White Sox

J.D. Martinez? Mookie Betts? Red Sox upheaval adds big names to White Sox fans' offseason wish list

0909_mookie_betts_jd_martinez.jpg
USA TODAY

J.D. Martinez? Mookie Betts? Red Sox upheaval adds big names to White Sox fans' offseason wish list

The Boston Red Sox are in a state of change, to say the least, after firing team president Dave Dombrowski after Sunday night’s game against the New York Yankees.

White Sox fans are no strangers to this occurrence. Hawk Harrelson, in his lone year as general manager, fired Dombrowski, who was then a youthful assistant general manager with his hometown team. But they’ll be less interested in what it means for the Red Sox future and far more interested in what it means for their own team’s prospects.

While a regime change in Boston doesn’t initially seem to have much to do with the Pale Hose, already reports are describing the roster change that could be coming to Fenway Park. And that’s where the rebuilding White Sox come in.

According to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the Red Sox, in a bit of a financial pickle after Dombrowski inked Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to lucrative contracts this year, will “likely end up parting with J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, or possibly even both this winter.”

Oh?

The White Sox are likely to be in the market for a right fielder this winter — or just power hitting in general — even if starting pitching might be higher on the to-do list for Rick Hahn’s front office. While current major or minor leaguers can be projected to fill in at pretty much every other spot on the diamond, right field is a mystery, thanks to injuries and under-performance that made the organization’s bunch of outfield prospects far less attractive than it was mere months ago.

Betts is Boston’s right fielder, a three-time Gold Glover out there and not even a year removed from being named the American League MVP. His numbers have dipped this season amid the Red Sox significant World Series hangover that has them 17.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings. But Betts is still slashing .291/.389/.525 with 27 homers and 77 RBIs. He’s got 40 doubles for the fifth consecutive season and leads baseball with 128 runs scored. Those numbers are still obviously very good, just not the out-of-this-world figures he posted en route to a world championship in 2018.

Betts is the more attractive of the two, simply because he can do a lot more things on the field and he’s younger, 26 years old compared to the 32-year-old Martinez. He would figure to be a much better fit with the White Sox long-term plans, given his age aligns more closely with those of the rest of the team’s young core. Of course, Betts also has just one more year of team control remaining, slated to become a free agent following the 2020 season.

Martinez, meanwhile, might have been heading toward free agency this winter anyway. His monstrous contract allows him to opt out after this season, as well as after next season and after the season after that. He, too, was an MVP-caliber hitter in 2018, and he, too, is experiencing a backslide from those elite numbers, owning a .308/.384/.577 slash line to go along with his 35 homers and 95 RBIs. Again, still very good.

Martinez is not known as a quality defender, though that wouldn’t necessarily prevent him from playing right field for the White Sox. He’s started 35 games in the outfield for Boston this season and has played 486 career games in right. That includes during the three and a half seasons he terrorized the AL Central as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Martinez, too, would be a natural fit at designated hitter, where he’s played the bulk of his games this season. This is all speculation, of course, but would the White Sox add Martinez as a DH, it would force Jose Abreu to be an everyday first baseman (where he’s played a lot more than initially anticipated, anyway, considering how poorly Yonder Alonso’s brief tenure with the team went) and potentially limit Zack Collins, just returned from a highly successful offensive stint in the minor leagues, to backup catcher, where there are a lot of questions over his defensive future.

If Martinez doesn’t opt out, he and Betts would both need to be acquired via trade. That’s where things could get tricky for the White Sox. The aforementioned rash of injuries and under-performance wasn’t limited to the team’s outfield prospects this season, also affecting many pitchers, as well. The point being that it might be rather difficult to create an alluring package of prospects that would net a player of this status.

It doesn’t mean it’s impossible. But the most attractive names in the White Sox system — Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, Michael Kopech, Andrew Vaughn — figure to be key parts of Hahn’s long-term rebuilding plan. So those guys aren’t going anywhere. And then it becomes difficult to envision a guy one year removed from an MVP win or a top-five MVP finish being acquired for a package built around second-tier prospects.

Remember what it took for the Red Sox to fetch Sale from the White Sox in 2016. The White Sox don’t have prospects the caliber of Yoan Moncada and Kopech that they’d be willing to part with this winter.

But if Martinez hits the open market, then there’s no reason the White Sox — who have pledged to be aggressive with money to spend an offseason after they tried and failed to bring Manny Machado to the South Side — can’t go after that kind of big fish.

Certain baseball people already seem to be mentioning the White Sox and Martinez in the same breath.


It seemed like the market might be light this winter after the flurry of extensions that locked up so many expected free agents. But between Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon and these two suddenly available Red Sox, there will be plenty of high-level names that if acquired would help kick the White Sox rebuilding project into overdrive and make the 2020 season look like a contending one.

It’s still September, but the Hot Stove is already simmering.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

white_sox_usa_today.png
USA Today

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

0710-rick-hahn.jpg
USA TODAY

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

The baseball offseason is moving at a quicker pace than recent years, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is among those happy to see that.

Hahn and the White Sox contributed to that quick start to the offseason by signing Yasmani Grandal on Nov. 21. He said he prefers that in an interview with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score on Saturday.

Hahn also gave an update on the team’s offseason.

“We still have work to do, but at the same time we’re obviously quite pleased to have added Yasmani Grandal, much to no one’s surprise bringing back Jose Abreu and we’re intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously you can’t convert on everything, a point that was publicly driven home this past week, but at the same time we know that regardless of whether we convert on one specific target or not, there are still a lot of reasons to be excited based on the guys we currently have, much less what we may add in the coming weeks.”

The comment about being unable to convert on everything is surely a reference to Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hahn didn’t give any hints as to what the White Sox are working on, but he did say he prefers the speed of this offseason.

“We’d certainly prefer to do things sooner rather than later,” Hahn said. “That’s generally true regardless of the time of year.”

If Hahn wants to get things done quickly, it would make sense that the winter meetings could be a time of White Sox activity. Hahn wasn’t biting on that.

“There’s nothing magical about getting a deal done Tuesday at the winter meetings,” Hahn said. “It creates a little more buzz perhaps and fulfills some expectations within the fanbase and the media.

“A guy is not going to have any less impact on your team if you acquire him Dec. 20 vs. Dec. 12.”

Hahn also gave updates on various current players on the team:

  • Yasmani Grandal has been studying up on White Sox pitchers and how he can help the young pitchers develop.

“This guy’s No. 1 goal and No. 1 priority is to make the pitchers better," Hahn said. "He’s texting me two, three times a week still with stuff he had seen on our guys and conversations he’s had with our guys about how he thinks we’re going to be able to get them better in the coming months.”

  • Hahn was asked if the White Sox would add another middle infielder to provide cover until Nick Madrigal comes up. He didn't rule it out, but cited Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick as capable of helping out. Hahn has previously said he expects Madrigal to be up for most of the 2020 season.
  • Nothing new here, but Hahn said Michael Kopech will enter spring training "without restriction" and will have "some innings management" throughout the season. Kopech missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2018 season.
  • Carlos Rodon's timeline to return from Tommy John surgery hasn't changed. Hahn said they will re-evaluate him in April to see where he is after spring training. He is still tentatively expected to return in late July or early August.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.