Another One Bites The Dust

The White Sox outfield is now down two starters after Luis Robert suffered a complete tear of his right hip flexor during Sunday’s game, general manager Rick Hahn said yesterday.  He won’t resume baseball activities for 12 to 16 weeks, whether he and the team opt for surgery or rest.  Robert, in his second season with the White Sox, was hitting .316 this season, with a homer and 11 runs scored.

Robert joins Eloy Jimenez on the injured list, after Jimenez tore his pectoral muscle during the last week of spring training and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season.  Hahn says the team will rely on internal options to take Robert’s place, but will also explore external options.  Either way, this is a big blow for a team expected to compete for the post-season.

By The Numbers – 88

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #88.  Once again, a single player has donned #88 while playing in Chicago, for the 2020 White Sox.

Luis Robert was signed by the White Sox as a 19 year old in 2017 after he defected from Cuba.  He made his major league debut on Opening Day 2020, earning Rookie of the Month for August and placing second in Rookie of the Year voting, despite a September swoon that left him with a .233 batting average and .738 OPS.

2020 BBWAA Award Predictions

The Baseball Writers of America have announced the finalists for their awards for the just completed shortened baseball season, which will be announced next week.  It is a good bet that few of my original predictions for the winners will be accurate.  Hopefully, these new predictions will be slightly better, especially since I’ll have a 33% chance of being right.

American League

Most Valuable Player: Jose Abreu, D.J. LeMahieu, Jose Ramirez

Well, my pre-season selection to win the award this year, Yoan Moncada, got taken down by the corona virus, but I’m expecting (and hoping) that it stays in the same clubhouse and that Jose Abreu wins.

Cy Young Award: Shane Bieber, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

My initial guess was that Blake Snell would take home the prize, but this has Shane Bieber written all over it.

Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Charlie Montoyo, Rick Renteria

Once again, I didn’t make any predictions for this award prior to the season.  Kevin Cash is the likely winner, though wouldn’t it be funny to see Renteria bring home this award a month after losing the job he was being recognized for?.

Rookie of the Year: Christian Javier, Kyle Lewis, Luis Robert

Another award I didn’t predict prior to the season.  Had you held the election at the end of August, Robert would have been the odds-on favorite.  However, a month long slump in September probably puts Kyle Lewis in the driver’s seat.

National League

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Everything Old Is New Again

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, Rick Hahn described the ideal candidate to become the next manager of the White Sox: recent post-season experience with a championship organization.  Depending on your definition of recent, the White Sox found their man today, announcing that Tony LaRussa, who retired from the dugout after leading the Cardinals to a championship in 2011, would once again take the reins on the south side of Chicago.

LaRussa, who is third all-time with 2,728 wins, first became manager of the White Sox in 1979, under owner Bill Veeck.  After leading the team to the AL Western Division title in 1983, LaRussa was fired in June of 1986 by Ken Harrelson.  This has long been cited as the biggest sports-related regret for owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

 

LaRussa caught on with the A’s less than a month after leaving the White Sox, staying there for 10 years, winning 3 AL pennants and one World Series championship.  He then spent 16 years on the bench for the Cardinals, winning 3 NL pennants and 2 World Series championships, retiring after the final one in 2011.  Since then, he has spent time working for MLB and in the front office for the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Angels.

LaRussa, who will be 76 on opening day 2021, becomes the oldest manager in the major leagues and the oldest to take over a team since Jack McKeon in 2011.

The two biggest concerns, to my mind, are 1) has the move toward analytics changed the game enough in the last 9 years that he’s been left behind and 2) will the exuberant players on the White Sox roster, namely Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, chafe under an older school manager who may not appreciate the bat flips and political outspokenness.  This will either end very well, with post-season success, or will bomb spectacularly.  There really will not be a middle ground.

Keeping The Core Together

The White Sox announced today that they had signed Yoan Moncada to a 5 year, $70 million extension, with a team option that could keep him on the south side through 2025.  “I wanted to be with this team,” Moncada said through an interpreter.  “With all this happening, I can say I’m going to play alongside (left fielder) Eloy (Jimenez) and (center fielder) Luis Robert for a very long time, and that’s going to be a key for the success of this team.”

Moncada will receive a $4 million signing bonus, $1 million in 2020, $6 million in 2021, $13 million in 2022, $17 million in 2023 and $24 million in 2024. The Sox hold an option for $25 million in 2025, with a $5 million buyout.  If the option gets executed, it will make this the largest contract in White Sox history.

With Moncada locked up, the White Sox have most of the core of their rebuild under team control through the early part of this decade.  Newly acquired right fielder Nomar Mazara and oft-injured pitcher Carlos Rodon are under control through the 2021 season.  First baseman Jose Abreu is signed through 2022.  Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez should be here through 2023.  Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech are locked up through 2024.  Moncada and Dylan Cease are under team control through 2025.  Eloy Jimenez and Aaron Bummer are signed through 2026, and Luis Robert is on board through 2027.  This doesn’t even include Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn, the team’s last two top draft picks, who have yet to make their debut and start their clocks.

After quite a few years of bad baseball, the future looks very bright on the south side of Chicago.  Rick Hahn has put the pieces in place to turn the team into contenders.  It’s time to see if the plan comes together and winning baseball can return to Guaranteed Rate Field.

Retooling For 2019

The White Sox made a trio of acquisitions over the past week, bolstering their roster for 2019.  Things started on Tuesday, when a trade with the Pirates netted the Sox right hander Ivan Nova in exchange for minor leaguer Yordi Rosario and international bonus money.  Yesterday, it was reported that the White Sox came to an agreement with free agent catcher James McCann.  Finally, the White Sox announced earlier this morning that they had acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians for minor league outfielder Alex Call.

Nova, signed through 2019, basically steps in to the James Shields role as innings eater and mentor, though he should offer better results on the mound.  Over the past 3 years, Nova surpasses Shields in games, innings pitched, HR allowed, ERA, and FIP.  While he has given up more hits, that should be more than offset by a drastic reduction in walks.  Rosario is a lottery ticket at this point and, due to the Luis Robert signing, the White Sox couldn’t use the bonus money anyway, so the cost to get Nova was minimal.

With Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith off to other organizations and Seby Zavala and Zack Collins still a year or so away, the White Sox needed a catcher to team with Welington Castillo for 2019.  McCann will fill that role, though he rates as sub-par both offensively and defensively.  His main pluses are the occasional home run and a strong arm to control the running game.

The trade for Alonso, at first glance, is a bit of a head scratcher.  Assuming there is nothing in the works on the Jose Abreu front, the two will split time between first base and designated hitter.  Another reported use is recruiting, as Alonso’s brother-in-law just happens to be Manny Machado, one of the two biggest fish in the free agency pond.  Who knows if it will help, but the White Sox reportedly have a meeting set with Machado for next week.  If that doesn’t pay off, then the move basically helps a division rival clear salary space in exchange for someone who isn’t likely to be a long term part of the rebuilding process.