White Sox

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

There are two questions surrounding Avisail Garcia.

1. Can he repeat the career year he had in 2017?

2. Is he a part of the White Sox long-term future?

Those questions are linked together, of course, with the answer to the second depending on the answer to the first. But the thing is, even if the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second question is anything but determined.

Garcia was terrific last season, quietly one of the best hitters in the American League. He ranked second in the AL with a .330 batting average, a mark second only to league MVP Jose Altuve. He ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage, trailing only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Altuve, Eric Hosmer and Joe Mauer. His 18 home runs were a career high, as were his 80 RBIs, 75 runs scored, 171 hits, 27 doubles and his .506 slugging percentage.

The 2017 season — which also included his first All-Star appearance — was a culmination of Garcia's quest for big league success, which had long been forecasted but never attained even though he's been a major leaguer since 2012, when he came up as a 21-year-old with the Detroit Tigers.

But because this was the first real full season of sustained success at the major league level, the question still remains if he can do it again.

Garcia thinks he will no doubt be able to prove anyone who thinks he was a one-year wonder wrong.

"100 percent. Nothing changes," he said before SoxFest festivities got going last weekend at the Hilton Chicago. "No pressure. Confidence. Positive. I work hard, so you've got to get confidence and be positive. If you're negative, no chance. You've got to be positive and do your best to get better every year.

"It's hard. You think a lot. I talked to myself, 'You've got to do something.' Because I know the talent's there. So that was my confidence. I knew the talent was there, and I said to myself, 'You've got to do something different.'

"I lost weight, started eating better. I'm working out at 5 a.m., go to hit and then go back to my house. That's my whole routine for the offseason last year and this year."

Right now, Garcia's bat is fixed squarely in the middle of the White Sox batting order, right alongside Jose Abreu, the other half of the team's dynamic hitting duo. If he can keep his 2017 success going into 2018, it's not going anywhere — unless it does.

Much like Abreu, Garcia's name was ths subject of much speculation this offseason, speculation that the White Sox could capitalize on his career year and send him elsewhere in exchange for more young talent to add to Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort. Garcia's contract, one that has him under team control for only the next two seasons, helped fuel that speculation, as well.

That obviously didn't happen, but a first half of 2018 that mimics what he did in 2017 could bring that speculation back. With the White Sox not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, a Garcia trade — in the middle of the 2018 season or after it — could add some more pieces for the future. And the better he hits, the better a return package becomes.

But the better he hits, the more attractive a potential contract extension becomes. Garcia is just 26 years old and could definitely line up with all the highly touted prospects making their way through the White Sox organization. Even if the team isn't expecting its contention window to open fully until the 2020 season, Garcia could be an anchor of the lineup and in the outfield.

It's what leaves that second question unanswered.

The existence of so many options is a good thing for Hahn and his front office. Garcia, though, is worrying about keeping the good vibes from last season going.

"I don't know what's going to happen because I only have two years," Garcia told NBC Sports Chicago. "I want to stay here for sure, but you know how baseball is so you wonder if you're here or you go to another place. So who knows. I want to be here. I want to be part of this team for a long time, but let's see what happens.

"I don't pay attention to all that (speculation) because if you read the papers or internet, you'll go crazy. So you don't have to read anything, don't worry about anything. Just worry about yourself and worry about your preparation."

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.