White Sox

White Sox free-agent focus: Manny Machado

White Sox free-agent focus: Manny Machado

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.

White Sox fans have been eyeing Manny Machado as a potential free-agent addition for years, and now Machado’s time in the free-agent spotlight has finally come.

But at least on Twitter, Machado is no longer the universally agreed-upon, must-have addition to this rebuilding effort he once was. Machado generated countless headlines with his words and actions during the playoffs this October, causing many a fan to sour on the 26-year-old four-time All Star. He didn’t run out a ground ball, not exactly a cardinal sin — unless you play for Rick Renteria, more on that in a bit — but made matters so much worse when he said hustling wasn’t his cup of tea. Then he interfered with a couple double-play turns and appeared to intentionally drag his foot over the leg of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar.

On-field antics are nothing new for Machado. He’s thrown a batting helmet and a bat at opposing players in the middle of games, and he had a notorious spikes-up slide into Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But the playoff shenanigans brought his on-field style into the national limelight, and White Sox fans noticed.

But how much difference will it all make in the end? Machado is still expected to receive one of baseball’s all-time biggest contracts considering he’s still young and has a remarkable track record of success with the bat and the glove. He’s thrice finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting and won a pair of Gold Gloves at third base. He’s coming off a career year, finishing the 2018 regular season with a .297/.367/.538 slash line, 37 home runs and 107 RBIs — all those numbers the best of his seven-year career.

When it comes to the White Sox specifically, he of course fits with their long-term plans at just 26. He’d be an obvious upgrade for a team that lost 100 games last season and would slot into the middle of their order for years to come. They’re reportedly interested in Machado — along with the other biggest name in this year’s free-agent class, Bryce Harper — with mentions of their interest dating back to last year’s Winter Meetings. But interest has to be mutual, and Machado’s been mentioned as desiring to play for the New York Yankees, who could use a shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Plus, there are some White Sox related questions that would accompany Machado that wouldn’t apply to Harper.

First, the White Sox have a long-term shortstop in Tim Anderson, whose defensive improvement was one of the biggest highlights of the 100-loss 2018 campaign for the South Siders. Anderson earns consistent rave reviews from White Sox brass, and while Machado is a Gold Glove third baseman — a position where the White Sox do have an apparent long-term need — he was rather insistent on playing shortstop this year and figures to still have such a desire to stay at that position. Would Anderson thrive elsewhere on the field? Would Machado be willing to move back to third for the right contract?

And then there’s Renteria, who made a habit of benching players for not running out ground balls, pop ups and line outs throughout the season. No type of player was safe from Renteria’s punishments, with Avisail Garcia, the White Sox lone 2017 All Star, getting a benching during a spring training game. How would Machado, who insists he’ll never be “Johnny Hustle,” fit in with Renteria’s culture? For what it’s worth, general manager Rick Hahn once again committed to that culture during last week’s GM Meetings. He also revealed just how committed the White Sox are to Renteria in confirming a previously unannounced extension for the skipper.

Whether any of the addressed stuff outside the MVP-caliber production ends up mattering in a union between Machado and whatever team ends up signing him remains to be seen. But he will without a doubt make that team a better one.

MORE MANNY MACHADO NEWS

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James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

Major League Baseball released a second voting update for All-Star Game starters and three White Sox players are still in the mix.

The top three spots at each position (and top nine in the outfield) are all that matter for now, with those players advancing to MLB’s new Starters Election. James McCann is the only member of the White Sox to sit in one of those spots for now.

McCann is second at catcher behind Gary Sanchez of the Yankees. He is nearly 800,000 votes behind the Yankees backstop.

Jose Abreu was in third in the last update at first base, but has fallen behind Carlos Santana of the Indians. Luke Volt, another Yankee, leads with C.J. Cron of the Twins in second. Santana is just under 43,000 votes ahead of Abreu.

Tim Anderson is still in fourth at shortstop. Jorge Polanco of the Twins and Carlos Correa of the Astros are comfortably in the top two spots. Gleyber Torres, yet another Yankee, is just over 45,000 votes ahead of Anderson for third.

There aren’t any other White Sox within striking distance of the top three. Yoan Moncada remains in eighth among third basemen.

Polls close Friday at 3 p.m. CT.

 

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Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

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USA TODAY

Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

When Eloy Jiménez returned from the Injured List in late May and rejoined the White Sox lineup, he went on the road to Houston and Minnesota and he struggled to the tune of a .148 batting average and .148 on-base percentage, with four hits (three went over the fence), 11 strikeouts and no walks.

For the season, his slashline was .217/.259/.406 with five walks and 36 strikeouts. He was swinging at 49.8 percent of all the pitches he saw (a bit above the 46.7 percent league average); he was swinging at 38.8 percent of pitches outside the zone (quite a bit above the 30.9 percent league average).

He returned to the comfort of Guaranteed Rate Field on May 27 and took a pair of walks. From that point forward, things started to look a lot better… and the results were in line with that observation.

Eloy Jiménez this season:

  PA AVG OBP SLG BB K Swing % Outside zone swing %
Through May 26 112 ,217 .259 .406 5 36 49.8 38.8
Since May 27 71 .297 .366 .594 7 18 45.9 30.8

Not only has he improved quite a bit, but that 30.8 outside the zone swing percentage is second only to Yonder Alonso’s 29.9 percent mark among White Sox with at least 40 plate appearances since May 27. Jiménez hasn’t been chasing nearly as many bad pitches lately.

Those pitches he has been laying off of have for the most part been the low and away stuff, as indicated by his swing charts below. First, his swing rates before getting hurt and then since he came back from injury.

These charts are from the catcher’s perspective, and from what you can see, he has done a much better job of laying off the low and away pitches. Look at the three zones furthest low and away. There’s a big difference.

Start of the year through May 26:

Since May 27:

Through May 26 he swung at 33.8 percent of pitches (51 of 151)  low and away and out of the zone. Since May 27 he has swung at 14.5 percent of those pitches (10 of 69).

It’s only an 18-game sample, so there will certainly be more adjustments made to combat Jiménez, but I believe we’re watching Eloy begin to mature into the middle of the order force as he was advertised.

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