White Sox

James McCann wants to manage one day: Here's why he will

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USA TODAY

James McCann wants to manage one day: Here's why he will

White Sox catcher James McCann doesn’t like to look too far ahead. Life is tough to predict, let alone what can happen in a baseball career. Just look at his 2019 season. Who could have predicted this?

“If you would have told me I was going to be an All Star this year, that was the last thing on my mind,” McCann said on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

But whenever his playing days are over, the 29-year-old is already looking into his future.

He doesn’t want to leave the dugout.

“When I’m done playing, I would love to be a manager one day,” McCann said. “I feel like part of my strengths and my personality, who I am as a player, I can connect with everyone. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what country you’re from, what language you speak, what your makeup is, your personality. I feel like I can connect with you one way or another.”

The White Sox saw this almost immediately in spring training when McCann arrived in Glendale, Arizona, seemingly as the team’s backup catcher. However, he quickly earned the admiration and respect of his new teammates, not just for his play on the field, but his actions off of it.

For one, McCann sees everything going on in a baseball game. I mean everything.

“I don’t like to miss things. I don’t like to disappear into the clubhouse and not see what’s going on. As a matter of fact, if I’m in the clubhouse or in the cage, my eyes are constantly on the TV to see what’s happening. How’s this guy getting pitched? What’s this pitcher doing? Whatever it may be. And that way, I can talk to guys.”

McCann’s long-term goal might be to coach, but in a way, he’s already doing that. He’s been known to drop all sorts of wisdom on his teammates before, during and after games.

“It’s a balance. There are some guys who like to talk, there are some guys that don’t like to talk. Some guys want to talk postgame, there are some guys who like to talk the next day,” McCann explained. “That’s my job to figure out what makes a guy tick. Is it best to let something sit for a few days and then talk? Or is it best to pull a guy aside right away and say, ‘Here’s what I’m seeing, let’s make the adjustment.'”

He even talks like a manager.

Lucas Giolito isn’t at all surprised about McCann’s ambition to be a player-turned-skipper.

“I remember him telling me that, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s going to be a good fit for you,’” Lucas Giolito said. “The care he has about each and every player on the team. He wants to see us all succeed. We all know about his intricate scouting reports now. The leadership he shows day in and day out for us. Also, the ability to keep it loose. He’s not Mr. Serious all the time, so it’s super multi-faceted. It’s just all the perfect qualities for a well-rounded manager."

You can see him being a manager?

“Absolutely.”

To be clear, McCann isn’t trying to overstep the coaching staff already here. Many players in the league offer advice to their teammates, anything from a hitting tip to an opposing hurler tipping his pitches. What’s different about McCann is the degree to which he takes his role on the team.

He not only wants to be a hitter and a catcher, he wants to be a leader, a communicator, a facilitator and ultimately, a winner. The baseball well inside him runs deep, and he believes that veterans who can wear those hats are starting to become scarce in the game.

“In my opinion, it’s a lost art in today’s game because the game is so youthful. You don’t have the veteran guys that pick up on that kind of stuff and are willing to sit down and talk to young players and remind young players, ‘I’ve been in a 2-for-25 slump and guess what? It’s going to happen again. It’s just part of the game.’ Nobody thinks that you’re never going to come out of it, and that’s kind of what a young player thinks: 'All eyes are on me and I can’t get a hit or all eyes are on me and I can’t get an out.'

"So having that veteran guy that comes behind you and says, ‘Hey, you’re going to be fine,’ it goes a long way.”

McCann is also willing to throw his weight around and express tough love, as well.

“I’m not afraid to let a guy know when I don’t think they’re busting it down the line or they’re not giving it everything they’ve got,” McCann said. “I also understand it’s a long season. I understand that it’s physically impossible to go 100 percent for 162 games. There are points in time in a game or a season where 75-percent hustle down the line is better than blowing out and missing two weeks. I’m also understanding of that, but it also goes a long way when you have guys holding other guys accountable. If I dog something down the line, I want someone to meet me on the top step and let me know, ‘Hey, you didn’t give that one you’re all.’”

It’s these kind of intangibles that go beyond McCann’s .292/.345/.483 slash line and the work he’s done behind the plate to help turn Giolito into a Cy Young contender this year. The White Sox front office will admit they didn’t expect McCann to be this good, but they certainly deserve credit for recognizing his talents and pushing hard to sign him. How hard?

“It was within minutes of the deadline,” McCann said. “The Tigers let me know (they were non-tendering me) before the deadline. Once the deadline passed, I had a phone call from my agent within 10 to 15 minutes that he’d already been on the phone with the White Sox. They made it very apparent that they wanted me.”

Which now begs the question: How much do the White Sox want McCann for the future? Though he’d likely prefer to focus on the present, he’s under team control through next season. Does he believe he’s a good fit for the franchise long term?

“Absolutely. I’ve loved my time here in Chicago. The city, my family loves it. The group of guys. It’s an awesome setup here, awesome vibe. There’s a bright future here in Chicago.”

Is he open to signing an extension past 2020?

“My agent knows how much I’ve enjoyed being here. It’s some of the most fun baseball that I’ve played in my career,” McCann said. “It’s easy to say that with the type of season that I’m having, but it goes a lot deeper than that. It’s the type of people that are here, the type of players that are in the clubhouse, just the relationships that I’ve formed with pitchers and with other hitters. The type of people in the organization, it goes a long way.”

He added: “It’s a bright future on the South Side.”

That managing job can wait for now, but if he keeps playing like this, McCann will likely be here with the White Sox for many years to come.

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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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White Sox lock up Aaron Bummer with record five-year extension

White Sox lock up Aaron Bummer with record five-year extension

PHOENIX — The White Sox have locked up a key part of their bullpen and did it in record fashion.

The team is keeping Aaron Bummer on the South Side for the next half decade. The deal contains a pair of team options that could keep Bummer in a White Sox uniform through the 2026 season. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, it’s the biggest extension for a pre-arbitration, non-closer reliever in baseball history.

According to the team’s announcement, Bummer will receive $1 million in 2020, $2 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022, $3.75 million in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024. The White Sox hold options for $7.25 million in 2025 and $7.5 million in 2026, with $1.25 million buyouts for either season.

The White Sox have good reason to want to keep the 26-year-old Bummer around. He was excellent during the 2019 season, emerging as one of the team’s most reliable late-inning options. He finished the campaign with a 2.13 ERA in 58 appearances. A left-hander, he was effective against both right- and left-handed hitters, holding righties to a .188 batting average and lefties to a .178 average.

“Any time you’re looking at relievers, there’s the capacity to come in in key situations, in high-leverage and be that guy that you can count on in any situation. That’s what we have with Aaron," White Sox assistant GM Jeremy Haber told reporters Saturday in Glendale. "In addition, the nature of the position — there’s ups and downs, and he’s experienced that in his career on and off the field, demonstrated that resiliency that you look for in that position."

Bummer will continue playing a prominent role in the White Sox ‘pen in 2020, likely starting the season as Rick Renteria’s primary eighth-inning option and forming a formidable back end of the bullpen alongside closer Alex Colome and new addition Steve Cishek.

But with Colome slated to hit free agency after the 2020 season, it’s possible Bummer could be a candidate to take over the closer’s job.

"The reliever role and coming in in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning — it takes a certain type of temperament," Haber said. "Not to just deal with and thrive in those, but handle the ups and downs whenever they come, and Aaron’s shown that."

Add Bummer’s name to the list of young, core players the White Sox have under team control for a long time. Now there’s an exciting bullpen arm to go along with locked-up stars in the making such as Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Luis Robert, among the other youngsters like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

You need a strong bullpen to compete, and with their eyes on competing long into the future, the White Sox are trying to build just that for the long term.

"Every organization seeks to acquire and develop and retain championship-level talent," Haber said. "We’re very pleased to have been able to accomplish that today with another piece."

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