White Sox

White Sox scattered all over All-Star voting update, another sign of rebuilding progress

White Sox scattered all over All-Star voting update, another sign of rebuilding progress

The Midsummer Classic will be played in Cleveland, but it might have a distinct South Side flavor.

Baseball released an All-Star balloting update Monday, showing that three White Sox position players ranked in the top four in voting for their respective positions: James McCann ranked second at catcher, Jose Abreu ranked third at first base, and Tim Anderson ranked fourth at shortstop. Yoan Moncada was eighth among American League third basemen.

As far as the end goal of the White Sox rebuilding effort goes, it’s ultimately meaningless how many of their players make the All-Star team. There’s no rule tying All-Star representation to one’s ability to win the World Series. But having numerous guys in contention to make the team — even if they don’t win starting spots, McCann, Abreu, Anderson and Moncada would still have strong cases to make the AL roster — is a nice sign of rebuilding progress.

It’s another example that the rebuilding project is moving in the direction the White Sox want it to. All these position players plus Lucas Giolito, who’s pitching as well as anyone in the game, and even closer Alex Colome are having All-Star kinds of seasons. Those guys are all part of the team’s plans past the 2019 season (Abreu, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the year, sure sounds like he’s part of those plans, anyway), which means that All-Star consideration is not just a nice nod that things are going well this season but an indication that 2020 could see the White Sox contention window start to open.

“It’s indicative of more the process moving forward,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday. “Right now, Tim is fourth for shortstops. I’m biased. I think he should be higher on that list. Moncada should be much higher on the list than he is.

“I don’t know how much notice other people necessarily are taking, but I do see All-Star caliber seasons out of young players that we drafted and developed, like Tim Anderson, or we traded for, like Moncada and Giolito, or even free agents we signed, like James McCann. That’s all positive signs for this process moving forward.”

Much like Anderson didn’t concern himself with leading the AL in batting average earlier this season or his chances of being named AL Player of the Month for April, he similarly brushed aside the early results of All-Star voting. Unsurprisingly, the guy who owes much of his current success to the work he’s put in over the years wants to keep focusing on said work. But he couldn’t deny how nice a trip to the All-Star Game would be.

“I don't care about that,” he said. “We'll see what the results are. I only can control what I can control, keep going and keep having fun.

“It'd be a good thing to have under my belt. Why not? But I don't need that to approve of me being a great player. I'm just going to keep working and keep having fun with it.”

Anderson’s received plenty of nationwide attention this season already after he was at the center of the bat-flipping brouhaha with the Kansas City Royals. He doesn’t necessarily need any more of it. But he’s hoping his teammates get some, which would in turn shine a spotlight on the progress that’s happening on the South Side.

“Those guys deserve it,” he said. “A lot of people sleep on this organization. But we're going to keep working and keep bringing attention to us, keep having fun. It means we're doing something good if they're paying attention to us.”

The chances the White Sox land multiple guys in the All-Star Game actually seem pretty good at the moment. Giolito figures to be a shoo-in if he continues pitching like one of the three or four best pitchers in the American League. McCann and Abreu could benefit from playing positions without a ton of competition. Anderson would be a great inclusion as at least baseball’s marketing department seems to want to “let the kids play.” Moncada and Colome are certainly worthy of consideration.

If it’s a large White Sox contingent, that’ll be a mighty good sign for the direction this franchise is heading. If there isn't that much representation, well, the White Sox get to go to Cleveland plenty, right?

“Yeah,” Anderson said, “but one more trip won't hurt.”

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


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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MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

It isn't "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but it is "an" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The MLB Players Association announced Monday that White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito is a finalist for its "Players Choice" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, voted on by the game's players. He was joined by outfielders Hunter Pence of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals. On the NL side, the three finalists were Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The whole "voted on by your peers" element is pretty cool, as certainly they know how different the 2019 version of Giolito was from the one they saw a year earlier. James McCann, who played against Giolito as a Detroit Tiger in 2018 and then caught him as the White Sox backstop in 2019, constantly talked about how transformed Giolito was from one year to the next.

A totally different pitcher.

That's precisely what Giolito seemed like to us non-player types, too, after he went from the worst statistics of any qualified pitcher in 2018 to an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff in 2019.

Giolito gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in the game in 2018, also leading the AL in walks during a season he finished with a 6.13 ERA. Then he went to work in the offseason, making mechanical changes and overhauling his mental approach to the game. It resulted in the kind of breakout season the prognosticators foresaw when they ranked him the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time.

In 2019, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, went to the All-Star Game, struck out a whopping 228 batters — that particular feat accomplished by only two other pitchers in White Sox history — and will likely place somewhere in the AL Cy Young vote.

His season was highlighted by a pair of complete-game shutouts against two of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Both shutouts came against 100-win teams on their own turf.

Presumably some Astros and Twins threw a few votes Giolito's way.

Giolito's status when it comes to "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be revealed next month, after the World Series is over. But for now, this is a pretty cool feather in the cap for him, another example of how far he's come.

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