As White Sox assume risk, Jose Quintana struggles in Opening Day loss to Tigers

As White Sox assume risk, Jose Quintana struggles in Opening Day loss to Tigers

Jose Quintana's poor start Tuesday is exactly what Rick Hahn meant when he discussed the different risk assessments factored into holding onto the pitcher. 

A 6-3 loser to the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 36,534 at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox are particularly keen on what potential hazards exist now that they've taken Quintana — the most rumored player of the offseason not to have been dealt — into the season. Quintana matched a career-worst in his first Opening Day start when he allowed three home runs in 5 1/3 innings in a duel against Justin Verlander. 

Even though it wasn't Quintana's finest showing, the White Sox feel more than confident that enduring those perils will be worth it in the end — that some contender will reward them with a cache of prospects for their patience. 
 
"Now that we have entered into the season, you are carrying a little bit different amount of risk on certain players that conceivably you could have moved and cashed in for whatever value they had at the time," Hahn said Monday. "Again, nothing presented itself that made it feel like ‘Well, there's gonna be some added risk once the season starts so therefore we'd better move now.' It just wasn't that close to getting anything done. We've had our conversations over the past few months. We've been prepared to enter the season."

The White Sox got paid handsomely in the trades for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.

They expect the same if they decide to deal Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016. 

The White Sox would love to deal their ace. Their goal is to accumulate as much young talent as quickly as possible. Moving Quintana would push them further along a road they've been on since the trades of Sale and Eaton in December.

But the White Sox don't intend to budge on their price. They know what they want in return for Quintana, who entered Tuesday having produced 18.1 f-Wins Above Replacement the past four seasons, the seventh-most in the majors. While they may consider giving in a little, Hahn said no offer has come close. 

Until they do, the White Sox will retain Quintana, who has options that keep him under team control through 2020. That means Quintana will continue to live life in limbo. 

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His first game in the precarious state wasn't near to the standard he's produced in the past.

Detroit took advantage of a hit batsmen and a walk by Quintana in a five-run second inning. He yielded a leadoff single to Justin Upton and hit Mikie Mahtook. One out later, JaCoby Jones hit a 2-2 curveball that caught too much of the plate for a three-run homer and a 3-1 Detroit lead.

Quintana walked Ian Kinsler with two outs before Nick Castellanos hammered a 92-mph fastball the opposite way for a two-run shot. 

Kinsler also blasted a solo shot off Quintana with two outs in the fourth. Quintana previously allowed three homers in a start twice last season and twice in 2013. He gave up six earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"Chalk it up to an anomaly," manager Rick Renteria said. 

The effort was no match for Verlander, who struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings and limited the White Sox to two runs as he overpowered them with his fastball.

The White Sox have to believe Tuesday is more an outlier than a sign Quintana can't handle the stress of his situation. He addressed the trade rumors yet again on Sunday before talking about his first Opening Day start.

"I know there are rumors but I just focus on doing my job," Quintana said. "There's nothing I can do. Help my team when I can and that's it.

"(The offseason) was a little different this year from the rumors. But it stayed the same, I never changed, I never paid any attention to that.

"My future is here. I have to just control this year. I pay attention to right now."

The White Sox are gambling on that focus. They've seen how Quintana has been unflappable throughout his career, dealing with a lack of run support and the misfortune that comes with it. 

They also believe in their own abilities to keep players healthy. Over the years, the White Sox have been far and away the healthiest team in baseball. 

Lastly, with Quintana under contract potentially through 2020 for $36.85 million, the White Sox know how valuable of an asset they possess. 

Until they get paid, the White Sox plan to persist — even if it's a risk.

"We really haven't been presented with anything in recent months that's even been close to feeling like this is something we should do," Hahn said. "Again, we have to be strong and keep that sort of long-term focus. That's where the fruit of these labors will pay off."

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.”