White Sox

Save trading Nate Jones, White Sox stand pat at trade deadline

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USA TODAY

Save trading Nate Jones, White Sox stand pat at trade deadline

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the White Sox lone activity was trading away an injured reliever.

Rick Hahn and his front office opted to hang onto potential trade candidates like Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer, either unable to get an offer that returns enough value to justify giving up back-end relievers with team control remaining past the end of the 2019 season, and/or displaying a conviction that the 2020 season will be one that sees a contender on the South Side.

The White Sox weren't in a position where they had to do anything. This year's deadline was different than the previous to, and there was no need to "get something" for any player, with Colome and Bummer able to form an eight-and-ninth-inning combo for next season. Other trade candidates like Ivan Nova and Jon Jay likely weren't expected to command much in the way of offers, and now both will stick around to continue to have an impact in the White Sox clubhouse.

With a shortage of expiring contracts to trade away, the lack of activity was not a surprise.

Hahn did make one deal, sending injured reliever Nate Jones to the Texas Rangers for a pair of minor league pitchers. Jones is out for the season after having forearm surgery, and it was possible he might not have returned to the roster next season via the team option for 2020 on his contract.

But that trade makes little impact on the White Sox fortunes for the 2020 season, which thanks to the positives that have popped up throughout the first half of the 2019 campaign, looks like one in which that shift to contention mode could occur. If that's what ends up happening, heading into a contending season with an All-Star caliber closer in Colome and a reliable setup man in Bummer figures to be as valuable if not much more so than anything Hahn might have landed at the deadline.

To fans who might have wanted the White Sox to try to add at this deadline, the opportunities to add the kind of player Hahn wants to inject into this core likely never presented itself. Hahn said earlier this month that the opportunities to add a big-time impact player via trade during the season aren't as prevalent as ones that pop up during the offseason, be they via trade or free agency. It would not be surprising to see the White Sox be aggressive this winter in trying to add to the roster in attempt to open the contention window in 2020.

And so the relative inactivity is not a shock, even if it comes as a bit of a disappointment to fans who were hoping for some kind of something on a day when players change zip codes with such frequency.

But the White Sox have their eye on 2020 and beyond, and keeping Colome, Bummer and a host of other players might be the best things for their fortunes in future seasons.

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Michael Kopech's back on the mound, scary comebackers and all

Michael Kopech's back on the mound, scary comebackers and all

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Everything is going according to plan for Michael Kopech.

Except for the part where he almost got drilled in the face with a line drive.

Kopech faced a scary comebacker off the bat of Matt Skole during live batting practice Friday at Camelback Ranch, one that forced him to get out of the way and one that, according to Kopech, felt like it might have even grazed his ear.

It's not the kind of sight anyone wants to see for a pitcher who hasn't thrown in any game above instructional league since September 2018, just now returning from his lengthy recovery after Tommy John surgery.

But, hey, you want to get back in the swing of things? This is what you get.

"I haven’t seen that kind of real-time feedback in a long time, and that’s about as real-time as it gets," Kopech said with a chuckle after practice. "That’s what you want to experience, to see if you can get somebody or if he can get you. And he got me."

Fortunately for the White Sox, Skole didn't "get" Kopech any worse.

Kopech is an important part of the team's long-term plans, and while the exact specifics of the plan for Kopech this season haven't been formally announced, it sounds like there's a good grasp on them, per manager Rick Renteria, though the skipper wouldn't reveal exactly where Kopech will begin the 2020 regular season.

"I think that we are very optimistic about where he’s at," Renteria said. "I think that the plan that the organization has in terms of how we want to start him off is probably pretty consistent in terms of where he’ll be. And then we will allow him to continue to pitch and get some innings under his belt. And I’m sure, first year after coming from the surgery, that there are parameters I’m sure we want to stay within.

"It will be still a very optimistically guarded approach to where he’s at."

So, no, we don't yet know whether Kopech will begin the campaign pitching for the big league team or pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in an effort to manage his workload in his first year back on the mound.

Though the competitor in him probably wants to be on that 26-man roster heading back to the South Side for the March 26 opener at Guaranteed Rate Field, Kopech is willing to do whatever is necessary for him to be a part of a playoff push, pitching in meaningful games down the stretch.

"At the end of the day, it’s me trying to fit into a plan to make the team better collectively. And if that’s not starting with the team right away, then I’m OK with that, too," Kopech said. "I just need to do what’s the best interest of me and the team.

"Ultimately, my goal is to be able to go deep into games for 30 starts a season. Now obviously, I haven’t had the experience of doing that to the extent that I want to, especially at the big league level. But I think that’s the point of what my entire rehab process was, to build me up to where I’m going to be able to take that kind of workload."

The White Sox have been adamant about their vision that Kopech will one day soon be an integral part of the big league rotation. For those wondering if this slow-play has anything to do with health effects from his surgery, it doesn't. He's healthy and pitching without restriction. But considering even before the procedure the most innings he'd thrown in a season were the 134.1 he logged in 2017, it's understandable the White Sox wouldn't want to overtax his arm.

The plan this spring is slow moving, as well, with Kopech still unsure when he's going to get into Cactus League action, which begins Saturday. So, there's still some question marks this spring as there are for the regular season.

"Right now, we have a plan of when I’m going to throw live BPs and when I’m going to throw bullpens. The question mark is still about when I’m getting into a game. But I think I have a plan to go at the beginning of March, around there anyway. I’m just trying to work my way up to that.

"It’s been pretty much day to day. We’re trying to really focus on spring right now and make sure my workload gets managed properly. And then by the time we get to the season, hopefully I’m ready to break with a team, whether it’s Charlotte or Chicago."

Every detail of the plan might not be public knowledge. But the plan is in place, and everything seems to be running smoothly.

Though it probably wouldn't hurt to cut down on the number of liners heading for Kopech's face...

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A bowling-ball minor leaguer nobody's talking about could be the White Sox 26th man

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

A bowling-ball minor leaguer nobody's talking about could be the White Sox 26th man

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a White Sox clubhouse filled with big-name prospects like Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn sits an under-the-radar minor leaguer who can flat out rake.

His last name is Mercedes, but this isn’t a sports car we’re talking about. Yermin Mercedes is built like a Mack Truck.

He plays the game like one, too.

“I like the homers. I have a hard swing. I like to swing,” said the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Mercedes, who when he settles into the batter’s box looks like the second coming of Juan Uribe.

“Yeah, I’m good with that,” Mercedes said, smiling when asked about the Uribe comparison. “I’m feeling great with that.”

Chris Getz sees the resemblance, too.

“Juan could certainly do some damage when he went into the box, and he went in there fearlessly. I think that attitude that (Mercedes) plays with, Juan did that,” said Getz, the White Sox director of player development who was a teammate of Uribe’s. “He played with fun and enjoyed the game.”

That joy was certainly on display during Thursday’s workout, when Mercedes celebrated a home run with a bat flip — during batting practice. Uribe would be proud.


“I have fun every day,” Mercedes said. “Everyone likes it when I smile or joke or play with my teammates. They like that.”

How Mercedes got here is a story in itself.

He logged three years in the Dominican Summer League with the Washington Nationals before being released in 2014. He spent time in the Pecos League, a remote independent league filled with baseball lifers. He ended up with the White Sox after they selected him in the minor league phase of the 2017 Rule 5 Draft.

Mercedes has been blowing through red lights and stop signs every step of the way in his all-out quest to make it to the majors.

And now, he’s got another road block ahead of him.

Though he’s got a spot on the White Sox 40-man roster, the 27-year-old catcher is buried on the depth chart behind Yasmani Grandal, James McCann and Zack Collins.

So this is probably a good time to ask two important questions: How is Mercedes going to make it to the majors in 2020, and why is he someone White Sox fans should really be watching this spring?

Let’s start with what Mercedes did last season when he was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte and compare him with one of his Knights teammates, the guy who will likely be the big league team's Opening Day center fielder:

— Mercedes: .310/.386/.647 in 53 games

— Luis Robert: .297/.341/.634 in 47 games

Impressive.

Then there’s Mercedes’ confidence. Spring training games haven’t even started yet, but when the regular season begins on March 26, Mercedes plans on being in a White Sox uniform. His message to general manager Rick Hahn:

“I’ll be there. I’m the 26th man. Yes, of course. I promise you,” Mercedes said emphatically.

Speak with his teammates from last season in Charlotte, and they wouldn’t be surprised if this charismatic bowling ball of a baseball player is knocking opposing pitchers out of games from the get-go in the big leagues.

“When I saw Yermin for the first time, I thought that he was going to have to tone it down a little bit, but he proved me wrong, just by being ready to hit and having the intent to hit the ball and do damage,” first baseman Matt Skole said. “As long as he continues to build off what he did last year, he’s definitely going to make an impact at the big league level at some point.”

And don’t limit Mercedes as an all-or-nothing hitter. He’s more than that.

“He’s a guy who can hit a fastball. He can hit it to all fields. He’s a good two-strike hitter, meaning he’s good at off-speed and fastballs,” Getz explained. “He can put together an at-bat. He’s an offensive force. You put on top of that that he’s a catcher that can do those types of things, it’s impressive.”

Then there’s the clutch competitor that thrives in the big moments. That’s Mercedes.

“You like playing with him, and you don’t want to play against him that’s for sure,” infielder Danny Mendick said. “When he gets in there, he knows what he’s doing. He’s got great eye-hand coordination. When you need a clutch hit, he’ll give it you.”

So if it’s the late innings, and the game is on the line, maybe Mercedes’ ticket to the big leagues is being that fearless hitter who can come off the bench as the 26th man, who doesn’t give a crap about pressure and deliver the big hit.

“Everybody wants me to come in and pinch hit, because I do the job. I get the base hit. I hit the homer to win the game,” Mercedes said confidently.

What do the White Sox think?

“For him to get (major league) at-bats, to get that opportunity, he needs to continue to perform, show us what he’s capable of doing both offensively and defensively,” Getz said. “Rosters have expanded to 26. That’s another opportunity because he does bring some things to the table. If you look at lineup construction and filling out and maximizing a roster, I think he comes into the conversation. If he stays on this track, he will get an opportunity.”

Then there’s Mercedes' catching, which has always lagged behind his hitting. However, last season there was a surprising shift in his metrics, specifically with his pitch-framing.

“From the catching side, I’ve worked with him quite a bit and like what he does back there,” pitcher Carson Fulmer said. “I think his game-calling got a lot better. There’s an adjustment between Double-A to Triple-A just with experienced hitters. He got on the same page with a lot of us, which is really useful.

“He has a great arm. He can hold a runner close to the bag, which is nice. With his framing, as well, he’s able sell some strikes for us. Most importantly, what really stood out for me was his ability to call a game. He’s definitely matured quite a bit.”

On paper, Mercedes might be a longshot to break with the team when it heads back to Chicago, but the Dominican spark plug has made a career out of defying the odds.

This is no different.

“I’m going to surprise a lot of people. A lot of people need me. They say, ‘Where’s Mercedes? Where’s Mercedes? Why isn’t he here?' I take my time. So when the team gives me the opportunity, I take it.”

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