White Sox

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

White Sox free-agent focus: J.A. Happ

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching. So why not take a cue from the fine folks at Jewel and think local?

J.A. Happ is an Illinois native and attended Northwestern, and he’s a free-agent starting pitcher coming off a mighty fine season in 2018. Following a midseason trade to the New York Yankees, he posted a 2.59 ERA in 11 starts. While his numbers vastly improved after he left the Toronto Blue Jays, he finished the 2018 campaign with a career-high 193 strikeouts. In addition to last year’s success in the Bronx, he had an ERA under 4.00 in each of the three seasons prior, playing in Toronto in 2016 and 2017 and splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.

What Happ doesn’t seem to be, however, is a long-term option. He just turned 36 years old, meaning he likely doesn’t align with the White Sox rebuilding timeline and the planned opening of the team’s contention window.

What Happ could do, however, is serve as a bridge (however long) to that future, a future where Michael Kopech is recovered from his Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease has reached the major leagues. You could certainly do much worse than Happ when it comes to finding a one- or two-year fill-in, and the White Sox were reportedly "working to sign" Happ during last week's GM Meetings in Southern California.

Happ would also serve as a veteran presence and potential mentor for the team’s young pitchers, the kind of role James Shields filled last season. Rick Hahn discussed the importance of that role last week.

“Having someone in there who provides a level of stability for the rotation and dependability every fifth day has some appeal that you would allow young players to go through some of the growing pains that are inevitable in their development,” Hahn said. “Having someone who can play that veteran, mentor role who can help teach guys whether it's from a game prep standpoint ... or any level of alteration with certain pitches, which is where James had the biggest impact in the minors.

“Having a guy who can play that role has appeal. It's not just what a guy can do between the white lines, it's what a guy can do for you in the clubhouse, is part of this equation.”

Happ might not stoke fans’ imaginations in the same way fellow free agents like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel might. But he’s a more realistic option that would allow the White Sox to continue to develop a homegrown rotation of the future.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

In a candid interview with Chuck Garfien, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon talks about the rebuild, his struggles last season, Manny Machado and more.

He explains his troubles from last September (04:04), if he thinks he deserves to be the White Sox Opening Day starter (07:34), why it's time for the White Sox to start winning (08:20), if the White Sox did everything they could to sign Manny Machado (10:32) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though the White Sox failed in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, spring training goes on.

There’s a season to be played. Machado certainly would have helped in 2019, but as someone who was here before the rebuild began and hopes to play a big role with the White Sox when their contending window opens, Carlos Rodon says it’s time.

It’s time for the White Sox to start winning.

“There’s a point in time where it’s s**t or get off the pot, man. I mean, there’s a point where you’ve got to make a turn,” Rodon said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve been on teams like this before, not in the big leagues, but during my younger baseball career, where they’re OK or weren’t good at all, and there’s a point where the team turned and we became great or just winners. We just came together and it just happened. It’s got to happen soon. We’ve got to start picking up some ground. This is about winning, and I get the whole ‘there’s a process to winning,' and I agree a hundred percent with Rick (Hahn), but it’s time.”

Rodon isn’t promising an AL Central crown in 2019, but if White Sox fans are starting to feel a little itchy after 195 losses in the first two seasons of the rebuild, you’re not alone. Rodon feels your impatience.

The impressive prospects that Hahn and the front office have signed or acquired are starting to find their way to the majors, but is there enough talent in the clubhouse right now to answer Rodon’s hope of turning the corner in 2019?

“These guys are here for a reason, so I believe in every guy beside me in this locker room. I think we have the ability. I’ve always liked being the underdog. I’ve always liked being the guy that has something to prove. It just gives you a little fire,” Rodon said.

For the White Sox to take that next step, several players must start reaching their potential. Rodon includes himself in this category.

Coming back from shoulder surgery last season, Rodon returned in mid-summer and showed flashes of that ace the White Sox envisioned he’d become when they picked him third overall in the 2014 draft.

He combined to go 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in July and August. What happened in September?

“For a lack of a better term, I s**t my pants. It seems like it always happens. Right in the middle of August and July, I get on a good run and then I s**t my pants,” said Rodon, who went 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in the final month of the season.

What went wrong?

“I don’t know. I try to do too much. I have stuff that I don’t have to throw that 96 (mph) up there all the time. Just kind of let it work. Something I was working on today just kind of smoothing it out. I try to do more than I should when what I have is already good enough,” said Rodon, who turned 26 in December. “It’s just being young, I guess you could say. Still learning how to pitch.”

Entering his fifth season in the majors and holding the most seniority in the White Sox starting rotation, Rodon could be in line to start for the White Sox on Opening Day. But ask him if he thinks he’ll get the ball when they begin the season March 28 in Kansas City, he gives a very honest answer.

“It would mean a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really deserved it. I haven’t really earned it,” Rodon explained. “But if I am the Opening Day starter, I’ll take it with pride and go out there and compete. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t feel like I’ve truly earned a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, but that’s because we have a young rotation and I guess you could say (I have) most of the experience except for Ivan (Nova).”

While many White Sox fans would have loved to have seen Machado in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, Rodon doesn’t fault the front office in their attempt to sign the All-Star free agent.

“Guys that make it to free agency have been in the big leagues for six years and they’ve earned the right to decide where they want to go. Now granted, I commend Rick, Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) and all of the guys in the front office that put in all of the hard work to try to make a run at Machado. They should be able to go home at night and sleep well because they did everything they could. It’s not up to us. The player still has a decision. He has a decision to make and he decided to go a different route and we did everything we could, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Something you move on from and the season continues,” Rodon said.

Do you believe the White Sox did everything they could to get Machado?

“I believe we did. I think we did, so they say. And I’m going to go with that. I trust what they say.”

And trust Rodon when he says it’s time for the White Sox to turn things around. There’s a clubhouse filled with players who feel the same way.

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