White Sox

Behind-the-scenes details from the White Sox busy offseason


Behind-the-scenes details from the White Sox busy offseason

The quote of the White Sox offseason came back in November, when Rick Hahn was asked what kind of signings fans can expect during the winter.

Despite the internal plan of being uber aggressive in the marketplace, Hahn chose to divert attention away from the large bump that had developed in the White Sox midsection.

"People aren’t too interested in hearing about the labor," he said during the GM meetings. "They want to see the baby."

Little did anyone know that Hahn would soon turn himself into a baseball midwife, delivering baby after baby to the South Side all winter long.

“We wound up having more than we expected. We had quintuplets in the end, didn’t we?” Hahn said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

Roughly nine hours after the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, Hahn and the White Sox were open for business.

And it all started with a text.

Hahn checked the time. It was 9 a.m. Eastern the morning after the final out of the World Series, which under Major League Baseball rules meant it was go time for every general manager in the game. Teams were now allowed to reach out to free agents.

Almost immediately, Hahn would make contact with several of their targets, including one player in particular who would be the first to sign and would set the tone for the White Sox robust winter: Yasmani Grandal.

Hahn didn’t offer him a contract right away. Another team did, though. More on that in a moment. But Hahn did deliver a clear message to Grandal's agent that the White Sox would be serious bidders for the coveted All-Star catcher.

“(The text) was something to the effect of, ‘Look, once things are quieter on your side and you want to sit down and chat, we have sincere interest in Yasmani. We think he’s a great fit and look forward to explaining to you and him why,’” Hahn explained. “We were pretty aggressive early making it clear what our intentions were.”

Following the Manny Machado debacle last winter, the White Sox were not about to go down that road again, one where the whole baseball world knew they were pursuing a big-name free agent. When Machado signed with the San Diego Padres, the White Sox were left battered and bruised by the negative PR hit.

Hahn learned a lesson that he took into this offseason.

"We spent so long going into spring training with the drama of (Bryce) Harper and Machado. Both were very worthy pursuits and ones that were necessary for this organization, even though they didn’t obviously yield the player in the end," Hahn said. "But I think after that experience, all of us here came out of that thinking, 'We’ll be delivering players, and we’ll talk about it afterwards.

"'You’re not going to want to hear about this meeting or that video presentation or this phone call. We’ll let you know when we have something to announce.' And it was actually kind of nice that the Grandal deal was the first one we did and it was not rumored before that. So it truly was, 'Here’s a baby, it’s been delivered.'"

And now that the Hot Stove season is in the rearview mirror and spring training starts Wednesday in Arizona, Hahn was open to talking more about those new White Sox babies, revealing many details about this much ballyhooed offseason and how it all came together.

A few of the most interesting nuggets:

Another team offered Grandal a four-year deal, but he chose the White Sox

“We found out after the fact that we were one of two teams that reached out right away. There wound up being four or five in the mix, and he met with several of them. As proud as we may have been about reaching out early and expressing interest first, another team made him a four-year offer like right out of the gate as soon as that was permissible. We like to think we’re being aggressive and at the forefront, but there are teams out there with us.”

The White Sox were interested in a few of Scott Boras clients, not just Dallas Keuchel

“Keuchel was one of the guys who the day after the World Series, I texted Scott and one of the names on the list was Keuchel. That was in the works from the start, as well.”

The White Sox spoke internally about pursuing Boras clients Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg but decided against it

"Mentally, yes, I went down the road. We talked about it internally, but look, we’re trying to build something sustainable. We’re trying to build a well-rounded roster.

"Throughout this whole process we’ve been mindful trying to not only build a deep and productive roster, but also maintain flexibility to augment it as we get ready to win. So regardless of which player at the top of the market it is, yeah, we created some flexibility where, yes, you can entertain those ideas, but is it the right investment given where the market is at a given time based on what other options are out there and what you’re trying to accomplish over the next few years? Those factors weigh in as well.”

Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t agree to an extension for Luis Robert right away

“We previewed it to (Reinsdorf) by saying, 'There may be a chance that we come to you on a player who has never played in the big leagues yet and we want to do an extension.' He didn’t say yes in the first conversation, but I’m still looking for the room that Jerry Reinsdorf walks into and he’s not the smartest guy in it.

"He got it. He understood why. He understood the risk involved, and there is risk involved, but he also understood the real, meaningful reward of the extended control and cost certainty.

"There are times, even throughout the Luis Robert conversations, where (Reinsdorf) will say, ‘You know the amount money we have in this guy and he hasn’t even played in a big league game yet?’ Which is sort of stunning when you hear that, but he’s also smart enough to know the benefit of what we got and, if this player is even close to what we think he’s capable of doing, how good of a position we’re going to be in going forward.”

The White Sox were negotiating between a two- and three-year deal with Jose Abreu

“It’s a little more art than science, especially when you’re dealing with players as they enter their mid-30s. Traditionally, you see some level of decline. Also, traditionally with a right-handed power hitter, you sort of see a certain path where productivity decreases as you enter the mid-30s.

"You have to augment that a little bit by knowing Jose the person and his work ethic and his approach and the pride he takes in his preparation and performance that makes you feel a little better about the potential to avoid that traditional decline curve, and you also need to understand the impact he has in the clubhouse and what he means to this organization.

"I think both of those things, in the end, had a rest on a three-year fit. Certainly we knew that one was too short, and it felt like four was too long, so it was really a matter of figuring out two or three in the end to make it work.”

Hahn also spoke at length about how the Edwin Encarnacion deal came together, how close the White Sox were to signing Zack Wheeler, the team's relationship with Boras, if Robert has the most upside of any player in the organization and much more on the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. Take a listen!

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski's most powerful month on the South Side


White Sox 2005 Rewind: A.J. Pierzynski's most powerful month on the South Side

May 2005 was A.J. Pierzynski’s most powerful month in his eight years in a White Sox uniform.

Like plenty of other hitters dealing with the suboptimal hitting conditions of April — including teammates Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye — Pierzynski had a slowish start in the first month with his new team. A .269 average and a .329 on-base percentage hardly counts as an awful stretch, but Pierzynski had just one home run and only two RBIs in his first 19 games of the season.

That turned around in a hurry, and it started May 4 against the Kansas City Royals.

Pierzynski launched a two-run homer as part of a two-out rally in the fourth inning, the blast proving to be the difference in a 4-2 White Sox win.

Math aficionados will know that was just his second homer and third and fourth RBIs. But by the end of May, Pierzynski had eight home runs and 19 RBIs.

What changed? He unleashed the thunder in his bat, hitting seven homers while posting a .557 slugging percentage and a .903 OPS. All those numbers rank among the best in a single month of Pierzynski’s White Sox career.

The seven homers are the most Pierzynski ever hit in a month with the White Sox. The .557 slugging percentage was topped just three more times and not again until August 2011. Same goes for the .903 OPS, which was bested just twice.

So it’s not to say that Pierzynski’s offensive success in May 2005 was a rarity, as he was a good hitting catcher throughout his South Side tenure. But the specific power numbers were rarely seen again, certainly not over the following five seasons. So in a way, this was power from an unexpected source, and it helped the White Sox play eight games above .500 during the month.

As #SoxRewind continues moving through that month of May, we’ll see more explosive hitting from Pierzynski. The home runs came in a concentrated bunch from there, with the catcher homering in four straight games from May 14 through May 18.

But this one from May 4 was the very first, a helpful launch for Pierzynski to bust out of his early season power slump and the beginning of the most powerful month of his White Sox career.

What else?

— It’s hard to imagine that in the year they won the World Series, Hawk Harrelson wasn’t behind the mic for every inning. But this one featured the broadcasting team of Darrin Jackson and Donn Pall while Harrelson was recovering from corrective eye surgery. The man they called “The Pope” had a pretty nice career pitching for his hometown team, posting a 3.45 ERA in 394.1 innings out of the bullpen.

— Jermaine Dye hit one of his two triples of 2005 in this one. He sent a deep fly ball to the warning track in right field, and while Matt Stairs made an admirable effort, the ball bounced off his glove and rolled away, allowing Dye to make it all the way to third. He had to wait four months for the next one, tripling off Jarrod Washburn, the pitcher the White Sox faced in Game 2 of the ALCS that postseason, in an early September game against the Los Angeles Angels.

— Mike Sweeney was a notorious “White Sox killer” during his lengthy and productive career with the Royals. He drove in both Kansas City runs in this game. His numbers in 2005 were downright ridiculous in his 15 games against the South Siders: .362/.426/.759 with five homers, eight doubles, eight walks, 10 runs scored and 15 RBIs.

— Cliff Politte did an excellent job putting out Freddy Garcia’s fire in the top of the seventh inning. Garcia pitched another strong game, but he departed after loading the bases on a pair of walks and a base hit in the seventh. Politte entered with the bases juiced and only one out against the aforementioned “Sox killer” Sweeney. He got Sweeney to fly out, driving in one run, but ended the inning four pitches later with a strikeout of Ken Harvey. That sacrifice fly was the last of the scoring, as Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson finished off the Royals in another great job by the White Sox bullpen.

— I wrote about Jon Garland’s remarkable start to the 2005 season Friday. But Garcia strung together some sterling efforts, as well, in these early weeks of the campaign. With 6.1 innings of two-run ball in this game, he turned in a third straight strong outing. In those three starts, he allowed just five earned runs in 20.1 innings (a 2.21 ERA). He had a few more stretches that stacked up to this one during the season, but not many that were better.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 3, 2005: The Royals broke a 2-all tie with a pair of solo homers off Mark Buehrle in the top of the sixth. The White Sox clawed back, with an Aaron Rowand homer halving the deficit and a two-run double by Carl Everett in the eighth delivering the tying and winning runs. White Sox win, 5-4, improve to 19-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 5, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Buckle up, this is a wacky one.

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White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 8)

White Sox vs. Red Sox simulation on MLB The Show 20 (Game 8)

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. In our simulation, the Southsiders started 3-3, dropping a series vs. the Royals and winning a series vs. the Indians. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

After an unusual Friday off day, the White Sox bats continued to stay on fire against the Red Sox on a sun soaked day at Fenway Park.

Jose Abreu gave the South Siders an early lead with a solo shot off Brian Johnson in the first and was followed by an Eloy Jimenez RBI double in the fourth to give the White Sox an early 2-0 lead. After the Red Sox grabbed a run off Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox responded with a two-run homer from Yoan Moncada, his fifth in eight games this season.

In the eighth, with the South Siders up 6-1, Yasmani Grandal followed the long ball barrage with a solo homer off Heath Hembree. Grandal matched his new teammate Moncada with five home runs in the first eight games.

For the second straight game, Rick Renteria went to the Sox 'pen and they in return failed to maintain a big lead. Jimmy Cordero and Jace Fry gave up five runs in the eighth to shrink the Chicago lead to 7-6 lead before Steve Cishek stopped the bleeding. In the ninth, Sox closer Aaron Bummer had a high stress outing with two aboard with only one out before striking out Rafael Devers and forcing Kevin Pillar to ground out to Tim Anderson. He picked up his American League-leading fourth save of the season as the White Sox held on to beat the Red Sox, 7-6.

Result: White Sox def. Red Sox 7-6

Record: 5-3, second in AL Central (0.5 GB of Indians)

W: Gio Gonzalez (1-0)

L: Brian Johnson (0-2)

SV: Aaron Bummer (4)

White Sox lineup

Tim Anderson: 2-5, 2 2B (.353 BA)

Yoan Moncada: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI (.371 BA)

Jose Abreu: 2-4, HR, RBI (.250 BA)

Edwin Encarnacion: 0-3, BB (.214 BA)

Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, HR, RBI (.344 BA)

Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, RBI (.276 BA)

Luis Robert: 1-3, RBI, SB (.286 BA)

Nomar Mazara: 0-2, RBI (.207 BA)

Leury Garcia: 1-4 (.250 BA)

Scoring summary

Top 1st:

Jose Abreu homered to left field. 1-0 CHW.

Top 4th:

Eloy Jimenez doubled to right. Edwin Encarnacion scored. 2-0 CHW.

Luis Robert sacrifice fly. Yasmani Grandal scored. 3-0 CHW.

Nomar Mazar sacrifice fly. Eloy Jimenez scored. 4-0 CHW.

Bottom 4th:

Kevin Pillar doubled to right. Xander Bogaerts scored. 4-1 CHW.

Top 5th:

Yoan Moncada homered to left. Tim Anderson scored. 6-1 CHW.

Top 8th:

Yasmani Grandal homered to center. 7-1 CHW.

Bottom 8th:

Rafael Devers singled to right. J.D. Martinez scored. 7-2 CHW.

Kevin Pillar singled to center. Xander Bogaerts scored. 7-3 CHW

Michael Chavis singled to right. Rafael Devers scored. Kevin Pillar scored. 7-5 CHW.

Mitch Moreland singled to left. Christian Vazquez scored. 7-6 CHW

Notable performance: Gio Gonzalez was sharp in his first White Sox start taking a no-hitter into the fourth inning. Gonzalez gave up three hits while holding the Boston bats to only one run in six innings of work. Between mixing speeds and inducing groundballs, Gonzalez showed he can be a viable rotation piece for the South Siders.

Next game: Sunday, April 5 - Gm. 9: White Sox at Red Sox (Reynaldo Lopez vs. Ryan Weber)