White Sox

White Sox have a secret weapon in next offseason’s pursuit of Manny Machado

White Sox have a secret weapon in next offseason’s pursuit of Manny Machado

Next year at SoxFest, if the stars align, a gargantuan contract is offered and a certain free-agent shortstop/third baseman believes his baseball future belongs on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will introduce Manny Machado as the grand prize to their rebuild to a frenzied crowd of Sox fans at the Hilton Chicago.

If it happens (and we’ll get to the “if” in a moment), you’ll be able to credit chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for giving Rick Hahn the enormous funds to make it happen.

But you’ll also be thanking their new catcher Welington Castillo for being the White Sox ace in the hole in luring Machado to 35th and Shields.

“He’s my friend. We are tight,” Castillo told NBCSportsChicago.com about Machado. “I called him a few weeks ago. We were texting and I was doing FaceTime with him.”

Really …

So, were you FaceTiming him about possibly signing with the White Sox next offseason?

“Just to play around, I said, ‘I hear that you’re going to go to Chicago.’ He said, ‘That’s what I hear, too. That’s a rumor.’ I said, ‘Hey, I want you to be in Chicago, too.’ He said, ‘I’m going to play whatever they want me to play.’”

Shortstop? Third base? I don’t think the White Sox will mind where. The larger question is how?

With big-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers potentially in the mix next winter for Machado, who could command a contract of $300 million or more, how will the White Sox be able to compete considering the largest free-agent contracts they’ve ever signed were to Jose Abreu (six years, $68 million) and Paul Konerko (five years, $60 million)?

Hahn revealed in a SoxFest seminar on Friday that the White Sox have actually made multiple offers to players in the past that exceeded $100 million.

Asked about signing big-time free agents next offseason in the media session earlier in the day, Hahn let it be known that money will not be an issue.

“I can certainly assure you that the resources will be available,” Hahn said. “Can I assure you we’re going to be able to convert on every target? No. Unfortunately, it’s a going to be a robust and competitive market. I get that question a lot, and I get it, because it would seem to break with our past practice to be aggressive or to be at the top of the market.”

That’s mythbuster No. 1. Hahn then listed a few more.

“I would say over the last 18 months we’ve sort of busted a lot of the myths about how the White Sox go about their business. There was certainly a lot out there that the Chicago White Sox would never rebuild. Obviously we did. There was a lot written a year ago that we would never make a trade with the Chicago Cubs, even if it made us better. And obviously we did.

"Additionally, people touted that we would never incur a significant tax or penalty in order to sign a player like we did with Luis Robert. Each of those steps along the way reinforced this process and put us closer to being in position to win championships. Being competitive in free agency and targeting big-ticket items and hopefully converting on them is going to be the next logical step when the time is right.

"Anyone who doubts that this organization will break from past perception or past process, I think the evidence is there over the last year that the old standard has fallen apart.”

When Machado becomes a free agent, he’ll be asking a lot of questions.

“How much money are they offering?” That’s probably No. 1. After that, he’ll likely want to know about the culture, climate and talent inside each clubhouse. That’s likely the biggest reason the White Sox tried acquiring Machado this offseason, to give him a first-hand look at what the White Sox are all about before he hits free agency.

But he’s got a close friend in Castillo who admits he had “a lot of offers” from other teams but specifically chose to play for the White Sox, partly because of their young talent.

“I know this team is going to be good, really soon.”

The other factor in his decision was Rick Renteria, who managed Castillo when he played for the Cubs.

“I like everything (about Renteria). He has the players’ back. You want to give everything you have for him,” Castillo said.

Will the White Sox be able to sign Machado next winter? Who knows?

But with the franchise trending in the right direction, and with waves of talent either in Chicago or starting to knock on the door, they’ve got Machado’s close friend already in his ear.

Castillo signed with the White Sox to catch baseballs. Helping to reel in Machado would be his biggest catch of all.

Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

It took a couple months for Eloy Jimenez to get going in his rookie season, but the prized White Sox outfielder is meeting most reasonable expectations for his first year in the majors.

Jimenez smacked his 30th home run of the season Sunday in Detroit, which represents a notable round number milestone. Jimenez now has eight home runs in September and it’s only the 22nd of the month.

Jimenez launched a 2-0 slider to left center in his first at-bat to give the White Sox an early lead in Detroit.

A 30-home run season is a long way from the player Jimenez looked like in April and May. Entering June 1, the 22-year-old was hitting .220/.273/.390. He was struggling to lay off sliders out of the zone and looked a bit lost at the plate.

In June, Jimenez looked like the talented hitter the White Sox believed he was capable of becoming. He hit .284/.340/.602 with eight home runs, including a memorable go-ahead home run in Wrigley against the Cubs.

An injury playing the field in mid-July in Kansas City cost him a couple weeks and seemed to disrupt whatever rhythm he was building in June. This month, Jimenez is once again showing his elite potential. He won AL Player of the Week last week.

Jimenez’s overall numbers now have the look of a solid, promising, albeit still flawed rookie season. After Sunday, Jimenez is hitting .269/.318/.514. The power is there, but the batting average and walk rate are both lower than most expectations for him long-term. However, to put up an above average overall season at the plate as a rookie while dealing with two stints on the injured list is definitely a strong base to build from.

Expectations will be higher for Jimenez in 2020. Many will expect him to take a step towards becoming a middle of the order hitter for years to come. For now, it’s safe to look at Jimenez’s 30th home run as proof of a solid rookie campaign.

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Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Even as the White Sox finish up the final stretch of their seventh consecutive losing season, the games they are playing aren’t meaningless -- Jose Abreu acknowledged as much when he said that the 2020 season “starts in September”. Key contributors in the White Sox lineup have clearly taken that to heart, as the Sox offense has been one of the best in baseball in the month of September. 

Here are four numbers* that reflect what has been a torrid stretch for the Sox offense to close the season:

*All stats as of the morning of September 21

Three

Three has been a magical number for the White Sox in September. For one, going into play Saturday, the Sox boast the top three leaders in hits for the month: Tim Anderson (32), Yoan Moncada (29) and Eloy Jimenez (28). The team as a whole is also third in baseball in total bases (319) and OPS (.832) in September -- only trailing the Astros and Yankees in both categories, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. 

Unrelated to the number three, but also worth noting, the team is leading the majors in batting average this month:

 

10

Ok, we cheated a little bit here -- 10 makes this list as a reference to Yoan Moncada’s jersey number, but in fairness, we needed a full section to highlight all Yo-Yo has done at the plate this month. He enters play Saturday as the major league leader in batting average (.444) and WAR (1.6) in September, and is currently working on a streak of five consecutive multi-hit games (he has 12 since the start of the month). 

To give even more of an idea of how scalding hot of a stretch it has been for Moncada, here is a side-by-side of his full-season slash-line on September 1 compared to September 21 (a stretch in which he has played 16 games):

  • September 1: .288/.342/.518 (.860 OPS)

  • September 21: .314/.368/.547 (.915 OPS)

Oh, and that .314 batting average? As of Saturday, that's only one point behind Michael Brantley for third in the AL. If Moncada can usurp Brantley, him and Anderson would make up two-thirds of the best three batting averages in the AL. *In best Larry David voice* Preeeeetty, pretty good.

27

“When I feel good, I don’t know, it’s just reaction. I don’t try to do too much and [I] just try to hit it on the barrel,” Eloy Jimenez said post-game last night, in reference to his grand slam against the Tigers. 

The Sox as a team are certainly employing that mentality this month, and the data reflects it. According to Baseball Savant, the White Sox lead baseball in balls batted with an exit velocity of greater-than-or-equal to 108 mph in September with 27 (the next closest team is the Yankees, with 20). Three such instances occurred in last night’s 10-1 rout in Detroit, including Moncada’s 24th home run of the season:

 

118

wRC+ is a weighted, park-controlled measure of a player’s ‘runs created’ wherein the league average is 100 and a player’s proximity to 100 determines how above or below average they register (if you’re curious, there is a great explainer of wRC+ on Fangraphs).

The White Sox have struggled in this metric for most of the season -- their wRC+ as a team is 92 (eight percent below league average), which ranks 20th in baseball. However, in September, the Sox collectively have a wRC+ of 118 -- a whopping 18 percent better than league average -- which ranks fourth in MLB for the month. It’s over a small sample size, as all of these stats are, but it remains an encouraging indicator that the offense is ending the year on a strong note. 

The offseason will officially be upon us soon enough, but if the Sox continue to rake, as they have been all month, there’s still time for a couple exciting moments and performances before the long wait for 2020.

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