White Sox

How close are Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez to returning to White Sox lineup?

How close are Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez to returning to White Sox lineup?

You’ve seen what Tim Anderson can do on a baseball field, making plays with his bat, his feet and his glove and doing it in a way that gets the White Sox dugout all sorts of fired up.

They’re missing him right now.

It’s not to say that the team’s not-so-pretty 2-8 road trip to start the second half went the way it went because Anderson wasn’t in the lineup. But a first half filled with positives has segued to a second half that’s started in less-than-ideal fashion. The best way to shake off those doldrums? Getting an energizer like Anderson back from the high ankle sprain that’s had him on the injured list for the last month.

“Some of the guys have told me that,” Anderson said, presented with the idea that the White Sox are missing his presence. “It's been a tough stretch. I'm sure it's been hard, but take it a day at a time. I'm ready to get back with the boys and just keep having fun with them.”

That could be sooner rather than later. Anderson ran the bases ahead of Monday’s game against the Miami Marlins, with manager Rick Renteria saying that if all goes well the shortstop could soon head out on a rehab assignment. Unsurprisingly, Anderson was hopeful things would progress quickly, but Renteria didn’t rain on his player’s sunny projection one bit.

“Maybe a week or two, I'm thinking,” Anderson said. “I think it just depends on how I feel. But I feel good. I think I'll be ready to go maybe in a week or two.”

“Once he goes out and starts playing,” Renteria said, “I would say that is realistic.”

Getting Anderson back in the coming weeks would be a very good thing for a White Sox lineup that averaged just 2.4 runs a game and 1.4 extra-base hits a game during its seven-game losing streak to begin the second half. Anderson might not be hitting .400 like he was in the early weeks of the season, but he still owns a career-best .832 OPS.

Of course, that same lineup could use Eloy Jimenez, too, though the status of this injured White Sox hitter is a tad more difficult to pin down. Jimenez’s injury during the series against the Kansas City Royals was the lowest moment of the 2-8 stretch coming out of the All-Star break, the sight of him grabbing his limp arm after colliding with Charlie Tilson sending panic throughout the fan base.

It sent panic through Jimenez, too.

“We both said ‘I got it’ at the same time,” Jimenez explained Monday. “He heard me, but I didn’t hear him. I just hit my elbow and something happened. … I didn’t try to get hurt. It just happened.

“My first thought was that (my season might be over) because I felt a lot of pain and I didn’t feel my hand. I said, ‘Oh my god. I might be out for the season.’ But after I took the MRI, they told me, ‘You are going to be back soon.’”

Just like Jimenez’s first injury of the season, when he got his foot stuck in the outfield wall trying to rob a home run at Guaranteed Rate Field, things could have been much worse. Then, Jimenez ended up with only a high ankle sprain and was back in less than a month. The White Sox are still taking it easy with what they’re calling an “ulnar contusion” and have no timetable for Jimenez’s return this time around. But it’s not some severe thing that will wipe out the rest of his rookie year.

Jimenez has not yet been cleared to swing a bat or make throws from the outfield, perhaps an indication that his return is still a ways off. But that’s what the White Sox want right now.

“We're preventing him from swinging,” Renteria said Monday. “We're going to take care of this kid. This guy's a special kid. So we're doing everything in our power right now to make sure we limit his activity until we're ready to put him out there and do what we need to do to continue moving forward.”

The White Sox bumpy start to the second half might have been a rude awakening for those dreaming of the outside chances of a surprise playoff appearance, and with the postseason looking more like a 2020 concern rather than a 2019 one, it’s not exactly “crucial” that the White Sox get these two regulars back to remain in the playoff hunt.

But there’s no doubt that they could use Anderson and Jimenez back in the lineup, two boosts that would accomplish the task of making for a more competitive second half. Teamed with Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and James McCann, the lineup could continue to grow together as it steams toward a 2020 edition that could also feature red-hot prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.

If the first half showed that 2020 could be a contending year for the White Sox, one would assume, perhaps, that the second half of the 2019 season would be a continued climb toward that contending status. If it’s going to resemble a climb more than a slide, getting Anderson and Jimenez back on the field figures to be a big part of that.

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White Sox sign face of the franchise Jose Abreu to three-year extension

White Sox sign face of the franchise Jose Abreu to three-year extension

A day after handing out the richest contract in club history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, the White Sox added another multi-year deal to their offseason, this time a three-year extension for Jose Abreu.

Abreu will get $50 million over the next three seasons, which breaks down like this: a $5 million signing bonus, $11 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021 and $18 million in 2022 with $4 million deferred.

Abreu officially rejoined the White Sox at the end of last week, when he ended a brief free-agent stint by accepting the team's qualifying offer, a one-year deal worth $17.8 million. But that now gets wiped away in favor of the new multi-year deal, something that was long expected considering the shared admiration between the White Sox and their first baseman.

Critics might jump at the White Sox inking a player to  three-year contract ahead of his age-32, 33 and 34 seasons, but Abreu's value to the team is overly apparent, both from a production standpoint and from the standpoint of his meaning inside the clubhouse.

Abreu has been a model of consistency since coming over from Cuba ahead of the 2014 season — when he received the previous richest contract in team history, a six-year deal worth $68 million — one of three players ever to start their careers with four consecutive seasons of at least 25 home runs and at least 100 RBIs. A pair of freak injuries ended that streak in 2018, though Abreu still started the All-Star Game and won a Silver Slugger in that "down" season. In 2019, he returned to his normal level of production, leading the American League with 123 RBIs, coming three homers short of matching his career high and finishing with an OPS that ranked in the top 30 in the AL.

Abreu, though, is worth so much more than that as an off-the-field contributor, an example for the team's younger players with a model work ethic. He's taken rebuilding cornerstones like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez under his wing, and Luis Robert is expected to join Abreu's corner of the clubhouse next season, too.

“From the moment he stepped into the major leagues, Jose Abreu has been a leader on the field and in the clubhouse,” general manager Rick Hahn said in the announcement. “He has consistently delivered run production at a historic pace, and with each passing season, his leadership role within our clubhouse — with both American-born and Latin-American players — has repeatedly grown.

“Jose is proud to be a member of the White Sox, and we certainly are pleased to have him returning to our clubhouse as our team takes the next important steps in its development.”

The White Sox hold Abreu in the highest esteem. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a special ring after Abreu hit for the cycle in 2017. Abreu revealed during the 2019 season that Reinsdorf promised he'd never wear another uniform. This deal goes a long way toward making that a reality.

Abreu's shared similar, louder feelings about the White Sox, spending much of the 2019 campaign leading up to his free agency talking about how badly he wanted to remain a part of the team. He has been as giddy a promoter of the White Sox bright future as anyone and an enthusiastic backer of the team's young core. Though he's got more than a couple years on those guys, he's now a part of that core for the long haul, too.

“I have to give a special thank you to Jerry Reinsdorf and all the people involved with the White Sox who made this possible. This is a dream come true for me and my family,” Abreu said in the announcement. “To the fans, I told you I would come back. I never doubted it. Everybody knows the group of talented players that we have, and I want to help guide them and together make the Chicago White Sox a championship team.”

The White Sox have now handed out two contracts in two days worth a combined $123 million over a combined seven years. That ought to do the job when it comes to dispelling the notion that the team is either unable or unwilling to spend big on impact players.

And Abreu gets his wish of being a member of this organization for the foreseeable future. Who knows if he'll be ready to hang things up after this new contract comes to an end, but whenever he decides to retire, it will swiftly be followed with his No. 79 being metaphorically sent to the rafters (it's an outdoor stadium) at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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Don't stop now, boys: Yasmani Grandal just the start of White Sox offseason

Don't stop now, boys: Yasmani Grandal just the start of White Sox offseason

“This is an elite add at a premium position today. That's a real good thing. And now it's on to the next one.”

Rick Hahn made no bones about it: Yasmani Grandal is just the beginning.

All by himself, the new White Sox catcher — who was added on the richest deal in club history Thursday — does not automatically make the South Siders contenders to win the 2020 World Series. But even before the surprise announcement that Grandal was the newest member of an increasingly formidable White Sox core, this was setting up to be an important, busy winter for Hahn and his front office.

Grandal does not address any of Hahn’s stated positional needs — OK, maybe he’ll factor into a rotation at DH, but that’s a long way from being settled — meaning the general manager is still on the hunt for a right fielder, a pair of starting pitchers and maybe an even more powerful bat at that DH spot. That’s a lot left to do.

But the White Sox started what could end up being a transformative offseason with a bang, and the idea that they won’t spend, or that their pledges of aggressiveness were for show, was demolished in the process.

Hahn said last week that there would be no told-you-so victory lap when the White Sox upended such a narrative, and he left it up to everyone else to draw their own conclusions from the Grandal signing, sticking to the theme he established at the GM meetings that the White Sox actions this winter will speak louder than their words.

“I think our focus should just be on making this team better,” Hahn said Thursday. “We know we have more work to do. I can say it sends this type of message out there, and it's, frankly, going to ring hollow if we don't reinforce that with further acquisitions.”

So get ready. There will be more days like Thursday.

The White Sox are in the market for starting pitching, a position that generally carries a sizable price tag, meaning Grandal’s record-setting contract might not be a record for long. I don’t want to say the bank account is wide open and the White Sox are telling Gerrit Cole to come on down, you’re the next contestant on “The Price Is Right.” But the White Sox are rumored to be one of the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Zack Wheeler, and there’s speculation he could receive a $100 million contract. Earlier rumors this offseason connected them to Cole and Stephen Strasburg, too.

Hahn said last week that the White Sox could search for top-of-the-rotation pitchers or guys who could slot in behind Lucas Giolito in the middle of the rotation. And now they’ve got a brand-new catcher who could make pitching on the South Side all the more attractive. Hahn revealed Thursday that he and Grandal have already been texting about available pitchers. An outfielder or DH might now look at the White Sox, with Grandal aboard, and see something brewing. Is Grandal's decision to sign up proof of Scott Boras' proclamation last week that players look at the White Sox differently than they have in the past?

Perhaps more importantly, does the Grandal signing increase the likelihood of the White Sox landing another premium free agent?

“I’m not quite sure how it will be perceived by other free agents,” Hahn said. “Our intention is to — similar to what we did with Yaz — is to state our case directly and obviously show them that our words are true in terms of what action we intend to take.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to converting on deals. So we can certainly lay out a vision for free-agent players. There certainly is a level of excitement of what we had done, even prior to this signing today, but until we actually convert on some of these targets, the words are just that.”

Grandal thinks the White Sox are an attractive destination. He bought into the vision for the future, but there wasn’t as great a need to pitch that vision after a 2019 season that saw a whole host of core pieces break out.

“I hope they want to come here,” Grandal said Thursday about other free agents. “If you just look at the team and the core, there's a lot of young talent. The way that I looked at it, this team can be a dark horse in the next year or so.

“I think they got a taste of it last year, I think they kind of found themselves. I'm talking about more on the offensive side, obviously (Yoan) Moncada and (Tim) Anderson, and (Jose) Abreu leading the way, as well. (Eloy) Jimenez. You've got young guys that can swing the bat, that can play baseball.”

So that’s the sales pitch. It worked on Grandal. Now Grandal gets to be part of the pitch. The White Sox will make it to others this winter, as they’ve still got plenty of work to do before the 2020 roster is complete, chiefly in the starting rotation, in right field and at designated hitter, where Hahn has not closed the door on making an addition, even with Grandal in the fold.

“Those are the areas that still need to be addressed,” Hahn said. “And hopefully we're going to be able to do that as quickly and as effectively as we were able to add Yasmani today.”

As the Hawkeroo would say: Don’t stop now, boys. The White Sox have no intention of stopping now.

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