White Sox

Bring back James Shields? Here's what he meant to Lucas Giolito in 2018

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USA TODAY

Bring back James Shields? Here's what he meant to Lucas Giolito in 2018

The White Sox have at least one spot to fill in their starting rotation this offseason, and though they're not expected to pick up James Shields' pricey option, there's a way to keep that number at one.

Even if they don't keep Shields on his current contract, they could bring him back on a new one. It's not a bad idea considering his reliability in 2018, by far his best campaign in a White Sox uniform. He threw 204.2 innings — one of just 13 big league pitchers to log at least 200 innings this year — and racked up 19 quality starts.

But Shields' biggest value for the rebuilding White Sox could be his impact in the clubhouse. The elder statesman on a young-and-getting-younger team is an important role.

Just ask Lucas Giolito, whose locker was next to Shields' all season, what Shields meant to him, personally.

"I don’t have enough good things to say about him as a teammate, as a player," Giolito said before the White Sox wrapped up the regular season. "I’ve been learning so much from him all throughout the season. Just a great veteran presence, not only for starting pitchers but for the entire team. Super laid back, relaxed, always having a good time, always a smile on his face.

"Just the conversations we had about pitching, about starting pitching. What I’ve learned from him throughout the year when it comes to managing pitch count, getting deep into the game. That’s his main thing, he throws 200 innings almost every season. I wish that I had it all on a tape recorder so I could kind of take it with me. Just so much information I’ve learned, and I’m really appreciative of, my locker’s right next to him, being able to learn from him and see what he does."

General manager Rick Hahn stated that the White Sox will be making some additions to their pitching staff this offseason, not surprising considering that Tommy John surgery knocked Michael Kopech out for the entirety of the 2019 campaign. The White Sox have options when it comes to filling his spot and the one that would be potentially vacated by Shields. They could add a couple one-year fill-ins and wait until Kopech is healthy and Dylan Cease joins the rotation for the 2020 season. Or they could add a pitcher or two on longer term deals who could provide a safety net for the eventual growing pains during a 2020 or 2021 season where the White Sox would potentially be contenders.

If they chose the former, though, how many available pitchers would safer bets than Shields? If the 2019 season is expected to be another in which the White Sox aren't making a run at a playoff spot, why not bring back someone who is known to have a positive effect on the young players, the future of the franchise, in the clubhouse? And then there's the reliability of 200 innings and almost 20 quality starts to go along with all that.

Regardless of whether it's Shields or not, though, Giolito said that having that veteran role model is important.

"I think it’s really important to have veterans that help the younger guys, help steer them in the right direction and show them what it is to be a professional, to be a big leaguer," he said. "There’s a lot of things you have to learn on your own, and then there’s a lot of things your teammates can help you with. I’d say having a guy like that is very valuable."

There are surely other veterans out there who could fill such a role for these White Sox. But they know that Shields can do it. After spending the season next to Giolito, Shields requested that Kopech's locker be put next to his when Kopech arrived from Triple-A Charlotte. Who knows how much the recovering Kopech will be in Chicago next season, but he could receive the same treatment Shields gave Giolito this season. Not to mention that Giolito himself will still be developing. And perhaps Cease could make his way to the South Side before the end of 2019.

Much like the White Sox have praised Jose Abreu for his off-the-field contributions and how important they are to helping the future of the team develop, Shields provided a similar thing this past season. Could he do it again next season? That's up to the White Sox.

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox really gonna get Bryce Harper?

Sox Drawer Q&A: Are the White Sox really gonna get Bryce Harper?

“Batting third, playing right field for the Chicago White Sox, No. 34, Bryce Harper!”

Yeah, I went there. I’m sure White Sox public-address announcer Gene Honda wouldn’t mind going there for the next 10 years, either.

But really, Harper coming to the South Side? White Sox fans have been in a frenzy ever since MLB Network’s Jon Morosi broke the news that the White Sox are interested in signing Harper and Manny Machado.

By the way, a big thank you to Jon from all of White Sox media for this hot stove bombshell to help get us through November.

So, let’s open up this week’s Sox Drawer. Not surprising, lots of questions about Harper and Machado.

Q: How realistic are these rumors? — @jdwyer02

CG: I can’t say for sure. The White Sox have always been tight-lipped on such matters and rightfully so. But it makes sense for the White Sox to pursue both players. Harper and Machado fit many, if not all the requirements for what the White Sox need on the field, and they have the resources to spend big if they choose.

Now, will the White Sox pony up $300 million to $500 million to sign either of them?

Here’s what Rick Hahn said last January at SoxFest when asked if money will be available to sign big-time free agents: “I can certainly assure you the resources will be available. Will we be able to convert on every target? No, not always in a robust and competitive market. Ultimately, competing for free agents and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them will be the next logical step when the time is right.”

Q: I think we are just wasting time even entertaining this subject. Fact is we won’t sign either — @RickyRi48202029

CG: I’ve definitely seen skepticism like this coming from White Sox fans questioning whether the front office will offer the type of record-breaking contract needed to sign Harper or Machado. But as I’ve said before, these are different times. The White Sox have very little money on the books for the foreseeable future, and besides Tim Anderson, all of their young players are signed to cost-controlled rookie contracts. There’s plenty of money available to go big for one of these top-tier free agents.

Also, look at the White Sox track record in the last several years. When they’ve chosen to be aggressive, they’ve been all in. In 2013, they outbid the Red Sox, Astros and Giants for Jose Abreu, signing him to a $68 million contract. In the 2014 offseason, they signed Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Zack Duke and acquired Jeff Samardzija and his $9.8 million contract for 2015. All told, that cost a combined $137 million, and the longest contract was Robertson’s for four years. In 2017, the White Sox won the Luis Robert sweepstakes in a deal that cost them $52 million. Signing Harper or Machado will cost much more than these deals, but the White Sox have never had this kind of financial flexibility. Will either of them sign with the White Sox? I can’t answer that. Neither can the White Sox. But if Morosi’s report is true, the White Sox are seemingly attempting to do everything in their power to make it happen.

Q: Chuck, just make the call for us and lock them both up. Jerry's checkbook is in the first drawer to the right of his desk. 2 blank checks will do. — @TheJoeyMcNeely​​​​​​​

CG: (No response.)

Q: Hey Chuck, do you think the front office should be making the big splash in free agency now, or waiting until next year? Players such as Puig, Goldschmidt, Castellanos, Arenado as well as a slew of starting arms (Sale, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha) are available in 2020. — @drunkchisoxfan​​​​​​​

CG: Not sure if you were sober when you asked the question, @drunkchisox fan, but it’s a fair point. Here’s what I think: Players like Harper and Machado rarely become available. If you have a chance to sign one of them now, you do it. Plus, you can’t assume that all of those players you listed will be available in 2020. Who’s to say that Arenado and Goldschmidt won’t sign extensions with their respective teams before hitting free agency? Or that they’ll be healthy? Or that the two sides will be able to agree to a deal? There are too many unknowns. What we do know is that the White Sox contending window is coming. There are a handful of big-time free agents who they can possibly sign in the next few years. I say take your swings at as many as possible with the hopes of landing one of them.

Q: Is it smarter for the Sox to spend on one of the big ticket free agents (Harper, Machado) or to get multiple guys from the second tier of free agents with the same money? — @LandoJQuintana​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. If the White Sox are unable to sign one of the marquee guys in the next couple years, this might be the way they end up going. Is it smarter? If Harper and Machado end up getting hurt or not playing up to their contracts, then the answer is yes. But as I mentioned before, the White Sox spread the money around in 2014. They were crowned the winners of the offseason. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The White Sox went 76-86 in 2015, which set them on a course for the rebuild.

The reason to sign a guy like Harper is that it has a ripple affect on your entire franchise. Not just in wins, but in attendance, TV ratings, luring future free agents, etc. My feeling with the White Sox is they didn’t go through the rebuild and all the losing that comes with it to end up being a good team or a really good team. They want to be great and for a long time.

Q: Sign Harper. Trade remaining OF depth (not named Jimenez) for Trout. 2019-beyond OF of Eloy, Trout, Harper. Sox win the next 10 World Series. My question: what am I missing here? — @HockBomb​​​​​​​

CG: Absolutely nothing — other than maybe some reality! But I do like your thinking! Here’s the deal. If Mike Trout had four to five years remaining on his contract, I would make a trade like that in a heartbeat. However, he only has two years left. That’s not enough time to give up all that prospect talent for a very small window to win with Trout. Maybe the White Sox try to sign him in 2021?

Q: When can we expect to see Luis Robert up and is he more likely projected as a CF or corner outfielder? How is he progressing with off speed pitches? — @mpovilaitis​​​​​​​

CG: Robert has been making up for lost injury time, tearing things up in the Arizona Fall League. I’m actually heading out there on Tuesday, so I’ll have much more on Robert in the coming days. He’s projected to be a center fielder. I can see him reaching Double-A (and maybe Triple-A) in 2019 and the majors in 2020. He has the talent to move up quickly. It all depends on how he develops. What he’s been doing so far in the AFL is a good sign going forward.

Q: How many top 30 Sox prospects (and which ones) do you expect to see in the majors this year? — @DavidRHorning

CG: It’s tough to predict and project on prospects. How about a list of players who have a chance to make it the majors this year (and if they don’t, that’s fine): Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Zack Collins, Luis Basabe, Zack Burdi, Jordan Stephens, Kodi Medeiros, Seby Zavala and Spencer Adams.

Q: Should I buy season tickets? — @Nashpotatoes6

CG: I can’t tell you yes or no. But I will say this: If the White Sox were a stock, I’d be buying it.

Q: If the Bears have a great season and the Sox invite a couple of them for a Bears day. Who would you want to see throw out the first pitch? — @ventiicedredeye

CG: Trubisky and Mack. Offense and defense. Let’s make it happen.

And finally:

Q: How many times does Yolmer dump Gatorade on himself in 2019? — @DaRealScaletta

CG: I’m hoping for double digits.

So apparently the Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer

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USA TODAY

So apparently the Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer

An interesting note from over the weekend: Apparently the Houston Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported on a deal that obviously didn't happen, one that would have sent Bryce Harper to the then-defending champs. That would've been very exciting for baseball fans in general — it might have been enough to get the Astros past the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS and to get them a second consecutive World Series title — but there's another added bit of specific interest to fans on the South Side.

Apparently after the Harper deal fell apart, the Astros called up the White Sox and tried to acquire Garcia. According to Rosenthal, the Astros offered up Francis Martes, a right-handed pitcher who two years ago was the No. 1 prospect in the Astros' system and one of the top 30 prospects in baseball. He hasn't appeared in the prospect rankings since that top rating in 2016 — likely a result of his north-of-5.00 ERA between the majors and Triple-A in 2017 — and he's had recent injury issues, too. His 2018 season at Triple-A Fresno ended before the start of May, and he had Tommy John surgery in August. But Rosenthal pointed out that the White Sox knew all about that while discussing him as a potential return for Garcia.

Per Rosenthal, the Astros weren't too excited about Garcia's injured knee, which he admitted at the end of the season had literally been bothering him since Opening Day. 

Garcia's standing in the White Sox long-term plans are a bit of a mystery. After his breakout 2017 campaign that saw him represent the team at the All-Star Game and rank among the best offensive players in the American League, statistically, Garcia was bothered by injuries from the jump in 2018. He said he felt that knee injury from Opening Day on, and his hamstring sent him to the disabled list on more than one occasion. He ended up playing in only 93 games and slashing a woeful .236/.281/.438, though he did reach a new career high with 19 home runs.

Garcia has only one year of team control left, and there's been plenty of speculative discussion about whether the White Sox would even tender him a contract this offseason, though none of that talk has come from the White Sox themselves. Other options could include waiting to see if he can reach that 2017 status once again and try to deal him during the 2019 season. But it's interesting to hear there was interest this past summer, even with the injuries. That could have been due to a hot stretch between June 22 and July 8, when Garcia returned from the disabled list to slash .333/.347/.783 with eight homers in a 17-game span.

For fans who want to play the "what if" game with Martes, his major league experience totals 32 appearances for the Astros in 2017, only four of which were starts. He posted a 5.80 ERA in 54.1 innings with 69 strikeouts and 31 walks. Dealing with injuries, he made just five minor league appearances in 2018. But his 2.04 ERA in 2015 and 3.30 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 2016 are likely what made the prospect-ranking folks so high on him in the first place.