White Sox

Eloy Jimenez DH's in return from IL: Is his long-term future in left field or as a DH?

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USA TODAY

Eloy Jimenez DH's in return from IL: Is his long-term future in left field or as a DH?

“Nah.”

Eloy Jimenez’s reaction when asked to confirm that serving as the designated hitter is not his preference said it all. Like Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso before him this season, Jimenez would rather not DH. He likes playing the field, as most players seem to do, something that aids them in concentration and staying locked into a game.

But this is the American League, and someone has to serve as the DH for the White Sox every single day. Jimenez was the guy Sunday in his return from the injured list, back in the lineup after sitting on the shelf with an ulnar nerve contusion. Manager Rick Renteria said that Jimenez will likely DH for a few days before he shows the White Sox his elbow is in good enough shape to return to his normal spot in left field.

The question, of course, with Jimenez is how long left field will be his regular spot.

Even in a to-this-point less explosive rookie campaign than some overeager prognosticators might have anticipated, Jimenez has left no doubt that he can swing a mean stick. During a great month of June, he made a habit of blasting home runs out to center field, regularly disturbing the foliage on the batter’s eye and in one instance smashing a ball all the way to the stairs on the Fan Deck.

But his defense has been a different story. Fans groaned when general manager Rick Hahn said multiple times during the 2018 season that Jimenez had to work on his defense, but that’s proven to be the case during Jimenez’s first taste of the major leagues. He’s made myriad awkward-looking plays — plenty of which ended in outs, sure — and had multiple communication mishaps with fellow fielders.

Those have decreased as time has gone on and he’s gained more experience, an important part of the equation, but just look to his most recent play in the outfield, when a communication overlap with center fielder Charlie Tilson led to his latest stay on the injured list.

So is regularly DH’ing a part of Jimenez’s extended future? Renteria says no.

"He's too young for me to view him as a DH, to be honest,” Renteria said Sunday. “And I think he's shown so much improvement in the outfield that it would be, I think, derelict on my part and on our part as an organization to limit the ability for him to play on both sides of the baseball.

“He's an extremely hard worker, he's very conscientious, he's been going through a lot of the things that we need him to go through. He sincerely has improved out there a lot. And so we want to see if we can maximize his ability to do everything he can as a Major League Baseball player.

“And then time will tell us. If that ends up ultimately being his lot — I don't foresee that. But if that ultimately becomes his lot, that becomes his lot. But I think right now we're going to continue to use him on both sides of the baseball, for sure.”

So obviously the White Sox have no plans to move the 22-year-old to a full-time role as a designated hitter, and they’ll give him plenty of opportunity to improve in left, which they insist he’s done since the beginning of the season.

But there are other complications that make Jimenez look like a long-term fixture in left field, specifically other projected pieces of the White Sox rosters of the future.

As mentioned, Abreu doesn’t like DH’ing, either. But if he is going to be a part of the White Sox plans into his mid- and late-30s (and it sure seems like he will be), how much can he be relied upon solely as a first baseman? Will his appearances as a designated hitter increase in an effort to keep him healthy throughout the course of a major league season? That was a point of emphasis when the White Sox acquired Alonso over the offseason to share time at first and DH with Abreu.

And then there’s the White Sox most recent first-round draft pick, Andrew Vaughn, a slugger who could rise through the system rapidly given the advanced nature of his collegiate bat. But though the White Sox expressed confidence in his defensive ability at first base, his glove was knocked in scouting reports in the run-up to the draft. Is it possible that his long-term future is as a DH, too?

Neither Abreu nor Vaughn can play another position besides first base, presumably — despite Abreu’s frequent rounds of taking grounders at shortstop during batting practice — so that pigeonholes those two players as either first basemen or DHs. And if both are going to be part of this team's future, that might answer the question about Jimenez right there.

The good news is that things can obviously get better for Jimenez out in left field. None of these young core pieces are finished products, and developing as a defender will be part of Jimenez’s work over the next several years, just like developing as a hitter will be. Renteria always extols the benefits of simply gaining experience at the big league level, and it’s quite possible that there could be vast improvement the more Jimenez plays out there, rendering this whole discussion moot.

But if DH ends up being the spot Jimenez is best suited to play — if that ends up being his “lot,” to quote Renteria — will there be a spot open for him on future White Sox teams?

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Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

The baseball offseason is moving at a quicker pace than recent years, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is among those happy to see that.

Hahn and the White Sox contributed to that quick start to the offseason by signing Yasmani Grandal on Nov. 21. He said he prefers that in an interview with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score on Saturday.

Hahn also gave an update on the team’s offseason.

“We still have work to do, but at the same time we’re obviously quite pleased to have added Yasmani Grandal, much to no one’s surprise bringing back Jose Abreu and we’re intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously you can’t convert on everything, a point that was publicly driven home this past week, but at the same time we know that regardless of whether we convert on one specific target or not, there are still a lot of reasons to be excited based on the guys we currently have, much less what we may add in the coming weeks.”

The comment about being unable to convert on everything is surely a reference to Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hahn didn’t give any hints as to what the White Sox are working on, but he did say he prefers the speed of this offseason.

“We’d certainly prefer to do things sooner rather than later,” Hahn said. “That’s generally true regardless of the time of year.”

If Hahn wants to get things done quickly, it would make sense that the winter meetings could be a time of White Sox activity. Hahn wasn’t biting on that.

“There’s nothing magical about getting a deal done Tuesday at the winter meetings,” Hahn said. “It creates a little more buzz perhaps and fulfills some expectations within the fanbase and the media.

“A guy is not going to have any less impact on your team if you acquire him Dec. 20 vs. Dec. 12.”

Hahn also gave updates on various current players on the team:

  • Yasmani Grandal has been studying up on White Sox pitchers and how he can help the young pitchers develop.

“This guy’s No. 1 goal and No. 1 priority is to make the pitchers better," Hahn said. "He’s texting me two, three times a week still with stuff he had seen on our guys and conversations he’s had with our guys about how he thinks we’re going to be able to get them better in the coming months.”

  • Hahn was asked if the White Sox would add another middle infielder to provide cover until Nick Madrigal comes up. He didn't rule it out, but cited Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick as capable of helping out. Hahn has previously said he expects Madrigal to be up for most of the 2020 season.
  • Nothing new here, but Hahn said Michael Kopech will enter spring training "without restriction" and will have "some innings management" throughout the season. Kopech missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2018 season.
  • Carlos Rodon's timeline to return from Tommy John surgery hasn't changed. Hahn said they will re-evaluate him in April to see where he is after spring training. He is still tentatively expected to return in late July or early August.

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Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Depending on which report you choose to believe, the White Sox could be on the verge of filling the void in their outfield with one of the bigger names on this winter’s free-agent market.

Dominican reporter Frank Castillo tweeted Saturday that the White Sox will sign Marcell Ozuna, planning to announce the free-agent deal Monday.

Well, that was followed up by a report from The Score’s Bruce Levine, who said the White Sox are not about to sign Ozuna.

So there’s that.

The White Sox were connected to Ozuna earlier this offseason, as well as more recently, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writing last week that the team had interest in Japanese import Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but were waiting to hear on the decisions of Ozuna and fellow free agent Nicholas Castellanos first.

Ozuna turned heads with his fantastic 2017 season for the Miami Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Since being dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, Ozuna hit .263/.327/.452 with 52 homers and 177 RBIs in two seasons.

The White Sox have a pressing need in right field, making it little surprise that they’ve been tied to numerous options, including Ozuna, Castellanos and Joc Pederson. Ozuna, though, exclusively played left field in St. Louis. Were the White Sox to add him, would they insist he play right field? They’ve expressed little to no interest in moving Eloy Jimenez out of left field.

It’s rumor season, and there should be plenty more of them with the Winter Meetings starting Monday in San Diego. The White Sox are expected to continue the aggressive approach they’ve displayed already this winter with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and their reported high bid to Zack Wheeler, who took less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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