White Sox

So apparently the Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer

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USA TODAY

So apparently the Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer

An interesting note from over the weekend: Apparently the Houston Astros tried to trade for Avisail Garcia this summer.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported on a deal that obviously didn't happen, one that would have sent Bryce Harper to the then-defending champs. That would've been very exciting for baseball fans in general — it might have been enough to get the Astros past the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS and to get them a second consecutive World Series title — but there's another added bit of specific interest to fans on the South Side.

Apparently after the Harper deal fell apart, the Astros called up the White Sox and tried to acquire Garcia. According to Rosenthal, the Astros offered up Francis Martes, a right-handed pitcher who two years ago was the No. 1 prospect in the Astros' system and one of the top 30 prospects in baseball. He hasn't appeared in the prospect rankings since that top rating in 2016 — likely a result of his north-of-5.00 ERA between the majors and Triple-A in 2017 — and he's had recent injury issues, too. His 2018 season at Triple-A Fresno ended before the start of May, and he had Tommy John surgery in August. But Rosenthal pointed out that the White Sox knew all about that while discussing him as a potential return for Garcia.

Per Rosenthal, the Astros weren't too excited about Garcia's injured knee, which he admitted at the end of the season had literally been bothering him since Opening Day. 

Garcia's standing in the White Sox long-term plans are a bit of a mystery. After his breakout 2017 campaign that saw him represent the team at the All-Star Game and rank among the best offensive players in the American League, statistically, Garcia was bothered by injuries from the jump in 2018. He said he felt that knee injury from Opening Day on, and his hamstring sent him to the disabled list on more than one occasion. He ended up playing in only 93 games and slashing a woeful .236/.281/.438, though he did reach a new career high with 19 home runs.

Garcia has only one year of team control left, and there's been plenty of speculative discussion about whether the White Sox would even tender him a contract this offseason, though none of that talk has come from the White Sox themselves. Other options could include waiting to see if he can reach that 2017 status once again and try to deal him during the 2019 season. But it's interesting to hear there was interest this past summer, even with the injuries. That could have been due to a hot stretch between June 22 and July 8, when Garcia returned from the disabled list to slash .333/.347/.783 with eight homers in a 17-game span.

For fans who want to play the "what if" game with Martes, his major league experience totals 32 appearances for the Astros in 2017, only four of which were starts. He posted a 5.80 ERA in 54.1 innings with 69 strikeouts and 31 walks. Dealing with injuries, he made just five minor league appearances in 2018. But his 2.04 ERA in 2015 and 3.30 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 2016 are likely what made the prospect-ranking folks so high on him in the first place.

White Sox Team of the Future: Starting pitcher No. 4

White Sox Team of the Future: Starting pitcher No. 4

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) this month. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

Welcome to the starting rotation, and a bit of an explainer on how this worked out. We did have our voters craft a rotation of the future, one through five. We then took the five highest vote-getters, total, and ranked them one through five. It works out nicely as an order, as you'll see over this week, but it doesn't necessarily mean each guy was strictly voted for in a specific spot. The No. 1 starter could have been a No. 3 starter on a specific ballot, but the vote counted the same. Also, we're going to list the same group of "other vote-getters" starting pitchers on all five spots because who knows where they would end up? OK? Moving on.

Our next starting pitcher of the future is Carlos Rodon.

Rodon hasn't exactly blossomed into what's typically expected of someone selected with the No. 3 pick in the draft yet, but that's certainly not his fault. Rodon experienced significant injuries in back-to-back seasons (actually, two significant injuries in 2017, but the recovery from the second lasted deep into 2018) that prevented him from throwing his first pitch of the season until June. With just 32 combined starts in 2017 and 2018, it's been somewaht difficult to project what Rodon is and what he will be.

When he's been good, he's been fantastic, and there were plenty of times last season when he pitched like an ace. Over nine starts in July and August, Rodon won seven games, owned a 1.84 ERA and limited opposing hitters to a .151 batting average. He was dominant during that stretch, not unlike that five-start span in 2017 when he had a 2.25 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 36 innings. When Rodon's going like that, it's not at all difficult to envision him as a key part of the future.

But he hasn't always gone like that. September was a struggle in 2018, with five losses and a 9.22 ERA in his final six starts. He amassed just 27.1 innings during the season's final month and walked as many guys as he struck out.

Of course, one month does not a career make, and with full health and a full slate of starts and innings in 2019, we could see the ace version far more often than not. The White Sox remain extremely high on the guy they took so early in the 2014 draft, and at only 26, he's easily envisioned as a prt of the future.

The thing that comes as somewhat of a surprise, however, is that Rodon is only under team control for another three seasons. Despite his young age, his rapid ascent to the big leagues in the year following his selection in the draft means he's already logged four major league seasons. And so while the White Sox certainly hope to make the transition from rebuilding to contending before Rodon is slated to hit the free-agent market following the 2021 season, it's possible he's not a part of the bright future for as long as many of his current and future teammates, purely because of the status of his contract.

And so 2019 is another "let's see what you got" season for Rodon, who due to injury hasn't put together a full campaign since 2016. The White Sox are confident, he's confident and fans should be confident, too, after seeing some sensational pitching from him last season. We'll see what a healthy season holds — and if it delivers enough to make Rodon a lock for the rotation of the future.

Other vote-getters

Lucas Giolito. The one-time top-rated pitching prospect in baseball didn't make our rotation of the future, but there's still a really good chance he's a part of that starting staff the next time the White Sox are contending. Giolito now has a full season in the big leagues under his belt, even if things didn't go so hot. He had the biggest ERA in baseball at 6.13 and led the American League with 90 walks. The results weren't what he or the White Sox wanted, obviously, but he got experience that he wouldn't otherwise have gotten if the team wasn't in the current phase of its rebuilding project. Giolito will get every opportunity to turn those bad moments into lessons learned in 2019, and his arrival here before many of the other pitching prospects gives him a head start to develop into an effective major league starter.

Madison Bumgarner. Almost every other vote-getter was an outside addition of some fashion, and Bumgarner might be the biggest name on the list. He's a free agent next winter and would fit the mold of a Jon Lester type addition to polish off this rebuild. Bumgarner has thrown a ton of innings but he's shockingly young, still not even 30 as he heads into the 2019 season. He's a four-time All Star, a four-time top-10 Cy Young finisher and one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers ever, with three World Series rings and a jaw-dropping 2.11 ERA in 102.1 postseason innings. Having a veteran winner like Bumgarner at the top of the rotation would allow the homegrown youngsters to blossom around him. Talk about the cherry on top of the rebuilding sundae.

Gerrit Cole. This would be a different route to take from Bumgarner, as Cole is younger and less experienced in the winning department, but he's undoubtedly one of the best starting pitchers in the game. In his first season with the Houston Astros last year, he posted a 2.88 ERA with a remarkable 276 strikeouts in 200.1 innings. Cole is an ace and would serve in that role if the White Sox wanted to make a real long-term splash on next offseason's free-agent market.

Justin Verlander. A rotation-mate of Cole's and a pitcher with a resume perhaps even more impressive than Bumgarner's, Verlander is also a free agent next winter — the class is absolutely loaded — and though he'll be significantly older than the last two guys we discussed, 36 next month, he's still pitching like one of the best in baseball. Last season with the Astros, led the AL with 290 strikeouts and finished the season with a 2.52 ERA. Who knows how long Verlander will keep pitching like this, but he's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and would be a sensational addition to an otherwise really young rotation looking to add a get-over-the-hump piece and vault into World Series contention. One thing of note, though? Verlander and Tim Anderson aren't exactly best buds.

Zack Greinke. This one would require a bit of a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, as the longtime division foe of the White Sox is under contract for another three seasons. And what a contract it is: Greinke makes more than $34 million a year, the highest annual salary in baseball history. Greinke's getting up there in age, now 35 years old, but he's still pitching real well. He's been an All Star in four of the last five seasons, including each of the last two. He finished with a 3.21 ERA last season and struck out 199 batters. He's won five straight Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting in four of the last six seasons. That's still pretty darn good stuff. If the White Sox think the contending days are coming quick, trading some prospect depth for the still-dominant Greinke might not be the worst idea.

Chris Archer. Archer could be a free agent next winter. Or he could be a Pittsburgh Pirate for the next three seasons. Or something. Archer's contract has team options for 2020 and 2021, making him perhaps a more interesting trade candidate than a free-agent addition next offseason. Of course, Archer's numbers have been going in the wrong direction since 2015, when he finished in the top five in AL Cy Young voting. He's posted a combined 4.12 ERA over the past three seasons, a stretch during which he's given up 76 home runs. He still strikes out a lot of batters, with 644 Ks in the last three years, and he's only 30 (that's right, Archer is older than Bumgarner). He might not have the resume of the guys listed above, but if the Michael Kopechs and Dylan Ceases of the world can develop into ace-like pitchers, someone like Archer could be used elsewhere in a rotation of the future.

Sonny Gray. It looks like Gray, who could've been had via a trade with the New York Yankees earlier this offseason, is on his way to Cincinnati to be a Red. Of course, he's a free agent next winter, too, and perhaps this voter is looking ahead to Gray as an attractive add after a resurgent 2019. He'll need it after a 4.90 ERA in The Bronx during the 2018 season. Gray's done big things before, though not terribly recently, and could be a nice addition to a rotation that has a potential hole unfillable by a homegrown piece.

Ivan Nova. Another appearance by the voter who thinks the glory days are already here. Nova was acquired by the White Sox in a trade with the Pirates during the Winter Meetings. He's a solid short-term addition in that he brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse and the pitching staff and fills one of two holes in a rotation that came into the offseason with just three arms for the 2019 season. As for how long Nova could stick around, well, he's a free agent next winter, too, and if the White Sox get the progress they hope for from Cease and the healthy return of Kopech, there might not be much need for Nova to extend his stay on the South Side.

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White Sox invite 20 non-roster guys to spring training, including some of your favorite prospects

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AP

White Sox invite 20 non-roster guys to spring training, including some of your favorite prospects

The invitation list for White Sox spring training is out.

The team announced a list of 20 non-roster players — six minor league free agents and 14 players from within the organization — who will be part of spring training when it gets going next month in Glendale, Arizona.

A few of the team's highest-rated prospects are on the list: Zack Collins, Nick Madrigal, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford. If you're wondering where some of the other names you know and love are — why no Dylan Cease or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Basabe? — they're already part of the 40-man roster and get an automatic invite to spring training.

As for the new guys, Randall Delgado might be the most noteworthy. He's the former highly touted Atlanta Braves prospect who spent the last six seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Delgado has 271 big league appearances under his belt, 53 of which have been starts. He was real good with the D-backs in 2015, posting a 3.25 ERA in 64 outings, and he had a similar workload a year later, with 79 appearances in 2016. But Delgado has only made it into 36 big league games since: 26 in 2017 and just 10 last year. He pitched in 13 games at Triple-A Reno in 2018, too. But after the White Sox used the minor league free agency strategy to help construct their bullpen last season — Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon were all signed as minor league free agents — it's not crazy to think Delgado could wind up in the major league bullpen at some point. Though that group is vastly improved thanks to the additions of Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera.

Infielder Ryan Goins has spent parts of the last six seasons in the big leagues, all but the 2018 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays. Relief pitcher Evan Marshall has appeared in 101 games since 2014. Infielder D.J. Peterson is a former first-round draft pick (No. 12 in 2013) but has yet to play in a big league game.

Also invited as minor league free agents were Donn Roach and Matt Skole. Both were a part of the organization last season, with Skole getting into a few games in late May and early June, singling in his first big league plate appearance and homering in his second.

And then there's the list of prospects, which White Sox fans are very familiar with by now. Non-roster invitees to spring training on the list of the top 30 prospects in the organization include: Robert (No. 4), Madrigal (No. 5), Rutherford (No. 7), Collins (No. 8), Luis Gonzalez (No. 14), Jimmy Lambert (No. 21) and Bernardo Flores (No. 25).

Of course, there's a large number of top-30 guys already on the 40-man roster, too, who are expected to be at spring training: Jimenez (No. 1), Cease (No. 3), Basabe (No. 9), Micker Adolfo (No. 11), Ian Hamilton (No. 16), Kodi Medeiros (No. 19), Jordan Stephens (No. 20), Seby Zavala (No. 22) and Jose Ruiz (No. 24).

Top-30 guys not on the 40-man roster or the invitee list are: Dane Dunning (No. 6), Alec Hansen (No. 10), Steele Walker (No. 12), Jake Burger (No. 13), Gavin Sheets (No. 15), Zack Burdi (No. 17), Konnor Pilkington (No. 18), Tyler Johnson (No. 23), Spencer Adams (No. 26), Luis Curbelo (No. 27), Laz Rivera (No. 28), Jonathan Stiver (No. 29) and Lincoln Henzman (No. 30).

And, for those math majors out there, yes, there are prospects who have been invited to spring training but are not ranked in the organizational top 30. Those guys are: Alfredo Gonzalez, Danny Mendick, Nate Nolan, Charlie Tilson, Zach Thompson and Colton Turner.

Got all that?

All the fun starts when pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch on Feb. 13. The first full-squad workout comes five days later on Feb. 18.

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