White Sox

White Sox send Adam Engel to Triple-A with goal of getting his offense to more closely match his defense

White Sox send Adam Engel to Triple-A with goal of getting his offense to more closely match his defense

Adam Engel's hitting has to improve.

That's not news to White Sox fans. Or to Engel, or to the White Sox, it should be noted. But the White Sox finally took the step of sending Engel to Triple-A Charlotte to work on his offense, optioning him there along with reliever Caleb Frare after Sunday's loss to the visiting Boston Red Sox.

Engel has struggled to find much offensive success at the major league level, the owner of a career .207 batting average in 226 big league games. But this is the first time he'll move down a level since coming up to the majors in June of 2017. All but the first eight games of his career have been played since he was called up on June 20, 2017, and while his numbers were certainly better in 2018 than they were in 2017, it's generally been a struggle.

Engel's defense, of course, is elite. He was a Gold Glove finalist last year and has made a habit of robbing would-be home-run balls off the bats of opponents. He's a tremendous center fielder, no one's doubting that.

But a career .262 on-base percentage just isn't going to fly at the major league level, and though this might be another season of waiting for the young stars of the future to develop, the White Sox opted to move Engel off the active roster Sunday.

"He's got to hit. He's got to go play. Bottom line. He's got to go get some more at-bats," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "He hasn't started with us. We've had (Leury Garcia) going out there, and Ryan (Cordell)'s getting his shot in right. We're making this move to get him the at-bats.

"I'll tell you what I told him: I want his dynamic defense to be parallel with some offense. Simple as that. He needs to get on at a .330 clip, he needs to hit maybe .250 so that he can help you both offensively and defensively."

Some frustrated White Sox fans might scream "it's about time" at their screens upon reading the news, and that's not surprising after they watched Engel do what he's done at the plate over the last two years. This is a guy who hit .166 in 2017. To his credit, those numbers were better last season, when he finished with a .235 average. He's off to a .212 start this season, not showing many signs of making another jump to a more respectable level, but also, as Renteria mentioned, not exactly getting a ton of opportunity to do so.

As things stand right this second, Engel doesn't look like someone who will be a big part of the White Sox long-term plans, at least not without some things dramatically changing. Outfield is probably the deepest part of the farm system, and the hope is that of a large group of young players containing Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe, Blake Rutherford, Luis Gonzalez, Steele Walker and Joel Booker, at least three or four of those guys will be able to hit better at the big league level than Engel has to this point.

If that happens — and obviously the White Sox would like to have the "good problem" of having too many good outfielders — where's the room for Engel? If the White Sox become a contending team, he would perhaps have good value as a defensive replacement. But the White Sox aren't there yet.

Maybe Engel discovers some magic in this trip to Charlotte. Given the churn involving the outfield and the pitching staff so far this season, it wouldn't exactly be surprising to see Engel make another appearance on the South Side before the campaign's over, and Renteria said that he fully expects Engel to play in the big leagues again after Sunday.

But in order to make himself a desirable addition, he's going to need to improve what he can do with the bat. That's not news. But it's the decision the White Sox made Sunday.

"Do I think he's a big league player? Absolutely. Do I think Engel will be back in the big leagues? Absolutely," Renteria said. "Because he believes it and we believe that he has the skill to do it. We're trying to make sure that both sides of the game are running a little more parallel."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Emotional interview with Michael Kopech and Vanessa Morgan

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USA Today

White Sox Talk Podcast: Emotional interview with Michael Kopech and Vanessa Morgan

Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey speak with Michael Kopech and his wife Vanessa Morgan at SoxFest about their relationship, Michael’s comeback from Tommy John surgery, his battles with mental health, removing himself from social media, handling fame, Morgan’s acting career and more.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

SoxFest brings the opportunity for fans to question team brass. And sometimes things can get a bit fiery.

This year, however, it was more of a victory lap for Rick Hahn after he loaded up the roster with an incredible amount of offseason acquisitions. Rick Renteria, too, got plenty of adulation after he came out and said the White Sox have their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

But there were still questions. Fans stepped up to the microphone and got some answers out of Hahn and Renteria during a pair of panels Friday and Saturday.

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent questions and answers from the two sessions.

Extensions for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito?

The White Sox have made headlines in each of the last two offseasons by handing out big-money extensions to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before they played a game in the major leagues. But Saturday brought a fan question about whether the team was planning more extensions, specifically ones for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two guys who broke out in a big way in 2019 and established themselves as the team's best all-around hitter and the ace of the starting staff, respectively.

These are not terribly pressing matters, obviously, as both guys are under team control for another four seasons. But the longer they go on their current deals and the longer they're allowed to keep improving, the more expensive they'll become to retain.

Hahn said that it's a White Sox priority to keep all of their talented young players together for as long as possible. He also mentioned that it has long been a part of the plan during the rebuilding process to be aggressive on extensions, as the team has shown with the deals for Jimenez and Robert. Players earn the right to reach free agency and explore the open market, but the White Sox do have a pretty good track record of retaining their own players, often on deals that have allowed them to keep some financial flexibility.

Tim Anderson in right field?

Whether it was a legitimate strategy proposal or a makeshift way to get Yolmer Sanchez back to the South Side, one fan suggested moving Tim Anderson to right field, pointing out Anderson's large number of errors at shortstop and that moving Anderson off the position would open room for Sanchez to work his defensive wonders on a daily basis.

Well, that suggestion didn't get much consideration from Renteria, who said rather definitively he will not be playing Anderson in right field.

The question might not have been the most realistic suggestion, but it allowed Renteria to express his belief in Anderson's defense. Though Anderson has made a ton of errors at shortstop — 88 of them in his four big league seasons — he continues to receive rave reviews from White Sox brass. Renteria said Saturday he believes Anderson will be "an elite shortstop in the big leagues," and Hahn said this weekend he believes Anderson will be a Gold Glove finalist one day.

As for Sanchez, he's still on the free-agent market despite winning a Gold Glove in 2019. And while the White Sox have shortstop spoken for with Anderson and second base spoken for with Nick Madrigal, eventually, Hahn was asked about the likelihood of a Sanchez return Friday night and basically reminded everyone to never say never.

More starting pitching?

Hahn said Thursday that while there likely won't be any more big-ticket additions, the White Sox busy winter might not be completely over just yet, with minor moves still being discussed by the front office. More starting pitching would seem to make plenty of sense considering there's not a ton of depth behind the five guys slated to make up the Opening Day rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez. Considering the plan for Michael Kopech has yet to be finalized and Dylan Covey is no longer with the organization, some small additions like the Ervin Santana deal last spring would be logical.

One fan asked why not add a slightly bigger ticket item, specifically bringing up free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, to further bolster the starting staff. Hahn wouldn't close the door on adding more starting pitchers but pointed out that because of the depth the White Sox have on the way — with Kopech factoring into things somehow and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all working their way back from Tommy John surgery — the White Sox might not be the most attractive destination for a mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, who could see his opportunity to pitch vanish once all those arms return to full strength.

A return for Dane Dunning?

Speaking of starting-pitching depth on the way, Hahn did offer up some sort of timeline for one of those guys, saying that Dunning could be pitching for a minor league affiliate come "June-ish." That's a made-up month on the same level as "Smarch," but it's also a good sign for the White Sox, who saw Dunning flying through the system before his injury.

Hahn said at last year's SoxFest that if not for the arm injury he suffered in 2018, Dunning could have factored into the Opening Day rotation for the 2019 season. Considering that level of potential readiness — a level most likely altered in some fashion by the surgery and long layoff — Dunning might be someone who could play a role in the 2020 season.

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