GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chuck Garfien: We are here at spring training in Arizona! Specifically in a cafe in downtown Phoenix, ready to answer your pressing White Sox questions with pitchers and catchers set to report Wednesday. My White Sox compadre Vinnie Duber is sitting across from me. Hey Vinnie.
Vinnie Duber: Howdy, Our Chuck! We’re all settled in the Valley of the Sun and ready to get this spring, and the highly anticipated White Sox season going. Before everyone shows up at Camelback Ranch tomorrow, let’s get to the questions and answers.
1. Do you expect the Sox to make the playoffs this season? Seems like there are still plenty of question marks in terms of players staying consistently good and how Robert and eventually Madrigal will perform. — @stevenmeister54
Chuck: We’ve been hearing the P word, “playoffs,” a lot this offseason. And not just from fans. The players and coaches are outwardly talking about it. Eloy Jimenez said he’d be disappointed if they aren’t playing in October. I’d say it’s definitely possible in 2020, but I wouldn’t say to expect it. That said, a lot can happen — and has to happen — for the White Sox to make the postseason. The PECOTA projections came out Tuesday, and the White Sox are projected to win 83 games, which would very likely have them on the outside of the playoffs. My quick conclusion here in February: They’ll be in the playoff hunt for the most of the season. Check back with me in September.
Vinnie: Rick Renteria hasn’t been shy about expressing his expectation that there will be postseason baseball on the South Side for the first time in more than a decade, and those playoff expectations are definitely warranted following all those breakout campaigns from the young guys last year and all the additions this winter.
But you’re right, there are an awful lot of question marks. Will Lucas Giolito’s transformation be permanent? Will Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson stay productive if they’re not as lucky as they were in 2019? Will Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez find some consistency? Will Eloy Jimenez put the growing pains behind him? Will Luis Robert live up to the hype?
On paper, the White Sox should be considered contenders for the division title along with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, but that involves a lot going right. Considering the flashes of brilliance last year, it sure looks like things could go right. But the White Sox have to match the excitement they generated this winter with performance on the field.
It’s hard to say I expect them to make the postseason because the competition is stiff and so much has to go right. But what I will say is I expect them to contend for a spot in the postseason up until season’s end.
2. What has to happen for us to consider the 2020 season a success? — @DawindycityP
Chuck: Last year, the young core developing was the key to a successful season. This year, it’s that, plus competing for a playoff spot. It’s time for winning baseball on the South Side.
Vinnie: The White Sox made their intentions known with their activity this winter that they are in win-now mode. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s World Series or bust, but everyone should expect for the young guys to take the next step and for the veterans to complement them in ways that equals a playoff-caliber team. For the 2020 season to be a success, the jump from rebuilding mode to contending mode needs to happen.
3. My question Mr.Garfien is how bad ass u think we are going to be!!!!! — @swarrin87
Chuck: I don’t know where PECOTA put the White Sox badassery in their projections for 2020, but I think it’s going to be very high. WIth Eloy, Abreu, Moncada and Encarnacion hitting bombs, TA flipping bats, Robert looking like a five-tool superstar in the making and Cease and Kopech throwing heat, I’m ready to make a White Sox bad-ass T-shirt right now!
Vinnie: Certainly this answer’s a subjective one. Some of us consider the peak of badassery to be Aerosmith circa 1976. But as for that “swagger” that everyone’s always talking about, there should be no short supply of it on the South Side this season. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Tim Anderson has added to his bat-flipping repertoire.
4. Can Rick Hahn help solve the issues with the bulls as well.....???? — @barcelona0921
Vinnie: Only the Bulls? Seems like Mr. Hahn might want to apply for the position of Chicago sports czar and work his magic on the South Side, the West Side and the Lakefront. I doubt Major League Baseball rules will allow him to run things on the North Side. What a shame. Four teams firing on all cylinders will have to suffice.
Chuck: Vinnie, why stop there? What about the Sky, the Fire, the Bandits, Northwestern, U of I and the NBC Sports Chicago intramural softball team? We could use Hahn’s scouting expertise in our front office.
5. Do you think Nomar Mazara Rick Hahn’s Carlos Quentin? — @itsgottabeKANE
Chuck: This is a great question. When Kenny Williams acquired Quentin from the Diamondbacks in December 2007 (for outfielder Chris Carter), it was a total steal. Quentin came out of nowhere and almost won the AL MVP in 2008. I’m not predicting an MVP for Mazara, but he’s got the offensive tools and potential to hit like Quentin did that season. If he happens to do THAT, the White Sox are making the playoffs.
Vinnie: Certainly that’s what the White Sox are hoping. They’ve talked constantly about the “untapped potential” they believe exists within their new right fielder and how they hope to bring it out in 2020. As Hahn has said, given the players surrounding Mazara in the White Sox lineup, it would be just fine if he continued on his 20-homer, 79-RBI pace. But they think there’s something more there.
If they can successfully bring it out and turn Mazara into the player he was hyped to be as a highly regarded prospect, then yes, this would look like a swindle of a trade. And it looks like they’ll give him the opportunity, with talk of that once dreamt up platoon in right field all but ceasing in recent weeks.
6. What time will the parade start? — @jake_schramm
Vinnie: Hahn created himself a catchphrase when, presented with a query about how successful this offseason was, he advised folks to “ask me after the parade.” Well, that doesn’t apply here because if you wait to ask the time until after the parade, you’ll miss the parade.
Best advice I can give is to start camping out now. And this being Chicago, two folding chairs and a broom always works to save your spot.
Chuck: 10 a.m. sharp.
7. Where will Michael Kopech begin the season? Charlotte or Chicago? — kpeterson2007
Chuck: No one has the definitive answer right now, but considering the White Sox want to limit his innings coming off Tommy John surgery, all signs point to Kopech starting in Charlotte with a promotion to the majors possibly by May. But then comes the question, whose spot in the rotation would he take, Vinnie?
Vinnie: Yeah, remember that the necessities of the baseball season could have plenty to do with Kopech’s situation, too. If Reynaldo Lopez is performing the same way he did last season, failing to find any consistency, maybe there’s a need for Kopech at the big league level sooner rather than later, and that’s what determines when he gets brought up more than any magic number of innings. What if Gio Gonzalez isn’t quite as reliable as hoped? What if someone gets hurt?
Considering there’s not much in the way of starting-pitching depth past Kopech until the likes of Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert finish recovering from their own Tommy John surgeries, any hole in the big league rotation and Kopech would figure to be the first person to plug it — no matter when.
8. With the Joc Pederson deal to the Angels falling thru, do you think the Sox will try to get involved and make a deal for him? — @real_rob2017
Chuck: Joc Pederson is quickly becoming a modern-day Chone Figgins, a player constantly rumored to be coming to the White Sox, but it never happens. On paper, Pederson still makes some sense, even with Mazara here. The Dodgers don’t have room for him in their outfield and he’s in the final year of his contract (not the best leverage for L.A.), so I imagine it won’t take a ton to acquire him.
Maybe Rick Hahn checks in with Andrew Freidman. If the price drops, why not? The Dodgers and White Sox are spring training partners at Camelback Ranch. Pederson could just walk on over to the White Sox side and the Figgins comparisons can finally end.
Vinnie: I don’t see the White Sox making a trade Mazara and then taking his starting job away during the spring. Now, Hahn cautioned back at the Winter Meetings that the right-field picture might not have been 100 percent in place with the Mazara deal. But talk of a right-field platoon has disappeared since then. Pederson would be a great addition to the lineup, but i’ve got to be honest, the White Sox seem set from a position player standpoint.
Now, if Pederson is somehow available come the trade deadline, that’s a potentially different story. Hahn has said the White Sox have the financial flexibility to add in July if they’re in a playoff race. And by then they’d have a concrete idea of exactly what Mazara can contribute. Never say never.
9. Who’s a name we should watch in Spring Training that is not well known whether it’s a prospect or non roster invitee? — @ChisSoxBri2005
Chuck: Here’s one: reliever Codi Heuer. The White Sox drafted him in the sixth round out of Witchita State in 2018, and he had a breakout season last year in the minors.
First at Winston-Salem: 4-1, 2.82 ERA, 43 strikeouts, eight walks in 38.1 innings
Then at Birmingham: 2-3, 1.84 ERA, 22 strikeouts, seven walks in 29.1 innings
He’s 6-foot-5 and 23 years old. I’ll be watching him.
Vinnie: Given the breakout campaigns from the young guys in 2019 and all the veterans added this winter, the White Sox roster isn’t terribly difficult to project. But there does seem to be an open spot in the bullpen, and if we’re talking candidates who most fans might not be familiar with, I’ll throw Tayron Guerrero’s name out there.
The White Sox picked him up off waivers from the Marlins and had to send him through waivers again after one of their many acquisitions. Well, they were able to hang onto him and he can throw the ball really, really hard. He threw the second most 100-mph pitches of any pitcher in baseball in 2019. Of course, he didn’t throw them in the strike zone as much as anyone would have liked, so there’s that.
10. In your opinion, who will emerge as the face of the franchise, excluding Jose Abreu? What young player has the personality and poise to do it? TA7 is a good choice, but I am guessing someone even younger will emerge. — @rob_gonigam
Chuck: Honestly, the way things are shaping up right now, there won’t just be one face. There could be multiple faces of the franchise. Anderson, Moncada, Kopech, Giolito, Jimenez and Robert all have the potential to be cornerstones for this team for years to come. Maybe the better question is: Who is going to get a statue on the concourse when their career is over? Let’s talk about that in a few years.
Vinnie: Yeah, I think you’re onto something with Anderson, who the White Sox have certainly embraced this winter, adopting his talk of “changing the game” for their marketing slogan this season. He’s does so much good work in the community on the South Side, and fans realize how much fun he has on a baseball field. He’s the perfect choice.
He’s not the only one, though. Eloy Jimenez has “hi, mom’d” his way into every White Sox fan’s heart. Lucas Giolito is evolving into a big-game pitcher and the go-to guy in the clubhouse for media members looking for a comment on the state of the game. Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are going to be dominating highlights for years to come. The White Sox would probably be pretty pleased if there’s more than one face of the franchise.
11. How long will the Sox stay with Cease if he doesn’t raise the level of his performance in first 50 games? — @MJK171002
Chuck: You can’t really put a timeline on this. Cease had some growing pains last season. I believe he’ll be much better in 2020. Let’s see how he does to start the year before we start talking about sending him down the minors. Come on, MJK171002!
Vinnie: What the White Sox will get out of Cease (as well as Reynaldo Lopez) is one of the biggest mysteries of the 2020 season. They could pitch like the top-of-the-rotation arms the White Sox still envision them capable of being, or they could continue to go through the same growing pains and inconsistencies that plagued them in 2019.
Comparing the two, Cease would seem to have a much longer leash than Lopez if for no other reason than he hasn’t been in the majors as long. Lopez has two full seasons under his belt. Cease has 14 starts.
But this is new territory for the White Sox, who in contention mode can no longer allow their youngsters to work through their struggles. The games have more importance now.
12. Do you think our Sox will have any serious chance to sign Mookie Betts next season? — @bcoote54
Chuck: I think they’d have a better chance of signing Betts if the Red Sox traded him to Cincinnati as opposed to Los Angeles. Apologies to the City of Cincinnati. Here’s the thing: Betts is going to join a Dodgers team that will likely win 100 games, has deep pockets and will soon have a ton of money available (only $44 million is on the books after 2021). I could see the White Sox going down the road attempting to sign Betts, but realistically, now that he’s with the Dodgers, it’s tough to envision them not doing everything in their power to sign him long term next winter. Last year at this time, I would have never thought the Red Sox would actually trade Betts, so there’s always room for surprises. Let’s hope for that.
Vinnie: Yes, but it depends. Swimming in the deepest ends up the free-agent pool is not something the White Sox have shied away from doing in recent offseasons, going after Manny Machado last winter. Betts will command a monstrous contract, no doubt about it, but the White Sox have set themselves up nicely with lengthy team-friendly contracts for Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. What an outfield it would be if Betts joined them.
More important here, though, is how the White Sox right-field situation looks by the time next offseason rolls around. If they’ve untapped that potential in Mazara, if one or more of the organization’s outfield prospects shows they’re ready for the jump to the big leagues, there might not be a great need for an upgrade in right field. Or perhaps there are bigger holes elsewhere where those dollars need to be allocated.
The White Sox have shown they’ll be serious offseason players, but a lot can change between now and then to determine what course they’ll take next winter.
13. I’ll be going to my first White Sox Spring Training in AZ next month. Do you have any recommendations on a place to grab a bite? — @Mattheius2783
Vinnie: Do we have recommendations?!? Grab a bite to eat at El Pollo Supremo in Tempe or Gadzooks Enchiladas (numerous locations). Pair your food with beer at Four Peaks Brewing Co. in Tempe or OHSO Nanobrewery in the Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix. And visit my favorite bar in America, UnderTow in Phoenix, for all sorts of tiki goodness.
Chuck: I can vouch for UnderTow. It’s a former oil change building that has been turned into a coffee shop upstairs and a hidden tiki bar underground. Vinnie likes his tiki bars.
For food, there are so many choices. Some of my favorites: The Vig, The Mission, Richardson’s and Matt’s Big Breakfast.
14. Do you think we’ll sign Brock Holt on Tuesday or Wednesday? — @WorldWideFless
Chuck: I don’t know. How about Thursday?
Vinnie: Well, we’re rapidly running out of Tuesday. As for Wednesday, who knows what tomorrow may bring!
Seriously, though, I think the White Sox are pretty well set from a position-player standpoint. I totally get the desire to bring in a fill-in at second base until Nick Madrigal arrives from the minor leagues, or even a safety net if he goes through some not unexpected growing pains. But Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick are expected to do the job until Madrigal comes up, when he’ll be given the keys to the starting second base job.
15. Do you think #whitesox will do anything to address their need for depth? I would really like Brian Dozier or Brock Holt on the bench/being stop gap for Madrigal. I also think we need a bit more pitching depth and I wouldn’t be opposed to getting Taijuan Walker or Collin McHugh. — @JayDBaseball
Vinnie: See above. Again, I get the desire to keep adding — and that’s what good teams do — but as Hahn mentioned recently, it might be a tough sell to convince a veteran player to sign up to get very limited playing time once Madrigal arrives.
"Are there spots on this roster where we could add reinforcements that would put us in a stronger position? Absolutely," Hahn told Chuck on the White Sox Talk Podcast.
"And those are the things that keep me up at night and will continue to for the foreseeable future.
"But you also have to look at it from the player's perspective. Seeing Nick Madrigal coming, it might not be the most appealing place to come. We can explain to them how we view Nick. And we've been pretty candid publicly about how we view Nick and the excitement we have for Nick, but also the uncertainty about when that's going to start. But in the end, a free agent has to make a decision about, 'This is my personal best opportunity to maximize my future.'
"So that's my kind of long-winded way of saying, yeah there's guys available, but it's a two-way street and it's not necessarily something you should count on seeing us convert on."
I think the bullpen is a different story, though, and given the seeming dearth of options to fill the long-man role in the relief corps, I could see someone joining up before Opening Day. The White Sox waited until spring training was underway last year to sign their fifth starter, giving that minor league deal to Ervin Santana. We’ll see if there are more springtime surprises this year.
Chuck: Thanks for quoting Hahn from the podcast. Shameless plug time. There’s a ton of great, inside stuff from Hahn in there about how the whole offseason came together. Grandal, Encarnacion, Keuchel, Boras, Robert, Abreu. He also gets into why they didn’t go after Cole and Strasburg. A lot of things we’ve never heard before. Definitely check it out!
As for second base, if you’re a veteran looking for playing time, the White Sox aren’t an ideal spot. That’s why Yolmer Sanchez is in San Francisco. If spring training continues and guys without jobs get desperate, then maybe the Sox could be a destination for someone like Dozier or Holt. I’m sure the White Sox have discussed and contemplated this. There are still a lot of free-agent second basemen and only so many roster spots available. We’ll see what happens.
16. Who will be opening day second baseman? — @lacredi20
Chuck: Right now, I think it’s going to be either Leury Garcia or Danny Mendick. Vinnie, who do you have?
Vinnie: Leury Garcia. Madrigal won’t be up for a while, it sounds like, with Hahn saying Madrigal “hasn't necessarily answered all the questions we have for him in the minor leagues.” Garcia and Mendick are good bets to make the Opening Day roster in reserve roles, and they’ll likely share second base duties (with Garcia probably getting more of that timeshare) until the White Sox deem Madrigal ready to rock.
17. If the Sox end up being buyers at this trade deadline, what position will we be adding to and who would it be worth trading to add that piece? — @DMacak2
Chuck: A lot can happen between now and the trade deadline, so it’s tough to predict exactly what the White Sox will need. I will say that if they’re in the playoff hunt, the White Sox will be looking to add. They’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Remember how aggressive the front office used to be around the deadline? Those same guys are still there, and they want to win.
If you’re looking for a name right now, I’ll go with Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles. He’s a free agent after this season. I don’t see the Blue Jays contending this season, so if he’s healthy, he’ll be one of the top arms available at the deadline.
Vinnie: That obviously remains to be seen. Contenders try to construct rosters without holes, so entering the season, you can’t say there’s a glaring one on the White Sox roster. The first few months of the campaign could change that, of course. Maybe the starting rotation could use an upgrade come July. Maybe the bullpen could use some extra oomph. Maybe Mazara does need a platoon partner or more in right field.
Hahn said at SoxFest, though, that the team will be in a position to add salary. So if the White Sox are in the playoff hunt, expect them to add somewhere to boost their chances of reaching October.
18. Last year the White Sox had a MLB worst 2.35 walks per game. Besides Grandal will Sox hitters be more selective and draw more walks this year? — @MSMS247
Chuck: They better be. I don’t watch baseball games for the walks, but the White Sox have got to improve here. They’ve been dreadful in this category lately. Here are their most recent MLB rankings in walks:
Not good. That said, I believe their walk total will improve this year, potentially a lot. I’d like to see them in the middle of the pack in walks. With Grandal and Encarnacion aboard, and with Abreu able to be more patient with power bats behind him, I think it’s quite possible to see a healthy leap in bases on balls in 2020.
Vinnie: Grandal is hoping he can get his on-base ways to catch on with his new teammates, saying this back in November.
“Last year, I made some strides into getting guys to understand the value of actually getting on base. Obviously, the more guys we get on base, the more opportunities we have to score. At the end of the day, if you score, you're going to win.
“For me, I try to put as much pressure as possible on a pitcher. The more pressure I put on him and make him throw, the better it's going to be at the end of the day for my team. Especially when you're facing really quality pitchers, guys that have the stuff to get you out with three pitches. If you can foul off a couple of pitches and you get to a 3-2 count, anything can happen. At the same time, for me, when I get into those counts, it takes the anxiety completely away from the AB and kind of makes me zone in and try to execute the plan that I want.
“If I'm able to get through to a few guys to understand that and they're able to do it, it's just going to make us better. At the end of the day, that's pretty much all we want.”
19. Top three in HR for the Sox in 2020, and how much will each hit? Also, who’s our next gold glove winner? — @Zachary_Joe
Vinnie: I’ll double down on my somewhat overzealous projection from 2019, when I picked Eloy Jimenez to hit 36 homers as a rookie. He hit 31, so that didn’t end up being so ridiculous after all. I’ll say he leads the team in 2020 with 44 bombs. Edwin Encarnacion will follow with 36. Yoan Moncada will be third with 34.
As for a Gold Glove, I’ll say Nick Madrigal is the next White Sox defender to win one, but not in 2020.
Chuck: Vinnie, I’m telling Abreu you didn’t include him on this list. He’s not going to be happy. Seriously, this is a good problem to have for the White Sox. After hitting only 182 home runs last season (25th in the majors), they’re going to hit a lot more homers in 2020. Get the fireworks ready!
I’ll go Jimenez with 40, Abreu with 35, Encarnacion and Moncada with 30.
Dallas Keuchel has won four Gold Gloves, most recently in 2018. I’ll go with him.
20. Twins and Yankees hit over 300 homers last season. How close will the 2020 Sox come to that number? — @MikeyBudz
Vinnie: The White Sox were one of six major league teams to fail to hit 200 homers in 2019. They’re fortunes in the power-hitting department ought to improve in 2020 now that Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal and Luis Robert are all part of the lineup. Will they be the second coming of the Bomba Squad? Maybe not. But they’ll hit a hell of a lot more than they did last year.
Chuck: A lot depends on the baseball. I don’t expect it to be wound as tight as it was last season, so I’m anticipating home run totals to decrease across the board (except on the South Side!). I think the White Sox will hit around 230 home runs, which would be six fewer than the White Sox hit in 2006.
21. How about Eloy back to the Cubs for Bryant? — @rickweba
Chuck: Lemme think. Two years of Bryant and quite possibly seven more years of Jimenez? I think you know the answer to that one.
Vinnie: I believe it was the great 20th century philosopher Dr. Evil who said, “How ‘bout no!”
22. When will @BillWalton be back? — @TheDutchPope
Chuck: Good question. We haven’t heard anything about an encore performance in the booth with Jason Benetti, but many of us would love to see it happen. The White Sox are in Anaheim from April 23 through April 26 and in San Diego from May 11 through May 13. Walton lives in Southern California. Maybe during one of those series?
Vinnie: Whenever it is, I’ll pick him up from Terrapin Station.
23. Why does @HawkHarrelson call you Art Chuck? Or is it Our Chuck? I've never known why and it's starting to drive me insane. — @robertwadeholly
Chuck: It’s Our Chuck. Joe Grube, who works in the TV booth, was the first to call me that. He heard one of our anchors toss it out to me at the ballpark saying, “Our Chuck Garfien.” Hawk overheard Joe refer to me as “Our Chuck,” and the rest is history.
Vinnie: Yes, yes, hell yes!
24. Will Stone end up with more Twitter followers than Benetti? — @ksawilchik
Chuck: This is really more of a global question. Let’s leave it to the poets, prophets and politicians to answer this one. It’s bigger than all of us.
Vinnie: This truly has been a clash of the Twitter titans. Mythological stuff. I predict their battle spins into eternity, with no one ever able to claim true victory.
Or maybe Jason because he’ll call the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale one year and gain all those Twitter-crazed Minnesota and Iowa fans.
25. If you build it, he will come? — @gq007ia
Vinnie: This Twitter user obviously has the Field of Dreams game on the brain. The White Sox and Yankees will go toe to toe in a cornfield in August.
But I’m going to take the lack of context to pose another question: If the White Sox build a contender, will President Obama start coming to games on the South Side? I have to assume there’s always a ticket available for the world’s most famous White Sox fan. Can’t wait to see him at The Rate.
Chuck: My take is, if you build a winner, EVERYONE will come. It’s been a while since the White Sox consistently filled the ballpark. Fingers crossed that those days are coming soon!
Chuck: Vinnie, this was fun. Thanks to everyone for all of your questions. They were awesome!
Vinnie: You know what else is awesome? Baseball season. And it starts tomorrow.