White Sox

How Josh Donaldson joining the Twins impacts the White Sox chances of winning the AL Central

How Josh Donaldson joining the Twins impacts the White Sox chances of winning the AL Central

The White Sox have realistic playoff expectations after a busy offseason that’s been among the most transformative in baseball.

But suddenly, the AL Central’s biggest splash of the winter isn’t one of the ones Rick Hahn has made on the South Side.

The Minnesota Twins injected some serious life into their somewhat ho-hum offseason Tuesday, with reports of a four-year deal for one of the biggest names on the free-agent market, third baseman Josh Donaldson. The contract spans the next four years and will net Donaldson a guaranteed $92 million, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, with an option for a fifth year that could extend the price tag to a whopping $100 million.

So the White Sox have this guy to deal with for the next half decade.

Donaldson has been one of baseball’s most productive hitters over the last 10 years, with 131 home runs during an insane four-season stretch from 2013 to 2016 that saw him finish in the top eight of AL MVP voting four times, including an MVP win in 2015. Injuries limited him in 2017 and 2018, but he was back with a vengeance in 2019, inking the richest one-year free-agent contract ever and smacking 37 homers for the NL East champion Atlanta Braves.

That bat now gets slotted into a Twins lineup that in 2019 hit 307 home runs, the most in a single season in big league history. Donaldson’s 37 homers get added to Nelson Cruz’s 41, Max Kepler’s 36, Miguel Sano’s 34, Eddie Rosario’s 32 and Mitch Garver’s 31.

In other words, gulp.

After winning 101 games last season, the reigning AL Central champs were probably already the favorites to remain at the top of the division, despite the Cleveland Indians’ electric starting rotation that even after trading away Corey Kluber might be baseball’s best. That Twins lineup can thump with the best of them, and bringing back Jake Odorizzi and (the suspended) Michael Pineda helped keep the rotation afloat, as well. Now they’ve got a legitimate, perennial MVP candidate in the middle of the order.

What’s that mean for those White Sox playoff expectations?

Well, the road to October just got a little harder. Cruz and The Bomba Squad crushed White Sox pitching a year ago, batting .281/.340/.518 with 39 homers and 122 RBIs off South Side hurlers. Now add to that Donaldson’s bonkers .333/.435/.686 line (with 15 homers) in 44 career games against the White Sox and that lineup is exponentially more menacing.

White Sox starting pitching is under enough pressure as it is, with big question marks about what kind of seasons the team will get from Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. The addition of Dallas Keuchel at the top alongside Lucas Giolito obviously helps in numerous ways. Remember that Giolito had arguably his best performance of his All-Star 2019 campaign against the Twins, a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts Aug. 21 in Minneapolis. But with so much mystery elsewhere in the rotation, throwing Donaldson at them 19 times a year does not make things any clearer.

Donaldson’s also not going anywhere for a while. For a team with long-term expectations of contention like the White Sox, the Twins being more than a flash in the pan has obvious impacts on the White Sox being able to do just that. Yes, Donaldson is already 34 years old, meaning some decline would not be out of the question. But as Cruz showed last year, age and hitting moonshots are not mutually exclusive. Donaldson could help power Twins contenders for years to come, a direct challenge to the White Sox rising to be the dominant team in the AL Central for the foreseeable future.

As has been laid out here before, though, much like the White Sox offseason activity doesn’t hold the ultimate key to their ability to reach the playoffs in 2020 and beyond, neither does the offseason work of the Twins or Indians, whatever it ends up being by winter’s end. The White Sox fortunes will be determined by the continued evolution of their young core. If Giolito is a true ace, if Yoan Moncada is an MVP candidate, if Eloy Jimenez hits 40 homers, if Luis Robert sets baseball on fire, those will be much bigger factors in any South Side ascent.

Donaldson joining the Twins is a big deal, no doubt. But with all their young talent, the White Sox have the potential to match any move their division rivals can throw at them. They just need to reach that potential.

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Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease is entering the 2020 season with plenty to prove. Considering how important he is to the future of the White Sox, it is perhaps fitting he was the first White Sox pitcher to take a mound in a spring training game.

On Saturday, Cease pitched two innings against the Cincinnati Reds as he ramps up to full strength. The most notable thing wasn’t how long he pitched or what his stat line was. It was his fastball.

Cease's fastball sat mostly at 96-98 mph and topped at 99. Cease quipped there could be a bit more in terms of his velocity.


Cease averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in the majors in 2019. In 73 innings, he threw nine pitches that were at least 99 mph, topping out at 100.1 mph, according to Baseball Savant. He was capable of throwing that hard, but didn't do it often. For Cease to be on the higher end of his average and feature a 99 mph fastball in his first pitches of Cactus League baseball might be a sign that he could have added a touch more velocity.

It’s also just a two-inning spring training start, meaning Cease knew he could let fly a bit more in a shorter outing. Cease told reporters after his start he was focusing on his fastball command. He struck out three with no walks and three hits allowed.

In his rookie season, Cease struggled with command and consistency. He had a 5.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks over 14 starts.

February baseball doesn't carry any meaning, but this is a small encouraging sign for Cease.

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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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