White Sox

White Sox avoid arbitration with quartet including Jose Abreu and Carlos Rodon

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USA TODAY

White Sox avoid arbitration with quartet including Jose Abreu and Carlos Rodon

The White Sox will not be taking part in the arbitration process this winter, handing out contracts to all four of their remaining arbitration-eligible players Friday.

Jose Abreu, Carlos Rodon, Yolmer Sanchez and the recently acquired Alex Colome all agreed to one-year deals.

Abreu will receive $16 million after the worst statistical season of his big league career. But despite a slide in statistics caused by an uncharacteristic, extended slump in the middle of the season and a pair of freak injuries, Abreu was elected as the American League's starting first baseman in the All-Star Game and won the second Silver Slugger of his career. He remains the team's best hitter heading into the final year of his current contract.

Colome will receive $7.325 million as he begins his tenure on the South Side. Acquired in the trade that sent Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners, Colome will likely return to closing two seasons after he led the majors in saves. He probably would have kept racking up saves last season had he not been dealt from the Tampa Bay Rays in a midseason trade.

Rodon will receive $4.2 million after a bounce-back season of sorts that saw him return from shoulder surgery. For the second straight year, he didn't debut until June, but he showed an ace-like ability at times, with a particularly nasty stretch during July and August, when he owned a 1.84 ERA over the course of nine starts. A rough September, though, ballooned his ERA to 4.18 by season's end. He'll be tasked with completing a healthy season in 2019 after making just 32 combined starts in 2017 and 2018.

Sanchez ($4.625 million) ranked among the major league leaders in triples, one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise challenging year offensively. Only Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Ketel Marte had more triples than Sanchez's 10, a number that led the AL. But he slashed just .242/.306/.372. Still, Sanchez plays a big role in energizing the clubhouse and keeping things light. His versatility on the infield makes things easier for Rick Renteria, too, and should be valuable as the White Sox still aren't sure how their infield alignment will shake out for the 2019 season.

Leury Garcia, who was also eligible for arbitration this offseason, agreed to a one-year deal back at the end of November.

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What baseball's extension trend — now starring Mike Trout — means for the White Sox rebuild and future free-agent pursuits

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USA TODAY

What baseball's extension trend — now starring Mike Trout — means for the White Sox rebuild and future free-agent pursuits

Baseball's hottest club is "Extension."

With back-to-back winters of free-agency frustration and changes to the collective-bargaining agreement (if not something much worse) looming, some of baseball's biggest names are saying "forget it" to what was once the ultimate goal of every player: reaching free agency and cashing in for big bucks. But you see it now, unless you're Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, that path has become a very risky one. Even a Cy Young winner like Dallas Keuchel can't find a job. Same goes for Craig Kimbrel, one of baseball's best closers and a guy potentially on his way to the Hall of Fame.

And so the extension craze is sweeping the game. If your current team is willing to hand out massive dollars, why risk jumping ship? Take the money. Take the security. Especially when these contracts are of the record-breaking variety.

The latest member of the club is the best player in baseball. Mike Trout reportedly agreed to a 10-year extension with the Los Angeles Angels. Throw in the two years and roughly $70 million remaining on his current contract, and he'll make $430 million over the next 12 years.

Trout's new deal follows the one Nolan Arenado took with the Colorado Rockies last month, the one that will net him $260 million over the next eight years. That came just a few years after Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325 million with his then-current team, the Miami Marlins. He was traded to the New York Yankees after the first three years of that contract and will be in pinstripes through the 2027 season.

Those guys are three of the best players in the game, but these kinds of deals aren't limited to only the most elite talents/brands in baseball. This offseason featured "stay with your current club" deals for Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies), Luis Severino (Yankees), Aaron Hicks (Yankees) and Miles Mikolas (St. Louis Cardinals). Next year's free-agent class is set to be absolutely loaded, but Arenado's already taken himself out of it. Hicks won't be a part of it, either. Given this trend, there's speculation Chris Sale might not hit that market and instead sign a new contract with the Boston Red Sox. Same for Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals. And here's a thought: Now that Trout has a monster deal in hand, what will that mean for the other guy who was set to break the bank after the 2020 season, Mookie Betts, the reigning AL MVP? Is there a possibility that a free-agent class assumed to star two of baseball's biggest names now might not contain either?

And that's why this all applies to the White Sox.

No, Trout sticking with the Angels doesn't have some dramatic impact on the White Sox ability to compete for championships in the future, nor does any single one of these extensions in isolation. But as part of his ongoing rebuilding project, Rick Hahn wants to add a premium talent from outside the organization. It's been part of the plan all along. There were opportunities to do that this offseason with Machado and Harper, but those two are playing elsewhere. Those weren't the last opportunities. There will be others in offseasons and at trade deadlines to come.

But this trend of extensions could limit those opportunities.

Arenado was at the top of the wishlist for many White Sox fans, but he's not going anywhere until at least after the 2021 season and he might stay in Denver through the length of his contract, through the 2026 season. Rendon, then, looks like a fine alternative, a third baseman who has been excellent in recent seasons, with a .305/.389/.534 slash line, 49 homers and 192 RBIs in the last two years. Well, if he decides to stay in D.C., there goes the opportunity to add him to the mix on the South Side. Sale might have no interest in coming back to the White Sox, but no matter how realistic his return is or isn't, if he takes himself off the market, that dramatically shifts the starting-pitching market in free agency next offseason, a market the White Sox could be looking to be a part of.

So whether these extension signers or extension candidates are White Sox targets or not, their avoidance of the free-agent market will have its consequences for Hahn's front office.

It's worth noting, though, as Stanton and the Marlins showed, these extensions do not mean all these players will remain with the team they sign with. Trades could become an even more common way to acquire the game's best players after they cash in for their big-money deals. In that area, the White Sox could find more opportunities. After all, Hahn has built a talent-packed farm system, and trading from a position of depth — such as the outfield, where seven of their top 11 prospects play — could end up being the way in which the White Sox get their premium talent from outside the organization.

Trout might not have been in the cards for the White Sox two offseasons from now, so news of his high-priced extension might have made no difference to the team on the South Side. But he's joining in a trend — and now setting a new bar with this record deal — that could have big effects on which players the White Sox will even have the opportunity to pursue in the coming years. And because building a contender solely out of homegrown players is just about impossible, that's a big deal.

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Dane Dunning undergoes Tommy John surgery as another White Sox prospect goes on the shelf

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USA TODAY

Dane Dunning undergoes Tommy John surgery as another White Sox prospect goes on the shelf

Another highly rated White Sox prospect will spend much of the next year in recovery mode.

Dane Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery Monday, the team told reporters in Arizona, pairing him with Michael Kopech as pitching prospects in recovery mode.

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Dunning was shut down last June because of a forearm issue, the White Sox hoping to avoid Tommy John at that time. He wasn't invited to big league camp this spring, with general manager Rick Hahn explaining that decision away as a way to ease Dunning into the 2019 campaign. But Dunning again experienced forearm discomfort during camp, and Hahn said last week that all options were on the table, including the Tommy John surgery that came Monday.

Dunning will presumably go through the standard recovery process following the surgery, which lasts many months. Kopech, the organization's top-rated pitching prospect, underwent the procedure not long after making his major league debut in late August, and he will not pitch in 2019.

The surgery is a tough turn of events for Dunning, who was putting together a terrific 2018 campaign when he was shut down last summer. He had a 2.71 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 86.1 innings between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. Hahn spoke glowingly of Dunning, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 80 prospect in the game, as someone who could've competed for a spot in the major league rotation this spring, if not for the injury.

Dunning becomes just the latest White Sox prospect to have a significant injury in the last couple seasons. Third baseman Jake Burger, the team's first-round pick in the 2017 draft, suffered a pair of Achilles tears last year and missed the entire season. Kopech will not pitch again until 2020 while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Springtime injuries delayed the 2018 debuts of both pitcher Alec Hansen and outfielder Luis Robert until the summer. Outfielder Micker Adolfo is on the mend from Tommy John surgery, as well. Outfielder Luis Basabe suffered a broken bone in his hand this spring.

Individually, these injuries do little to dim the bright futures of the players. Even with time off to recover, their ceilings remain high. But both individually and collectively, they do figure to affect the timeline of the White Sox ongoing rebuilding project, thanks to missed developmental time. Enough players experiencing those delays on their path to the majors can add up to the team's planned contention window perhaps opening later than initially hoped.

 

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