White Sox

Is White Sox adding Jon Jay a precursor to Manny Machado signing?


Is White Sox adding Jon Jay a precursor to Manny Machado signing?

Are the White Sox really going to sign Manny Machado?

The 26-year-old superstar free agent still hasn't announced that he's made up his mind between the White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. And if he still hasn't actually reached a decision, he's now got something else to think about. The White Sox are reportedly adding Jon Jay to their outfield, a solid move under non-Machado circumstances but a really intriguing one given the ongoing Machado sweepstakes.

Jay, Machado and Yonder Alonso — the White Sox recently acquired first baseman/designated hitter and also Machado's brother-in-law — have known each other forever. They're all great friends and train together every winter in Miami. And you don't have to look too hard to find evidence of how tight a group this is.

"As a kid coming up, I’d see Jon and Yonder out there making their mark, and it gave me something to shoot for. They set the example. I looked up to those guys."

That's Machado from a February 2017 piece for the Players' Tribune titled "The Miami Baseball Brotherhood."

"The three of us all come from the similar backgrounds," Jay said in the same piece. "I’ve known Yonder since he was 10. And we’ve both known Manny since he was a young kid coming up. We’re from the same neighborhoods, the same culture, so it's just natural for us to stick together."

"We all play on different teams now, but everyone knows we have a special bond," Alonso said. "When one of these guys comes to town, my teammates will be like, 'Look out ... the Miami crew is here.' We’ll pick each other up at the airport! Everybody just knows how it is. Miami guys stick together."

Well, now two of the three are on the same team, and the White Sox would very much like to complete the set. The White Sox aren't going to come out and say they spent millions on two veteran players to take up two roster spots and not project to be a part of the oft-discussed long-term plan just to lure Machado to the South Side. But that sure as heck seems to be what they're doing. And if Machado does choose the White Sox over the "spend stupid" Phillies and the Yankees, his supposed preference, it will have been worth it because Machado is that potentially transformational for this team.

The White Sox have reportedly made their offer to Machado, and connecting some dots — off Bruce Levine's report that they're not willing to go past seven years for either Machado or the other mega free agent, Bryce Harper, and off Bruce Nightengale's report that it's closer to $200 million than $300 million — it could be in the ballpark of seven years and $210 million, perhaps higher. Maybe it won't be the biggest contract offer, but only the White Sox can offer Machado the opportunity to play with his brother-in-law and his good friend.

But Jay's value to the White Sox is of course about more than just his relationship with Machado, perhaps even more so than Alonso's.

Jay fills a definite offseason need for the White Sox, who opened up a big hole in their outfield when they non-tendered Avisail Garcia. While Eloy Jimenez is expected to take over daily left-field duties beginning at some point in April and Adam Engel is still incredibly gifted with the glove in center field, the prospect of choosing from Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico and Leury Garcia in right field didn't look quite as appealing. Jay is an upgrade, offensively and defensively.

He owns a .352 career on-base percentage, an area where the White Sox needed to improve, and was excellent with the Kansas City Royals last season, a .307 batting average and a .363 on-base percentage in 59 games before getting dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn't fare so well in Phoenix, with a .235/.304/.325 slash line in 84 games there. But the track record is there, and he swings a better bat than Delmonico, Leury Garcia, Engel and Palka (save the home-run aspect) did in 2018.

Jay is an obvious upgrade defensively, should the idea be to play him mostly in right. If that ends up being the case, the White Sox will have two 2018 Gold Glove finalists in their outfield. Of course, Jay brings versatility in the outfield, playing all three positions every season since 2014. So Rick Renteria could easily opt to mix and match Jay, Engel and Leury Garcia in center and right.

And Jay has a stellar reputation in the clubhouse. The White Sox needed an influx of veteran clubhouse presences, positive ones, of course, that could help mentor an otherwise young-and-getting-younger roster and the prospects that have already begun making their way to the South Side. Jay will help with that, and while his reported deal will only last one season, he can have a long-term impact in the short term, even if he's not the kind of guy anyone's going to pencil into a lineup of the future.

But Machado is that kind of guy.

Jay brings plenty of positives to this White Sox team, but until the Machado sweepstakes has a winner, his connection to the guy who would be the biggest free-agent splash in White Sox history is going to be a focal point.

Hey, what better way to make a long-term impact than help convince Machado to sign up for the better part of the next decade?

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Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season


Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

In the second inning Daniel Palka solidly lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure hit off the bat. The problem? The Tigers defense was shifted perfectly to that spot for a lineout.

MLB Statcast gave Palka’s lineout an expected batting average of .650. It seemed like just another night like the rest of them have gone for Palka in the majors in 2019.

He entered Friday with a .034 batting average (2-for-59). After hitting 27 home runs with 45 extra base hits and a .778 OPS as a rookie in 2018, Palka hasn’t been able to do much of anything in a White Sox uniform.

That lineout appeared to be another “nothing can go right” moment. However, Palka’s Friday turned around.

His next time up, he pounded a ground ball that found a hole. Statcast gave that one a 31 percent chance of getting a hit, so he broke even after getting robbed earlier. The amusing thing is that Palka’s groundball single had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph, which was the second hardest hit ball of the game.

Palka later added a bloop single in the seventh and a line drive hit in the ninth to finish with a three hit day. Palka entered the day with two hits in 23 games and got three hits in Friday alone.

Even with the 3-for-5 night, Palka’s batting average is still only .072, but he more than doubled it in one game.

Is this relevant to the future of the White Sox? Almost certainly not, but Palka showed some promise in his rookie season and has been through an absolute nightmare this season. The mental side of going through his 0-for-32 start to the season and the continued struggles since could not have been easy. For at least one night in 2019 Palka had a good game at the plate.

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Dylan Cease has one of his best White Sox starts as part of a very good rebuild day


Dylan Cease has one of his best White Sox starts as part of a very good rebuild day

Dylan Cease’s rookie season has had plenty of growing pains, but Friday’s start against the Tigers may have been his best in the majors.

Yes, the Tigers have the worst record in baseball, but Cease will take them however he gets them at this point. The 23-year-old struck out eight while giving up one run in six innings in a 10-1 White Sox win.

Cease has now given up one run in each of his last three starts. That stat is a bit misleading, though, because he only lasted 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 8 against the Angels. In that game, Cease walked five and gave up four hits, but was able to limit the damage.

On Friday, Cease had a 1-2-3 first inning and pitched around a leadoff double in the second inning. A leadoff walk and two singles in the third inning led to the only run Cease allowed on the night.

In the final three innings Cease struck out five, didn’t allow any walks and gave up two hits. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 24 batters he faced, which is important for a pitcher who has struggled with his command this year both in Triple-A and the majors.

In four starts in September, Cease has a 3.00 ERA with 28 strikeouts, 12 walks and 16 hits allowed in 21 innings. He’s not consistently going deep into games yet and his command remains something to improve on, but that stretch is definitely something to build on for Cease.

His overall numbers (5.79 ERA, 81 strikeouts, 35 walks, 78 hits, 15 home runs in 73 innings) leave a lot to be desired, but the White Sox didn’t need (and probably didn’t expect) Cease to dominate as a rookie. This isn’t a contending White Sox team. However, the hope for next year is that the team will start to approach that status. Having Cease show signs of growth and progress late in 2019 so he can be closer to the standout pitcher they believe he can be in 2020 is important.

As 2019 winds down and thoughts of 2020 become more prominent for the White Sox front office and fan base, games like Friday are what everyone will be expecting to see on a regular basis. Cease racking up strikeouts with a quality start and the offense being led by Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. Jimenez had a grand slam and finished a double shy of a cycle, Moncada reached base three times and homered and Anderson had two more hits to take another step toward the AL batting title.

Sure, it's just the Tigers, but this game was a blueprint for what White Sox wins in the future are expected to be built around.

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