Yolmer Sanchez

What might prevent the White Sox from adding some pre-Nick Madrigal help at second base

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USA TODAY

What might prevent the White Sox from adding some pre-Nick Madrigal help at second base

It's no secret that Nick Madrigal is expected to be the White Sox starting second baseman for the majority of the 2020 season and the foreseeable future beyond.

The team spent the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft on a guy who was considered the best all-around player in college baseball for a reason, and their confidence in him has been shared by evaluators around the game. He's currently ranked as the No. 40 prospect in baseball with rave reviews for his uncanny inability to strikeout and his exceptional defensive abilities at second base.

But it's not sounding likely that Madrigal will land on the White Sox roster when the season begins March 26. He played in just 29 games at Triple-A Charlotte last season, and general manager Rick Hahn said last month during his pre-SoxFest press conference that Madrigal "hasn't necessarily answered all the questions we have for him at the minor leagues."

Hahn left the door open to Madrigal being able to impress enough that he changes the minds of White Sox brass, but right now, the most likely outcome for the Opening Day second base job is a combination of reserves Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick. Considering the wealth of upgrades made elsewhere around the diamond this winter, moves by Hahn's front office that have placed realistic playoff expectations on these White Sox, the idea of a Garcia-Mendick timeshare at second until Madrigal is ready has left some fans wanting.

Why not add a short-term upgrade for the period between Opening Day and Madrigal's promotion who can also provide a solid off-the-bench bat once Madrigal takes over in an everyday role?

And there are undoubtedly options still remaining on the free-agent market. Brock Holt slashed .297/.369/.402 last season with the Boston Red Sox and played seven different positions, displaying the kind of versatility that has continued to make Garcia an important piece of the White Sox reserve unit. Brian Dozier had a .340 on-base percentage and chipped in 20 home runs as part of the Washington Nationals' world-championship squad. The White Sox ought to know him well, as he blasted 22 homers off them as a longtime Minnesota Twin. Scooter Gennett was an All Star in 2018. Ben Zobrist in a two-time World Series winner. Jason Kipnis is a Chicago-area native with a deep knowledge of the AL Central.

Well, that's certainly a fine thing to wish for. It just might not be very realistic.

"Are there spots on this roster where we could add reinforcements that would put us in a stronger position? Absolutely," Hahn told Our Chuck Garfien in an interview before SoxFest. "And those are the things that keep me up at night and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

"But you also have to look at it from the player's perspective. Seeing Nick Madrigal coming, it might not be the most appealing place to come. We can explain to them how we view Nick. And we've been pretty candid publicly about how we view Nick and the excitement we have for Nick, but also the uncertainty about when that's going to start. But in the end, a free agent has to make a decision about, 'This is my personal best opportunity to maximize my future.'

"So that's my kind of long-winded way of saying, yeah there's guys available, but it's a two-way street and it's not necessarily something you should count on seeing us convert on."

And that makes plenty of sense. Heck, we might have just seen that exact scenario play out with former White Sox fan favorite Yolmer Sanchez. He seemed like a solid candidate to fit the kind of role plenty are suggesting: serve as the starting second baseman until Madrigal comes up, then take on a backup infielder role.

But Sanchez, who won a Gold Glove for his defensive work in 2019, just signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants, reportedly turning down major league offers to be a backup so he could compete for the starting job with the Giants.

Now, it's unknown whether the White Sox were one of the teams to offer Sanchez a major league deal for a reserve role. They were not shy about expressing their affinity for him after he was a positive clubhouse presence for the past six seasons on the South Side. What they did not have for him, though, was a long-term — or even season-long — starting job. In signing with the Giants, he at least has a shot at achieving that.

And while some of the names listed above have been in reserve roles before and might be up to them again, how much playing time — even as a backup — truly exists on a White Sox infield that has young stars on the left side in Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and an up-and-coming youngster in Madrigal at second base? Even a part-time role might be hard to sell considering how infrequent starts might be at those three positions.

And so as Hahn's front office mulls smaller additions to polish off a roster that could be contending for the postseason in 2020, it might not be as easy as plucking some remaining options off the free-agent market. In the end, it's a good problem to have, as Madrigal looks to be a long-term solution at the position.

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Forget a Yolmer Sanchez return to White Sox, he reportedly has deal with Giants

Forget a Yolmer Sanchez return to White Sox, he reportedly has deal with Giants

The dream many fans had of Yolmer Sanchez returning to the South Side for the 2020 season might be over.

According to reports, Sanchez has a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. Sanchez, who won an American League Gold Glove at second base last season with the White Sox, reportedly turned down a couple major league offers to compete for the everyday second baseman's job in San Francisco.

Sanchez was a fan favorite during his tenure with the White Sox, a positive clubhouse presence who earned a reputation as a fun-loving teammate through his various on-field antics, including repeated pranks involving the dugout's Gatorade bucket. He also proved himself to be one of the game's finest defensive infielders, a valuable skill even if his offensive production rarely lived up to the same standards. Last season, as the starting second baseman, Sanchez hit .252/.318/.321 with a pair of home runs and 43 RBIs.

Even after the White Sox non-tendered him earlier this offseason, team brass spoke positively of him, an indication that the door might not be closed on a reunion. But the White Sox infield is fast filling up with long-term pieces. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada had huge seasons on the left side in 2019, and Nick Madrigal, one of the top-rated prospects in baseball, is expected to reach the major leagues in the early portions of the 2020 season. Madrigal, the White Sox first-round draft pick in 2018, had an excellent offensive season in the minors last year and carries a similar defensive reputation as Sanchez. Whether Madrigal will make the Opening Day roster remains to be seen — it sounds unlikely — but he's expected to be the team's starting second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign.

Given that crunch on the infield, Sanchez, even after his Gold Glove win, seemed destined for a reserve role had he returned to the South Side. Who knows if the White Sox were one of the teams that extended a major league contract offer to Sanchez, but there didn't seem to be room for him to have a starting job with this group. He can at least compete for such a role with the Giants.

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What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

SoxFest brings the opportunity for fans to question team brass. And sometimes things can get a bit fiery.

This year, however, it was more of a victory lap for Rick Hahn after he loaded up the roster with an incredible amount of offseason acquisitions. Rick Renteria, too, got plenty of adulation after he came out and said the White Sox have their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

But there were still questions. Fans stepped up to the microphone and got some answers out of Hahn and Renteria during a pair of panels Friday and Saturday.

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent questions and answers from the two sessions.

Extensions for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito?

The White Sox have made headlines in each of the last two offseasons by handing out big-money extensions to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before they played a game in the major leagues. But Saturday brought a fan question about whether the team was planning more extensions, specifically ones for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two guys who broke out in a big way in 2019 and established themselves as the team's best all-around hitter and the ace of the starting staff, respectively.

These are not terribly pressing matters, obviously, as both guys are under team control for another four seasons. But the longer they go on their current deals and the longer they're allowed to keep improving, the more expensive they'll become to retain.

Hahn said that it's a White Sox priority to keep all of their talented young players together for as long as possible. He also mentioned that it has long been a part of the plan during the rebuilding process to be aggressive on extensions, as the team has shown with the deals for Jimenez and Robert. Players earn the right to reach free agency and explore the open market, but the White Sox do have a pretty good track record of retaining their own players, often on deals that have allowed them to keep some financial flexibility.

Tim Anderson in right field?

Whether it was a legitimate strategy proposal or a makeshift way to get Yolmer Sanchez back to the South Side, one fan suggested moving Tim Anderson to right field, pointing out Anderson's large number of errors at shortstop and that moving Anderson off the position would open room for Sanchez to work his defensive wonders on a daily basis.

Well, that suggestion didn't get much consideration from Renteria, who said rather definitively he will not be playing Anderson in right field.

The question might not have been the most realistic suggestion, but it allowed Renteria to express his belief in Anderson's defense. Though Anderson has made a ton of errors at shortstop — 88 of them in his four big league seasons — he continues to receive rave reviews from White Sox brass. Renteria said Saturday he believes Anderson will be "an elite shortstop in the big leagues," and Hahn said this weekend he believes Anderson will be a Gold Glove finalist one day.

As for Sanchez, he's still on the free-agent market despite winning a Gold Glove in 2019. And while the White Sox have shortstop spoken for with Anderson and second base spoken for with Nick Madrigal, eventually, Hahn was asked about the likelihood of a Sanchez return Friday night and basically reminded everyone to never say never.

More starting pitching?

Hahn said Thursday that while there likely won't be any more big-ticket additions, the White Sox busy winter might not be completely over just yet, with minor moves still being discussed by the front office. More starting pitching would seem to make plenty of sense considering there's not a ton of depth behind the five guys slated to make up the Opening Day rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez. Considering the plan for Michael Kopech has yet to be finalized and Dylan Covey is no longer with the organization, some small additions like the Ervin Santana deal last spring would be logical.

One fan asked why not add a slightly bigger ticket item, specifically bringing up free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, to further bolster the starting staff. Hahn wouldn't close the door on adding more starting pitchers but pointed out that because of the depth the White Sox have on the way — with Kopech factoring into things somehow and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all working their way back from Tommy John surgery — the White Sox might not be the most attractive destination for a mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, who could see his opportunity to pitch vanish once all those arms return to full strength.

A return for Dane Dunning?

Speaking of starting-pitching depth on the way, Hahn did offer up some sort of timeline for one of those guys, saying that Dunning could be pitching for a minor league affiliate come "June-ish." That's a made-up month on the same level as "Smarch," but it's also a good sign for the White Sox, who saw Dunning flying through the system before his injury.

Hahn said at last year's SoxFest that if not for the arm injury he suffered in 2018, Dunning could have factored into the Opening Day rotation for the 2019 season. Considering that level of potential readiness — a level most likely altered in some fashion by the surgery and long layoff — Dunning might be someone who could play a role in the 2020 season.

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