Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

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Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

Before the season began, most baseball experts had two distinct predictions when it came to the Tigers and White Sox. One was slated to seek and destroy, the other was expected to run away and hide.

I think you can guess whos who.

But after winning five of their first eight games, and taking two of three from the Tigers, the White Sox have raised a few eyebrows -- but not Jim Leylands. They remain firmly planted in a horizontal line at the bottom of his forehead.

Why?

Mainly because Leyland thinks the prognosticators who are calling for the White Sox to lose 90-95 games are working with a shortage of baseball brain cells. And leave it to the outspoken Tigers manager to use his post-game press conference on Sunday as an opportunity to harpoon the pundits who are predicting gloom and doom for, of all teams, his AL Central rivals.

The people who made those picks dont know anything about baseball. Trust me, said the Tigers manager in a classic rant following his teams 5-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. If they think the Chicago White Sox arent going to be in the thick of this, theyre crazy.

But Leyland wasnt finished. Far from it.

They dont know anything about baseball, people making picks like that. They know nothing about baseball. Nothing. Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year, and theyll be right there.

Well, thats probably an exaggeration. The White Sox have clearly not been one of the top teams in the league every year since 06. However, theyve at least been in the conversation at the start of every season as a team that has a chance to contend. But not this year. Most people have been writing them off since November.

Leyland has been down that road before.

They picked us fourth last year. We won 95 games, so dont pay attention to those people. They just make a pick and they talk, but they dont know what theyre talking about, Leyland said.

If youre looking for an expert to talk about the White Sox, Leyland might be the guy. Hes seen his share of games between both clubs over the years, and the results have been all over the map. In his first three seasons in Detroit, the White Sox owned the Tigers, going a combined 35-20. Things were even the next two years until 2011, when the Tigers put a spanking on the White Sox, winning 13 of 18 games.

Leyland is not expecting a repeat of that in 2012, and now after seeing the Sox up close and personal for three days, hes come away impressed, basically giving a scouting report for his fellow American League managers.

Look at that pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there. Look at the arms they bring out of the bullpen, Leyland said. Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He had a couple hits today. This is a good team. Alexei Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers and gets a lot of big hits.

Now before you pencil in the White Sox as contenders in the division, realize that there might be a method to Leylands madness. He could have used these comments to light a fire under his own team. Hes crafty like that.

But he also knows baseball, more than just about anybody in the game. Ill take his opinion over that of John Q. Baseball Expert.

Where is this season going for the White Sox? I have no clue. Nobody does. But here on April 15, theyre a half-game behind the Tigers and they look better than they did last year. Its only eight games, but thats the current reality. We cant predict the future. The experts tried, and Sunday, so did Leyland.

I dont know why anybody would not pick the White Sox as a solid, solid contender, he said. Weve got a good team. So do they. Theyre proving that.

Now just 154 games to go.

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Seems like every hour another juicy rumor surfaces in which the White Sox are considering the unthinkable: a trade for five-time All-Star Chris Sale.

With baseball’s Winter Meetings starting on Monday, those reports have begun to arrive at a furious pace. Team A has shown interest in Sale and plans to make a push at the four-day conference. Team B doesn’t think it can meet the White Sox reported asking price. Teams C and D have made their top prospects untouchable in a potential deal for Sale.

While the White Sox won’t reveal their direction until they make their first few major moves, the tone of most reports has made it clear they’re at least entertaining a trade for Sale, who has finished in the top six in the American League Cy Young Award vote in each of his five seasons as a starting pitcher.

In the past, trading Sale has been an afterthought as the White Sox have envisioned the lanky left-hander leading them back to the postseason. But those days appear to be numbered. To understand how they’ve reached this point, where Rick Hahn isn’t just humoring his fellow general managers by picking up the phone but is actively listening on Sale, you only need to look at the White Sox roster over the past five seasons.

While the White Sox have an extremely competitive top half of the roster, one that could seemingly compete on an annual basis in the AL Central, much of the rest has been comprised of what Hahn himself referred to as “stop-gaps” and “half measures.” Since the start of the 2012 season, more than 30 players who have appeared for the White Sox made their final major league appearances on the South Side. Several others made brief stopovers but have spent the rest of their time in the minors, another country or retired. Were they to begin a rebuild and bolster the farm system, Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams could better position themselves to avoid the use of short-term players and quick fixes to supplement the roster for a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2008.

“I think we’re veering away from the standpoint of looking for stopgaps,” Hahn said last month at the GM meetings in Phoenix. “A lot of what we did in the last few years had been trying to enhance the short-term potential of the club to put ourselves in a position to win immediately. I feel the approach at this point is focusing on longer-term benefits. It doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily be in a good position in 2017. It means that our targets and whatever we’re hoping to accomplish have a little more longer term fits in nature.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Whereas they were taking a step back in 2014, the White Sox at least went into four of the last five seasons with hopes of reaching the postseason.

But those aspirations were dashed in part because of a thin farm system. Whether depleted by an international program that was dormant for five seasons, trades of prospects to fill holes or previous draft misses, the White Sox have had few internal answers to cover for injuries or underperformance. That lack of depth has led to a number of short-term signings or bargain trades in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

Last season, the White Sox signed Jimmy Rollins, Mat Latos and Austin Jackson in February and March in hopes of providing depth at shortstop, in the rotation and in center field. Those moves are typical of the way the club has hoped to plug holes the past few years.

Rollins and Latos were released in June while Jackson suffered a season-ending injury. Jackson is a hopeful free agent this offseason and should find a home, but Rollins didn’t find a new team after the White Sox released him and Latos made six appearances with Washington, compiling a 6.52 ERA.

From the 2015 roster, Adam LaRoche retired and Mike Olt and Hector Noesi haven’t resurfaced in the majors since departing the White Sox. Kyle Drabek appeared in one game for Arizona before he was released last July.

One-time 2014 closer Ronald Belisario played six games for Tampa Bay in 2015 and sat out last season. Moises Sierra has spent time in the minors with Kansas City and Miami. Adrian Nieto played 37 games with Miami’s Triple-A squad in 2016, Felipe Paulino and Dayan Viciedo finished the season in Japan, Maikel Cleto split the year between Mexico and Atlanta’s farm system and Frank Francisco hasn’t played since winter ball in 2015.

Michael Taylor and Matt Lindstrom retired, Jordan Danks didn’t play in 2016 and Taylor Thompson, Scott Snodgress and Charlie Leesman all played independent ball.

Jeff Keppinger hasn’t returned to the big leagues since he was released in early 2014. The same goes for Hector Gimenez, Dewayne Wise, Tyler Greene, Blake Tekotte, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Brian Omogrosso and Deunte Heath from the 2013 club.

Casper Wells briefly played with Philadelphia after he was waived in 2013 while Kevin Youkilis only played 28 games that season, a year after the White Sox acquired him on the cheap from Boston. Orlando Hudson, Kosuke Fukudome, Ray Olmedo, Jose Lopez, Will Ohman, Brian Bruney and Leyson Septimo never appeared in the majors after 2012.

Starting with Hahn’s declaration in July that the White Sox were mired in mediocrity, the club has made its frustrations very clear. Whereas the Sale rumors once seemed far-fetched, they might not be this time as the White Sox look to replenish an organization short on talent past the very top portion.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve had our conversations internally with Jerry and Kenny and the coaches and our staff and our scouts where we realize putting ourselves in a better position for the long term is the more prudent path,” Hahn said.

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia will both return to the White Sox in 2017.

The team announced it reached deals with both players shortly before Friday’s 7 p.m. CST nontender deadline. Lawrie will earn $3.5 million next season and Garcia received a one-year deal for $3 million.

The club didn’t tender a contract to right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, which leaves its 40-man roster at 38.

Acquired last December for a pair of minor leaguers, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Lawrie produced 0.9 f-WAR when he suffered what then-manager Robin Ventura described a “tricky” injury on July 21. Despite numerous tests and a lengthy rehab, Lawrie never returned to the field and was frustrated by the experience. Last month, Lawrie tweeted that he believes the cause of his injury was wearing orthotics for the first time in his career.

He was projected to earn $5.1 million, according to MLBTraderumors.com and earned $4.125 million in 2016.

Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 453 plate appearances over 120 games. The projected salary for Garcia, arb-eligible for the first time, was $3.4 million.

The team also offered contracts to Miguel Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, who are eligible for free agency in 2018, first baseman Jose Abreu and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, among others.

The White Sox have until mid-January to reach an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players. If they haven’t, both sides submit figures for arbitration cases, which are then heard throughout February.