3. Jason Hammel
4. Jake Junis
5. Nathan Karns

Prediction: Fourth place in AL Central

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates

Bovada releases list of teams with best odds to sign Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, others

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USA TODAY

Bovada releases list of teams with best odds to sign Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas, others

At this point, it's anyone's guess when the MLB's remaining top free agents will sign a contract for the 2018 season and beyond.

The MLB season is officially three weeks away, yet the likes of Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas, to name a few, remain unsigned. With the season fast approaching, Bovada is giving its best guess as to where the former All Stars will play in 2018.

According to Bovada, the Brewers have the best odds to sign Arrieta at 7/4, followed by the Nationals at 5/2, the Padres at 11/4, the Phillies at 9/2 and the Twins at 8/1.

Arrieta, 32, put together a stellar string of years with the Cubs in which he won the 2015 Cy Young Award and was named an All Star in 2016. He owns a 3.08 ERA in nine career postseason starts, all coming with the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Arrieta joining either the Brewers or Nationals would surely intensify the National League pennant race. The Brewers finished six games back of the Cubs in the NL Central in 2017, so Arrieta could theoretically help get them over the hump in 2018.

The Nationals have a stellar starting rotation as is, with the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. However, adding Arrieta and his postseason success would only help a Nationals team seeking its first postseason series win in franchise history.

Bovada gives the White Sox the best odds to sign Moustakas at 6/5, followed by the Royals at 8/5, the Yankees at 4/1 and the Brewers at 5/1.

Although Moustakas, 29, has recently been linked to the White Sox, such a move seems unlikely. The White Sox currently have Yolmer Sanchez and Matt Davidson on the roster to play third base, both of which experienced success in 2017.

Sanchez hit a respectable .267 in 141 games with the White Sox in 2017, while Davidson hit .220 with 26 home runs in 118 games.

Moustakas has spent his entire seven-year career with the Royals, winning the World Series in 2015. He would be a significant addition, as he hit .272 with 38 home runs and 85 RBIs in 148 games in 2017.

At the same time, the White Sox could be looking to play younger players and not dip into free agency until they are closer to contention. Of course, this might not be for a few more seasons, so Moustakas might have to look elsewhere for his new home.

For the full free agency odds, go to Bovada's official website. 

Update: After publication, Moustakas and the Royals agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2019.

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Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training

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USA TODAY

Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training

March is almost here, and the White Sox are in the thick of spring training down in Glendale, with Cactus League games getting going over the weekend.

After watching workouts and hearing from players and manager Rick Renteria for two weeks, some of the offseason's biggest questions seem to have answers, while others still remain.

Here are three questions that have been answered and three that still need solving.

Answers

1. Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are something to get excited about

There are no guarantees in player development, but the White Sox top two outfield prospects seem to be legit. The highly touted pair, along with fellow prospect Micker Adolfo, generated a ton of buzz whenever they stepped into the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, and after watching them smoke baseballs over the practice-field fences, it’s easy to see why.

All three guys shared that they’re dreaming of playing together in the team’s championship outfield of the future, and if the White Sox can develop that talent, then watch out.

Of course there’s a long way to go. Jimenez has only played a handful of games above the Class A level. Adolfo has played none. And Robert hasn’t even played a minor league baseball game in the United States. General manager Rick Hahn keeps talking about how baseball has a cruel way of reminding that not all prospects pan out. Look no further than Adolfo, who now has a pair of arm injuries after being rated as the best thrower in the White Sox farm system.

But hearing the cracks of the bats and watching the baseballs fly, it’s easy to get excited about these guys’ futures.

2. Carlos Rodon won’t be ready for Opening Day

This one wasn’t that difficult to predict, but after having shoulder surgery last fall, Carlos Rodon won’t be a member of the White Sox starting rotation on Opening Day.

That was actually made relatively clear when the team brought back Miguel Gonzalez, seemingly locking the starting rotation into place alongside James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. But now there’s confirmation that Rodon will not pitch during the Cactus League schedule and will stay at extended spring training after the White Sox leave Glendale for Kansas City.

There’s still no knowing, of course, when Rodon will be back. The White Sox are happy with his progress, and he was throwing during the early parts of the spring, cleared to throw right before SoxFest at the end of January.

Who knows if it will be as late as June this time around after he didn't make his 2017 debut until June 28 after suffering a separate injury last spring. But when he returns, he’ll have to prove that he’s healthy and capable of being the same pitcher who was envisioned as an ace of the future.

3. Hector Santiago gives the White Sox a long man — and starting depth

There didn’t seem to be a member of the White Sox bullpen who could serve in the long-relief role. Then the team brought Hector Santiago back on a minor league deal.

Even though it’s a minor league deal, the former and now current White Sox hurler seems likely to make the bullpen as the long relief man. That role was needed regularly last season, and it’s an important one for a bullpen filled with guys looking to prove themselves as either long-term pieces or midseason trade chips.

But Santiago also gives the White Sox starting pitching depth, providing a one-time All-Star starter as a backup in case any of the five guys in the rotation go down with an injury. Rick Hahn already said he wouldn’t rush Michael Kopech or any of the team’s other pitching prospects to the majors just because someone was hurt at the big league level. And now he won’t have to thanks in part to Santiago’s presence.

Questions

1. Who will be the closer?

While there might not be as many open spots in the White Sox bullpen as initially believed, there is a huge question mark at closer. Who will throw in the ninth inning for the White Sox this season?

Juan Minaya had closing duties at the end of last season and fared pretty well after much of the bullpen was traded away in summer deals. But do the White Sox see Minaya as a closer of the future?

If not, they might be more likely to go with one of the new acquisitions in order to try and establish a deadline trade chip. Maybe someone like Joakim Soria, who has tons of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. Of course those days are getting longer and longer ago.

But if the White Sox go with Soria and he does well, they could try to fetch the same kind of return they got last season when they shipped David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and other relievers away from the South Side.

2. Who will be the starting center fielder?

The White Sox are not short on options in center field. But there aren’t necessarily any slam-dunk ones, hence why the job is still up for grabs.

Adam Engel started 91 games in center last season and hit just .166. While his glove is terrific, his offensive production is not that of a starting position player in the major leagues. Leury Garcia was far better with the bat but might be more valuable as a versatile infielder who can spell the four guys around the diamond. Charlie Tilson has high hopes but has struggled mightily to just get on the baseball field and stay there, much of his White Sox career wiped out so far due to injuries. Further down the list is Ryan Cordell, the guy acquired in the Anthony Swarzak trade last summer who has a good Triple-A track record and got some love from Rick Hahn at SoxFest.

Garcia seems to be the best option if the White Sox are looking for the most consistent bat. But for a rebuilding team not expected to contend in 2018, maybe giving guys like Engel and Tilson more chances to prove themselves makes more sense.

3. Do the White Sox have another move left in them?

For a rebuilding team like the White Sox, this perplexing offseason might be a really rare opportunity.

In the last week, the White Sox were mentioned as a potential landing spot for a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez. Considering the slowness of the market, guys who were once pegged for multi-year deals could now be bargains one one-year contracts. That could allow a team like the White Sox to swoop in and sign these guys at very low risk. If they produce, they could become long-term options or midseason trade chips. If they don’t, it was a one-year flier and did no harm for a team not expected to contend — and it does not negatively impact the rebuild in any way.

The White Sox already pulled the trigger on a springtime addition with Hector Santiago. There are still tons of free agents out there, and even if it’s not someone the caliber of Moustakas or Gonzalez, the White Sox could still ink someone who could really benefit the short- and long-term success of the team at a bargain.