Tim Anderson, White Sox reach agreement on contract extension

Tim Anderson, White Sox reach agreement on contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox are so confident in Tim Anderson they've given him the largest contract ever for a player with less than one year of service time.

Designated a key cog in the club's rebuild, the second-year shortstop could remain with the White Sox through 2024 after he signed a contract extension on Tuesday that guarantees him $25 million over six seasons. The deal for Anderson, who was worth 2.8 Wins Above Replacement in 2016, according to baseball-reference.com, could total $50.5 million as it includes club options for 2023 and 2024 that total $26.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

"I'm in a place where I want to be," Anderson said. "I'm happy here. I love Chicago, especially the South Side.

"I made a commitment to be here, and I love being here."

The 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Anderson concluded a quick rise through the White Sox farm system when he debuted on June 10 last season. Despite his limited overall experience, Anderson — who was recruited more for basketball before he was drafted out of East Central Community College — had starred at every level along the way and convinced the White Sox he was ready to take over in the majors.

He didn't disappoint, either.

Anderson doubled to left field off Kansas City's Ian Kennedy in his first plate appearance and never slowed down. He hit .283/.306/.432 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 431 plate appearances.

Anderson also exceeded expectations defensively. Depending on which scout you talked to, Anderson had questions to answer about his glove. But he not only showed quickness and extensive range, Anderson boasted a strong arm and good hands. He produced six Defensive Runs Saved and a 6.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com.

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"We're obviously thrilled," general manager Rick Hahn said. "We think there's a lot of good things to come as he continues to grow as a big league player. We certainly feel he will play a very important role on this team over most of the next decade. We're happy to have him under control for the next eight seasons."

Anderson — who wouldn't have been arbitration eligible until at least 2020 — has been so good that Hahn nearly placed him on the untouchable list this offseason. Having dealt Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, Hahn said he'd discuss deals any of his players but also suggested that Anderson and pitcher Carlos Rodon weren't available.

Anderson is set to earn $850,000 this season. He'll make $1 million in 2018, $1.4 million in 2019 and gets a bump to $4 million in 2020. In the fifth year of his deal, Anderson will make $7.25 million, and he'll receive $9.5 million in 2022. The contact includes club options for $12.5 million in 2023 and $14 million in 2024 with a $1 million buyout.

It's the fifth time in four years that the White Sox have locked a young player up to a team-friendly deal. The team extended Sale in 2013, Jose Quintana in 2014 and Eaton in 2015. All those contracts were signed in spring training. The White Sox also extended Nate Jones in December 2015.

While the contracts afforded each player financial security at a young age, it also made them far more enticing to other teams when the White Sox began their rebuild in December. The trades of Sale and Eaton have stocked the White Sox farm system with more young talent than it has had since the turn of the century. With potentially four years left on his deal, Quintana continues to draw heavy interest on the trade market and it's believed a return package for the 2016 All-Star pitcher would nearly equal the gargantuan packages the White Sox got for Sale and Eaton.

"It was certainly a benefit when it came time to trade them," Hahn said. "The size of the return we got was influenced by the size of the contracts we were under and the added control that came with them. We stand here today and fully intend for Tim to be here and be part of that next championship core. We've obviously still got work to do in putting that together."

Anderson returned to the lineup on Wednesday night after a three-day absence which he attributed to experiencing personal problems on Monday. The team held him out of action for the final two days as the deal was finalized.

Anderson, who said he was glad to return to action, had an RBI triple in the first inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise, Ariz.

"It's a blessing to be able to get it done," Anderson said. "Now I can go out and play and have fun. It's been a hectic few days. We know we were able to agree on something, and now it's just about having fun now."

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Lucas Giolito knows if he had performed better in 2016 he wouldn’t have endured the season from travel hell. 

Instead, the top pitching prospect in baseball struggled with consistency in the big leagues and the Washington Nationals constantly shuffled him around. Giolito — one of three pitchers acquired in the Adam Eaton trade in December and MLB.com’s 11th-ranked prospect — was moved eight different times throughout the Nationals organization last season. 

More irritated by his inability to pitch well for a team in a pennant race, the tall right-hander understands why he spent much of last season on the go. But it’s also one of the main reasons why Giolito, who is likely to begin the 2017 season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Charlotte, is excited for a fresh start with the White Sox.

“It was frustrating because I knew if you get up there and pitch well I can stay, but I didn’t,” Giolito said. “I wanted to help the team win. That’s really all I wanted to do. And all my starts, aside from my debut, which got cut short by the rain, I did not give the team a chance to win. So rightfully so I got sent down. But yeah, it’s frustrating. 

“At the same time, with this club I know there might be a little more leeway. I know they might allow younger guys more time to settle in, at least from what I’ve seen.”

The White Sox have made no secret about their plans to rebuild. Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are four of the seven prospects acquired in December whom the White Sox hope to build around. 

General manager Rick Hahn has made it increasingly clear that player development is the team’s top priority.

“At this point going forward we’re really not going to have anyone in Chicago until they’ve answered any questions we’ve had for them at the minor league level and we feel they’re ready to succeed,” Hahn said last month at SoxFest. 

And once those players arrive, they’ll be given ample opportunities to prove whether or not they belong. The routine will be normal with regular turns in the rotation rather than spot starts here and there. 

The team’s mindset is in stark contrast with Washington, which has been in win-now mode for the past few seasons. Whenever the Nationals called upon Giolito, who hadn’t pitched above Double-A Harrisburg before last June, they needed him to fill in for a rotation that only had three pitchers make more than 25 starts.

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Giolito pitched four scoreless innings in a rain-shortened MLB debut on June 28 and then didn’t pitch again until July 7. With Stephen Strasburg back in the rotation, the Nationals then sent Giolito to Single-A Hagerstown so he could get another turn before the All-Star break. Then it was on to Triple-A Syracuse for one start and back to Washington for another. 

After he struggled in that outing, Giolito spent a month at Syracuse, returned to the bigs to struggle again on Aug. 28 against Colorado, and went back to Triple-A for one more. Finally, Giolito returned to Washington on Sept. 7 and stayed the rest of the season, though he only pitched twice in a month. In six big league games (four starts), Giolito had a 6.75 ERA. 

The up-and-down nature of Giolito’s season prompted MLB.com’s Jim Callis to write: “I also don't think the Nationals handled him very well last season, calling him to Washington on five separate occasions but never letting him take consecutive turns in the rotation, as well as having him change teams nine times.”

Giolito remembers a couple of small planes back and forth from Washington to Syracuse. He also drove a few times because it was so close. 

“All sorts of ways of moving around,” he said.

It’s also treatment that’s normally reserved for a Four-A pitcher who has options to burn rather than a top prospect trying to find stability.

Giolito — who was drafted 16th overall in the 2012 draft out of high school — thought some of his struggles were related to poor mechanics and getting away from what had made him successful. The 6-foot-6 pitcher said he tried to simplify his mechanics this winter in order to allow the ball to leave his hand more freely and easily. 

Giolito is pleased with the results so far. His main goals early in camp have been commanding his fastball low and away to right-hander hitters and learning how to throw his curveball for a called strike.

“It’s coming out very good,” Giolito said. “Much better than last year. I made a lot of positive changes.

“The time in the big leagues was definitely fun. But going up and down a lot can be like a grind. Getting on the plane, doing this, you’re pitching the next day. You have to be able to try and stay level headed and focus on the next day or task at hand. But when you’re moving around a lot it can be difficult.”

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."