White Sox

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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White Sox Insider Notes: Andrew Vaughn expands versatility at third base

White Sox Insider Notes: Andrew Vaughn expands versatility at third base

It’s not uncommon for baseball players to be seen working out at positions they usually don’t play in games. Heck, Jose Abreu somewhat regularly takes groundballs at shortstop.

But in the case of Andrew Vaughn – the White Sox’s No. 3 overall draft pick in 2019 – working out at third base this week, there might be something there. In fact, when Rick Renteria was asked if third base is a position Vaughn can handle, the manager immediately said, “I do.”

“He's got really good feet, his exchange is very good,” Renteria said. “He's got a very good arm. He has all the makings of being able to play that position.”

Someone jumping to major conclusions might suggest that the White Sox are grooming Vaughn to play third base this season in case Yoan Moncada, who is still absent from camp, can’t. While Vaughn having a contribution in 2020 can’t be completely ruled out, it’s important to remember that he didn’t play above High-A ball last season and isn’t being helped by the lack of a minor league season this year. He’s simply one of the high-profile prospects the White Sox are still trying to develop in camp, while also preparing for a regular season.

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“When we got (back to Chicago), the work in terms of trying to get him to have the ability to do a little bit more has come into play,” Renteria said. “So we put him over there with an understanding that we'd continue to work and be mindful obviously of what he's capable of doing. There are several of us that believe he's capable of moving around.”

Ultimately, that’s what this is about. Many within the organization believe Vaughn can be more than a first baseman and the White Sox are using this opportunity to increase his versatility.

“The worst-case scenario would be him just not doing anything,” Renteria said. “Any time you're around baseball, any time you're around the highest level of players that exist in the game, any time you're following routines, things that are helping you learn something about your skill set, it's always a plus.”

It may just be a short three-week period, but the White Sox are trying to maximize Vaughn’s time at Guaranteed Rate Field, knowing developmental time could be limited the rest of 2020. He’s very much in the team’s plans, perhaps even in the short term.

“I look at him as a baseball player. He is a young man that is very bright and that I believe would be able to make adjustments,” Renteria said. “Would anybody say he'll go hiccup free? No. But certainly don't have any lack of confidence in his ability to make a transition should he need to do it. Bare minimum, we allow him to continue to expand his flexibility and value to a ballclub.”

Moncada, Kopech updates

Not much has changed with the two high-profile players that came over in the Chris Sale trade. Neither Moncada or Michael Kopech are currently with the team in camp, but there is some hope that Moncada won’t miss a ton of time.

“Obviously Moncada will be back soon,” pitcher Lucas Giolito said during his Zoom call with reporters Wednesday.

The White Sox haven’t given an official reason for Moncada’s absence, although two unnamed players tested positive for COVID-19 during last week’s intake. Kopech is dealing with a personal issue.

“It's a fluid situation and we'll deal with it as it arises, so I can't really give you any update,” Renteria said about Kopech. “Just to know that we have the ability to have him return with us.”

First intrasquad game plan

Unlike other teams that jumped right into intrasquad games, the White Sox have eased into camp slowly, showing some patience. But that changes Thursday with the first game scheduled for 1:10 p.m. The White Sox will play four innings and the scheduled pitchers include: Steve Cishek, Aaron Bummer, Ross Detwiler, Carson Fulmer and Drew Anderson, although Renteria teased some sort of surprise.

“We got a few sides and then there's a couple guys that we might be able to add,” he said. “That may be your little surprise piece for tomorrow.”

Know this: it will be the most anticipated intrasquad game in White Sox history.

 

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Chicago White Sox fans can order cardboard cutouts to sit in stands

Chicago White Sox fans can order cardboard cutouts to sit in stands

Diehard White Sox fans will have a new way to show their South Side pride this season.

The team announced on Wednesday that 1,500 fans will be allowed to purchase a cardboard cutout of themselves to “sit” in the stands during Sox home games.

The cutouts cost $49, with net proceeds benefiting White Sox charities. All fans need to do is submit their payment along with a photo and their contact information, and the White Sox will take care of the rest.

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If you’re unsure what makes a great cardboard cutout photo, don’t worry, the team has you covered. They published a “FANtastic Faces” submission guide to help snap the perfect pic.

Other teams, like the Oakland A’s have launched similar campaigns. And cardboard cutouts have become a staple in Korean baseball as well.

Only question now: will cardboard vendors come around with cardboard hotdogs for those cardboard cutouts?


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