White Sox

The window could open in 2020: 'Watch out for the White Sox'

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USA TODAY

The window could open in 2020: 'Watch out for the White Sox'

Meaningful baseball in September. Playoff baseball in October.

That’s what White Sox fans have been waiting and hoping for since the rebuild began back in 2016.

“Wait till next year” never beats “this is the year.”

So, when might that day come?

Even before Rick Hahn and the front office have made a single move in what could be an active offseason, veteran catcher James McCann gave his own prognosis for 2020, a forecast that would make for a nice billboard on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

“Next year is the year to watch out for the White Sox,” McCann told NBC Sports Chicago. “There’s talent here that’s in place. I believe in the front office and their visions for what’s needed to add to this team to make us a big-time contender.”

McCann has played with winning talents like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, David Price and Justin Verlander. Same with pitcher Ivan Nova, who’s been teammates with the likes of Derek Jeter, C.C Sabathia, Mariano Rivera and Andrew McCutchen.

They know winning teams — and losing teams — when they see them.

“Playoff contender soon,” Nova said emphatically about the White Sox.

How soon?

“Soon,” Nova repeated.

2020 seems like the year when the window should start to open for the White Sox.

“I look to obviously contend,” McCann said about next season.

After watching his team lose two of three to the lowly Kansas City Royals on Thursday, clinching their seventh straight losing season, manager Rick Renteria echoed the same sentiments about where the White Sox are — and where many on the team believe they’re headed.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Renteria said, asked if he thinks 2019 will mark the end of this losing era. “We’re trying to win. We talk about it, we’re going through it. I know there’s still some refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re coming in, we’re finishing this season, we’re talking about coming into next season ready to battle. Period. Exclamation point. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

For that to happen, you can point to several areas for that to become a reality. Some of those players are already here. Others are not.

The big three of Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada need to continue their rise as bona fide major leaguers and budding superstars. The key pieces of Eloy Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease will hopefully follow in that trio's footsteps and have breakout seasons of their own next year. There’s also Michael Kopech, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal — three players not here in 2019 but whose lockers are seemingly waiting for them in 2020.

Fans and media aren’t the only ones impatiently awaiting their arrival.

“I saw (Kopech’s) debut on TV,” said Nova, who was with the Pittsburgh Pirates during Kopech’s rain-shortened debut against the Minnesota Twins last August, when he had four strikeouts in two scoreless innings before the skies opened in front of that memorable, electric crowd. “Dirty. Throwing 100 miles per hour with lots of good stuff.”

Nova continued.

“Madrigal, he’s a small guy, but very smart. He can hit. Robert is going to hit 30 homers. Madrigal is going to hit .300 and steal 30 bases and make a lot of diving plays out there and a lot of double plays.”

Sounds good to me.

Nova was hoping that the White Sox would call up Robert this year.

“That’s my personal opinion,”  he said.

You don’t need to be a Sabermetrician to know that the White Sox can help themselves at three key positions next season. Adding a proven right fielder with some pop feels like a must. It’s an added plus if he bats left-handed. The DH position can certainly use an upgrade. Entering Thursday, White Sox designated hitters had collectively slashed .195/.273/.322 in 2019. That’s not good. Signing or acquiring a veteran starting pitcher who can help lead the staff and reduce some of the burden on Giolito and the rest of the rotation could go a long way, as well.

Whoever the White Sox add this offseason, via free agency or trade, will walk into a clubhouse coming off a losing season. But according to McCann, this group's core talent and culture has it ready to take off.

“Guys play for each other. They root for each other. They pull for each other. Everyone wants the guy sitting next to him to succeed. As much as you hate it, there are teams that don’t have that type of feel within a clubhouse,” McCann said.

Oh, like the Pittsburgh Pirates? Nova’s former team has been in crisis mode for most of the season. This week, All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez got into a fight in the clubhouse with fellow reliever Kyle Crick because of the music Crick was playing at his locker. Vazquez ended up needing six stitches to fix his nose. Crick needed surgery to repair a tendon in his index finger. He’s out for the season. In July, reliever Keone Kela was suspended for two games for arguing with a coach. Same with bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, who got into a fight with Crick earlier this season.

The Pirates are a mess.

The White Sox don't have those kinds of problems.

“There really hasn’t been one clubhouse disgruntlement all season,” McCann revealed.

That could be a major league record.

“That’s very rare. Even the World Series teams, there are guys who don’t always get along,” McCann continued. “But you look around this room and everybody gets along. Everybody respects each other, treats each other the way they’d want to be treated.

"The word that comes to mind is understanding. Everyone comes from a different background, everyone is going to have different views, everybody is going to go about trying to accomplish the one goal as a team differently and everyone understands where people are coming from and everyone respects each other. That’s a huge thing inside a clubhouse and the chemistry that comes from being around each other.”

Of course, talent has a lot to do with winning. The White Sox have some of that already. More is on the way. How much more? We’ll have a better idea come spring training.

In the meantime, veterans McCann and Nova believe a foundation is in place for sustained success. So much so, that Nova, who is set to become a free agent, wants to be around for it.

“If I can stay here and not move, I’ll be happy,” Nova said. “A lot of players go where the money’s at. I respect that. But if you can get money and play at a place where you feel comfortable, if it’s possible and you can have that choice. So if it’s possible and I can stay here and we can find a way to make it happen, I would be more than welcome it.”

Whether Nova is here or not, there’s one thing all White Sox fans will embrace: winning baseball.

Hopefully, that’s coming next.

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White Sox free agent focus: Deja vu with Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free agent focus: Deja vu with Dallas Keuchel

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Dallas Keuchel, LH SP, Braves

Age: 31

2019 salary: $13,000,000

2019 stats: 112.2 IP, 3.75 ERA, 91 K, 39 BB, 115 hits (16 HR)

What Keuchel would bring to the White Sox

Among the marquee free-agent starting pitchers this offseason, Keuchel is the only Cy Young award winner (Rick Porcello is a Cy Young winner and a free agent, but is not marquee). That was back in 2015 and Keuchel will be 32 on New Year's Day. Can he still be that pitcher?

When Keuchel hit free agency last offseason, baseball front offices showed they didn't think so. Keuchel and agent Scott Boras didn't get the big deal they wanted. Instead, he signed a one-year, $13 million deal on June 7.

In 19 starts with the Braves, Keuchel was solid. His 3.75 ERA was almost the same as the 3.74 ERA from the year before and his strikeout rate ticked up from 2018. On the flipside his walks and home runs were the highest they'd been since his rookie year.

The sinkerballer isn't a frontline starter like he was in 2014, 2015 and 2017 when he was with Houston. Still, he has been an above average starting pitcher the last two seasons. Further regression is the concern, but he would be a significant upgrade in the middle of the White Sox rotation.

What it would take to get him

Keuchel is likely to be one of the weirder pitchers in free agency because of what happened to him last year. When he was a year younger, teams didn't want to commit to him on a big contract.

He could be quicker to sign this time around and is more likely to take a multi-year deal instead of another one-year deal that puts him back in free agency at 33. His $13 million contract with the Braves was prorated, meaning he was worth north of $20 million.

Don't expect Keuchel to get $20 million on a multi-year deal, but he could be in the mid-teens over three or four years.

Why it makes sense for the White Sox

Keuchel won't price himself out of the White Sox's range and he fills a big need. The White Sox don't necessarily need aces like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but they do need experience and depth in the starting rotation. Keuchel brings both.

The risk is that Keuchel slips a bit in performance and becomes a league-average pitcher sooner rather than later. He doesn't rack up many strikeouts and his increased home run rate is a red flag when entertaining the thought of a pitcher having home games at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Latest rumors

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White Sox free agent focus: Targeting playoff experience with Madison Bumgarner

White Sox free agent focus: Targeting playoff experience with Madison Bumgarner

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Madison Bumgarner, LH SP, Giants

Age: 30

2019 salary: $12,000,000

2019 stats: 207.2 IP, 3.90 ERA, 203 K, 43 BB, 191 hits (30 HR)

What Bumgarner would bring to the White Sox

Perhaps the most accomplished playoff pitcher of all time. In Bumgarner's 11 years with the Giants he was a massive part of their even year success this decade. He won three rings with the Giants (2010, 2012, 2014), including a World Series MVP in 2014. He did all that before his 26th birthday.

In his career, Bumgarner has a 2.11 ERA in 102.1 playoff innings with an 8-3 record. He has three playoff shutouts in 14 playoff starts. Oh, and he has a 0.25 ERA in the World Series in 36 innings. One run in 36 innings in the World Series.

All that playoff success is where Bumgarner made his name and he did so at such a young age (his MLB debut came just over a month after he turned 20) that it's easy to forget that he's still just 30 and should have plenty of years left.

How many 30-year-olds who appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame have ever been available in free agency? For all the hype Bryce Harper and Manny Machado had in free agency last year for being young, elite talents, neither had anywhere near the career accomplishments of Bumgarner.

The counterpoint to that is that Bumgarner has a lot of mileage on his arm. He has thrown 1948.1 innings combined in the regular season and playoffs. He has thrown at least 111 innings in each of the past 10 seasons with seven 200-inning seasons. Bumgarner was one of 15 pitchers to surpass 200 innings this past season.

His performance has slipped a bit in his past three years after posting ERAs under 3.00 from 2013-2016. Still, he has been an above average pitcher. Last year's 3.90 ERA was the lowest ERA+ of his career at 107, which still rates as above average.

Bumgarner would bring an experienced, solid pitcher to the staff. He likely wouldn't be a franchise-changer like Gerrit Cole could be wherever he goes, but Bumgarner is likely to be a dependable option. Plus, no team wants to go against him in the playoffs.

What it would take to get him

The Giants signed Bumgarner to a six-year deal worth $35.56 million early in the 2012 season. That bought out some of his arbitration years and early free agency years. The Giants picked up contract options each of the last two seasons for $12 million. This is the first time he's hitting free agency.

Given his track record and proven dependability, Bumgarner could get around $20 million per year over multiple years in a quickly escalating pitching market. That means the White Sox would have to give him a record-setting deal for the club.

Why it makes sense for the White Sox

Bumgarner isn't going to require the record-setting money that Cole and Stephen Strasburg are expecting to get. That means the White Sox should be able to be in on the negotiations.

The flip side is that there will be plenty of competition. Who doesn't want arguably the best postseason pitcher ever at age 30 who has been nothing but consistent in his career?

The White Sox haven't been mentioned much in rumors around Bumgarner, but he would add experience and reliability to the rotation.

Latest rumors

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