White Sox

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”

Enter the mystery team: The Manny Machado sweepstakes is getting kind of mysterious

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USA TODAY

Enter the mystery team: The Manny Machado sweepstakes is getting kind of mysterious

You're more than welcome to believe or not believe in the idea of the "mystery team." But accounts of the reported existence of such mysterious teams are growing in the previously down-to-two Manny Machado sweepstakes.

We all thought this was down to the White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies — and maybe it still is — two teams with financial flexibility and visions of a bright future vying for the 26-year-old superstar, one of the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent marker and one of the best players in baseball.

The White Sox have made their offer. As for how rich it is and how long it is, it seems to depend on who you're talking to at any given moment. Our Chuck Garfien reported last week that it's fewer than eight years in length and worth "less than what's being reported." At the time, that latter descriptor seemed to mean less than the $250 million reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan. But then came a report from ESPN's Buster Olney that the offer was worth $175 million over seven years. Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, didn't like that one bit and released a formal statement calling the report "reckless."

And so now we have a new flurry of reports pointing to the involvement — perhaps heavy involvement — of a mysterious mystery team.

Let's start on Friday, when Machado's dad told Hector Gomez that in addition to the White Sox — who prior to this had the only reported offer on the table for Machado — the Phillies, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have all made offers.

That raised more than a few eyebrows, considering the Yankees appeared to be out of the derby after acquiring a pair of free-agent infielders in Troy Tuolwitzki and D.J. LeMahieu and were spending money elsewhere, notably on giving themselves the most terrifying bullpen in baseball. And this was the first mention anywhere of the Dodgers, the team Machado played for during the second half of last season, going all the way to the World Series. But he was only a Dodger because of an injury to shortstop Corey Seager. The Dodgers no longer need a replacement with Seager back, and they don't need a third baseman with Justin Turner at the hot corner. So where exactly would Machado play if he stayed in L.A.?

And then came the mystery team. According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, there exists a mystery team, and it's possible that team is the current high-bidder.

And Mr. Machado agrees.

SNY's Andy Martino had some more details, saying Machado is still having meetings and met with at least one mystery team in recent days. He said the mystery team is not the Yankees, though they have "kept an open line of communication" with Machado's people and aren't out. He's also eliminated the Atlanta Braves.

OK. So where does that leave us? The Machado sweepstakes could be bigger than we thought it was just a few days ago, with another team or more entering the bidding and perhaps able to top the White Sox reported offer — however close to $175 million or $200 million it might be.

The Phillies, as is the case with the White Sox, are still in pursuit of the other huge name on the free-agent market, Bryce Harper. The "spend stupid" Phillies could be trying to create a baseball version of the Miami Heat and lure both guys to the City of Brotherly Love. That would be an expensive proposition, of course. But the Phillies' pursuit of both guys could be what's throwing a wrench into this whole process.

But it's also likely that Lozano is looking for a bigger contract offer than the one(s) Machado currently has. After all, the expectations at the beginning of the offseason were that Machado and Harper could both receive record-breaking deals. There was talk of a $400 million contract or two. There were expectations of heavy competition for two of the best players in the game, both of whom are just 26 years old and firmly in their primes. That's not how it's played out, though, with just two or three teams in on both players. And while Harper reportedly turned down a $300 million contract offer from the Washington Nationals, if Machado's biggest offer is south of $200 million, that is shocking in comparison to those early expectations, regardless of how good it might be for the team that could get him to sign such an offer.

The White Sox seem to remain in good position to actually win this thing. They have made their offer, while it's unclear if other teams have or haven't. They have a strong pitch of Machado as the centerpiece playing alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and others for the better part of the next decade. They can offer what no other team can in the opportunity to play alongside Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, two of Machado's good friends from Miami and, in Alonso's case, his brother-in-law.

Machado supposedly prefers to play for the Yankees, though as Martino reports it's still unlikely there's a match there. Martino has also reported that Machado will take the biggest contract offer out there, and so the waiting could be because his agent thinks he can get a bigger one. Whether the biggest offer ends up coming from the White Sox, the Phillies, the Yankees or the mysterious bidder behind Door No. 4 (during the week, we had some thoughts on who that might be, by the way) remains to be seen.

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Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

Chris Snopek was born September 20, 1970 in Cynthiana, KY. He was a multi-sport standout in high school, averaging 18.5 points and 8.0 assists on the hardwood, as well as hitting .576 with 20 HR as a senior on the diamond. He was a standout third baseman/shortstop at Ole Miss, hitting .407/.491/.725 with 13 home runs and 62 RBI (a school-record at the time) in 54 games as a junior. The White Sox made him a 6th round draft pick in 1992.

In 1994, Snopek played for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, where he was one of two players on the team with 50+ RBI and 50+ walks. The other one was Michael Jordan.By 1995, Snopek hit .323/.402/.494 with 12 HR in 113 games for Nashville (AAA); that batting average good for second in the American Association. He made his MLB Debut on July 31, 1995, going 2 for 3 with a run, RBI, walk and stolen base as the starting third baseman. The 6’1” right-handed infielder drew a walk in each of his first five career MLB games; the first White Sox player to do so since Ray Morehart in 1924.

The White Sox had Robin Ventura at third and Ozzie Guillen at short, so Snopek had to settle for a start here and a start there. He was sent back down to the minors but returned in September. On September 20, 1995, Snopek connected for his first career home run; the blast coming off Indians starter Joe Roa. The milestone round tripper came on Snopek’s 25th birthday. He remains the only player in White Sox history whose first career home run came on his birthday. It was his lone homer of 1995, though Snopek did quite well in his first taste of MLB action, hitting .324 (22 for 68), .407 vs lefties (11 for 27) in 22 games.

Entering the 1996 season, he was the #52 overall prospect according to Baseball America (in between Jason Varitek and Dustin Hermanson); topping the White Sox organizational top ten:

White Sox top 10 prospects according to Baseball America entering 1996

  1. Chris Snopek
  2. Jeff Abbott
  3. Scott Ruffcorn
  4. James Baldwin
  5. Jeff Liefer
  6. Mike Cameron
  7. Jimmy Hurst
  8. Luis Andujar
  9. McKay Christensen
  10. Greg Norton

Snopek started the 1996 season in a utility role, making spot starts at third and short as well as pinch hitting. On April 28, 1996, he became the first White Sox shortstop to start and hit cleanup since Ron Hansen in 1967 (Only José Valentín & Alexei Ramírez have done it since). In limited duty, Snopek hit 6 home runs in 1996 – all off lefties.

Snopek got his chance in 1997 when Robin Ventura suffered an ankle injury, getting the nod as the opening day third baseman. He went 0 for 5 that game and never got it going, hitting .218/.263/.319 in 86 games. The following season, after struggling to the tune of .208/.291/.248 in 53 games, Snopek was traded to the Red Sox at the end of August, where he finished the season and as fate would have it, his MLB career, with eight final games. He bounced around the minors the next four seasons.

In 2017, Snopek and a business partner purchased P360 Performance Sports in Jackson, Mississippi, where they offer baseball training facilities and instruction programs. Snopek also serves as the Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach at Madison Ridgeland Academy in Mississippi.

Chris Snopek… remember that guy?