Sox Drawer: How Pierzynski almost became a Cub

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Sox Drawer: How Pierzynski almost became a Cub

When you see A.J. Pierzynski take the field tonight for the White Sox, remember the following date:

Nov. 14, 2003.

Its the day in which Pierzynski was a part of an infamous blockbuster trade between the Twins and Giants. Minnesota sent its 26-year-old promising catcher to San Francisco for three young pitchers: Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. Its a deal that drastically changed the fortunes of the two franchises.

But it came eerily close to forever altering two others:

The White Sox and Cubs.

When I got traded to the Giants, I actually thought I was going to the Cubs, Pierzynski revealed to Comcast SportsNet for the upcoming show Inside Look: A.J. Pierzynski. LaTroy Hawkins had just signed with the Cubs and he called me and said hed talked to Dusty Baker and they were going to trade for me the next day.

The Cubs were prepared to offer relievers Todd Wellemeyer and Juan Cruz for Pierzynski, which would have been one of the greatest steals in Cubs history. Already disliked by White Sox fans while playing for the AL-Central rival Twins, Pierzynski was on the verge of going to the North Side where the hate-meter would have gone off-the-charts.

A.J. was ready to pack his bags for Wrigley. But then...

When I got the phone call from Twins GM Terry Ryan, it was actually to the Giants. I guess they came in at the last minute and sweetened their deal and got it done, Pierzynski said.

So when the phone call came, you thought it was going to be the Cubs?

Yes. Actually I did.

Fates would have changed.

Slightly, yeah. It would have been a little bit different progression to my career if I ended up on the North Side.

A.J. would spend just one year in San Francisco before getting released the following December. It was a turbulent, misunderstood season with the Giants in which Pierzynski explains in great detail in the Inside Look program which will air on Comcast SportsNet in July.

Pierzynski signed with the White Sox in January of 2005 and has since become a South Side icon.

Now in the final year of a two-year contract with the White Sox, Pierzynski is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. He loves Chicago and wants to remain with the White Sox. But if they decide to move ahead with Tyler Flowers, and Pierzynski wants to stay in town, would he consider signing with the Cubs?

I could never say no to that, because as much as I love the White Sox, as much as I would love to be here, if they were the only team that came after me and I wanted to continue to play, how could I say no? You know its one of those situations where, they have a good catcher in Geovany Soto, so I dont think thats gonna happen, but its one of those situations where you can never say no to something.

People never thought theyd see Michael Jordan in another uniform and he was a Wizard, you know its one of those things that you just never know what can happen, andI dont want it to happen. I dont want to leave here, but at the same time, Im in a better place than I was two years ago when I had a horrible free agent year because all I wanted to do was stay here. And I still want to stay here and I want to keep playing, but at the same time, I know that Ive done enough here that Im okay with moving on if I have to.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."