White Sox

White Sox hoping new hitting coach Frank Menechino is another element of transition to contention

White Sox hoping new hitting coach Frank Menechino is another element of transition to contention

Rick Renteria doubled down on his declaration that it’s time for these White Sox to make the move to winning baseball.

Well, he’s said it so much at this point it’s less of a double down and more of an octuple down.

“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said Thursday, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”

This is expected to be a busy offseason for the White Sox, and Rick Hahn’s lengthy to-do list means he’ll be addressing plenty of those aspects. But the first one addressed was the hitting coach, Frank Menechino announced Thursday as the replacement for Todd Steverson.

Menechino gets a promotion from the same job with Triple-A Charlotte, his role for the past season after the White Sox hired him last winter following five years in the majors with the Miami Marlins. From Hahn and Renteria on Thursday came plenty of compliments of Menechino’s ability as a communicator, as a teacher.

“He's got a very sound message about his approach to hitting and teaching hitting. He's an effective communicator in getting that message across to players,” Hahn said. “And he has a number of different tools in his box about how to get that message across and different ways to teach and effectively get guys to buy in to what he's preaching from an offensive standpoint. He's a very skilled, diverse teacher and that's going to serve us well over the coming years.”

While Steverson took a ton of heat from fans upset with the White Sox place at the bottom of the offensive ranks, the quality of the players on the roster will likely produce the seismic change there, not the removal of one hitting coach for another. The White Sox saw plenty of positive strides in that department in 2019, with Tim Anderson winning a batting title, Jose Abreu winning an RBI crown, Yoan Moncada blossoming into the team’s best all-around hitter and Eloy Jimenez blasting 31 home runs in his rookie season. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal — who both worked with Menechino in Charlotte — had spectacular seasons in the minor leagues and are on the doorstep of the majors.

None of that, however, could keep the White Sox out of the basement in many of the most important offensive categories, runs scored chief among them. And so Menechino is tasked with continuing to develop the team’s core players into stars of the future as well as getting the team to hit better. Those things go hand in hand, obviously, and Hahn himself will share in that responsibility this winter when it comes to improving the roster.

As for Menechino, he’s got his own strategy for coaching up Anderson, Moncada, Jimenez and the like.

“You get to know them, you get to see what makes them tick, you get to learn them, see how they think, what improvements they want to make,” he said. “I’m a firm believer (that) it takes three years in the big leagues, roughly 1,500 at-bats, to figure out who you are as a big league hitter.

“Once these guys have the experience, ups and downs, all the different stuff, little adjustments here, little adjustments there, once you figure out who they are and what they want to do, that’s when you figure out what they will become. Once they have the belief in who they are and what they can become, now it’s my job to be their eyes to keep them where they want to be.

“And when I see things going bad, I have to have the relationship where I can approach them and say, ‘Hey you’re not doing this right, you’re falling back to this.’ So it’s getting to know them, getting to see where they’re at, where they think they’re at and want to improve on.

“You can have a relationship with a guy where you can go in there and get the best out of him. That’s kind of my plan with guys that have successful years. I ask questions. ‘Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself? Who do you see yourself as?’ This is where you come together.”

It all rolls into the White Sox making the moves they believe necessary to take the next step, to make the jump from rebuilding mode to contending mode. How?

“Hopefully what it does, maybe it expands the underlying value of things we need to do in terms of getting on base more, and that simply means that guys are going to be more apt to be aggressive with their pitches, staying in their lanes, trying to do a little bit in terms of being more disciplined. I think it keeps the line moving, it allows guys to continue to improve upon their approaches,” Renteria said. “I think the way he connects to guys, as we've seen with a lot of the things we've talked about, seems to be a place that we need to go to. And that, coupled with, hopefully, some additions, will continue to improve us overall, give us an opportunity to be on the other side of winning and losing.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Where will White Sox turn for pitching? Are they destined to lean on internal options?

Where will White Sox turn for pitching? Are they destined to lean on internal options?

SAN DIEGO — Pitching. The White Sox need it. And their No. 1 target is now a Philadelphia Phillie.

“What's next?” doesn’t quite do the mystery justice.

Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all been thrown around as possibilities, mostly because they’re in the same free-agency tier that Zack Wheeler was in. You remember Wheeler, the guy who turned down a superior financial offer from the White Sox to please his family and pitch for the Phillies. Seeking help elsewhere in that same tier makes sense, but it’s possible the White Sox might not be quite as enamored with their backup plans as they were with their primary target.

That’s obviously the case, by definition, but perhaps the gap is bigger than Hahn suggests when he says the White Sox will “move on to the next one.” Not all free agents are created equal.

“That's part of the reason we moved so quickly on Yasmani (Grandal) is we felt he brought a very unique set of tools to the situation, and we wanted to make sure we locked that in. And we found a guy that aligned, not just economically with what he wanted, it was a good fit and something we were able to get done quickly,” Hahn said, pointing to an example of the White Sox acquiring their No. 1 choice. “In other segments of the market, there is some greater fall off, as well. In some, it's not so much of a fall off.

“The guys are the primary targets for a reason, but certainly, there's more than one way to skin a cat and we'll find a different way to get it done.”

The different way could involve none of those free-agent names. While reports have tied the White Sox to Bumgarner and Keuchel to various degrees, they were reported to be after Jordan Lyles, who recently signed with the Texas Rangers. Hahn said his front office was focused more on trades than free-agent signings in its conversations Monday in San Diego.

Trades, though, could be difficult, as the White Sox seem hellbent on hanging on to their top-rated prospects, a completely understandable stance considering the promise they show as impact players. Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech figure to take over as top-of-the-depth-chart guys in 2020. Andrew Vaughn, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert might not be far behind.

What’s certain is those players won’t be going anywhere in exchange for a one-year fix. That’s more relevant to conversations involving Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor or Kris Bryant than ones involving a pitcher. But it’s important to remember that any trade talk probably starts midway down the list of White Sox prospects, a difficult way to land a truly impact player.

“There’s been, obviously, the pains and suffering that comes along with the early stages of a rebuild. We endured all that so we would be able to be in a position of building something that was going to be able to win on an annual basis, that was going to have some success for an extended period of time,” Hahn said. “Right now, we are in a bit of an interesting spot.

“Fundamentally, as a fan that has dealt with the hardships over the last three years, you want that benefit, that promised-land side of things to come more quickly. At the same time, we have to keep in mind why we started this and that was to build something sustainable. You don’t want to do anything short-sighted that’s just going to, trade wise, give us a quick bump next year but compromise the extended window we foresee coming when this all comes together.

“You need to be cognizant of that temptation to try to accelerate things. We want to get this to where it needs to be as quickly as possible. We don’t want to do that at the expense of shortening the window or making the window more difficult when it does open, whether that’s in the next few months or it takes a little longer.”

OK. So trading for impact fixes in the rotation appears unrealistic. The buzz surrounding the White Sox and free-agent signings diminished significantly as time went on during the first day of the Winter Meetings, and the possibility exists that the backup plans to Wheeler won't be quite as easy to pull the trigger on.

So what do the White Sox do?

It’s almost impossible to envision a parade of ineffective arms the likes of which we saw in 2019, when Ervin Santana and Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey and Odrisamer Despaigne and Ross Detwiler manned a rotation that was exposed for its lack of big league ready depth. But should the White Sox come up empty on top-of-the-rotation free-agent fixes like they did with Wheeler, it’s not quite as difficult to envision stopgaps of some sort that set up what could still be a deeper pitching staff come 2020. Hahn raved about the potential for homegrown depth in the near future.

“There's still multiple options out there,” Hahn said when asked how the pitching market looks post-Wheeler. “We're going to continue to explore them both via trade and free agency.

“It's funny we talk about 2020, obviously, because that's the most important year we we can currently put our fingers on. We do think that, as we sit here, a year from now we have a chance to have a fair amount of depth on the pitching side. It doesn't mean we don't want to augment it, not only to get better in 2020, but to hedge that bet on the depth a little bit going forward and to create even more options for us going forward.

“But I do look forward to a year from right now and we're sitting up in that suite looking at our board. And I think the viable options in the big leagues are going to be even deeper than they are now.”

That’s true, mostly because Kopech and Dylan Cease should have full major league seasons under their belts and Dunning, Lambert and Carlos Rodon should all be back from Tommy John surgery.

So what does all that have to do with signing Bumgarner right now? If the White Sox are so gaga over the potential of their internal pitching depth a year from now, are they pleased enough to forego a potential impact addition this winter — one they’re not nearly as thrilled about making as compared to how they felt about Wheeler?

A pitching staff built primarily on internal options would not at all be a bad thing, but such an outcome relies on all those young arms hitting the way Lucas Giolito did in 2019. That's extremely difficult. The three models for turning a rebuild into a world championship, the Cubs, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals, have had almost no luck doing that. The biggest names in those championship runs, from a pitching standpoint, were Jon Lester, Justin Verlander and Jonny Cueto. The Royals are now rebuilding. The Cubs have struggled to find any homegrown pitching since Theo Epstein's regime took over. It's really hard to do.

These are questions with few answers, really. Hahn doesn’t talk about specific free agents, meaning everything is a philosophical discussion rather than a “this is what we’re doing” one. Are the White Sox opposed to adding a top-of-the-rotation pitcher? Absolutely not, they’d love to. Are they going after Keuchel to do it? That’s not quite as open for discussion.

And that’s a fine policy for perfectly understandable reasons, it just leaves so much a mystery. Mystery is all we have regarding the potential additions that could follow Grandal this offseason. The White Sox need pitching, and they’ll get it. But are they jazzed about the remaining options to the point it will top any of the internal options on the depth chart? Stay tuned.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

All quiet on the White Sox front: South Siders showing 'no urgency' to make moves at Winter Meetings

All quiet on the White Sox front: South Siders showing 'no urgency' to make moves at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO — This is not what White Sox fans wanted to hear during what was supposed to be an aggressive offseason.

“There’s simply no urgency to get anything done here.”

That was general manager Rick Hahn speaking on the first night of the Winter Meetings here in Southern California. It’s true what Hahn says, that the White Sox can accomplish their business just as well next week as they can this week, providing the players they want remain available.

But in an all too apt example of how quickly things can change at the Winter Meetings, the question surrounding the White Sox went from “How big a splash will they make this week?” to “Will they do anything at all this week?”

For a team seemingly so intent on getting business done, on spending to accomplish its goal of acquiring premium talent from outside the organization — like they did last month in signing Yasmani Grandal — the buzz (or lack thereof) in San Diego was that the White Sox weren’t much involved on the bigger names on the free-agent market.

Forget the biggest names. Stephen Strasburg returned to the Washington Nationals on Monday. Gerrit Cole seems destined for a bidding war of epic proportions between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. Anthony Rendon hasn’t been tied to the White Sox much at all this winter. But word that they were in the mix for Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna and Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel subsided as the hours went on Monday.

MLB.com’s Jon Morosi started the day by predicting that Keuchel would land on the South Side, by saying there was a pretty good chance the White Sox could end up with either Castellanos or Ozuna. Hahn ended the day by saying this:

“Certainly we would love to get stuff done here. We’ve been known to get stuff done at the Winter Meetings. We’ve also had some quiet Winter Meetings along the way. But there’s simply no urgency to get anything done here.

“We’d love to knock off everything on our list while we are all together here, but that’s no different than how we were approaching our business last week or the week before or the week before Thanksgiving when we signed Yasmani.

“We will remain engaged in conversations. In terms of predicting whether something happens, it’s really sort of impossible to say until we get right on that goal line, which we are not at just yet.”

As mentioned, things can change quickly. Hahn brought up past instances of him meeting with reporters with nothing to report, only for multiple moves to happen in the hours that followed. Considering the sheer volume of needs Hahn has pledged to address — two starting pitchers and a right fielder being the most noteworthy — the White Sox would figure to be exploring enough possibilities that something could come along and change his tone at any second.

But a front office that teased a busier-than-usual offseason sounded unsure about getting anything done this week.

“I’m not trying to hide the ball when I say I can’t predict what’s going to happen over the next few days,” Hahn said. “But I do know no matter what happens over the next few days, we like the position we're in going forward. We like the progress that's been made at the big league level over the last few months of the last season. We like the progress made on a number of fronts with the prospects. And we like the addition of Yasmani Grandal, and obviously having Jose (Abreu) back.

“We know we still have work to do. Ideally we get a good portion of that done here over the next few days, but if we don't, that's fine. We've proven in the past we can acquire a guy next Tuesday just as easily as we can this Tuesday.”

Of course, the White Sox tried to acquire a guy last Tuesday, and Zack Wheeler’s decision to spurn their superior financial offer to pitch for the family comfort of the Philadelphia Phillies was a prominent topic Monday night with the general manager. He’s clearly not feeling much better about this outcome than he did about Manny Machado turning the White Sox down in favor of the San Diego Padres back in February.

This time around was different, though, with the White Sox controlling everything they could control, making the richest offer on the table — and still ending up at the same place.

“A bit of it's Monday-morning quarterbacking, and it doesn't matter if you don't get the guy,” Hahn said. “So I'm not going to go too deep into how fine of an effort or how great of an offer or any of that stuff. You either get the guy or you don't. When you don't, you move on to the next one.”

Trying to figure out who that “next one” is has proven difficult, with seemingly every free-agent starting pitcher not named Cole or Strasburg thrown out as a possibility. The White Sox were reportedly going after Jordan Lyles, who signed a free-agent deal with the Texas Rangers. They’ve been linked to Bumgarner and Keuchel in various fashions. Hahn said the team’s work Monday was more focused on trades than free agency.

It’s evident Wheeler was the primary target. As for the backup plan, you have to wonder how big a gap there was between the White Sox desire for Wheeler and their desire to, as Hahn said, move on to the next one.

“That's part of the reason we moved so quickly on Yasmani is we felt he brought a very unique set of tools to the situation, and we wanted to make sure we locked that in. And we found a guy that aligned, not just economically with what he wanted, it was a good fit and something we were able to get done quickly,” Hahn said, pointing to an example of the White Sox acquiring their No. 1 choice. “In other segments of the market, there is some greater fall off, as well. In some, it's not so much of a fall off.

“The guys are the primary targets for a reason, but certainly, there's more than one way to skin a cat and we'll find a different way to get it done.”

As for when? Good question. The Winter Meetings are certainly not the be all, end all, and Hahn has talked in the past about winning the offseason only for that “W” not to translate to the standings come summer. It was in this very city five years ago when the White Sox made those post-dinner moves to acquire David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija. Things did not play out quite as victoriously once they started playing the games.

But Hahn also talks about the White Sox deserving to play with the big boys, about the White Sox being an attractive destination, about the White Sox moving into the next phase of their rebuilding project. If all that is true — and the team’s desire to spend big is as big as it seems after their (successful) run at Grandal and (unsuccessful) run at Wheeler — then something is going to have to happen eventually.

Right?

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.