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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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Price has long been speculated as someone the Red Sox might be able to get another team to take off their hands. Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, certainly are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested that the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control certainly would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve another young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a trade? Is there any reason to trade for Price and Price alone?

Certainly the White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts of the campaign. But he made only two starts over the season’s final two months, bothered by a cyst in his wrist. He finished with a 4.28 ERA that was the second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price, from a production standpoint. But Price doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed a whole mess of red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade certainly has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

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USA TODAY

Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

SAN DIEGO — The White Sox still need two pitchers, and the pool of free-agent options is shrinking.

Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the two names at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market, might never have been true possibilities for the White Sox, but they sure won’t be now, each signed to a massive deal at this week’s Winter Meetings.

Zack Wheeler spurned the White Sox and their high bid to take less money and pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. Jordan Lyles is now a Texas Ranger. Tanner Roark is now a Toronto Blue Jay. Josh Lindblom is now a Milwaukee Brewer. Michael Wacha is now a New York Met.

Yes, the options still out there remain attractive. Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel or Hyun-Jin Ryu would do the job of firing up the fan base and pairing with Lucas Giolito atop the South Side starting staff. But those are just three pitchers. And there are a lot of teams on the hunt for starting pitching.

Of course, it’s also not that simple. Hahn might have said this in talking about losing out on Wheeler: “You either get the guy or you don't. When you don't, you move on to the next one.” But it’s not as easy as just moving down to the next biggest name on the free-agent market.

“Any guy we target is because we feel strongly that they fit in for the long term, in terms of a big-ticket free-agent acquisition that we feel is going to help make us better throughout the good portion of this upcoming window,” the general manager said Wednesday. “There does come a point on any list, whether it's after the third guy or after the sixth guy or after the 10th guy, where you're no longer describing that type of player. So it's up to us to figure out how quickly we drift into that group.”

The price tags are getting high for these pitchers, and Hahn admitted that the prognosticators missed the mark a bit when it came to predicting the massive paydays Cole, Strasburg and Wheeler received. Those big deals could drive up the price on the Bumgarners and the Keuchels and the Ryus.

It’s not that the White Sox are incapable of spending in that area — they reportedly offered more than $120 million for Wheeler’s services — they just might not be as enamored with those options as folks on the outside might be.

Hahn is still committed to the idea that “the money will be spent,” though he’s not 100-percent committed to it all being spent in one place.

“I think it would be awfully foolish to say we're going to go out and spend whatever the amount of the offer (to Manny Machado) was immediately,” he said. “The point of that comment was there's other ways for us to allocate this money, and it's going to be allocated toward player acquisitions.

“You could argue some of it went to (Yasmani) Grandal, you could argue some of it went to the Eloy (Jimenez) extension or re-signing (Jose) Abreu or whatever we have coming down the pipe next.

“That offer was over an eight- to 10-year period, so to say it's all going out the door in Year 1 just because it's sitting there, maybe, but it's got to be for the right players.”

But does the right player exist anymore? Wheeler certainly seemed to be that for the White Sox, but he’s off the board and they still need two arms. It might be time to get creative.

What about David Price?

Hahn’s been throwing the spotlight on trades this week, talking at length Wednesday about an intriguing proposal the front office was considering, one that might not line up perfectly with the White Sox rebuilding plans.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday that multiple teams have targeted Price, the Boston Red Sox playoff hero who is still owed a whopping $96 million over the next three seasons. The Red Sox, interested in ridding themselves of salary, could attach him to another player to incentivize a team to take that contract off their hands.

This is where the White Sox could come in. They have the financial flexibility to eat up Price’s remaining dollars. And they’d probably be pretty interested in acquiring one of Boston’s bats to stick in the middle of their lineup. The Red Sox have a lot of hitters who could be of use to the White Sox, but certainly Andrew Beninitendi comes to mind. He’s under club control for three more years, and while his addition would probably require a bit of realignment in the outfield, it’d be a good one to the South Side batting order.

The 34-year-old Price, meanwhile, wouldn’t exactly be, from a production standpoint, the high-quality add to the starting staff that other, still-available arms would be. He had a 4.28 ERA in 2019, the second highest of his career and his highest in a decade, even though he had positive stretches during the Red Sox otherwise miserable World Series hangover.

There are more concerning elements with Price, too. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase writing last week: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Certainly none of that is terribly appealing.

But the White Sox need pitching. They need it. They can’t go into next season with what they’ve got or we’ll see the same parade of ineffective fill ins that we saw in 2019. Price might not be Cole. He might not be Wheeler. He definitely is preferable to Manny Banuelos and Odrisamer Despaigne.

And if he brings Benintendi with him? What if he brings J.D. Martinez with him? What if he brings Mookie Betts with him? Well, you can probably forget about Betts, the White Sox not at all interested in trading their top-flight prospects for one year of anyone, but the other two are worth thinking about.

There’s another element to all this: the return cost. When discussing that mysteriously appealing trade offer Wednesday, Hahn alluded to the popularity of the White Sox prospects. That comes as no surprise. What does is that the White Sox would consider trading any of them away. It’s near impossible to envision Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Michael Kopech going anywhere. But what about Andrew Vaughn? Or Dane Dunning?

It’s all speculative at the moment, of course. But the White Sox pitching need isn’t going to go away until they make some moves. Other teams are doing just that, making Hahn’s job harder by the minute.

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