White Sox

Not only is Yolmer Sanchez making his case to be a part of White Sox future, he could become a leader of those teams

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USA TODAY

Not only is Yolmer Sanchez making his case to be a part of White Sox future, he could become a leader of those teams

The big question for Yolmer Sanchez coming into the 2018 campaign was whether he could become a part of the White Sox long-term plans.

And while mid May is far too early to say "mission accomplished," Sanchez has looked like a potential piece of the organization's bright future over the first month and a half of the season.

Sanchez entered Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh with a .295/.329/.432 slash line, mostly as the team's everyday third baseman. He's batting .364 in the month of May. And though he might not project to be the kind of middle-of-the-order bat that has White Sox fans so excited to see Eloy Jimenez hit the big leagues, Sanchez is most definitely taking advantage of this opportunity the rebuilding effort has afforded him at the major league level.

"He finally got his shot, and he's making the most of it," shortstop Tim Anderson said last weekend at Wrigley Field. "Everything, he's hitting the ball, and good defense. He's a good player. I feel like he's underrated, but now he got his shot and he's killing it."

White Sox fans will surely point to free-agents-to-be Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson or Nolan Arenado as the hoped-for long-term answers at the hot corner. But Sanchez's long-term value might be closer in line to Jose Abreu's than the average Sock during this rebuilding effort.

Abreu, advancing in age, is extremely productive but would need a new contract to stick around for the planned glory days of the rebuild. The White Sox might be inclined to give it to him because of his value in the clubhouse, as a role model for younger players. Sanchez, a force in the clubhouse with his gigantic personality, could play a similar role for players reaching the South Side from the minor leagues.

"He leads by example and he's also a person that carries a voice in the locker room," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's an individual that in spite of what might be happening every single day, he goes out and shows you he still has the energy, the focus, the commitment to do everything he possibly can to beat you. Ultimately you want 25 guys who want to feel like every single day they're going to give you their best effort and they're going to try to beat you. That's the example that he's shown through his actions, through his routines, through his work, through his body language, through his character. Ultimately you want a major league club that every single player does that. These guys are learning how to do that. They're driving toward that personality individually, and hopefully it's something that collectively comes together."

"I personally see Abreu as a model because he's a guy that works hard every day, he can hit, he does everything right. And anytime I think about something, I go ask him, 'What do you think about this, Pito?'" Sanchez said. "But I think if I can help anybody, I will."

Fans have enjoyed plotting out the team of the future, and many of the team's highly ranked prospects seem to have certain spots on the field on lock. Jimenez and Luis Robert figure to speak for two of the three outfield spots. Yoan Moncada and Anderson seem entrenched in the middle of the infield. Zack Collins, should he reach his full potential, would be the catcher of the future.

Third base, though, is suddenly much more of a mystery after Jake Burger's pair of Achilles tear, the most recent one resetting his recovery and throwing a wrench in his development. Most fans would probably say they'd like to see a free-agent fix there over anything else, especially with the quality of names set to hit the market. But Sanchez is perhaps providing a homegrown alternative with his improved play and clubhouse presence. Even if the White Sox added a big-name third baseman in free agency, Sanchez's versatility would make him a nice utility infielder — a possibile future that would keep him in the clubhouse.

"I would love to stay here because I know the talent that we've got here and in the minor leagues today. And I know how good this team's going to be for the next couple years," Sanchez said. "But it's not my call, it's not my choice. I cannot control that. I just play hard every day, and we'll see what happens. This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play in the major leagues, stay in the big leagues. So I would love to stay here, but it's not my call.

"I just try to take the opportunity and do my best. I love to play every day. So they give me the opportunity, and I try to do my best so I can see name in the lineup every day."

Enter the mystery team: The Manny Machado sweepstakes is getting kind of mysterious

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USA TODAY

Enter the mystery team: The Manny Machado sweepstakes is getting kind of mysterious

You're more than welcome to believe or not believe in the idea of the "mystery team." But accounts of the reported existence of such mysterious teams are growing in the previously down-to-two Manny Machado sweepstakes.

We all thought this was down to the White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies — and maybe it still is — two teams with financial flexibility and visions of a bright future vying for the 26-year-old superstar, one of the two biggest names on this winter's free-agent marker and one of the best players in baseball.

The White Sox have made their offer. As for how rich it is and how long it is, it seems to depend on who you're talking to at any given moment. Our Chuck Garfien reported last week that it's fewer than eight years in length and worth "less than what's being reported." At the time, that latter descriptor seemed to mean less than the $250 million reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan. But then came a report from ESPN's Buster Olney that the offer was worth $175 million over seven years. Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, didn't like that one bit and released a formal statement calling the report "reckless."

And so now we have a new flurry of reports pointing to the involvement — perhaps heavy involvement — of a mysterious mystery team.

Let's start on Friday, when Machado's dad told Hector Gomez that in addition to the White Sox — who prior to this had the only reported offer on the table for Machado — the Phillies, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have all made offers.

That raised more than a few eyebrows, considering the Yankees appeared to be out of the derby after acquiring a pair of free-agent infielders in Troy Tuolwitzki and D.J. LeMahieu and were spending money elsewhere, notably on giving themselves the most terrifying bullpen in baseball. And this was the first mention anywhere of the Dodgers, the team Machado played for during the second half of last season, going all the way to the World Series. But he was only a Dodger because of an injury to shortstop Corey Seager. The Dodgers no longer need a replacement with Seager back, and they don't need a third baseman with Justin Turner at the hot corner. So where exactly would Machado play if he stayed in L.A.?

And then came the mystery team. According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, there exists a mystery team, and it's possible that team is the current high-bidder.

And Mr. Machado agrees.

SNY's Andy Martino had some more details, saying Machado is still having meetings and met with at least one mystery team in recent days. He said the mystery team is not the Yankees, though they have "kept an open line of communication" with Machado's people and aren't out. He's also eliminated the Atlanta Braves.

OK. So where does that leave us? The Machado sweepstakes could be bigger than we thought it was just a few days ago, with another team or more entering the bidding and perhaps able to top the White Sox reported offer — however close to $175 million or $200 million it might be.

The Phillies, as is the case with the White Sox, are still in pursuit of the other huge name on the free-agent market, Bryce Harper. The "spend stupid" Phillies could be trying to create a baseball version of the Miami Heat and lure both guys to the City of Brotherly Love. That would be an expensive proposition, of course. But the Phillies' pursuit of both guys could be what's throwing a wrench into this whole process.

But it's also likely that Lozano is looking for a bigger contract offer than the one(s) Machado currently has. After all, the expectations at the beginning of the offseason were that Machado and Harper could both receive record-breaking deals. There was talk of a $400 million contract or two. There were expectations of heavy competition for two of the best players in the game, both of whom are just 26 years old and firmly in their primes. That's not how it's played out, though, with just two or three teams in on both players. And while Harper reportedly turned down a $300 million contract offer from the Washington Nationals, if Machado's biggest offer is south of $200 million, that is shocking in comparison to those early expectations, regardless of how good it might be for the team that could get him to sign such an offer.

The White Sox seem to remain in good position to actually win this thing. They have made their offer, while it's unclear if other teams have or haven't. They have a strong pitch of Machado as the centerpiece playing alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and others for the better part of the next decade. They can offer what no other team can in the opportunity to play alongside Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, two of Machado's good friends from Miami and, in Alonso's case, his brother-in-law.

Machado supposedly prefers to play for the Yankees, though as Martino reports it's still unlikely there's a match there. Martino has also reported that Machado will take the biggest contract offer out there, and so the waiting could be because his agent thinks he can get a bigger one. Whether the biggest offer ends up coming from the White Sox, the Phillies, the Yankees or the mysterious bidder behind Door No. 4 (during the week, we had some thoughts on who that might be, by the way) remains to be seen.

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Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Chris Snopek

Chris Snopek was born September 20, 1970 in Cynthiana, KY. He was a multi-sport standout in high school, averaging 18.5 points and 8.0 assists on the hardwood, as well as hitting .576 with 20 HR as a senior on the diamond. He was a standout third baseman/shortstop at Ole Miss, hitting .407/.491/.725 with 13 home runs and 62 RBI (a school-record at the time) in 54 games as a junior. The White Sox made him a 6th round draft pick in 1992.

In 1994, Snopek played for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, where he was one of two players on the team with 50+ RBI and 50+ walks. The other one was Michael Jordan.By 1995, Snopek hit .323/.402/.494 with 12 HR in 113 games for Nashville (AAA); that batting average good for second in the American Association. He made his MLB Debut on July 31, 1995, going 2 for 3 with a run, RBI, walk and stolen base as the starting third baseman. The 6’1” right-handed infielder drew a walk in each of his first five career MLB games; the first White Sox player to do so since Ray Morehart in 1924.

The White Sox had Robin Ventura at third and Ozzie Guillen at short, so Snopek had to settle for a start here and a start there. He was sent back down to the minors but returned in September. On September 20, 1995, Snopek connected for his first career home run; the blast coming off Indians starter Joe Roa. The milestone round tripper came on Snopek’s 25th birthday. He remains the only player in White Sox history whose first career home run came on his birthday. It was his lone homer of 1995, though Snopek did quite well in his first taste of MLB action, hitting .324 (22 for 68), .407 vs lefties (11 for 27) in 22 games.

Entering the 1996 season, he was the #52 overall prospect according to Baseball America (in between Jason Varitek and Dustin Hermanson); topping the White Sox organizational top ten:

White Sox top 10 prospects according to Baseball America entering 1996

  1. Chris Snopek
  2. Jeff Abbott
  3. Scott Ruffcorn
  4. James Baldwin
  5. Jeff Liefer
  6. Mike Cameron
  7. Jimmy Hurst
  8. Luis Andujar
  9. McKay Christensen
  10. Greg Norton

Snopek started the 1996 season in a utility role, making spot starts at third and short as well as pinch hitting. On April 28, 1996, he became the first White Sox shortstop to start and hit cleanup since Ron Hansen in 1967 (Only José Valentín & Alexei Ramírez have done it since). In limited duty, Snopek hit 6 home runs in 1996 – all off lefties.

Snopek got his chance in 1997 when Robin Ventura suffered an ankle injury, getting the nod as the opening day third baseman. He went 0 for 5 that game and never got it going, hitting .218/.263/.319 in 86 games. The following season, after struggling to the tune of .208/.291/.248 in 53 games, Snopek was traded to the Red Sox at the end of August, where he finished the season and as fate would have it, his MLB career, with eight final games. He bounced around the minors the next four seasons.

In 2017, Snopek and a business partner purchased P360 Performance Sports in Jackson, Mississippi, where they offer baseball training facilities and instruction programs. Snopek also serves as the Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach at Madison Ridgeland Academy in Mississippi.

Chris Snopek… remember that guy?