White Sox

Add another item to White Sox rebuilding to-do list: Matching Jose Berrios and dethroning the Twins

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USA TODAY

Add another item to White Sox rebuilding to-do list: Matching Jose Berrios and dethroning the Twins

Before the White Sox can worry about dethroning the Minnesota Twins — who despite the mathematically relevant presence of the Cleveland Indians appear to be steaming toward an AL Central title — they’ll have to cross plenty of other items off their rebuilding to-do list.

Rick Hahn’s front office needs to go to work this offseason, adding starting pitching and a left-handed bat of some consequence. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal need to be promoted to the major leagues. Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease need to go from learning-on-the-job rookies to the impact players their prospect rankings said they could be.

But if the White Sox roster, perhaps as soon as next season, blossoms into one capable of contending for a division title, there’s still the matter of besting the team currently at the hop of the heap.

The White Sox lost for the 12th time in 17 games against the division-rival Twins on Monday night, with a familiar face doing a familiar thing. Jose Berrios entered the night with a 2.40 career ERA against the White Sox, and that number got smaller with his 7.1 innings of two-run ball.

Things looked like they might have gone differently, with the White Sox scratching across a run in the first inning and James McCann hitting a home run to start the second. But that’s when Berrios reverted to All-Star form, and the White Sox offense did just about nothing the rest of the way. (It didn’t help, of course, that the White Sox made some shoddy plays in the field and ran into some outs on the bases, more things that need fixing on the way to contender status.)

Berrios, with his ERA down to 3.58 after Monday’s effort, is on pace to finish with a career best in that category. He hasn’t necessarily been the kind of pitcher that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have been this season for the Houston Astros, but he’s a bona fide ace of an October-bound staff. And it’s those types of big-time players the White Sox will have to match and beat if they want to climb to the top of the baseball mountain.

It doesn’t look impossible, considering the White Sox already have an All-Star pitcher and an ace of their staff in Lucas Giolito, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday in the Land of 10,000 Lakes before he was shut down for the rest of the year with a mild lat strain.

But cast your mind back to the last time he threw at Target Field, when he showed how dominant he can be, even against an offense as potent as Minnesota’s. Giolito twirled a complete-game, three-hit, 12-strikeout shutout in that game and welcomed the Twins to the South Side with six innings of two-run ball in the following start.

As the Verlander-Cole Astros are showing, though, it takes more than one ace to make a run at a World Series. The Twins are going to try — and that’s no knock on their pitching staff, just pointing out that they win games and, eventually, a division title by out-slugging their opponents. White Sox fans know it well, having seen Nelson Cruz hit enough feet of home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field this season to get all the way back to Minneapolis.

And so while Giolito might be able to counter a pitcher like Berrios, the White Sox will need an offense that’s able to beat him and his homer-happy teammates. Reynaldo Lopez wasn’t awful Monday night, but five runs against him was plenty to get the Twins past the silenced White Sox.

That’s where Jimenez and Robert and Madrigal and McCann and Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are supposed to come in. Only McCann could muster an RBI hit against Berrios on Monday. Jimenez added his 28th homer of the season off Twins closer Sergio Romo in the ninth inning.

That’s a group of hitters that, while very promising, is still developing. White Sox brass keeps telling us that as good as Moncada and Anderson have been during their breakout seasons, they will keep getting better. Jimenez is on his way to 30 homers as a rookie but has generally had an up-and-down season offensively. Robert and Madrigal have yet to taste the major leagues. There’s room for all of them to get better, to form the core of a lineup that could have even pitchers like Berrios sweating, that could go toe-to-toe with a powerful lineup like the Twins’.

But that all has to fall into place. Until it does, unseating the Twins will remain on the to-do list, behind a few more pressing matters. Until it does, Berrios will keep pitching lights out and the Twins will keep hitting balls out. Those are the kinds of things division champs do.

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Prized White Sox prospect Andrew Vaughn wraps up stint with USA Baseball

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USA TODAY

Prized White Sox prospect Andrew Vaughn wraps up stint with USA Baseball

As the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Andrew Vaughn’s first full season in the minors this coming season will be one of the biggest storylines in the big picture of the White Sox rebuild in 2020.

Before that season begins for Vaughn, he got some international experience playing for USA Baseball at the Premier12 tournament. The Premier12 served as the first Olympic qualifying tournament.

Vaughn played in all eight games for the American team which was comprised of minor leaguers not currently on MLB 40-man rosters. He split time between first base and DH and was often in the middle of the order.

In eight games Vaughn hit .321/.367/.357. He had just one extra base hit, a double, in 30 plate appearances.

The lack of power might be somewhat concerning, but he certainly showed contact and on-base skills against quality, experienced competition.


As for USA Baseball, the team entered Saturday’s bronze medal game against Mexico knowing the winner would qualify for the Olympics. The Americans led 2-1 entering the ninth inning, but gave up a home run to send the game to extras. Mexico won with a bases-loaded walk-off single in the 10th.

The US still has two more chances to qualify for the Olympics. There is an Americas qualifying tournament in March and then a last chance tournament soon after that one. Those take place during spring training so it’s unclear if Vaughn would leave White Sox camp for that.

Tyler Johnson, a White Sox relief prospect, was on the initial roster for the tournament, but left the team due to a minor injury.

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Jose Abreu accepts qualifying offer, returns to White Sox on one-year deal

Jose Abreu accepts qualifying offer, returns to White Sox on one-year deal

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s almost like Jose Abreu never left.

He was only a free agent for a week and a half, Abreu bringing his brief time away from the White Sox to an end Thursday, when he accepted the qualifying offer of a one-year deal with $17.8 million.

It’s not the multi-year contract that was expected, but MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported that the sides will continue to discuss a long-term pact. Still, the decision is a rare one, with Abreu becoming one of the few players ever to accept the qualifying offer. But he’ll get a nice payday for the 2020 season with a chance to do this whole free-agency thing again a year from now, if he chooses.

There was speculation that Abreu could accept the qualifying offer because of a potentially weak market for his services league-wide. If Abreu rejected the qualifying offer and things fell apart in discussing a multi-year deal with the White Sox, any team that signed him to a contract would have lost a draft pick in doing so. That deterred teams from signing free agents just in the last year, with Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel notably going unsigned until June.

Who knows if that — or just the desire to earn $17.8 million before a potential dip in his annual salary as he ages — had anything to do with Abreu’s decision, but it’s what was being speculated.

Regardless, the White Sox have their first baseman back, great news after he turned in one of the more productive seasons of his six-year big league career in 2019. Abreu led the American League with a career-best 123 RBIs and came three home runs shy of matching a career-high in that category, as well.

Abreu’s return always seemed a foregone conclusion, with the three-time All Star spending the entire 2019 season talking about how badly he wanted to remain on the South Side, going as far as to pledge that if the White Sox didn’t re-sign him, he’d sign himself to a contract and play here anyway.

The feeling was mutual, too, with general manager Rick Hahn, manager Rick Renteria and teammates praising Abreu as a model player and a mentor for the team’s young stars in the making. Eloy Jimenez said Abreu had been like a father during the rookie’s first season in the majors. Abreu revealed that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told him he’d never wear another uniform.

He’s as giddy about the team’s future as anyone and has cited the planned shift into contention as the reason he wants to stick around. Tim Anderson said “it’s only right” that Abreu return for 2020, a season in which the long-awaited transition out of rebuilding mode could take place. Hahn said earlier this season that it’s “very likely” Abreu would be around for the franchise’s planned good times.

Abreu’s been incredibly productive at the plate, though his off-the-field contributions are just as important, of course, and he’s been a mentor to players like Jimenez and Yoan Moncada as they’ve gotten their first taste of the major leagues. Luis Robert, the organization’s No. 1 prospect, figures to find his way under Abreu’s wing when he reaches the bigs next season.

Abreu has long seemed to be held in the same esteem as players who have their numbers retired and statues standing at Guaranteed Rate Field, earning the title of “Mr. White Sox” for this generation. It’s no surprise the White Sox are keeping him in that role moving forward as they plan to start seeing brighter days on the South Side.

After capturing the RBI crown, Abreu made his final prediction of the 2019 campaign, saying he did believe he'd be back with the White Sox for 2020. It might not have been terribly difficult to be prescient in this case, but he was nonetheless.

"Everybody knows my wishes and my desire to stay here," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "This is an organization I respect. This is an organization I really honor.

"I want to be here, and you know guys, I’ve been telling you that. Hopefully I’m going to be here."

Hope no longer. It might not have gone down exactly as was expected, but Abreu isn't going anywhere.

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