White Sox

A guy the White Sox traded twice will start Game 1 of the NLCS: Could he finally come to the South Side this offseason?

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USA TODAY

A guy the White Sox traded twice will start Game 1 of the NLCS: Could he finally come to the South Side this offseason?

The first pitch of the penultimate round of the 2018 postseason will be thrown by a guy the White Sox traded. Twice.

A more noteworthy guy the White Sox traded (only once, though) could end up throwing the first pitch of the ALCS, too — his name is Chris Sale, you've probably heard of him — but let's instead focus on the guy who will take the mound in the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the NLCS. Gio Gonzalez is the Milwaukee Brewers' starting pitcher for Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he's a somewhat memorable figure in White Sox history in that they dealt him as part of the trade for Jim Thome in 2005, then reacquired him in the Freddy Garcia-for-Gavin Floyd swap a year later, then traded him away again the following offseason, that time to the Oakland Athletics in the Nick Swisher deal.

All of that happened before Gonzalez even made his big league debut, but he's more notable than some of the other throw-ins in those trades, more notable than Daniel Haigwood or Fautino De Los Santos, because he became a two-time All Star and has twice finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. Is he "the" one who got away? Maybe not. But he's "a" one who got away.

And now he's adding another accomplishment to his mighty productive 11-year major league career, pitching in the NLCS and trying to help his team get to the World Series.

Why does this warrant any further discussion in White Sox circles, though? Well, Gonzalez has had himself a heck of a go of things since getting traded from the Washington Nationals to the Brewers at the end of August, making the 32-year-old — who just a year ago finished sixth in the NL Cy Young vote — a somewhat attractive free agent when the baseball calendar flips from the World Series to the Hot Stove. And the White Sox just happen to be in the market for a starting pitcher or two.

How about that idea? Gonzalez, drafted by the Whiite Sox in 2004 and twice a part of their organization, finally pitching on the South Side.

The stock that was so high thanks to a sensational 2017 — a 2.96 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 201 innings — plummeted thanks to a rocky first five months of the 2018 regular season. Before the trade, Gonzalez had a 4.57 ERA, but he found some sort of rejuvenation in Wisconsin (we all do, to be honest, it's called Spotted Cow) and was excellent in his five regular-season starts with the Brew Crew, allowing just six earned runs and striking out 22 guys in 25.1 innings. Friday's start in Game 1 of the NLCS will be his first appearance this postseason. Don't be surprised if it doesn't last long, as Craig Counsell wisely leans on his uber-talented bullpen.

But thanks to what he's done with the Brewers, Gonzalez is suddenly a more attractive free-agent candidate than he was a month and a half ago. Could he be a fit for the White Sox?

Rick Hahn's front office has a decision to make in what kind of starting pitcher they want to sign this winter to plug the hole created by Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery. And the number of holes to fill in the rotation becomes two if the White Sox don't have any interest in re-signing James Shields. Do the White Sox want to add two one-year fill-ins and just wait for Kopech's return and Dylan Cease's arrival? Or do the White Sox want to add an insurance policy of sorts, pitchers who could help a contending 2020 club if Kopech and/or Cease are experiencing the to-be-expected growing pains of players in their first full major league seasons?

Gonzalez, perhaps, could fit either category depending on how the market and how his market, specifically shakes out. He just turned 33, meaning he'll be 34 by Opening Day 2020. But he's made 32 starts in each of the last three seasons and 31 the season before that.

Certainly, if the White Sox are fishing in longer-term waters this winter, there will be more attractive names than Gonzalez. But he could still be a viable option. Not to mention, perhaps, a sentimental one.

His postseason story isn't done being written yet, which could of course impact the kind of deal he gets this winter. But if it has a good enough ending, perhaps the White Sox could look his way and finally bring him to the South Side — the place he thought he'd end up 14 years ago.

Padres might have just topped everyone — including White Sox — with reported offer to Manny Machado north of $250 million

Padres might have just topped everyone — including White Sox — with reported offer to Manny Machado north of $250 million

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Enter the San Diego Padres as potential party-crashers in the Manny Machado sweepstakes.

Aside from an offhand mention of an offer from the New York Yankees, the only widely reported contract offer for the 26-year-old superstar free agent with numbers attached to it was the one from the White Sox. Depending on who you believe, it was for seven years and between $175 million and $250 million, though the high number was shot down by a flurry of counter-reports.

Well, the Padres have joined the club now, with multiple reports Sunday night indicating they've gone near or over $250 million — and gone to an eighth year — with their bid for Machado's services. One reported number was $280 million, which could potentially be as much as $100 million above the previously reported White Sox offer.

If those numbers are accurate, that's big news and could spur the need for a new offer from the White Sox, if they are in fact willing to do so.

General manager Rick Hahn has talked about his team's seriousness in acquiring a "premium talent" like Machado and has vowed that the White Sox will spend the kind of money that it takes to bring in a player of this caliber.

Asked during SoxFest about what he called the "false narrative" that the White Sox aren't willing to spend, Hahn said: "We’d love to disprove that during the coming weeks. We certainly have extended offers that would ruin that narrative, if accepted, but we're not there yet."

A new high offer out of San Diego could force the White Sox to make a new decision.

The Padres offer much of the same things that the White Sox have pitched to these big-name free agents. They have even more prospects ranked in the MLB Pipeline top 100 (10 of them, to be exact) than the White Sox and can pitch an equally bright future over the better part of the next decade. They have shown recent willingness to spend, handing out a six-figure contract to Eric Hosmer just last winter. Hosmer and Machado would make two pretty attractive centerpieces as Padres prospects, such as Fernando Tatis Jr. — the No. 2 prospect in the game who the White Sox traded for James Shields in 2016 — arrive in the big leagues.

And so with similar pitches being made, money would figure to make the difference. This isn't the Yankees, supposedly Machado's preferred destination, and so there could be fewer, if any, non-financial factors in a choice between these two teams.

Also of interest were a couple of reports from earlier Sunday describing talks between Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies as "intensifying." The Phillies have been the White Sox most prominent competition for Machado (and Harper, for that matter) this winter, but if they were able to land Harper, they would presumably be done chasing Machado. That would be good news for the White Sox. But if the late-arriving Padres are as serious as they're being reported to be, there's a possibility the White Sox walk away from this offseason without landing a monster free agent.

That wouldn't be the end of the world, with the franchise's rebuilding plans still firmly on track. But fans with raised expectations after hearing the White Sox tied to Harper and Machado for months would certainly feel disappointment. Hahn would, too. He said as much during SoxFest.

It's important to remember, of course, that there will be other opportunities to land premium talent. And it's also important to remember that news of an offer from the Padres doesn't mean Machado has accepted. The White Sox are in it until they aren't.

But things just got a little more interesting. Stay tuned.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez talks about winning a World Series

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez talks about winning a World Series

Eloy Jimenez sits down with Chuck Garfien at spring training. Jimenez talks about:

-Getting hit in the head in his very first at-bat when he was nine years old and later his first home run (06:05)

-Why he has long believed that he was meant to play in Chicago (08:00)

-Meeting Jim Thome for the first time (10:40)

-Why he thought about quitting baseball in his first season in the Cubs organization (12:15)

-Not getting called up to the majors last season (15:40)

-Michael Kopech calling him "the Babe Ruth of our generation (18:10)

-How he, Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe talk everyday about winning a World Series (19:40)

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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