White Sox

Hector Santiago returns familiar face to White Sox and fills hole on 2018 pitching staff

Hector Santiago returns familiar face to White Sox and fills hole on 2018 pitching staff

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Hector Santiago was traded away from the White Sox, made an All-Star team, shut down his former team (a few times) and hurt his back.

Now Santiago is back with the South Siders, signed Wednesday to a minor league deal that comes with an invite to spring training. As White Sox pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch, a familiar face was on the way.

Santiago's addition is no small thing. While there's no guarantee he'll be a part of the White Sox roster on Opening Day, the team's needs seem to indicate he's got a good chance to be among the 25 who break camp and head to Kansas City for the season opener.

While nearly every role in the White Sox bullpen is up for grabs, there seemed to be few if any who fit the bill of a long reliever. Santiago, though he's had his best days as a starter, would figure to slide into that long-relief spot. But his versatility is what made him a desirable addition for the White Sox during this epically slow offseason. Should any injuries befall the expected starting rotation of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer — with a recovering Carlos Rodon waiting in the wings — Santiago would figure to be among the best options to fill in.

"The versatility has a great deal of appeal," general manager Rick Hahn said during a Wednesday press conference. "Obviously, he's had success including an All-Star season as a starter in the American League. We saw first-hand how valuable he can potentially be in various roles, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen. The versatility certainly had an appeal to us and as a player we drafted and helped develop, I think we have a special fondness for Hector. He's a tremendous, tremendous individual and a great fit in the clubhouse."

Santiago was drafted by the White Sox in 2006 and spent his first three big league seasons on the South Side before getting dealt away in the Adam Eaton trade. During his first stint with the White Sox, he made 78 appearances, only 27 of which were starts. He made the 2015 AL All-Star squad with the Los Angeles Angels, posting a 3.59 ERA that season with 162 strikeouts in 180.2 innings.

Santiago made 33 starts with the Angels and Minnesota Twins in 2016 but only pitched 15 times last season while dealing with a back injury. Hahn said Wednesday that Santiago is recovered from that injury and will be full go once he reports, which could be as early as Thursday.

Santiago and Gonzalez make two former White Sox back in the fold for the 2018 campaign. The South Siders added Gonzalez earlier this offseason after trading him away last summer. The White Sox knew what they were getting in these guys, and the duo has familiarity with pitching coach Don Cooper.

"It does play some role," Hahn said. "Hector's got probably more experience out of the pen and more versatility. Gonzo having been in this clubhouse, he fit well and it's obviously comfortable for him with the role going forward."

But maybe the best thing about the White Sox bringing Santiago back is that they don't have to face him anymore. In seven starts against his former team, Santiago is 5-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 45.1 innings.

So a positive move on all fronts.

White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

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USA TODAY

White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

Would the White Sox pursue Anthony Rendon?

It’s one of the many things they’re not taking off the table as they embark on what’s expected to be a busy offseason. But it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to make the necessary corresponding move: switching Yoan Moncada’s position for the second year in a row.

Of course, Rick Hahn doesn’t talk about specific free agents, meaning he doesn’t get asked about specific free agents, meaning there’s no definitive answer on whether the White Sox are even interested in Rendon, the top position player on the free-agent market this winter. The rumor mill is already churning, though, and they’ve been connected to the All-Star third baseman, among plenty of other big names.

But the White Sox have a third baseman in Moncada, and they really don’t want to move him again. However, if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, maybe they would.

“We're not looking to move him again because we do think he's an MVP-caliber player over at third base and don't want to upset the apple cart with that,” Hahn said during the GM meetings last week in Arizona. “That said, he's also extraordinarily athletic and has the ability to play multiple other positions, whether it's second base, like you saw, or even potentially in the outfield, something that he's raised before.

“The general plan is to not mess with that, but we're at least going to go through this process and be open minded about, 'If we did this, what effect would that have on Moncada and how do we project him going forward at a different spot?' We project him awfully good at the spot he's at right now.”

Moncada had a breakout offensive season and at least appeared to play a good defensive third base in 2019 (even if some of the defensive metrics said otherwise). After striking out 217 times in his first full season in the major leagues in 2018, he blossomed into the White Sox best all-around hitter with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go along with 25 homers, 34 doubles and 79 RBIs in 132 games.

Rendon, meanwhile, is a perennial MVP-type producer coming off a career year featuring a .319/.412/.598 slash line, 34 homers, 44 doubles and 126 RBIs. He also plays a very good third base, a Gold Glove finalist this year.

He’s the kind of player you rearrange your defense for.

The White Sox are looking for that kind of major splash, a guy who can help vault their rebuilding project into contention mode. Rendon is the type of middle-of-the-order bat who could do just that, and the opportunity to sign him might be too good to pass up. And though we’re throttling our way down Hypothetical Avenue, the White Sox would have to figure out where to put Moncada if they were able to sign Rendon.

Moncada’s versatility, as Hahn mentioned, could help with that. Moncada spent the 2017 season at second base, where he made a whopping 21 errors. Manager Rick Renteria revealed during the season that Moncada has said he can play the outfield, and Moncada himself said he’d play wherever the White Sox wanted him to play.

We also don’t have to guess at whether the White Sox would chase one of the best players in baseball despite their playing a position the team already has filled. They did it last winter, going after Manny Machado while Tim Anderson was seemingly entrenched at shortstop.

But with three stated goals on their offseason to-do list — right field, designated hitter and starting pitching — the White Sox don’t seem to be close to putting all their chips on Rendon's number.

Hence the staunch defense of keeping Moncada at third base. But, in what is emerging as a theme for the White Sox this winter, the door remains open to anything.

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.

“Part of it, though, and we don't take it lightly is: Moving him again defensively, what impact does that have on his performance? It's not an exact science, but it's a consideration. And given how good he's been this last year plus and the trajectory he's on, moving him is not something we take lightly.”

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Paul Konerko lands on Hall of Fame ballot for first time

Paul Konerko lands on Hall of Fame ballot for first time

Paul Konerko is on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The 2020 ballot includes the White Sox legend for the first time, Konerko landing among baseball’s greats five years after his retirement following the 2014 season.

Konerko is unlikely to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, though his Hall-of-Fame candidacy in general warrants a close look. He slashed .279/.354/.486 in his 18-year big league career, smacking 439 home runs and driving in 1,412 runs. His name appears all over the franchise leaderboards, and he was one of the key cogs in the team’s World Series championship in 2005.

As far as further Hall-of-Fame credentials go, Konerko twice finished in the top 10 in the American League MVP vote (2005 and 2010). He hit at least 20 homers in 13 different seasons and hit at least 30 homers in seven different seasons. He twice topped the 40-homer mark. He had six seasons of at least 100 RBIs and batted .300 or better in four different seasons. His 439 homers rank 44th on the all-time major league home run list.

Undoubtedly, Konerko is one of the greatest players in White Sox history, and he’s immortalized on the South Side with a retired number and a statue on the outfield concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field. Whether he is enshrined in Cooperstown is likely a question that won’t be answered for several years, but he can start racking up votes this winter.

He’s not the only former White Sox player on the ballot, joined by one-time teammates Adam Dunn, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, J.J. Putz and Manny Ramirez, as well as Sammy Sosa, whose three-year stint on the South Side came long before Konerko joined the team. But fans will rightfully concentrate on the guy who spent 16 seasons in a White Sox uniform and became a fan favorite.

Also on this year's ballot are Bobby Abreu, Josh Beckett, Heath Bell, Barry Bonds, Eric Chavez, Roger Clemens, Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Todd Helton, Raul Ibanez, Derek Jeter, Jeff Kent, Cliff Lee, Carlos Pena, Brad Penny, Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Valverde, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker.

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