If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

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If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

In a perfect world for the White Sox, Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber would put their struggles behind them, pitching at the level the team believes the pair can. But if one or both pitchers can't keep runs from scoring -- Floyd has an ERA of 10.38 in his last seven starts and Humber has a 7.47 ERA since his perfect game -- the Sox may be forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching.

A name that popped up this week is Simon Castro, who the White Sox acquired from San Diego in last winter's Carlos Quentin trade. Once a highly-touted prospect in the Padres' system, Castro's star fell considerably during a 2011 season that saw him post a 5.63 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. Castro began the season with Triple-A Tucson, but was sent back to Double-A after six rough starts.

But Castro has pitched well with Double-A Birmingham, sporting a 3.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts, 16 walks and four home runs allowed in 85 innings. And he's caught the eye of Kenny Wiliams, who discussed the pitcher's progress on Monday.

"We're really happy with his progress," Williams said. "He has returned to the guy that he was when he was one of the top prospects in baseball with San Diego."

The question, though, is if Castro can handle opponents at a level higher than Double-A. 2012 is Castro's third go-around in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.52 ERA in 304 career innings. But Castro has struggled at Triple-A, making eight starts at that level in the San Diego organization with a 9.50 ERA. His control has escaped him in Triple-A, with 24 walks and 27 strikeouts to his name in 36 innings.

Williams says the main question with Castro is if he can handle the mental aspect of pitching above Double-A.

"We're going to make sure that continues and have the conversations like we did with Jose Quintana and some of the other guys we brought up quickly: Can he handle it makeup-wise and will he continue to grow and not go backwards? It's a delicate situation when you're discussing things along those lines, but we couldn't be any more pleased than where we are with him."

Quintana has shown the mettle to pitch above Double-A, posting a 1.53 ERA in 35 13 innings with the Sox this season. Unlike Castro, Quintana never failed at Triple-A, although that's because he hasn't thrown an inning at that level in his career.

To Castro's credit, the Pacific Coast League is a cruel place for pitchers, and he's hardly thrown enough innings in Triple-A to make a long-term judgment about his ability to pitch at that level.

The Sox don't appear ready to shake up the starting rotation just yet, especially with John Danks out for at least another month. But if they do reach that point, Castro may find himself in the pitching help discussion.

How the White Sox and Tim Anderson came to their creative contract extension

How the White Sox and Tim Anderson came to their creative contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Among the many complex elements involved in getting a deal done, timing appears to have been the most critical for Tim Anderson and the White Sox.

Even though Anderson has less than a year of service time, both sides felt it was imperative they complete a six-year pact during spring training that could pay the shortstop upward of $50.5 million.

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, neither the White Sox nor Anderson's representatives at Reynolds Sports Management had any interest in allowing talks to extend into the season for the player's sake. And when it comes to why now -- whether it was eliminating risk or assuming it, the years of control on the back end or the dollars and cents — it was clear to all parties that the present was the only logical time to finalize a deal that could keep Anderson in Chicago through 2024.

"We felt now was the right opportunity to get the length of control we were looking for and we were comfortable with," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "I think the fact that it is an aggressive move on our part is probably not a surprise given what you've seen us do with some of our other players, which took people by surprise. But again, we view him as a premium talent who's going to be an important part of what we're trying accomplish for the next several years."

To complete a deal like this, one that members of the White Sox front office often refer to as "win-win contracts," both sides must make significant concessions. Anderson's extension is the fifth long-term deal completed by the White Sox in four years, starting with Chris Sale's contract in March 2013.

The team benefits by locking up the first two seasons of Anderson's free agency at an affordable rate. The White Sox used that additional control to their advantage this offseason when they traded Sale and Adam Eaton for seven talented prospects.

But to gain those benefits, Hahn and Co. must be comfortable enough with the expected performance, the potential for injury and the person to assume the risk created by guaranteeing $25 million.

On the other side, Anderson's representatives must potentially concede the front end of free agency in order to gain security.

Even then, the deal isn't complete unless the player is satisfied.

"There's a lot of things that have to line up for a deal like this to work," said White Sox assistant GM Jeremy Haber.

When the two sides first made contact several weeks ago, Anderson's management team was skeptical.

The club's first offer was rejected.

Similar to the White Sox, Anderson's agent, Larry Reynolds, sees a star in the making. Not only does he possess the tools and work ethic necessary to become great, Anderson's reps believe he also has the drive necessary to make further progress. Given Anderson produced 2.8 Wins Above Replacement in his first season, Reynolds' team needed to be convinced to sacrifice valuable front-end years on the next contract.

Once the White Sox adjusted the proposed arbitration numbers, the likelihood of an extension increased.

When he has one-plus year of service time in 2018, Anderson will earn $1 million — exactly $50,000 shy of what Kris Bryant is making this season after he already won a Rookie of the Year award and a Most Valuable Player award. In 2019, Anderson's $1.4 million salary will be $400,000 more than Mike Trout — already a two-time AL MVP runner-up — earned with roughly the same amount of service time. The $4 million Anderson is set to take home in 2020 is $400,000 higher than Jackie Bradley is earning this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility and $1.275 million more than Lorenzo Cain earned in his in 2015.

Those figures as well as a $7.25 million payday in 2021 and $9.5 million in 2022 were enough to convince Anderson and his team to concede his first two years of free agency.

"This deal was a challenging one, particularly when you have a special talent like Tim's to consider," said Reynolds Sports Management COO Patrick Murphy. "The length of the contract and the club options were concerning, but as the negotiations progressed, Larry (Reynolds) and the group got more comfortable. In the end, what really mattered was the fact that Tim wanted to do the deal, so we pulled the trigger."

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To arrive at the point where they wanted to lock down Anderson, the White Sox had to feel comfortable assuming risk. If anything goes wrong, they'd be on the hook for half of the contract. According to Hahn and Haber, there was never any doubt about pushing forward. Hahn said the White Sox initially discussed the possibility of an extension a year ago.

The ease with which they decided to move on that idea only grew the more they knew Anderson, whom they selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Not only is Anderson athletic, the White Sox have found him to be a quick learner who’s motivated to prove his doubters wrong.

"One of the things we talked about before engaging was if there was anyone in the organization who felt that Tim got guaranteed money that it would change how he approached the game and how he prepared," Hahn said. "Everyone I had that conversation with immediately to a man said no. He's about trying to be great and trying to win championships. He's not doing this for the money. He's not going to change his work ethic or who he is in the clubhouse or the field just because he has guaranteed cash in his pocket now."

All it took was the time to hammer out the deal.

But with the team's April 3 opener nearing, both sides hoped to have an answer by Sunday. They didn't want Anderson, who said he was surprised the team wanted to extend him, to be worried about his status as the regular season approached.

Whereas the two parties spoke about once every four days at the start, Reynolds and Haber were in contact 2-3 times per day on Friday and Saturday as negotiations intensified. After it was finalized, Anderson said he could feel the weight of it all. The sides agreed to the deal late Saturday and Anderson took his physical on Monday.

While stressful at the time, Anderson is pleased to have security and a home for at least the next six seasons.

"It's life changing," Anderson said. "For me to go out and perform the way I did and for them to reward them the way I did, it's such a blessing. Especially for someone like me from where I come from. It's just really an honor for me to be able to do this.

"That speaks highly of them, for them to believe in me like that. Just from 115 days in the big leagues last year. I'm very thankful and forever be humble and just keep moving forward with this."

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He already carries the confidence of someone who throws 100 mph. But Zack Burdi felt even more secure entering camp after receiving sound advice from his older brother, who also happens to play pro ball.

Burdi — selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 draft — hasn't felt too overwhelmed over the past five weeks even though he's experiencing big league camp for the first time. A process-oriented pitcher, the White Sox prospect said he owes his comfort to the guidance of his brother, Minnesota Twins farmhand Nick Burdi. 

"Act like you belong," Burdi said of the advice. "Don't make it out to be something it isn't. It's still a game. You're still going out there and playing a game you've played for the last 19 years. That was the big thing."

If it weren't for a gaggle of talented, newly acquired prospects alongside him in camp, Burdi might have been the hot topic in camp this spring. He features a fastball that rates 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 60-slider and a 55-changeup, according to MLB.com. The arsenal has many of the belief Burdi could one day be a stalwart in the back of a major league bullpen. The Louisville-product is also very advanced compared with most 2016 draftees and was considered to be the most major league-ready player at the time of last June's draft.

But until the club made a series of moves Tuesday, Burdi, who has a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings this spring, was just one of a bevy of talented prospects in the White Sox clubhouse. Of the team's top seven prospects, five are right-handed pitchers. Burdi is the team's No. 7 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. 

Armed with his brother's advice, Burdi has focused on keeping his head low and his eyes and ears open this spring. He said one of the best parts about the advice that Nick Burdi — who also went to Louisville and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft — offered is that he had a sense of how the camp would be run. Though no two camps are alike, having a sense of what the day-to-day operation is like gave Burdi comfort. 

"Nick's someone I've looked to in countless situations in baseball or outside of it for advice," Zack Burdi said. "It has been nothing but good advice throughout it all. To come to camp and kind of have a little insight of how it's going to go, how it's going to be, was a huge personal advantage for me because I like to know how certain things are going to go. I don't like going in too blind."

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Burdi is in an enviable position as his first big league camp is coming to a close. He's the highest-rated prospect left after a series of moves Tuesday sent second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minor league camp. 

The White Sox head back to Chicago next Wednesday.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox merely want to give the Downers Grove-product a little more time to soak up the big league atmosphere. While its more likely he begins the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Burdi ranks high on the team's depth chart and could be in line for a late-innings role were the White Sox to trade a reliever. Either way, Burdi isn't worried about anything but his own performance and conduct. 

"I'm confident with where I'm at," Burdi said. "I'm just excited to see where the season's going to take me. If it's Triple-A then that's awesome. Going to go there and do my best to help the team. if it's the big leagues then it'll be the same thing: go up, do my best and keep learning day by day and just trust the process and keep growing."