White Sox

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

1019_marwin_gonzalez.jpg
USA TODAY

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

The Houston Astros will not win back-to-back world championships this October.

Eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the recently concluded ALCS, the rebuilt Astros still remain the model for rebuilding teams like the White Sox. But with their first post-championship season ending without another ring on the fingers of homegrown stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, among others, the most pertinent topic involving the Astros when it comes to the White Sox is Astros players now hitting the free-agent market.

There's a number of them, and some are very, very good. The White Sox figure to be more active this winter then they were last offseason, with Rick Hahn already saying the team will be making pitching additions, a no-brainer with Michael Kopech slated to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. And Hahn has said the White Sox will be "opportunistic" when it comes to other types of additions, as well.

So could any of these soon-to-be former Astros land on the South Side? Maybe. Here they are, ranked by such a possibility.

1. Charlie Morton

The White Sox need starting pitchers. Kopech's out until 2020, and James Shields, should the team opt not to bring him back on a new contract, will be a free-agent departure. That's two holes that need filling, and Morton could fill one of them. I know what you're thinking, "Dallas Keuchel is also a free agent, why isn't he No. 1 on this list, you fool?" More on him in a bit. Right now, we're talking about Charlie Morton.

Morton is hardly the most rebuild-friendly pitching option out there at 35 years old. But Morton's been very good for the Astros over the past two seasons, making 55 starts, striking out 364 guys and posting a 3.36 ERA. His fastball velocity is as high as it's been in his 11-year big league career and he's coming off two straight playoff runs, so maybe he could teach these young White Sox a thing or two about playing winning baseball — he did close out Game 7 of the World Series last fall.

The biggest problem might be that he's not too far removed from different results when he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, when his numbers weren't nearly as good as they got when he went to Houston. Would another change of scenery mean a different kind of performance?

What kind of contract Morton will get on the market remains to be seen, obviously, but it's kind of a mystery at this point, as he's coming off a couple great years but is getting up there in age when it comes to multi-year deals. He could be a fit for the White Sox should they want just a one- or two-year option while they wait for Kopech to return to full strength and for Dylan Cease to make his way to the major leagues. But should this recent success continue, he could be a valuable option on a White Sox team making the transition from rebuilding to contending, too.

2. Marwin Gonzalez

The White Sox have a bit of a quandary in that they are still waiting to find out what they've got in a lot of their young players. With so many prospects and even young players at the major league level yet to fully finish their development, it's tough to say where the holes on future White Sox teams will be. And that's made all the more difficult by the rash of injuries sustained by White Sox prospects in 2018.

A good way to plan for future unknowns is to have a guy you can plug in just about anywhere, and that's what Gonzalez is. During the 2018 regular season, Gonzalez played everywhere on the field besides pitcher and catcher: 73 games in left field, 39 games at shortstop, 32 games at second base, 24 games at first base, three games at third base, two games in center field and one game in right field. He played one game at designated hitter, too, in case you were wondering. He appeared at six different positions in 2017, when he finished in the top 20 in AL MVP voting. That versatility should make him a hot commodity this offseason.

The question marks come from Gonzalez's bat, which was excellent in 2017 but not nearly as good in 2018. After slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for the world-champion Astros in 2017, he got more playing time in 2018 and his numbers dropped to a .247/.324/.409 slash line, 16 homers and 68 RBIs for the AL runners up. So which batch of results would you get if you signed Gonzalez? That's the question facing teams this offseason. (To help assuage fears, however, Gonzalez just wrapped a solid postseason in which he batted .333 with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and nine RBIs, not to mention a .389 on-base percentage.)

But for a team with as much unwritten future as the White Sox have, wouldn't it be nice to have a plan for every eventuality — and to have it all in the form of one guy? While Manny Machado and Bryce Harper grab all the free-agent headlines this winter, perhaps the White Sox could slip in and convince Gonzalez to help another transition from rebuilding to contending. He was a part of two 100-loss teams in 2012 and 2013 and along for the ride to the top of baseball's mountain. That's some good experience to have.

3. Dallas Keuchel

Now we arrive at Keuchel. Would the soon-to-be 31-year-old former Cy Young winner be a good fit for the rebuilding White Sox? Absolutely he would. Signing him to a long-term deal would not only solve a pitching problem in 2019 but it would provide a safety net should Kopech, Cease or whoever go through the to-be-expected growing pains that young players go through in their first tastes of the major leagues. He would be an anchor of future rotations with plenty of young arms around him.

Signing Keuchel — who has a combined 3.39 ERA and 278 strikeouts over the last two seasons — would be similar to the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, a proven veteran climbing aboard a team heading toward a bright future, and his experience and talent could help them reach that future faster. Like Gonzalez, he experienced back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2012 and 2013 and also got a World Series ring as the Astros completed their journey from the bottom to the top.

But being a good fit is only half the battle for the White Sox. A lot of other teams, including good ones capable of pitching a win-now roster, are going to be vying for Keuchel's services this winter. And while he might not be the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free-agent market — that's expected to be Clayton Kershaw, if he opts out of his current contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers — he's going to be no lower than the No. 3 starting pitcher on the free-agent market. Most of the contending clubs in the game are likely to have starting pitching on their shopping list, teams that can pitch present-day success and the ability to win a championship in 2019 against the White Sox promise of planned success down the road. And then there's the financials on top of that. Hahn has said the White Sox will have the financial flexibility to do what they need to do, but will it be enough to outbid baseball's biggest spenders?

Keuchel would obviously be a good fit for the White Sox. But the competition is going to be really stiff.

4. Tony Sipp

Sipp, a 35-year-old reliever who White Sox fans might remember from his days as a Cleveland Indian, was excellent for the Astros this season, posting a 1.86 ERA and striking out 42 guys in 38.2 innings during the regular season.

But while the White Sox could use bullpen help — their 4.49 relief ERA ranked 23rd out of 30 major league teams — that performance kind of elevates Sipp from the level of sign-and-flip guys they've acquired in recent seasons. Sipp might not be under the radar enough for the White Sox to take a flier, get a good few months and trade him away for a prospect.

Spending the kind of money Sipp might command on a 35-year-old reliever in a season where you're not expected to compete might not make for a good match.

5. Brian McCann

Yeah, the White Sox don't need Brian McCann.

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

zach-thompson.jpg
Jody Stewart/Winston-Salem Dash

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

Zach Thompson might be off your radar, but the White Sox prospect is someone to watch in the White Sox organization, not just for what he's doing on the field, but for what he says off of it.

Chuck Garfien spoke with Thompson who had a 1.55 ERA last season with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Thompson talks about the message he received from God that helped turn his career around (2:30), why he becomes a different person when he's on the mound (6:00), the talent he sees in the White Sox farm system, playing for Omar Vizquel (8:42), why he watches videos of open heart surgeries in the clubhouse (12:20) and more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox a hard sell for Bryce Harper?

harper-1119.jpg
USA TODAY

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox a hard sell for Bryce Harper?

Thanksgiving arrives this week, and you know what that means? Spring training games are only three months away!

You can almost smell the cut grass, the Eloy home runs and the Double-A player off everybody’s radar who will come out of nowhere to make the team. I’ve got a story and podcast about such a player tomorrow. Be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, I can’t give you Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but I can give you this Thanksgiving edition of the Sox Drawer with many Harper questions from curious White Sox fans and many other topics.

Question: What if the Sox sign Harper and the Nationals curse strikes again like it did for Dunn and LaRoche? -- @YaBoiEloy

CG: I gotta admit, this did cross my mind. The White Sox haven’t exactly had good luck when signing left-handed power bats away from the Nationals. But there’s a reason why both of them struggled here, and why Harper would be different. Two letters. DH. Dunn and LaRoche could not adjust to being full-time designated hitters in the American League. In the end, I believe that’s what did them in. The DH position is a whole different animal to begin with. Going from playing nine innings in the field to sitting on the bench for three hours and only getting 4-5 at-bats is a big adjustment. Not everyone excels at it. Dunn and LaRoche had never done it consistently before the White Sox signed them. Add the fact that they were in a new league, learning a lot of new pitchers, expected to win and live up to a contract, and things did not exactly go according to plan. For the record, I liked the signing of Dunn when it happened. I was lukewarm on LaRoche. LaRoche did play some first base backing up Jose Abreu (45 games at 1B, 74 at DH). How did that go? He slugged .438 when playing first base, and only .281 as a DH. For his career, LaRoche slugged .462. If the White Sox can sign Harper, the good news is he’ll be playing right field and you won’t have to worry about the DH factor.

Q: Let’s be honest. We are a hard sell to Harper. Not saying it won’t happen but the realistic side says no. -- @BeachlyBrent

CG: On paper, it does seem like a hard sell. You’re asking Harper to sign with a team that lost 100 games last season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008. Why would he commit the prime years of his career to the White Sox when he could take the easy way out and sign with contenders like the Yankees, Nationals, Cubs, etc.? First and foremost, this is going to come down to money. Whoever offers the most money and best contract will very likely be the winner of the Harper sweepstakes. Ask yourself this, if the White Sox are making a serious bid for Harper, why would they only go halfway? You’re either all-in or you’re not. Why waste the time and effort? As I wrote last week, the White Sox have a track record for being very aggressive when they choose specific targets. This might be one of those times. Second, Scott Boras knows baseball. As Harper’s agent, I’d like to think he also knows what teams are best positioned to have success in the future. The White Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball. They might have lost 100 games in 2018, but things are trending upwards and they have money to spend now and in the future. Boras can share all of that data with his client. And third, and this cannot be overlooked -- Harper is a unique cat. He doesn’t exactly drive in the middle of the road. He’s been trolling Chicago on social media for weeks. He took a photo of himself in a Bulls hat, he told TMZ that his favorite city for food is Chicago and a few days ago, while sitting in a barber’s chair, he asked fans during a live Twitter session what hairstyle he should get. A perm won!

A perm?? Men stopped getting perms in the 1970’s. Clearly, Harper is his own man and he likes to be the center of attention. That won’t happen with the Yankees or Cubs. If he signs with the White Sox (or Phillies), he’ll be the man, just like he’s been with the Nationals. To me, whoever ends up getting Harper will not only connect with him on financial terms, but will let Harper be Harper. The White Sox have been in the shadow of the Cubs for the last several years. Signing Harper will bring the spotlight and lots of attention to the South Side. Will it happen? I have no idea, but it may not be as far-fetched as you might think.

Q: At Thanksgiving dinner, if my great Aunt Doloris’s eyes turn black and she mutters chants in Latin and summons the old gods, will the White Sox have a better chance at signing Bryce Harper? -- @tim_tucker92

CG: Yes.

Q: Hey Chuck, with the surplus of outfield prospects the White Sox have, if they land Harper, who is the odd man out? Jimenez and Robert are a lock to stay I imagine. But we still have Rutherford, Basabe, Adolfo and Walker. -- @Mtvrdik

CG: It’s too early to say. Whether the White Sox sign Harper or any other free agent outfielder (how about Michael Brantley to a two-year deal?) there could be a log jam coming in the outfield in the future. It’s a good problem to have. All four of the outfield prospects you mentioned still need seasoning in the minors and are 1-3 years away from reaching the majors. They could end up being traded or could force their way to Chicago. The White Sox have time to let that play out. By 2020 or 2021, they’ll have a better idea about what they have in their organization and what they’ll need. At that point, I could see the White Sox trading some of their outfield depth for other positions on the diamond if needed. But for now, enjoy watching those guys develop. I like all of them. Luis Gonzalez as well.

Q: Who was the last $200M+ free agent that led the team they signed with to the WS? -- @stewart_errol

CG: Good question. There have been a total of 12 players who have signed contracts of $200 million or more in MLB history. Most of them have not gone on to win a World Series with their respective teams. However, we just saw a major breakthrough when David Price won a ring with the Red Sox this past season. Price signed a 7-year, $217 million contract with Boston before the 2016 season. Other than that, you have to go back to the Yankees signing Alex Rodriguez for $275 million in 2008 (his second $200 million contract). The Yankees won the World Series a year later in 2009. Some $200 million contracts look terrible right now: Miguel Cabrera signed with the Tigers for $248 million in 2016, Albert Pujols $240 million with the Angels in 2012, Robinson Cano $240 million with the Mariners in 2014, and Prince Fielder $214 million with the Rangers in 2012. Fielder was forced to retire in 2016.

Of the 12 players who have signed $200 million contracts, the only player who was close to the age that Harper and Machado are now (26) is Giancarlo Stanton who was only 25 when he signed his 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014. If you’re looking for a comp for Harper and Machado, taking into account baseball inflation and Scott Boras at the wheel, Stanton’s contract might be the closest contract to compare what they might receive in the end.

Q: My dads question “will the Sox be competitors this year?”
Sister 1: how can I get a date with Palka?
Sister 2: what will our starting rotation look like next year?
Mom (more of a statement): country night needs to be improved. -- @MikeyBudz

CG: Okay Mikey, let’s go in order here:  

Dad, I can’t say if the White Sox will be competitors this upcoming season. Let’s talk in spring training.

Sister 1, I don’t know about swinging a date with Palka, but bring a couple of bird scooters around and he’ll be amused by them for hours.

Sister 2, looks like the starting rotation will be Rodon, Lopez, Giolito and possibly two free agents, with Cease maybe coming up later in the season.

And Mom, sorry but I’m not sure what I can do about Country Night. Honestly, I didn’t even know they had one. Sounds like a good idea, though.

Q: You’re probably sick of talking about him, but IF the Sox signed Harper, would Sox fans be more excited for Harper’s first game with them or Jimenez’s debut? -- @DavidRHorning

CG: It depends. If the Sox sign Harper, his first game would be on the road in Kansas City, which wouldn’t have the same effect if he was at home. Not sure where/when Jimenez will make his debut. Either way, both games would be off the charts in terms of excitement. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Q: Given the extension for Ricky, and his insistence that his players hustle. The @whitesox can't seriously be pursuing Machado can they? -- @Jcmo34Mo

CG: How Machado behaved in the playoffs certainly conflicts with how Renteria wants his guys to play the game, but at the same time, I’m sure Renteria wouldn’t mind Machado’s 37 home runs and 107 RBIs in 2018 either.

Here’s a quote from Machado’s longtime manager Buck Showalter, a stickler for rules and fundamentals, about Machado from MLB.com earlier this season:

"Have I had my moments with him? Of course we've had our moments. But I never lost sight of how pure he is, what I call the pureness of his baseball heart. And you could never lose sight of the competitor in him. You push him into a corner, he'll come out firing. You throw at him once too often, he will come at [you]. He is as talented as they come.”

The manager-player relationship doesn’t have to be perfect. If there’s mutual interest on both sides, I’m guessing they could find a way to make it work.

Q: What is taking place this off season to help Moncada develop? -- @DeonDinsmore

CG: A good sign for Moncada is that he decided to go to the White Sox spring training facility in Arizona this month to work out and take part in baseball activities. I was out there last week and saw it in person. He definitely wants to cut down on his strikeouts and become a more consistent player. For that to happen, it has to come from within. It certainly looks like he’s putting in the committment to make it happen.

Q: Is it fair to have similar expectations of Eloy Jiménez as we did of Yoan Moncada? -- @SultanofClout

CG: I think what we’ve learned from Moncada is that most prospects, even the best ones, don’t figure things out right away. Some need more time than others. Not sure what your expectations were for Moncada, but let’s not pencil in Jimenez for 25 homers and 100 RBIs in 2019. Let him adjust.

Q: Has there ever been a conversation about Moncada playing 1st? -- @whitesoxbiz

CG: Moncada is too good of an athlete to play first base.

Q: Calling it now, White Sox trade for Trout after the Angels start out slow and look to rebuild. -- @fletcherjack23

CG: Okay.

Q: It’s gonna be 48 on Friday, should we get out on the course ?? 🏌️ -- @georgyjj09

CG: Yes.

Q: Polish with Grilled Onions or 35th street tacos? -- @jurso90

CG: Polish with grilled onions for sure!

And finally!

Q: What is the meaning of life? -- @timmyshalfsmile

CG: From a White Sox perspective? Winning more of these:

Thanks for your questions, everyone!  We’ll do it again next week.