Chicago White Sox

Post-Quintana sweep shows how rough life could be for 2017 White Sox after trade deadline

Post-Quintana sweep shows how rough life could be for 2017 White Sox after trade deadline

Very few folks gave the White Sox bad reviews for the Jose Quintana trade.

Rick Hahn’s front office shipped out the team’s best pitcher earlier this week in a shocking crosstown swap that sent the 2016 All-Star hurler to the Cubs in exchange for that organization’s top two prospects. From the standpoint of the White Sox rebuild, it was a stellar move, the latest from Hahn, who also brought huge return packages of prospects back in offseason deals involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.

And more is expected. As the trade deadline approaches, several veteran White Sox have had their names brought up as trade candidates: third baseman Todd Frazier, relief pitchers David Robertson, Anthony Swarzak and Tommy Kahnle and perhaps even outfielder Melky Cabrera.

While the deals that have already happened and the deals that could follow have been great news for the farm system and the team’s future, the first series following the Quintana trade offered a grim picture of what things could look like after the team’s top performers are sent out of town.

Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the visiting Seattle Mariners ended a sweep at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox 0-3 in their first three games after Quintana was traded.

Off the field, the White Sox have explained their feelings on Quintana’s departure: “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business.” And surely they do feel that way. But on the field, at least the timing of these three results just didn’t look so hot.

“It’s always hard when we lose a teammate and a good person,” outfielder Avisail Garcia said. “But it’s part of the game. We’re here today. We don’t know tomorrow.”

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Of course, the White Sox were a last-place team when Quintana was traded, and the organization’s announced rebuild has been ongoing for several months. It’s not like dealing away the ace of the starting staff signaled some bold new direction that hadn’t already been understood.

But with Quintana dealt, trading season is officially on on the South Side, and that means manager Rick Renteria and his players have been answering questions about more rumors and more deals for the past three days. It means they’ll continue to get asked those questions for the next few weeks.

And to add to the visual, Quintana made his Cubs debut Sunday, turning in a spectacular performance, allowing just three hits and striking out 12 in seven shutout innings. That was vintage Quintana, the kind of performance that, albeit quietly, made him one of the American League’s top pitchers over the past several seasons.

“I haven’t sensed that the guys are down,” Renteria said. “Their friend, their teammate — who threw very well today, obviously, in Baltimore — they’re pulling for him. They know that the game of baseball has elements that not everybody likes. You would like everybody to be on the same team as long as possible, but change occurs and they’re pulling for him.”

That kind of pitcher no longer exists on the White Sox starting staff. The team is hoping one day soon that guys like Carlos Rodon and Michael Kopech and others can lead a fearsome rotation. As of now, it’s a patchwork quilt of the guys we saw this weekend. James Shields gave up four runs and watched his ERA balloon to 5.10 in Friday’s loss. Mike Pelfrey couldn’t make it five innings in Saturday’s loss and now owns a 4.64 ERA. Derek Holland gave up five earned runs in Sunday’s loss, his ERA now sitting at 5.18 after blowing a 5-0 lead.

And what about in the bullpen? If Robertson, Swarzak and Kahnle all get traded, who's next in line? Chris Beck? He gave up the game-winning home run to Nelson Cruz in the 10th inning Sunday.

Again, these kinds of things were happening before Quintana was traded, and his absence alone won’t change a trajectory that already had the White Sox heading toward a last-place finish in the AL Central standings. But without him, the present-day positives become more difficult to locate, and the focus will increase even more on what’s going on down in the minor leagues, where the future of this team is growing.

As for the guys who will play the remainder of the team’s 2017 schedule, they have to continue to go about their business knowing that Quintana won’t be coming back — and that others are likely to follow him out the door.

“We wish Q the best, obviously. We’re talking about him leaving, and we saw him perform very well today, too, so you’ve got to give hats off to him,” Holland said. “But at the same time, we can’t get caught up in those kinds of things. We’ve still got to play the game whether we lose a guy or we gain a guy, whatever it is we’ve still got to show up every single day. To get caught up in something like that, it’s just not right. It takes away from your teammates, too, it shows you’re not focused.

“The outcomes (this weekend) didn’t go the way we wanted to. Look at how each game was, they were close. We’re doing the right things, got to keep plugging away. Things are going to change, can’t get caught up in that kind of stuff.”

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

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USA TODAY

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

It’s been more than two weeks since Carlos Rodon was shut down for the season, one day after he was scratched from a start with shoulder inflammation.

And while we know Rodon won’t pitch again in 2017 — a season with just a little more than a week remaining for the rebuilding White Sox — the team still doesn’t know, or still isn’t ready to say, exactly what’s wrong with the former first-round draft pick.

“We’re just trying to get it right,” Rodon said before Saturday night’s game against the visiting Kansas City Royals. “Still trying to figure everything out and take everything we can and put it all together to get the most information and do what’s best for me and for this team.”

That kind of non-update might raise some red flags in the minds of White Sox fans, curious as to what is the latest ailment for a pitcher who missed three months this season while recovering from biceps bursitis.

Rodon was slated to get reevaluated shortly after that early September injury. He was, but no news came of it, at least not yet.

“Pretty similar to what our doc said,” Rodon said of that follow-up evaluation. “Like I said, we’re trying to still gather all the information and figure out what we’re going to do from there.”

Rodon ended his third season in the bigs with a 4.15 ERA in 69.1 innings of work. And while the White Sox still believe he’ll be a huge part of their starting staff moving forward, it’s plenty acceptable to wonder what kind of effects this season of injuries will have on Rodon as the franchise’s rebuild chugs along.

“He continues to be a big part of what we believe is the future of the organization,” manager Rick Renteria said after explaining several times that the team is still trying to figure out what’s wrong with Rodon. “Unfortunately, this year he's been down quite a bit. So assuming he comes back in a good situation and is healthy and is capable of going out and performing, he fits into one of the five guys that are going to be out there for us next season.”

For his part, Rodon is 100-percent confident he’ll be good to go for next year’s campaign.

“I just know that I’ll be ready for next season,” Rodon said. “The goal is to be ready for next year and be healthy through all of next season.”

That, though, will be the million-dollar question as the White Sox starting rotation of the future begins to take shape. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already penciled in for 2018, and Michael Kopech’s 2017 campaign in the minors was so sensational, he could potentially pitch himself into that starting five, too. With younger names like Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning also doing work in the minors, someone’s going to be the odd man out.

Rodon still has the confidence of his organization. But will he have the health to make that confidence pay off?