White Sox

If the White Sox end up with a Nationals-esque rotation, thank the Nationals

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USA TODAY

If the White Sox end up with a Nationals-esque rotation, thank the Nationals

Every time Chris Sale blows into town with his Boston Red Sox, the same discussion topic pops up: Who won the trade?

Each Crosstown series, the same question gets asked in reference to Jose Quintana and the Cubs.

Adam Eaton doesn’t play in the American League or on the other side of town, so the “who won the trade” talking point doesn’t get applied to his deal nearly as often. But the Washington Nationals are on the South Side this week. So cue the sports-talk radio dream scenario.

The answer to the question, of course, isn’t one that demands much debate. The nature of a veteran-for-prospects swap is such that the true determination of who got the better end of the deal is unable to be made until many years after the original transaction. It sure looks like the Red Sox “won” the Sale trade considering the large piece of jewelry adorning the former South Side ace’s finger. But Yoan Moncada has played just 266 games in a White Sox uniform. Michael Kopech has played just four. Luis Basabe just got activated from the injured list — at Double-A Birmingham.

To suggest any trade evaluator save their judgment isn’t just a recommendation. It’s a requirement.

But there’s Eaton, out in right field for the Nationals this week at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Acquiring him hasn’t been the final championship piece Washington’s front office might have hoped when it gave up a seeming king’s ransom in three highly regarded pitching prospects: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. Eaton played in just 23 games during the 2017 season, which ended with the Nationals eliminated by the Cubs in the NLDS. He played in 95 games during Washington’s disappointing 2018 season, when they missed the playoffs in Bryce Harper’s final season with the team.

Does it make it a loss for the Nationals? Not yet. This season's finish remains unwritten, and they could pick up the remaining two team options on his contract, keep him around for another couple seasons and try for more postseason glory.

And whatever the Nationals’ fortunes are during their years with Eaton really have no bearing on whether the White Sox get a win out of the deal, either. Their contention window has yet to open, so how much Giolito, Lopez and Dunning do to help fuel championship-caliber teams on the South Side has yet to be determined.

But the White Sox are unquestionably happy with the return a year and a half after the fact. They can look across the field this week at a Nationals rotation that includes Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, and thanks in part to the Eaton trade, envision having a staff that could strike similar fear into the hearts of opponents.

“We have the makings with some of the guys who are here with us now. We have some kids who are working and coming back with Kopech and when we get back (Carlos) Rodon and you've got (Dylan) Cease down there and we've got Dunning, who's recovering. We have some young arms that are going to be filtering this way,” manager Rick Renteria said ahead of Tuesday’s game. “You tip your cap to those kids (the Nationals) got over there because they're pretty good. So hopefully we have that type of staff developing as we continue to move forward and they'll be as effective as those guys have been.”

That’s obviously a high bar to clear. Scherzer is a three-time Cy Young winner. Corbin got the richest deal of any pitcher last winter after his second All-Star season. Strasburg has had massive expectations ever since he was taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft and has done a decent job of delivering with three All-Star appearances and a pair of top-10 finishes in Cy Young voting.

But it’s not terribly difficult to at least wish for such a rotation to develop on the South Side. Kopech, Cease and Dunning all remain highly rated pitching prospects. Giolito has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. And while consistency has been hard to nail down for both Rodon and Lopez, they’ve shown flashes of promise in the past.

The White Sox would perhaps be wise to account for at least some of those myriad unknowns with some outside help this winter. But a 2020 rotation of Giolito, Kopech, Cease, Dunning and Lopez — with Rodon expected back sometime in the second half of the campaign — not only sounds promising, it sounds like the best White Sox rotation in years.

Giolito’s dominance through the first two and a half months of this season is the obvious driver of the good feelings. Even with such high hopes, Kopech, Dunning and Rodon are all still in recovery mode after Tommy John surgery, Lopez has one of the highest ERAs among the game’s qualified starting pitchers, and Cease remains a pitcher who hasn’t yet thrown a major league pitch. But Giolito has been incredible in 2019, a legitimate Cy Young candidate to this point.

You want to evaluate how the White Sox are faring in the aftermath of the Eaton trade? Giolito’s the obvious starting point.

“Now there are a lot of dividends being paid through his performances,” Renteria said of Giolito. “We really like our chances every time he's out on the mound. That's possible when you have talent. I think the kids we have coming up and some of the guys we have here are looking to get to that point, and I think they will at some point.”

Debating the winners of various deals might be the dream scenario for the sports-talk industry. But the dream scenario for the White Sox is hitting on the players they got in exchange for Eaton. Giolito’s doing his part this season.

If the return package in that Eaton trade — not to mention the ones in the Sale and Quintana trades — can help form a rotation that helps the White Sox compete for and win championships, consider the trade won.

Not that it’s a competition, of course.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Can MLB pull the 2020 season off?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Can MLB pull the 2020 season off?

Chuck Garfien is joined by Vinnie Duber as they discuss whether MLB can actually complete the season this year. They also dive into some hurdles baseball could face and how will they address a team with multiple positive COVID-19 cases. 

(1:30) - Should fans be worried that a season can happen?

(5:50) - Can MLB make baseball stadiums be safe?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

(10:20) - Will players be able to hold each other accountable?

(14:00) - Will the 60 games schedule be beneficial to MLB?

Listen here or below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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MLB The Show: White Sox hold off late Cubs rally to clinch two-game sweep

MLB The Show: White Sox hold off late Cubs rally to clinch two-game sweep

This two-game series vs. the Cubs heading into the All-Star break marks the end of NBC Sports Chicago’s simulation of the 2020 White Sox season.

Result: White Sox def. Cubs, 8-7 
Record: 56-37, 1st in AL Central (3.0 games ahead of Twins)

W: Dane Dunning (6-1)
L: Jon Lester (6-8)
SV: Alex Colome (20)

Game summary: After taking down the Cubs 10-8 in the series opener, the White Sox followed up Wednesday’s performance with another victory against the Cubs to finish their sim season. Lucas Giolito got the ball against Jon Lester and got punished early by the Cubs power bats. Javy Báez and Kyle Schwarber homered in the first to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

Lester did not fare well in the first either. Edwin Encarnacion led off the Sox night with a home run and Lester’s night only got worse as the South Siders scored two more in the third on a Jose Abreu single. The White Sox added three more in the fourth, capped off by a Yoan Moncada RBI single that ended Lester’s night. 

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After a Jason Kipnis home run brought the Cubs back within two, Tim Anderson homered to take back the three-run lead. In the sixth, Encarnacion homered again for the 35th time this season, taking the American League lead from teammate Yasmani Grandal. 

Things got testy for the White Sox late when Kipnis homered for a second time and Baez followed with another homer to make it 8-7. The Sox bullpen got back on track in the eighth and ninth as former Cub Steve Cishek and closer Alex Colomé shut down the Cubs to secure the series sweep.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 4-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI (.334 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 0-3, 2 BB (.259 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 3-5, RBI (.279 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 1-3, 2B (.301 BA)
Jose Abreu: 1-4, 2 RBI (.320 BA)
Tim Anderson: 2-4, HR, 2 RBI (.271 BA)
Luis Robert: 0-3, BB (.255 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 1-4 (.285 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 1-4, RBI (.257 BA)

Scoring summary:

Top first

Javy Báez homered to left field. 1-0 CHC.
Kyle Schwarber homered to right field. 2-0 CHC.

Bottom first:

Edwin Encarnacion homered to left field. 2-1 CHC.

Bottom third:

Jose Abreu singled to center field, Encarnacion and Yoan Moncada scored. 3-2 CHW.

Top fourth:

Willson Contreras homered to left field. 3-3.

Bottom fourth:

Nomar Mazara singled to left field, Luis Robert scored. 4-3 CHW.
Encarnacion singled to right field, Nick Madrigal scored. 5-3 CHW.
Moncada singled to right field, Mazara scored. 6-3 CHW.

Top fifth:

Jason Kipnis homered to right field. 6-4 CHW.

Bottom fifth:

Tim Anderson homered to left field. 7-4 CHW.

Top sixth:

Ian Happ sacrifice fly to center field, Anthony Rizzo scored. 7-5 CHW.

Bottom sixh:

Encarnacion homered to left field. 8-5 CHW.

Top seventh:

Kipnis homered to right field. 8-6 CHW.
Báez homered to left field. 8-7 CHW.

Notable performance: Colomé picked up his 20th save of the season on Thursday as he inched closer to his 2019 total of 30. Colome has converted 20 of his 24 chances this season after starting the year as a setup man to then closer Aaron Bummer.

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