White Sox

Eloy Jimenez in the Home Run Derby? White Sox rookie isn't thinking about it

Eloy Jimenez in the Home Run Derby? White Sox rookie isn't thinking about it

Eloy Jimenez is one of baseball's young up-and-coming stars, and he's got an awful lot of power.

So he's kind of a no-brainer for the Home Run Derby.

The annual home run hitting contest the night before the All-Star Game isn't quite as prestigious for participants as it once was, back when the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and others of their era were involved on a yearly basis. A tweaked, tournament-style format — plus hometown sluggers Todd Frazier and Bryce Harper winning in Cincinnati and Washington, respectively — have made the event an entertaining watch again, but the inclusion of the game's biggest stars is always what draws eyeballs.

Yahoo Sports' Blake Schuster had a good idea: What better way to draw those young fans the game is always targeting than to fill this year's Derby exclusively with rookies? Who knows if Major League Baseball saw that piece or not, but two rookies have already been confirmed to participate: Pete Alonso of the New York Mets and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays. Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana will be there, too. He's not a rookie by any stretch, but he is a member of the host team.

Jimenez would be a perfect inclusion, a fun-loving player with a mile-wide smile who hits baseballs really, really far.

The latter attribute was on display for the second straight game Saturday, when Jimenez crushed a ball halfway up the bleachers in left-center field during the ninth inning of an otherwise forgettable day at the yard for the White Sox, who were out-slugged by the visiting Minnesota Twins. The night before, his insurance-providing two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth ended up being the difference. And of course White Sox fans don't need to be reminded of the game-winning, broken-bat homer that beat the Cubs a little more than a week ago.

Jimenez has 14 home runs during his rookie season, with more than half of those coming in his last 25 games, a stretch that's seen him hit .308 and drive in 22 runs. After a slow start, with just three homers in his first 23 contests, he's got 11 dingers in his last 33 games and is suddenly on pace for around 34. That's not quite the outlandish 38 home runs predicted by this writer before the season started — hey, we were all caught up in Eloy Mania — but it's not far off. It's enough to warrant inclusion on one of the game's biggest stages.

But it doesn't sound like it's something that's taking up too much real estate in Jimenez's mind.

"Right now, I don’t worry about it," he said after Saturday's game. "If the time comes and I need to go, I maybe go. But right now I’m not worried about that."

His manager wasn't too keen on talking about the subject, either.

"That’s not a situation in which I have anything to do with," he said Saturday. "And there are certainly other guys that have been around and are doing the things they need to do to put themselves in that position.

"I don’t want to speak to how everyone views the necessity to do things like that. I'm more concerned on how we’re going to continue to improve him here. He’ll have plenty of time in the future to be a part of all that."

Certainly downsides of participating in the Derby have been well discussed throughout the years, and for a guy still trying to learn how to be a big league player, maybe throwing him into a swing-altering home run contest isn't the greatest idea, from the White Sox standpoint. They would surely prefer his mammoth home runs keep coming in games. And Renteria's right, if Jimenez becomes the kind of star player everyone believes he will, there will be opportunities to stand on the game's biggest stages in the future.

But with Lucas Giolito and James McCann expected to be named to the team when the rosters are revealed Sunday, what a coming-out party it could be for the rebuilding White Sox and their blindingly bright future to have Jimenez as part of the festivities, as well.

We'll have to wait and see. If not this year, though, perhaps in a Derby down the line.

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Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

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USA TODAY

Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

You can put to bed the rumors about free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly signing with the White Sox. It’s not happening.

The two sides did get together during the MLB Winter Meetings in December. Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria met with Puig for about 90 minutes to discuss the possibility of the 29-year-old joining the White Sox as their everyday right fielder.

But instead, the White Sox chose to take a different route. That same week, they acquired Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for minor league outfielder Steele Walker, ending any chance of Puig coming to the South Side.

“After our meeting we came away big Yasiel Puig fans, but he wasn’t the right fit for us then and he isn’t right now,” Williams said.

With spring training games starting this weekend and the regular season a little over a month away, fellow Cuban Jose Abreu says he’s surprised the flashy 29-year-old outfielder remains a free agent.

“Yes, I am (surprised). That’s one of those things that happen that you don’t understand. A guy with his talent. He’s still so young,” Abreu said through a translator. “He doesn’t have a team yet. It’s a surprise. I’m confident he’s going to find something this year.”

Even with Puig’s talent, Abreu looks around the White Sox clubhouse and agrees with the decision by the White Sox not to sign the former All-Star who hit .267/.327/.458 with the Reds and Indians last season.

“I don’t think he would be a good fit here. Don’t get me wrong. He has a lot of talent but we’re full," Abreu said. "Our outfield is looking great with Nomar (Mazara), Eloy (Jimenez) and (Luis) Robert. There’s no reason for us to make more moves in that area of our team. He’s someone who would fit in with any major league ball club because he has the talent to help any of those teams.”

What about possibly platooning Puig with Mazara in right field? On paper, that might sound like a good plan, although Puig has traditionally hit better against righties than lefties in his career. But a larger issue could be the timeshare. The idea of Puig, nicknamed “Wild Horse,” being forced to the stable for half the season could spell problems not only for him, but the chemistry inside the clubhouse.

“It would be difficult, especially for him being an everyday player,” Abreu said about Puig being a platoon player.  “When you have to make that decision, it’s not easy.”

So, where will Puig end up?  No one knows for sure but it won’t be with the White Sox.  

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White Sox lock up Aaron Bummer with record five-year extension

White Sox lock up Aaron Bummer with record five-year extension

PHOENIX — The White Sox have locked up a key part of their bullpen and did it in record fashion.

The team is keeping Aaron Bummer on the South Side for the next half-decade. The deal contains a pair of team options that could keep Bummer in a White Sox uniform through the 2026 season. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, it’s the biggest extension for a pre-arbitration, non-closer reliever in baseball history.

According to the team’s announcement, Bummer will receive $1 million in 2020, $2 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022, $3.75 million in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024. The White Sox hold options for $7.25 million in 2025 and $7.5 million in 2026, with $1.25 million buyouts for either season.

The White Sox have good reason to want to keep 26-year-old Bummer around. He was excellent during the 2019 season, emerging as one of the team’s most reliable late-inning options. He finished the campaign with a 2.13 ERA in 58 appearances. A left-hander, he was effective against both right- and left-handed hitters, holding righties to a .188 batting average and lefties to a .178 average.

“Any time you’re looking at relievers, there’s the capacity to come in in key situations, in high-leverage and be that guy that you can count on in any situation. That’s what we have with Aaron," White Sox assistant general manager Jeremy Haber told reporters Saturday in Glendale. "In addition, the nature of the position — there’s ups and downs, and he’s experienced that in his career on and off the field, demonstrated that resiliency that you look for in that position."

Bummer will continue playing a prominent role in the White Sox ‘pen in 2020, likely starting the season as Rick Renteria’s primary eighth-inning option and forming a formidable back end of the bullpen alongside closer Alex Colome, and new addition Steve Cishek.

But with Colome slated to hit free agency after the 2020 season, it’s possible Bummer could be a candidate to take over the closer’s job.

"The reliever role and coming in in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning — it takes a certain type of temperament," Haber said. "Not to just deal with and thrive in those, but handle the ups and downs whenever they come, and Aaron’s shown that."

Add Bummer’s name to the list of young, core players the White Sox have under team control for a long time. Now there’s an exciting bullpen arm to go along with locked-up stars in the making such as Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Luis Robert, among the other youngsters like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

You need a strong bullpen to compete and with their eyes on competing long into the future, the White Sox are trying to build just that for the long-term.

"Every organization seeks to acquire and develop, and retain championship-level talent," Haber said. "We’re very pleased to have been able to accomplish that today with another piece."

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