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.

The Rick Renteria Era Has Come To An End

In a somewhat shocking development, the White Sox announced this morning that they have parted ways with manager Rick Renteria.  The status of the rest of the coaching staff will be determined in conjunction with the new manager, though pitching coach Don Cooper is also expected to move on.  Renteria originally joined the White Sox following the 2015 season as bench coach and was named the team’s 40th manager, replacing Robin Ventura, following the 2016 season.

General Manager Rick Hahn said that the ideal candidate to replace Renteria will have recent post-season experience with a championship organization.  Interestingly enough, two such managers, A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora, will be coming off their year-long suspensions following the completion of the World Series.  Both are thought to be on the shortlist for the opening in Detroit, though I’d be surprised if Cora doesn’t end up back with the Red Sox.  One name not in the mix is former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was told by owner Jerry Reinsdorf that he would not be considered.

In some ways, this move reminds me of one made by another Reinsdorf team back in the summer of 1989.  After reaching the Eastern Conference finals and losing to the Pistons, the Bulls fired coach Doug Collins, saying that while he had gotten the team from point A to point B, he wasn’t the right man to get them to point C.  If this move turns out half as well for the White Sox, everyone involved will be ecstatic.

 

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.

The Sell Off Continues

Rumors started flying during Tuesday night’s White Sox game about Todd Frazier and David Robertson being on the move, first to the Red Sox and, eventually, to the Yankees.  As the game went on, details started dripping out and, once the game was complete, the trade was officially announced.  The White Sox were sending Frazier, Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees for outfielder Blake Rutherford, starter Ian Clarkin, outfielder Tito Polo, and reliever Tyler Clippard.

Frazier, who seems like the nicest person in the world, has had trouble putting together sustained success since being acquired by the White Sox in 2016 and is a free agent at the end of the season.  Robertson has another year left on his deal and has done a tremendous job at the back end of the bullpen, but a highly paid closer is a luxury for a rebuilding team.  Kahnle looks to have finally put things together out of the pen this year, but the history of middle relievers flaming out after one good year is legend.

Rutherford becomes the 10th White Sox prospect in MLB’s top 100.  Clarkin is a former 1st round draft pick who has been bitten by the injury bug over the course of his career.  Clippard will slide in to the bullpen, taking one of the spots vacated by the outgoing pitchers.  Polo, aside from having the coolest name in the trade, looks to potentially be a fourth outfielder at some point.

There may be a few trades left between now and the deadline, but this looks to be the last of the big hauls coming back.  GM Rick Hahn has completely restocked the farm system and, now, the hard work begins.  Developing these prospects in to major league talent who can compete for a World Series title is the next step.

FB2: Week 14

FB2_Week14I posted my highest step total since the Disney trip last week, despite 2 days falling short of my 6000 step goal.  Things got off to a slow start on Sunday, as I barely hit 3500 steps.  Things picked back up on Monday and Tuesday thanks to normal work activities.  Wednesday had a pretty good total, good enough for my 14th highest total to date, thanks to a post-work trip down to US Cellular Field for a pre-game session with White Sox GM Rich Hahn followed by a tilt between the Sox Red and White.  Thursday also had a decent total due to post-work activities, this time a trip down to the Adler Planetarium for an exciting science lecture with Val.  Friday, I failed to hit the 6000 step mark after working from home then making a return trip to US Cellular Field to watch batting practice and then a tilt between the White Sox and the Twins.  Saturday’s regularly scheduled baseball game enabled me to surpass the 6000 step mark for the day and 54,000 steps for the week.

Total steps: 54,080

Daily average: 7725.7

Remaking The White Sox… Again

Alex-AvilaRick Hahn made his first move in remaking the White Sox for 2016 by replacing Geovany Soto, who signed with the Angels a day earlier, with Alex Avila, the former Tigers backstop.  Injuries have sapped much of Avila’s offensive production the last few years, culminating in a .191 average in only 67 games last season.  Defensively, though, he remains top notch and should provide an upgrade over both Soto and incumbent starter Tyler Flowers.

The obvious hope is that the White Sox medical team, led by Herm Schneider, can keep Avila on the field, allowing him to regain some of the offensive stroke that has been missing in recent years.  In doing so, Hahn must hope that he has plugged the whole behind the plate that has plagued the White Sox since A.J. Pierzynski left as a free agent following the 2012 season.

He Gone!

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The countdown on Dayan Viciedo’s time with the White Sox started ticking last Wednesday when he was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for the re-signed Gordon Beckham.  The Viciedo era officially came to an end yesterday when he was waived for the purpose of giving him his release.

Viciedo defected from Cuba in 2008 at the age of 19, and that November he signed a 4 year deal with the White Sox.  He spent the 2009 season in Double A Birmingham and moved to Triple A Charlotte for 2010.  He spent some time with the big league club in 2010, making his major league debut on June 20 against the Nationals.

He returned to Triple A in 2011, until Carlos Quentin went down with an injury in late August.  Viciedo returned to Chicago, this time to stay.  He became the everyday left fielder in 2012, putting up decent, if underwhelming numbers.  Viciedo became a bit of a conundrum in 2013, as his average improved slightly, but his power numbers decreased.

Viciedo was slated for a platoon role with Alejandro de Aza last year, until Avisail Garcia’s shoulder injury opened up a spot for him.  By the time Garcia returned, de Aza was in Baltimore and Viciedo had left field all to himself.  He was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, though, as his average and OBP fell to a career lows.

As Rick Hahn remade the White Sox roster over this off-season, Viciedo appeared to be the odd man out.  With Melky Cabrera signed to play left field and Adam LaRoche on board as DH, Viciedo would have been relegated to backup duties.  Now, he will try to continue his career elsewhere, hopefully with better results.

Viciedo’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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Remaking The White Sox

addisonmattLess than a week after acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three team trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Angels, White Sox GM Rick Hahn struck again, this time getting third baseman Matt Davidson from the Diamondbacks in exchange for closer Addison Reed.  Add in Avisail Garcia, acquired in the Jake Peavy trade in July, and the signing of Cuban refugee Jose Abreu and the White Sox have added 4 players under the age of 27 who should form the foundation of the team going forward.

Davidson is ranked 64th on MLB.com’s Top 100 prospect list and was the Diamondback’s 2nd best prospect.  He hit .280 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs, 74 RBIs, 55 runs scored, a .350 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage in 115 games at Triple-A in 2013.  He also took home MVP honors at the Futures Game during All Star weekend at Citi Field.

The closer role will likely fall to Nate Jones, barring any new acquisitions between now and opening day.  An opening day that could have the White Soc fielding 4 different starters from a year ago, hopefully leading them to future glory.

The Sell-Off Begins

matt-thorntonThe towel was officially thrown in last night as rookie general manager Rick Hahn began the dismantling of the very disappointing 2013 Chicago White Sox by trading veteran relief pitcher Matt Thornton to the Red Sox in exchange for minor leaguer Brandon Jacobs, a 2009 draft pick described as “toolsy”, but not considered a significant prospect.  Thornton had been the longest tenured member of the White Sox not named Paul Konerko, joining the team during spring training in 2006 in a trade with the Mariners for first round bust Joe Borchard.

Under the tutelage of pitching coach Don Cooper, Thornton found a home in the White Sox bullpen, eventually becoming their all-time leader in pitching appearances with 512.  The high point came in 2010, when Thornton was selected to represent the White Sox at the All-Star game, a rarity for a set-up man.  The only real knocks against Thornton were his inability to close, which he was asked to do occassionally when Bobby Jenks would go down with an injury, and his inability to consistently rely on a pitch other than his fastball, which has been his downfall more recently as his velocity has started to dip with age.

Personally, I have seen 1131 pitchers take the mound in games that I have attended, and Thornton leads them all in appearances, with his closest active competition 46 games behind.  It will be strange to not have him in the White Sox bullpen anymore, but all things must come to an end and, given his salary and the state of this year’s squad, it was time for him to move on.

Thornton’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were: Continue reading →

Cashing In On A Sale

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

Rick Hahn made his biggest splash since becoming general manager in October by signing Chris Sale to a five year extension worth $32.5 million, plus 2 additional club options that could boost the contract up to $60 million.  Sale, the 23 year old who went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and made the All-Star Game in his first season as a starter, gets a lifetime of security and the White Sox get a potential ace starter at below market value through his arbitration years and beyond.

Hahn’s other moves in his first off-season have been mostly low key, resigning Jake Peavy and Dewayne Wise, picking up the option on Gavin Floyd, and signing Jeff Keppinger to a 3 year deal.  The biggest newsmaker may have been the move he didn’t make, allowing A.J. Pierzynski to leave as a free agent and sign with the Rangers.  With this move, he starts to put his own stamp on the franchise.