BBQ: Time for White Sox to transition into 2012

532976.jpg

BBQ: Time for White Sox to transition into 2012

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 9:56 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
With just 23 games remaining and eight games back, manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams might not want to admit it, but the Chicago White Sox are playing for second place this September, rather than challenging the first-place Detroit Tigers.

But as never is the case, theres much more to play for than just first runner-up in the AL Centralthe Pale Hose have a number of issues to resolve as they point toward a 2012 season where they hope All-In will play like more than a catch phrase.

How different will the 2012 White Sox look?

Honestly, not much. Going All-In for 2011 largely pulls 2012 along with it, as the White Sox have little salary to shedChicago is already committed to an 89 million payroll, and thats for just 11 players. Letting Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre leave could push the payroll down a spot from this years, but truly, All-In was a two-year commitment.
But didnt owner Jerry Reinsdorf lose a ton of money this year?

The White Sox will certainly fall well short of the 2.6-2.8 million fans the Chairman felt he needed to draw to break even on the season, given 128 million payroll, the biggest in White Sox history.

But All-In wasnt just born from Williams desire to spend money or Reinsdorfs to waste itthe owners thinking is that with time not getting any shorter, its time to commit to a World Series contender more strongly than ever. So you shouldnt hear much handwringing or poormouthing from the executive suite at U.S. Cellular Field.

Who could be dealt, to improve the team, trim payroll, or both?

Theres no deal that will do both; any payroll trim will come at the cost of young talent inserted as a sweetener or in a straight dump by cutting a player, which is ulikely to happen on Reinsdorfs watch.

The closest area of expendability comes in right field, where Carlos Quentin will see a significant raise on his 5.5 million salary in his final year of arbitration. Dayan Viciedo is ready to supplant CQ in right field, but theres nothing that says the two sluggers couldnt both occupy corner spots next season.

Big-ticket items like Jake Peavy (17 million), Adam Dunn (14 million) and Alex Rios (12.5 million) are untradeable, unless the White Sox want to eat half of any of those contracts or wedge a prime prospect into the deal. And they dont have enough prime prospects for wedging.
Who has the inside track for No. 5?

One of the interesting battles shaping up in September involves Phil Humber and Zach Stewarts fight for the fifth spot in the 2012 rotation. But that presupposes a number of things.

One, the White Sox would be smart to re-up Buehrle for whatever contract length he desires. Every season of his recent four-year, 56 million deal hes given the White Sox more value than hes been paid in salary.

Two, presuming Matt Thornton returns, Chris Sale is ticketed for the starting rotation, destined to flabbergast far more batters with his changeup as a starter than a reliever.

But if it came down to Humber battling Stewart, spring training efforts pending, Humber has earned the spot. He was the most dominant starter for the White Sox in the first half of 2010, and while wholly speculative, it wasnt until the team decided he needed to be skipped in the rotation in July that trouble started brewingin his first 15 starts, Humber sported an amazing 60.5 game score, while over his last seven, hes fallen to 43.7.

Who closes?

The closers job is absolutely Sergio Santos to lose. Yes, the first-timer has had a few notable flameouts and sports an .848 (28-for-33 save percentage, lower than that of Bobby Jenkss .871 (27-for-31) in 2010. But Santos has peripherals that put even Jenks, an experienced closer, to shame, including just 8.3 percent of inherited runners scoring (13 percent for Jenks) and 1.80 average leverage (pressure) faced (1.737 for Jenks).

And even if Sale doesnt join the starting rotation, theres little evidence he should supplant Santos as the teams closer. The leftys save percentage is mere points higher (.857 in just seven chances) and his inherited runners scoring (22.6 percent) and first batter average (.122 for Santos, .292 for Sale) is far superior.
Dayan Viciedo is ready to start every day in 2012, but will he be replacing Carlos Quentinin right field or can the two sluggers occupy both corner outfield spots? (US PRESSWIRE)
If anything, Santos has faltered most when inserted in traditional closing roles, like starting the ninth. The young fella thrives on high-leverage pitching, where there is less time to think and more to simply erase the hopes of batters. Something for the Chicago brain trust to grow on for 2012.

Which kids can play?

As the White Sox continue to attempt challenging for a Central crown in 2012 with a mix of veterans and young guns, the second half of the season, and September in particular, has been telling for the White Sox.

Tyler Flowers, Alejandro De Aza, and Viciedo all appear to be ready to contribute solidly to Chicago in 2012, if not as starters, as key contributors. Of the young players with the White Sox all season, Brent Morel has leapfrogged Gordon Beckham offensively, but both are slinging leathersomething that would have overshadowed their offensive woes had players like Dunn and Rios performed to expectations in 2011.

There may not be a fountain of youth on the White Sox, but theres a trickle, and if all things are equal with the teams vets, theres a wave of complimentary players who can aid a pennant push in 2012.
Does 2012 promise hope, or horror?

As usual, it depends on your perspective. From a sheer talent standpoint, there is tons of room for optimism.

But from a shifting-on-the-fly managerial standpointand that goes for field managing and general managing alikethere is reason for despondency. Because the same solutions that could be found in 2012the De Azas, Humbers and Viciedos of the clubwere solutions available in 2011 to rescue a lost season, as well.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

After getting shut down by Buck Farmer, White Sox ninth-inning rally falls short

The White Sox offense finally came alive in the ninth inning. But it came one run short of completing an epic last-ditch comeback.

The White Sox were silenced by Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Buck Farmer and went to the ninth inning down 4-0. But the South Siders woke up at the last minute for three runs, only to fall with the tying run on third base in a 4-3 decision at Guaranteed Rate Field, the second game of Saturday's doubleheader.

Down a quartet of runs heading to the bottom of the ninth, Jose Abreu led off with a double, and two batters later, Matt Davidson singled, putting runners at the corners with one out. Abreu came home when Tim Anderson singled up the middle, and Davidson and Anderson both scored on Yolmer Sanchez's triple into the right-field corner to make it a one-run game. But Todd Frazier and Adam Engel struck out with Sanchez 90 feet away to end the game.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Prior to the late-inning dramatics, the White Sox couldn't do a thing offensively, mostly thanks to the efforts of Farmer, who struck out 11 in his 6.1 shutout innings. He allowed only three hits and two walks in his first appearance of the 2017 season.

White Sox starter Derek Holland allowed just one run and struck out eight but left trailing 1-0. The Tigers scored three more runs off the White Sox bullpen thanks to a sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and a Victor Martinez solo home run.

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

When he learned last November that elite talent Luis Robert could be available by June 15, Marco Paddy didn’t hold back: It was time for the White Sox make their move.

Much like with Yoan Moncada before, the team’s international scouting director had an extensive history scouting Robert, who on Saturday signed with the White Sox after he received a $26 million signing bonus. After watching him for five years, Paddy believed in Robert enough to recommend the White Sox pay several severe penalties to sign a player the franchise thinks could be an everyday center fielder with power.

By signing Robert, 19, the White Sox must not only pay a luxury tax of almost equal value to the bonus, but they’re also unable to sign any international prospect for more than $300,000 in each of the next two classes. But given the limited competition and the unique talent he saw, Paddy let the White Sox know Robert -- a potential top-30 prospect in baseball -- was a player they couldn’t afford to bypass. Thus begun the team’s courtship, one the Cuban cited as having a major impact on his desire to sign with the White Sox. Now, the White Sox not only have Moncada after trading for him in December, but they also have another potential cornerstone to build around.

“From the beginning we were very serious about it,” Paddy said. “Knowing we weren’t going to have 29 other clubs competing against us was a good thing for us because we knew our competition pool was a lot smaller. We went in it with everything we had and if we missed out on some guys that’s fine, that’s the risk you take.

“It’s a dream come true to be honest with you, having those guys with that kind of ability together. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But I saw Moncada about the same age I saw Robert and it’s like Christmas in May.”

The pursuit of Robert -- a player general manager Rick Hahn describes as a “dynamic, potential talent” -- began in December at the winter meetings at National Harbor, Md. Having learned that Robert would potentially be a late addition to the 2016-17 international class, Paddy asked for a meeting with Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Paddy and Hahn had previously held several similar state-of-the-international-picture meetings to determine when to make a splash on the market.

This was different.

“Marco approached us and said, ‘This is the guy,’ ” Hahn said.

It was still a “what if” proposition because Robert not only had to establish residency, but he also had to receive clearance from Major League Baseball to be part of the 2016-17 class, a critical factor. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams could spend whatever they wanted on a player as long as they paid a luxury tax. But under the new CBA, teams are limited to a maximum of $5.25 million for bonuses.

While the White Sox felt Paddy’s familiarity with Robert would give them a chance if he wasn’t eligible until July 2 (the next class), they knew they’d compete against fewer teams for his services under the old rules. Hahn said back in March the White Sox intended to be a player either way. On Saturday, he said it was Paddy’s initial determination that spurred him into action.

“Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization,” Hahn said. “Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”

Then everyone else got involved and the White Sox went overboard to recruit Robert.

If Saturday’s pregame presentation is any indication, the White Sox pulled out all the stops.

As Robert was introduced for his press conference, he sat in front of banners featuring current and former White Sox from Cuba, including Alexei Ramirez, Minnie Minoso, Jose Abreu and Moncada.

Once he was on the field to throw out the first pitch, the team played a short video that was filmed Friday night on the scoreboard with numerous White Sox fans welcoming Robert to Chicago. As Robert trotted to the mound to throw his pitch to Abreu, team employees stood atop the home dugout with a sign that read “bienvenidos” and holding Cuban flags.

But the post-signing efforts were nothing compared to the team’s full-court press of Robert last month.

[MORE: Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League]

Hahn and Williams brought several showstoppers with them when they traveled to the Dominican Republic for a private workout with Robert last month. Included were a power point production and an iPad with a video presentation that the White Sox communications department put together in six days, Hahn said. Manager Rick Renteria narrated the short video in Spanish and it included personal messages for Robert from Abreu, Moncada and Michael Ynoa, who shares the same trainer (Edgar Mercedes) and worked out with Robert in the offseason.

“It was a beautiful video,” Robert said through an interpreter. “The part (that stood out) the most was when Ricky Renteria was talking straight to me, saying they need me here to win several championships.”

But more than the video, Robert said the desire displayed by the White Sox made his decision easy. Hahn said the White Sox felt confident heading into the final 24 hours that they were in the lead for Robert. Not only had they bid aggressively, Hahn thought the White Sox made a strong pitch. That feeling only increased last Saturday morning when Robert changed his Instagram avatar to a picture of him wearing a White Sox cap.

“The video helps a lot, but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest,” Robert said. “That was something that made me feel good.”

Paddy had seen enough in five years to feel confident in pushing the White Sox to be a player for Robert.

He first scouted Robert at the under-15 Pan American Championships in 2012 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Paddy’s interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-pound center fielder only grew as Robert matured physically. Paddy suspected that once Hahn and Williams would be on board once they saw the passion with which Robert played.

Robert described himself on Saturday as player who likes to fight and “give all that I have for my team.” Paddy said it wasn’t a difficult call to push Hahn when he considered the player’s tools and makeup, as well as the last opportunity to spend big on an international talent.

“You put all those things together, it becomes easy,” Paddy said. “As I watched him over the years grow, get stronger and get better, it became evident to me that if we had an opportunity to sign this guy, it would be a good thing for the organization.

“The level of ability, the tools that I saw that he had, and the past and now present, it’s something you don’t see every day.”