Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

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Sox Drawer: The Buehrle goodbye

DALLAS -- On the last day of the regular season, Kenny Williams walked into the White Sox clubhouse seeking out Mark Buehrle. He gave him a hug to say goodbye.

Is this goodbye, goodbye? Mark asked.

No, its just goodbye, Williams said.

At the time, there was still hope that the White Sox would find a way to bring Buehrle back to the White Sox.

Chicago was his home. It held his heart. The White Sox were all he knew.

But when the window opened for teams to contact free agents, the Marlins came calling -- so did the Nationals, Rangers and almost half of the teams in the major leagues. Everyone wanted Buehrle -- even the Cubs -- and yes, so did the White Sox, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Well, almost nothing.

I knew what we could have done, Williams told reporters Wednesday night. Wed have to go to the ATM about 56 million times. Thats assuming we can get a dollar out of it.

Blame it on bad timing.

In 2010 at the Winter Meetings, the White Sox had money to spend. Weve heard the phrase a zillion times. They were All In. However, in 2011 when it comes to free agents, its exactly the opposite.

"All Out." Just like the Marlins were for the last several years. Not this year.

In terms of payroll, both teams are headed in different directions. The White Sox are low on money, the Marlins are apparently printing it -- spending lavishly on Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell -- so far.

For Mark, it was never about the money. According to a source close to him, he likely would have given the White Sox a hometown discount as long as the offer was fair. Yet when Buehrles agent, Jeff Berry, contacted Williams on Wednesday night to inform him of the 4-year, 58 million dollar deal with Miami, the end of his White Sox career became official.

It was goodbye, goodbye.

They came to us and told us exactly what he had in front of him, Williams said. And we simply said, Congratulations, we wish you well, and thank you. You will forever be in our hearts. Theres nothing we can do about it.

Buehrle has easily been one of the most popular players on the team for the last decade, so the decision to let him leave will certainly not go over well with White Sox fans.

I asked Williams how he thinks theyll react to the news.

I think people are going to be just as unhappy as I am, said the Sox GM. Listen, given my druthers I would rather have him here than not. Two words probably sum it up best, It sucks. But this is part of sports, part of business. Your favorite players and my favorite players will come and go.

Most athletes dont have trouble switching teams or leagues. It happens all the time. However, Mark is different. Hes about as straight and narrow as they come. All along, he was hoping his career would stay on the same path. But now its headed on a big detour, one that has him reuniting with Ozzie Guillen.

Buehrle told his longtime manager that he had serious reservations about leaving the White Sox, even though all the signs pointed to him not coming back.

One of the first conversations we had he said I dont know how Im going to handle it, going to a new city and new spring training, Guillen said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet after the news broke. I said you are going to handle it easy wearing a Marlins uniform because I'm going to be there, and Joey Cora going to be there, and he knows the way we work. But it was very hard. I know for a fact that he feels kind of funny leaving the ballclub. But this is part of the game. I told him dont blame Kenny, dont blame Jerry Reinsdorf. I think they go in a different direction. Mark decided to play somewhere else. Thats the way it was meant to be.

Wednesday night, Guillen flew back to, of all places, Chicago. He and his wife recently built a home in the city, and despite managing in Miami, he plans on living in Chicago in the winters. He said he doesnt want to leave. Why? Well, hes Ozzie, and he still loves Chicago -- apparently even when its 5-below zero.

And if you happen to live near Guillen, you might see him around the neighborhood on Thursday morning, and a lot more than normal.

I will walk my dog three times to see what they say about Mark. It will be pretty interesting to see what they say.

Memo to Ozzie: theyre not going to be happy.

So now the White Sox move on without one of their longtime centerpieces, a guy who pitched a perfect game, a no-hitter, won a World Series ring, as well as the hearts and minds of every White Sox fan from Beverly to Burr Ridge, Palos Hills to Park Forest.

Can they replace him? We know better.

You cant.

For me to stand here and say that somebody is going to take that mantle and be Mark Buehrle? Mark Buehrle is Mark Buehrle. Hes a unique person, Williams said. I just told the Marlins ownership, I said, Youve got one hell of a pitcher, but let me tell you, youve got a better person.

One of the best players, and one of the best people this sportscaster has ever covered or ever met.

Chicago, I feel your pain.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria 'surprised' Melky Cabrera hasn't been traded

White Sox manager Rick Renteria 'surprised' Melky Cabrera hasn't been traded

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox have offloaded more pieces in the past eight months than that furniture store that always seems to be going out of business.

Everything. Must. Go.

Even so, the team hasn’t found any takers for veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera, who finished with four hits in Saturday night’s 7-2 White Sox loss to the Kansas City Royals. Cabrera finished a triple shy of the cycle and drove in two runs. That Cabrera still resides on the South Side is a surprise to White Sox manager Rick Renteria.

“Honestly yeah, to be honest,” Renteria said. “To me he’s a premier Major League baseball player who has been playing outstanding defense. And he has been for us one of the two or three guys who has been timing his hitting in terms of driving in runs when we need them, putting together really good at-bats when we need them. Just playing the game. Yeah, kind of surprised.”

Despite making their intentions known that everyone short of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon are available, Cabrera’s name has barely registered a blip on the radar when it comes to trade rumors.

Several factors have probably prevented Cabrera from being dealt, the biggest being his salary. Cabrera is still owed roughly $6.3 million of his $15 million salary, which makes him an expensive option.

Defensive metrics also don’t have much love for Cabrera despite his eight outfield assists. Cabrera’s lack of range has produced minus-6 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.7 Ultimate Zone Rating.

Those figures likely would like have teams lean toward making Cabrera a designated hitter. While he’s been one of the team’s most consistent and prominent offensive performers, Cabrera’s .786 ranks only about 38th in the American League.

As FanRag’s Jon Heyman noted earlier Saturday, to trade Cabrera the White Sox would likely have to eat most of the outfielder’s remaining salary.

Royals think White Sox have done 'phenomenal job' acquiring young talent

Royals think White Sox have done 'phenomenal job' acquiring young talent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only six years after they had the “best farm system of all time,” the Kansas City Royals see a bright future ahead for the upstart White Sox.

Several current Kansas City players who graduated from that farm system and led the Royals to a 2015 World Series title and manager Ned Yost all said they’re intrigued by how quickly the White Sox have built up their minor league talent.

Through four major trades and the signing of international free agent Luis Robert, the White Sox boast a system that features 10 top-10 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com. Baseball America ranks eight White Sox prospects in their top 100. While the system isn’t yet ready to compete with the 2011 Royals for the unofficial title of best ever, it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

“Have you seen what they’ve gotten back from tearing it down?” Yost said. “MLB ranks the top 100 prospects. Most teams have one or two. I don’t think we have any. They have 10. They’ve done a phenomenal job of restocking their system with incredibly talented young players.”

Not everything is identical between how these organizations built their farms.

The Royals headed into 2011 with nine top-100 prospects and five in the top 20 alone (Eric Hosmer 8, Mike Moustakas 9, Wil Myers 10, John Lamb 18, Mike Montgomery 19). The Kansas City Star in 2016 reviewed the best-ranked systems of all-time and determined by a point value system (100 points for the No. 1 prospect and one point for the No. 100 prospect) that the 2011 club was better than all others with 574 points.

But that group was the byproduct of a painstaking stretch in which the Royals averaged 96 losses from 2004-12. The slower path taken by Kansas City allowed its young core to develop and learn how to play together in the minors. As pitcher Danny Duffy noted, “we went to the playoffs every year.”

They won at Rookie-Burlington, Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha took home three titles. Working together was a big key to the team’s success at the major league level, said catcher Salvador Perez.

“We didn’t come from different teams,” Perez said. “We all came from here. We had a young team together. We learned how to win and win in the big leagues.

“We learned how to win together, play together and play for the team. It was really important.”

The only time the Royals didn’t win was at Advance-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, Duffy said.

“You learn how success feels and how some failure feels,” Duff said. “We lost in Wilmington and you would have thought the world was coming to an end.”

According to the Star, the Royals haven’t had much recent competition for the best system. Until now.

The 2006 Diamondbacks accrued 541 points and the 2000 Florida Marlins had 472. The 2015 Cubs scored 450 points.

After the addition of Blake Rutherford on Tuesday (the No. 36 prospect on BA’s current top 100 list), the White Sox have 483 points. But the 2017 Atlanta Braves are even better with 532 points, the third-highest total of all-time.

The White Sox farm system has created excitement among the fan base that had wavered in recent years. Not everyone is on board, but the majority seems to be and that can create hysteria.

“We had people at the games who were super excited about the wave of prospects,” Duffy said. “Obviously they have a stacked system over there, very similar to what we had coming up. There was a lot of excitement. It was crazy.”

But excitement didn’t immediately translate into victories. Though a fair amount of the 2011 class graduated to the majors by later that season, the Royals didn’t get on track in the big leagues for a few years.

It wasn’t until the second half of 2013 that the Royals got going. The 2014 club ended a 29-year playoff drought with a wild-card berth that led to an American League pennant. They followed that up with a World Series title in 2015. Had it not been for a Herculean effort by Madison Bumgarner, Kansas City might have had consecutive titles.

Still, getting there takes time.

“The first thing you had to do was get them here,” Yost said. “Experience has taught me that it’s generally 2 1/2 years before they can get to a point where they can compete. They just have to gain that experience at the major league level because it’s definitely a much more difficult style of play up here. The talent is just so incredibly good that it takes a while for talent or players to adjust to where they’re productive. It just takes time then being able to go out and play every single day.”

Even though that means the White Sox will experience difficult times the next few years, Duffy and Co. think it’s worth the wait. While Duffy imagines losing Jose Quintana and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier isn’t fun, he has a good sense what is headed this direction.

“Losing Quintana stings, but they got a king’s ransom back,” Duffy said. “It’s the way of the game. But they’re going to have a really good time in the next few years.”