Nick Madrigal

White Sox mailbag: James McCann's trade value and a Luis Robert-Cole Kmet swap

White Sox mailbag: James McCann's trade value and a Luis Robert-Cole Kmet swap

Going through April and May without baseball is awful. I hope we never have to do it again.

At this point, I’m still optimistic there will be baseball in 2020, and I know you have questions about the season. Let’s kickoff our first White Sox mailbag together:

Assuming the season starts at the beginning of July, when do you think Nick Madrigal would be the starter at second base? — David R.

This is a great question that is even more complicated now than it was back in March. Putting service-time issues aside, Madrigal still has more development to do at the minor league level, and now there might not even be a minor league season. So how does he go about getting that development? I’m sure that is a big question for general managers across the league right now as the owners and players try to hash out a playing agreement for 2020.

There’s been momentum building toward the idea of a 20-man “taxi squad” to complement 30-man major league rosters, but I have significant questions about how such a squad would work. How do you keep those players fresh? Considering pretty much all of them will be minor leaguers, how do you keep their development going? If you’re going to call up a pitcher from the taxi squad, how do you throw him into a major league game if he hasn’t faced a live batter since March? Those players need to be playing games in some capacity, perhaps back in Arizona.

Madrigal is close, but he didn’t have a great spring training and now he’s been inactive for two months. The White Sox will put him in the best position to succeed, and that will likely depend on this taxi-squad situation. If he can’t adequately develop at the minor league level in 2020, perhaps they’ll decide he can finish off his development in Chicago. That’s always risky, though.

Madrigal isn’t the only high-profile MLB prospect in this situation. You just hope their careers aren’t negatively impacted by this whole situation. My guess is the ones destined for success will figure it out, but you don’t want to do any long-term damage. At this point, I would still expect to see Madrigal in a White Sox uniform by September, but the longer this delay goes, the greater the chance his major league debut is delayed to 2021.

With the 20-man taxi squads, should we expect Andrew Vaughn to be a part of that? — Luke M.

I’m not sure I would expect it, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. It depends on the rules involving the taxi squad. Are the taxi squad players the only ones who will get any kind of development this season? If so, I would certainly put Vaughn on that squad. But will taxi squad players be accruing major league service time? I wouldn’t think so, but until that is hashed out, it’s hard to know for sure.

The bigger question is whether or not Vaughn will contribute to the major league club at all in 2020, and that seems like a long shot, especially when you consider he hasn’t been playing minor league games the last two months. Still, between the expanded 30-man roster and 20-man taxi squads, that’s 50 players to account for, and it’s possible Vaughn is included in that group.

RELATED: How White Sox could handle Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn in shortened season

What happens to one-year contracts for this year? Do they roll over to 2021? — Adam K.

They do not roll over. That was already negotiated in the March agreement between the players and the owners. So if zero games are played in 2020, a player like Mookie Betts will still hit free agency this coming winter and theoretically might never play a game for the Dodgers.

For the White Sox, it means James McCann and Alex Colome will hit free agency no matter how many games are played. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez will be arbitration eligible. Yasmani Grandal’s big four-year contract will just have three years left on it.

Some players will benefit by hitting free agency sooner. Others might lose more money because of the way their contracts are loaded in 2020. But overall, it was in the players’ best interests to accrue full-service time this year, and that’s what the MLBPA fought for and received in March.

Does McCann become more valuable on the trade market due to a shortened season? Do you think the Sox would change their symbol/jersey in the coming years? This is the longest they have ever kept one style. — Typical Sox Fan

Two-parter here, but I like both questions so it’s all good. Before I address McCann specifically, the idea of trades during this potential season is interesting. If players are all being tested the same way across the league, then it wouldn’t necessarily be a big issue to move a player from one clubhouse to another, but it’s a different story for that player’s family. People are still moving during this pandemic, but it’s not exactly ideal. There’s also going to be limited minor league development going on, so how are prospects going to be valued in potential trades? Every baseball rabbit hole I go down only generates more questions.

As for McCann, I’m not sure the value changes much. If catchers are valued more in a shorter season, then that also means McCann’s value to the White Sox increases. If there are fewer off days in the season, then McCann will be needed to spell Grandal more. Like any season, McCann’s trade value will depend on how he is playing and what position the White Sox are in when the trade deadline rolls around. Considering the playoffs could be temporarily expanded to 14 teams, there’s even more reason to believe the White Sox will be contenders this year, which means trading McCann wouldn’t make much sense.

As for the uniforms: Why change them? It’s hard to believe, but this is the 30th season the White Sox have been in their current uniforms. Considering their unis have changed so much over the long history of the franchise, 30 years is an eternity. But it also means they’ve found uniforms that work. The home pinstripes are a classic that withstand the test of time, and the current logo has been culturally significant and popular since it debuted in 1991. Too many teams struggle to find the right uniform combination and constantly change them because they need to. The White Sox aren’t one of those teams — not anymore.

That said, I would personally love to see the diamond sock logo return to the road unis and the script “White Sox” unis they wore from 1987 to 1990 used as throwbacks every once in a while.

Adam, you cover both the White Sox and the Bears. Which current White Sox player would have the best chance of succeeding in the NFL, and who on the Bears do you believe could make a living in MLB? — Legendary Chicago radio host Harry T.

Harry! Well, Adam Engel was a good enough high school football player that Bret Bielema offered him a scholarship at Wisconsin. Engel chose to play baseball at Louisville instead. But I once had someone tell me that if Luis Robert was born in the United States, he would be playing football at Alabama. I don’t think it was meant literally, but it speaks to his speed and athleticism.

As for the Bears, I’m going to keep working on Kyle Long’s baseball comeback with the White Sox. But since he’s retired from football, I have to go with rookie tight end Cole Kmet. White Sox scout J.J. Lally loved him coming out of St. Viator High School, and his comp for Kmet was Aaron Judge. That’s pretty high praise.

So how about a Cole Kmet-Luis Robert trade? Perhaps Robert could slide in and start at wide receiver right away. Pretty sure Rick Hahn isn’t making that deal, though.

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How White Sox could handle Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn in shortened season

How White Sox could handle Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn in shortened season

While the league and the union discuss how major leaguers would be paid during a shortened 2020 season, here’s a question: How will minor league players be played during a shortened 2020 season?

And while two of the White Sox top prospects, Luis Robert and Michael Kopech, figure to lose their prospect status relatively soon, what happens with Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn? The team has big plans for its last two first-round picks, but how can it assure they keep developing, all while making sure they’re in position to help the team for the longest possible time?

It’s a question without an easy answer, and it means the White Sox might be facing some tough decisions.

The league has proposed that a shortened 2020 season, down to 82 games from the typical 162, would feature active rosters expanded from 26 players to 30. Additionally, with the possibility of no active minor league system from which to draw players during the season, there’d be a 20-man “taxi squad” of guys teams can use to make regular roster moves, be those due to injury, poor performance, a tired bullpen or whatever.

Logic would say you would want the 20 minor leaguers — and, perhaps, some currently unsigned guys with big league experience — who could best contribute if needed. Madrigal, who had a sensational campaign in the minor leagues last season, and Vaughn, who showed off his impressive potential during a brief bout of Cactus League action this spring, would figure to fit that description.

But even with the season halved, service time is still a thing.

Until it’s negotiated away, service time will continue to impact when top prospects get called up to the big leagues, as clubs try to make the best use of a player’s time under team control. The March agreement between the league and the union established that players who play a full season, of however many games, this year will get a full year of big league service time. It’s less certain what would happen to players who are put on the taxi squad, play a partial season after being “called up” from the taxi squad or stay on the taxi squad all season without ever being put on the active roster.

So do the White Sox, who expect to be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot this year — and the American League playoff field being expanded from five teams to seven teams only improves the chances that they’ll get there — want to use these youngsters to make a run at a playoff berth in a shortened season? Or do they want to wait to “start their clocks” until a hopefully normal 2021 season, adding another year of team control down the road?

Fans are probably getting sick of this discussion, the same one we had surrounding Robert, Kopech and Eloy Jimenez over the past two seasons. But with the circumstances what they are this time around, there’s even more to the equation.

RELATED: How White Sox benefit — and don't — from proposed MLB changes for 2020 season

Keeping Vaughn, the power-hitting first baseman, out of the 50-player pool would surely be an easier decision, as he hasn’t even been a pro for a year. Yes, he has prodigious power, and perhaps if the plan is for him to be a regular contributor at the big league level come 2021, having him face major league pitching early — and potentially struggle — would be preferable to having him face no pitching at all. Without minor league games and unable to face different levels of pitching, he’d effectively fall a year behind in his development.

And, you know, the White Sox don’t exactly need him just yet, with Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion set in the middle of the lineup and soaking up the playing time at both first base and designated hitter.

But excluding Madrigal, someone who Rick Hahn described at the end of the 2019 season as likely to be the team’s everyday second baseman for the bulk of 2020, would be far more difficult — even if it would be a sensible move for the team in the long term.

Hahn has said since January that Madrigal has not shown the White Sox everything he needs to quite yet. That might have been accomplished during the Cactus League schedule, which was obviously cut short. Most likely, it meant a short stay at Triple-A Charlotte before an in-season promotion. But the possibility now exists that Madrigal won’t be able to show those things because there might not be Triple-A games in which to play.

So the question becomes: Has he shown the White Sox enough to warrant burning a year of team control on a shortened campaign?

The White Sox would never say that service time is a factor in such decisions, and they never did when publicly discussing what they would do — and ended up doing — with Kopech, Jimenez and Robert. While plenty wailed about the team not debuting Jimenez and Robert sooner, those players were then rewarded in consecutive offseasons with big-money contracts before even playing their first major league games, which wiped away any service-time discussion that would have lingered into the season.

But while it might not be fair to players, who look to maximize their earning potential, it isn’t against the rules. That might soon change in the next round of collective-bargaining negotiations. But for now, teams looking to maximize their control over their best players is still something that makes too much sense, from their perspective, to ignore.

The White Sox have to figure out how they most benefit from Madrigal’s presence on the big league roster: as an everyday player in a shortened season full of unknowns and then the five years that follow, or as an everyday player in six full seasons, from 2021 to 2026, campaigns in which the White Sox could be chasing championships?

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MLB The Show sim: Nick Madrigal hits first career home run in 6-3 loss to Rangers

MLB The Show sim: Nick Madrigal hits first career home run in 6-3 loss to Rangers

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: Rangers def. White Sox 6-3
Record: 9-11, 4th in A.L. Central (2.0 GB of Twins)

W: Kolby Allard (2-0)
L: Dylan Cease (0-2)
SV: Jose Leclerc (6)

Game Summary: On a fabulous Friday evening for baseball, the White Sox played host to the Texas Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field and it didn’t get off to a good start for the Southsiders. Dylan Cease got the start for the Sox and had a rough 1st inning with back-to-back home runs from Texas’ Willie Calhoun and Joey Gallo to give the Rangers an early 3-0 lead. In the 3rd, things didn’t improve for Cease when Calhoun homered for a second time to right field, his 3rd of the season and 2nd of the game made it 4-1, Texas.

If Thursday was the debut of Nick Madrigal, Friday was the arrival of Nick Madrigal. In the bottom of the 2nd, Madrigal picked up first career Major League hit off Jordan Lyles with an opposite field single. In his second at bat in the 4th, Madrigal hit his first career home run off Kolby Allard over the left field wall. As expected, the White Sox dugout gave Madrigal the silent treatment for a few moments before swarming the former first round pick.

Although the Rangers would pick up another couple insurance runs, the White Sox still fought in the 9th when Eloy Jimenez went opposite field for a solo home run, his 6th of the season, as Jimenez continues to be a run producer ranking 4th in the American League with 20 runs batted in. As much as it looked like the Sox offense struggled, that was misleading with the Southsiders picking up 12 hits of the Texas pitching staff.

White Sox Lineup:

1. Tim Anderson: 1-3, RBI, BB (.267 BA)
2. Yoan Moncada: 1-4, BB (.232 BA)
3. Jose Abreu: 2-5 (.310 BA)
4. Edwin Encarnacion: 2-5 (.301 BA)
5. Yasmani Grandal: 1-5, 2B (.295 BA)
6. Eloy Jimenez: 2-3, RBI, 2 BB (.236BA)
7. Luis Robert: 0-4, BB, R (.228 BA)
8. Nomar Mazara: 1-4, BB (.194 BA)
9. Nick Madrigal: 2-4, HR, RBI (.286 BA)

Scoring Summary:

Top 1st:

• Willie Calhoun homered to center field. Shin Soo-Choo scored. 2-0 TEX.
• Joey Gallo homered to right field. 3-0 TEX.

Bottom 2nd:

• Tim Anderson sacrifice fly to right field. Luis Robert scored. 3-1 TEX.

Top 3rd:

• Willie Calhoun (2) homered to right field. 4-1 TEX.

Bottom 4th:

• Nick Madrigal homered to center field. 4-2 TEX.

Top 6th:

• Nick Solak singled to center field. Danny Santana scored. 5-2 TEX.

Top 9th:

• Rougned Odor homered to right field. 6-2 TEX.

Bottom 9th:

• Eloy Jimenez homered to right field. 6-3 TEX.

Notable Performance: Jose Abreu extended his hit streak to 15 games Friday night with a multi-hit game against the Rangers. Abreu’s is leading the Southsiders with a .310 AVG on the season and will look to continue the streak against Corey Kluber on Saturday. Abreu is a .340 career hitter against the new Rangers right hander.

Next Game: Saturday, April 18th - Gm. 21: Rangers at White Sox (Corey Kluber, 0-0, 3.96 ERA vs Lucas Giolito, 1-2, 4.43 ERA)