Rick Hahn

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox really gonna get Bryce Harper?

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox really gonna get Bryce Harper?

“Batting third, playing right field for the Chicago White Sox, No. 34, Bryce Harper!”

Yeah, I went there. I’m sure White Sox public-address announcer Gene Honda wouldn’t mind going there for the next 10 years, either.

But really, Harper coming to the South Side? White Sox fans have been in a frenzy ever since MLB Network’s Jon Morosi broke the news that the White Sox are interested in signing Harper and Manny Machado.

By the way, a big thank you to Jon from all of White Sox media for this hot stove bombshell to help get us through November.

So, let’s open up this week’s Sox Drawer. Not surprising, lots of questions about Harper and Machado.

Q: How realistic are these rumors? — @jdwyer02

CG: I can’t say for sure. The White Sox have always been tight-lipped on such matters and rightfully so. But it makes sense for the White Sox to pursue both players. Harper and Machado fit many, if not all the requirements for what the White Sox need on the field, and they have the resources to spend big if they choose.

Now, will the White Sox pony up $300 million to $500 million to sign either of them?

Here’s what Rick Hahn said last January at SoxFest when asked if money will be available to sign big-time free agents: “I can certainly assure you the resources will be available. Will we be able to convert on every target? No, not always in a robust and competitive market. Ultimately, competing for free agents and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them will be the next logical step when the time is right.”

Q: I think we are just wasting time even entertaining this subject. Fact is we won’t sign either — @RickyRi48202029

CG: I’ve definitely seen skepticism like this coming from White Sox fans questioning whether the front office will offer the type of record-breaking contract needed to sign Harper or Machado. But as I’ve said before, these are different times. The White Sox have very little money on the books for the foreseeable future, and besides Tim Anderson, all of their young players are signed to cost-controlled rookie contracts. There’s plenty of money available to go big for one of these top-tier free agents.

Also, look at the White Sox track record in the last several years. When they’ve chosen to be aggressive, they’ve been all in. In 2013, they outbid the Red Sox, Astros and Giants for Jose Abreu, signing him to a $68 million contract. In the 2014 offseason, they signed Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Zack Duke and acquired Jeff Samardzija and his $9.8 million contract for 2015. All told, that cost a combined $137 million, and the longest contract was Robertson’s for four years. In 2017, the White Sox won the Luis Robert sweepstakes in a deal that cost them $52 million. Signing Harper or Machado will cost much more than these deals, but the White Sox have never had this kind of financial flexibility. Will either of them sign with the White Sox? I can’t answer that. Neither can the White Sox. But if Morosi’s report is true, the White Sox are seemingly attempting to do everything in their power to make it happen.

Q: Chuck, just make the call for us and lock them both up. Jerry's checkbook is in the first drawer to the right of his desk. 2 blank checks will do. — @TheJoeyMcNeely​​​​​​​

CG: (No response.)

Q: Hey Chuck, do you think the front office should be making the big splash in free agency now, or waiting until next year? Players such as Puig, Goldschmidt, Castellanos, Arenado as well as a slew of starting arms (Sale, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha) are available in 2020. — @drunkchisoxfan​​​​​​​

CG: Not sure if you were sober when you asked the question, @drunkchisox fan, but it’s a fair point. Here’s what I think: Players like Harper and Machado rarely become available. If you have a chance to sign one of them now, you do it. Plus, you can’t assume that all of those players you listed will be available in 2020. Who’s to say that Arenado and Goldschmidt won’t sign extensions with their respective teams before hitting free agency? Or that they’ll be healthy? Or that the two sides will be able to agree to a deal? There are too many unknowns. What we do know is that the White Sox contending window is coming. There are a handful of big-time free agents who they can possibly sign in the next few years. I say take your swings at as many as possible with the hopes of landing one of them.

Q: Is it smarter for the Sox to spend on one of the big ticket free agents (Harper, Machado) or to get multiple guys from the second tier of free agents with the same money? — @LandoJQuintana​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. If the White Sox are unable to sign one of the marquee guys in the next couple years, this might be the way they end up going. Is it smarter? If Harper and Machado end up getting hurt or not playing up to their contracts, then the answer is yes. But as I mentioned before, the White Sox spread the money around in 2014. They were crowned the winners of the offseason. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The White Sox went 76-86 in 2015, which set them on a course for the rebuild.

The reason to sign a guy like Harper is that it has a ripple affect on your entire franchise. Not just in wins, but in attendance, TV ratings, luring future free agents, etc. My feeling with the White Sox is they didn’t go through the rebuild and all the losing that comes with it to end up being a good team or a really good team. They want to be great and for a long time.

Q: Sign Harper. Trade remaining OF depth (not named Jimenez) for Trout. 2019-beyond OF of Eloy, Trout, Harper. Sox win the next 10 World Series. My question: what am I missing here? — @HockBomb​​​​​​​

CG: Absolutely nothing — other than maybe some reality! But I do like your thinking! Here’s the deal. If Mike Trout had four to five years remaining on his contract, I would make a trade like that in a heartbeat. However, he only has two years left. That’s not enough time to give up all that prospect talent for a very small window to win with Trout. Maybe the White Sox try to sign him in 2021?

Q: When can we expect to see Luis Robert up and is he more likely projected as a CF or corner outfielder? How is he progressing with off speed pitches? — @mpovilaitis​​​​​​​

CG: Robert has been making up for lost injury time, tearing things up in the Arizona Fall League. I’m actually heading out there on Tuesday, so I’ll have much more on Robert in the coming days. He’s projected to be a center fielder. I can see him reaching Double-A (and maybe Triple-A) in 2019 and the majors in 2020. He has the talent to move up quickly. It all depends on how he develops. What he’s been doing so far in the AFL is a good sign going forward.

Q: How many top 30 Sox prospects (and which ones) do you expect to see in the majors this year? — @DavidRHorning

CG: It’s tough to predict and project on prospects. How about a list of players who have a chance to make it the majors this year (and if they don’t, that’s fine): Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Zack Collins, Luis Basabe, Zack Burdi, Jordan Stephens, Kodi Medeiros, Seby Zavala and Spencer Adams.

Q: Should I buy season tickets? — @Nashpotatoes6

CG: I can’t tell you yes or no. But I will say this: If the White Sox were a stock, I’d be buying it.

Q: If the Bears have a great season and the Sox invite a couple of them for a Bears day. Who would you want to see throw out the first pitch? — @ventiicedredeye

CG: Trubisky and Mack. Offense and defense. Let’s make it happen.

And finally:

Q: How many times does Yolmer dump Gatorade on himself in 2019? — @DaRealScaletta

CG: I’m hoping for double digits.

It sounds like Matt Davidson won't be the next Shohei Ohtani after all

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USA TODAY

It sounds like Matt Davidson won't be the next Shohei Ohtani after all

Matt Davidson was totally serious when he talked about taking on a bigger pitching role. The White Sox, on the other hand, might not be as ready to throw one of their big bats on the mound on a regular basis.

Davidson made three relief appearances last season, helping to save the bullpen on a trio of occasions. In addition to giving up zero runs in those three innings, he got one heck of a highlight out of the experience, striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a game against the New York Yankees.

Davidson was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing, talking about how he grew up wanting to be a big league pitcher and how he’d love to be used in more high-leverage situations.

But general manager Rick Hahn said last week at the GM Meetings in Southern California that Davidson likely won’t be an important piece of the White Sox bullpen in 2019.

“He’s excited by the potential to add additional value to his club,” Hahn said. “I think he knows, still, his bread is buttered with the offense he provides. We’ve had conversations with Matty, we’ve had conversations with the agent about what potentially he could do in the future. And who knows, maybe someday that comes to fruition. But right now, the focus is on his offense.”

Asked if Davidson would log some innings during spring training, Hahn said:

“I don’t anticipate that right now.”

Position players pitching became somewhat of a popular practice across the game during the 2018 campaign, with managers hoping to save their regular bullpen arms in games with lopsided scores. And that’s what Rick Renteria did when he inserted Davidson into three separate games. But most of the other position players who got to pitch didn’t talk dreamily about wanting to go into full-time double duty.

With Shohei Ohtani grabbing headlines as a two-way player with the Los Angeles Angels, though, there was a concrete example of someone doing exactly that in the major leagues. And so began the speculation that Davidson maybe could do some more regular work as a reliever, the go-to guy for saving the ‘pen, so to speak, or even an option in higher-leverage situations.

But it seems like the White Sox don’t want to go down that road right now.

Davidson has enough to worry about on the offensive side of things. While he made huge strides in getting on base last season, increasing his walk total from 19 to 52 and his on-base percentage from .260 to .319, he batted just .228, struck out 165 times and saw a dip in his power numbers, hitting six fewer home runs than he did the year before and watching his slugging percentage fall to a career-low .419.

It's not to say that Davidson's pitching days are done. The strategy of pitching position players in an effort to save taxed bullpens doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so Davidson could still see action in the same type of capacity he did in 2018. But it's likely the White Sox will lean on guys who make their money as relievers when it comes to those high-leverage situations.

White Sox remain undecided on whether Yoan Moncada will move to third base in 2019

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USA TODAY

White Sox remain undecided on whether Yoan Moncada will move to third base in 2019

The White Sox still haven’t made up their minds about where Yoan Moncada will play in 2019.

Not even two years removed from being the top-ranked prospect in baseball, Moncada might be heading for a position switch following his first full season in the majors, from second base to third base. But general manager Rick Hahn said last week at the GM Meetings in Southern California that the team hasn’t made the decision to do that quite yet, saying that if it’s coming, it’ll happen closer to spring training, which makes sense considering the White Sox aren’t sure what their roster will look like until after offseason moves are made.

“We have not (made a determination on that yet),” Hahn said. “We’ve talked to the player, we’ve talked to scouts, had a lot of good conversations about it. Fundamentally we like versatility and flexibility in all our players. So in that specific example, Moncada’s ability to play third and second, that makes him more valuable to us. Should we eventually make a switch full time, that would be a decision we’d make closer to spring training and announce closer to spring training after the offseason plays out with how we’re going to line up.”

While it might be easy for some fans to see that as a negative following what was undoubtedly a disappointing campaign — in addition to his 217 strikeouts at the plate, his 21 errors were the third most in baseball — Moncada switching positions is likely more because of what the White Sox have coming up through the farm system. The White Sox spent the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft on middle infielder Nick Madrigal, who has a reputation as a defensive whiz up the middle. With the White Sox touting Madrigal as “the best all-around player in college baseball” after the draft and with Madrigal playing at three different levels this year in his brief time as a pro, it’s not difficult to see the possibility of him shooting through the minor leagues and arriving on the South Side in a relatively short time.

Because of that, the White Sox might be inclined to make room. And moving Moncada to third could help solve another question, as the White Sox have little in the way of long-term options at the hot corner. Jake Burger’s pair of Achilles tears earlier this year made his future a mystery. And while White Sox fans enjoy speculating about options from outside the organization like Josh Donaldson (a free agent this offseason) and Nolan Arenado (a free agent next offseason), it would make plenty of sense for the White Sox to spend at least a year seeing if Moncada can be a homegrown solution there.

It all makes up the puzzle that is this decision for the White Sox this offseason.

“Individually, you want to put the player in the best position to succeed for the long term. Flexibility, versatility of a roster factors into that, as well, to try to give (manager Rick Renteria) the best weapons at his disposal at any given game,” Hahn said. “And then you have to factor in the alternatives that you have and what’s going to put us in the best long-term position to win.

“If we wind up with having too many premium middle-infield prospects or big league performers, that’s a good problem to have.”