White Sox

State of the White Sox: Third base

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USA TODAY

State of the White Sox: Third base

Previous: Second base First base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re moving on to third base.

What happened in 2019

We didn’t even know who the White Sox third baseman would be until after spring training started, after Manny Machado opted to play for the San Diego Padres instead of coming to the South Side. But once the mega free agent made his decision, the White Sox swiftly moved Yoan Moncada from second base to the hot corner. Eight months later, he’s proven himself the cornerstone of the rebuild his one-time No. 1 prospect ranking promised.

Moncada’s 2018 season, his first full campaign in the major leagues, was a disappointment, lowlighted by the 217 strikeouts that rank among the most in a single season in baseball history. He went to work in the offseason and came out the other end the team’s best all-around hitter.

Mentioned by his teammates as an All-Star snub back in July, Moncada was consistently good wire to wire — save the time he missed while on the injured list, of course — but he finished the season in sensational fashion, with a .412/.455/.647 slash line to go along with 42 hits, 11 doubles, three homers, 15 RBIs and 21 runs scored in September.

The final-month surge was one of several on the team, with Tim Anderson wrapping up a batting title, Jose Abreu capturing an RBI crown and Eloy Jimenez finishing his rookie season with 31 home runs thanks to huge Septembers. But Moncada ended the season as the best all-around hitter of the bunch, boasting a .315/.367/.548 slash line, 25 homers, 79 RBIs, 34 doubles and 83 runs scored in 132 games. He also dramatically decreased the strikeouts, finishing with 154 of them, nearly 70 fewer than in his strikeout-heavy 2018 season.

Moncada also played an excellent defensive third base, impressing after committing 21 errors at second in 2018.

What will happen this offseason

Certainly the White Sox do not need to upgrade at third base, which was a focus a year ago when Moncada was still at second base and Machado and Nolan Arenado looked like big-time targets over the next two free-agent cycles. Moncada now figures to be entrenched at the hot corner. Unless … 

The White Sox showed no hesitancy last winter to pursue Machado, a shortstop, despite already having one in Anderson. Could that happen again this offseason? The No. 1 position player on the market figures to be Anthony Rendon, who isn’t expected to accept the reported seven-year deal from his current team, the Washington Nationals. Rendon has put up MVP-caliber numbers on an annual basis for the past several seasons in D.C. and would be a huge offensive addition to any lineup.

The White Sox might not have a need at third base — like they do in right field, at designated hitter and in the starting rotation — but general manager Rick Hahn has long expressed a desire to add an impact talent from outside the organization. If thinking about a bat, there’s no bigger impact stick on the free-agent market this winter than Rendon.

Asked if he would consider pursuing a big-name player who played a position already spoken for on the White Sox roster, Hahn had this to say during his end-of-season press conference last week:

“The talent pool is a little different, free agent-wise, this offseason, but I'm not going to say we won't be creative in a couple elements, whether it's via trade or free agency,” he said. “Our roster does have a little bit of flexibility in it, and we hope in the coming years to have more flexibility built in in terms of different positions that guys can go out and play.

“That said, if we wind up breaking with Moncada at third, TA at short and Eloy in left, (James) McCann behind the plate. If Jose is back, him at first or DH, we're going to feel real good about that initial start. It's going to be a matter of augmenting them at those specific positions I didn't name.”

Moncada was asked about his position status earlier in the season.

“I think third base is going to be my position for a very, very long time,” Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo at the end of August. “At the same time, I'm open to help the team at any position they need me to play. That's up to them. I'm open to it but I feel very comfortable playing third base right now.”

At the moment, Moncada is overwhelmingly expected to be the White Sox third baseman on Opening Day 2020 and beyond. But never say never.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

Like teammates Anderson and Lucas Giolito, Moncada will be faced with proving in 2020 that his transformation is permanent. We won’t know whether or not that’s the case until the 2020 season comes along, but certainly the huge strides made in 2019 were nothing but huge positives for the White Sox and their future.

Moncada’s performance, as well as those of Anderson, Giolito, Jimenez, Abreu and McCann, helps make the team’s transition from rebuilding to contending look like a very real possibility.

Like the teammates mentioned, though, Moncada feels he has an even higher ceiling to reach.

“I feel very good, very satisfied with having the season I'm having, but at the same time, it's not a fluke,” Moncada said in September. “I'm having the season that I'm having because I worked hard, and I still know that I can do more. I think this season is just a big takeoff for me and a big motivation.”

Expect Moncada to keep hitting and keep doing it as the team’s third baseman for the foreseeable future.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Winning ugly

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Winning ugly

Good teams make up for their own mistakes.

Bad day for a pitcher? The offense picks him up. Slumping superstar? The role players get the job done.

That sort of thing happens over the entirety of a season, but if you’re looking for a microcosm from the White Sox championship campaign in 2005, look no further than May 8.

The White Sox completed a sweep of the Blue Jays on Mother’s Day in a game that featured a disastrous fourth inning that saw two uncustomary errors by Juan Uribe and an uncustomary rough go for Mark Buehrle.

Early on, Uribe looked like he was going to lead a beatdown of the Blue Jays. Batting high up in Ozzie Guillen’s order with Tadahito Iguchi getting a day off, Uribe made his skipper look smart by smashing a solo home run in the first inning.


In each of the first three innings, he made stellar defensive plays, almost turning a triple play in the first and turning a second double play in the third.

By the time Buehrle went out for the bottom of the fourth, he had a 5-0 lead to work with. But after a quick first out, he gave up back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. That’s when Uribe’s misfortune started. He dropped a ground ball, allowing a run to come home. And two batters later, after another run had scored, he airmailed a throw to first base in an attempt to complete an inning-ending double play. Two runs scored on that play, including one on his second error of the frame.

Buehrle did his job a couple times with the bases loaded, generating the kind of ground balls he used to get outs throughout his career. Without the help from his defense, though, the three hits and one walk he did give up in the inning ballooned into four runs, obviously helped by Uribe’s errors.

But despite that bout of ugliness in the fourth inning, the White Sox kept it together — and got contributions from the rest of the roster to make up for it.

Jermaine Dye hit a two-run homer. Joe Crede drove in a run, as did Pedro Lopez, who played in just two games for the 2005 White Sox. Buehrle navigated around some more trouble, retiring eight of the last 12 batters he faced — including getting a huge double play to get out a jam with the tying run 90 feet away in the fifth and another double play in the sixth. Dustin Hermanson sat down the only three hitters he faced, and despite a shaky ninth inning from Damaso Marte, Aaron Rowand made a game-saving catch on a line drive with the winning run at second base for the final out.

Borrow a term from an even older White Sox team: winning ugly.

Victories don’t have to be pretty, as long as they’re victories. And whether that’s staging a comeback win without the benefit of a hit or holding off a self-inflicted charge, the 2005 White Sox did it.

What else?

— Frank Menechino batted second for the Blue Jays in this one. He’s currently the White Sox hitting coach, and Toronto was one of two stops during his major league career. After spending five and a half big league seasons with the A’s, he was dealt in the middle of the 2004 season and spent his final major league campaign with the Jays in 2005. He had only a .216 batting average in his 70 games that year but reached base at a strong .352 clip. He had a hit and a walk in this one against Buehrle.

— Pedro Lopez again! This guy played in a grand total of two games for the 2005 White Sox. And he got an RBI hit in both of them. He had an RBI single as part of an 8-0 win over the Tigers on May 1. A week later, he got the start at second base, spelling Iguchi, and delivered an RBI hit that drove in the White Sox fifth run, eventually the difference-maker when the Blue Jays scored four off Buehrle in the bottom of the fourth. “Team of destiny,” anyone?

— This was Buehrle’s first win against the Blue Jays in his career, the only American League he hadn’t beaten coming into this start.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 6, 2005: Down 3-2 heading into the seventh, Dye tied the game with a solo homer to leadoff that inning. The White Sox grabbed the lead in the eighth on a two-out, two-run single by A.J. Pierzynski. White Sox win, 5-3, improve to 22-7.

May 7, 2005: The White Sox hit five homers, including two by Paul Konerko, scoring 10 runs in the first four innings to make up plenty for Jon Garland surrendering six runs to Blue Jays bats. White Sox win, 10-7, improve to 23-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 11, 2005, game against the Devil Rays, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Konerko drove in a pair with a double in a four-run fourth, and Orlando Hernandez allowed just three hits in a solid outing.

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MLB The Show sim: White Sox return home, lose to 1-9 Seattle Mariners

MLB The Show sim: White Sox return home, lose to 1-9 Seattle Mariners

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Coming off of a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the White Sox returned to Guaranteed Rate Field to take on the cellar dwelling Seattle Mariners, who started their season with a 1-9 record.

The first inning seemed to look all too familiar for Dylan Cease as he started the game with two hits given up, putting runners at second and third. Cease dug his feet in and battled to strike out the next three batters to get out of the jam. The young righty reached 99 mph on the gun in his daytime start, but was pulled by Rick Renteria with only 85 pitches through 4 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one earned run.

With the game tied at 1, Renteria went to the pen with Kelvin Herrera, but he struggled once again in relief giving up two runs in the fifth.

The White Sox lone run came in the bottom of the second when Eloy Jimenez hit a solo homer to left field, his fourth of the season. That extended his hitting streak to nine games. Later in the frame, Nomar Mazara hit a towering shot to center field only to be robbed by Seattle’s Dom T-Williams at the wall to end the inning and ultimately the Sox scoring.

The White Sox did threaten in the ninth with two outs. Edwin Encarnacion forced a walk followed by a Yasmani Grandal single, which extended his hit streak to seven games. With two aboard, it was Jimenez with the chance to create some magic, but he popped out to right field to end the contest and the White Sox win streak.

Result: Mariners def. White Sox 3-1

Record: 6-4, second in AL Central (0.5 GB of Indians)

W: Marco Gonzales (1-1)

L: Dylan Cease (0-1)

SV: Yoshihisa Hurano (1)

White Sox lineup

  1. Tim Anderson: 2-4 (.372 BA)
  2. Yoan Moncada: 0-4 (.326 BA)
  3. Jose Abreu: 1-4 (.267 BA)
  4. Edwin Encarnacion: 1-3, BB (.235 BA)
  5. Yasmani Grandal: 1-4 (.333 BA)
  6. Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, HR, RBI (.270 BA)
  7. Luis Robert: 0-3 (.182 BA)
  8. Nomar Mazara: 0-3 (.194 BA)
  9. Leury Garcia: 0-3 (.214 BA)

Scoring summary

Top second:

  • Dee Gordon doubled to right field. Kyle Seager scored. 1-0 SEA.

Bottom second:

  • Eloy Jimenez homered to left. 1-1.

Top fifth:

  • Kyle Seager singled to center. Mitch Haniger scored. 2-1 SEA.  
  • Dom T-Williams fielder’s choice. Carlos Gonzalez scored. 3-1 SEA.

Notable performance: Alex Colome has excelled in his new role of middle reliever after Aaron Bummer grabbed the closer job. Colome hasn’t given up a run in 5 1/3 innings pitched and opposing left-handed batters are hitless against Colome this season.

Next game: Tuesday, April 7, Gm. 11: Mariners at White Sox (Taijuan Walker, 0-1, 8.38 ERA vs. Lucas Giolito, 1-0, 2.31 ERA)