Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

54492.jpg

Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

Monday, October 5th
Theres a clubhouse filled with more boxes than humans.

Theres an outfield without any grass, just layers and layers of dirt.

This was the U.S. Cellular Field Ozzie Guillen entered on Monday morning, there to visit his office one final time before going home for the winter. His White Sox season over. Speculation for next season just beginning.

And he had a lot on his mind.

Fortunately, we brought along a camera and microphone.

Before his team took the field on Sunday, Guillen had two overwhelming thoughts.

One, he didnt want a front row seat to the Tigers celebrating a Central Division title. And two, he was concerned about one of his players who wouldnt, or should I say, couldnt even look at him.

That was Jermaine Dye.

Over the last two months, Guillen has repeatedly said that Dye is one of his all-time favorite players. But the soon-to-be-free agent likely will not be re-signed.

Ozzie knows it.

So does Jermaine.

And considering their tight relationship over the last four years, they were both having trouble coming to grips with the painful reality that Guillen was probably managing Dye for the very last time.

It was kind of hard when I was thinking about JD, Ozzie told Comcast SportsNet. And I dont think JD wanted to have eye contact with me. I dont think it was one of the hardest things I ever went through with the players, because I went through a lot, but when JD said to me before the game that this might be the last game Im going to play for you, I dont want to say that it was creepy, but kind of. I got a lot of feelings out there.

So in your gut, has Dye played his last game with the White Sox?

Yes, because our budget is going to be pretty tight. Thats the only reason. Do we want JD here? Of course. Kenny Williams loves him. Jerry Reinsdorf loves him. The fans ... hes one of my favorite players. The relationship between JD, his family, and myself was pretty special. And thats why it was kind of hard for me to maybe not see him again in a White Sox uniform.

Dye might be gone, but after Sundays season-ending defeat, Guillen was impressed by several players who are coming back.

Jake Peavy walked into Ozzies office, and even though it was completely out of his control, he apologized to Guillen for not being able to pitch when the Sox traded for him, and promised that hell be ready when Spring Training begins in February.

Paul Konerko also offered a mea culpa, telling Ozzie, sorry we let you down.

Gordon Beckham thanked his manager for giving him the opportunity to play 103 games, less than a year after being drafted by the White Sox out of the University of Georgia. Guillen said he told his rookie phenom, I didnt give you the opportunity, you did it yourself.

His players humility left a deep impression.

That was the first time Ive ever felt that way with the players because they expressed themselves, Guillen said. They expressed themselves about the way they felt about the season, and it's something I will talk to Kenny and Jerry Reinsdorf about what they say and youre always pleased by the way they were thinking.

Whos Guillens MVP?

We can talk about Scott Podsednik. But I think its DJ Carrasco. A lot of people say, 'Well the MVP is the person who has the best numbers.' Well, the managers MVP is the guy who helped him out the most. When I said in 2005 that Tadahito Iguchi was my MVP, people didnt believe me. Carrasco was picking garbage from everybody.

Guillen and Kenny Williams will speak frequently over the offseason. They had a 15-minute conversation inside the Sox lunchroom on Monday. Fans have a laundry list of players they want the Sox GM to sign for next year, as we saw by all of your comments here last week.

Sign Chone Figgins.
Trade for Carl Crawford.
Add Matt Holiday.
Deal Bobby Jenks.

Etc, etc, etc.

But when I asked Guillen if he could go to Kenny and say, I need one thing this offseason, what is it? he replied:

Sign Mark Kotsay.

But what about from the outside? What else do you need?

I dont have the title, but there are two things. If we sign Podsednik, then were almost set. If we dont sign Podsednik, then well need speed at the top of the lineup. A lot of people think about Chone Figgins. Well, Figgins is going to cost a lot of money. Behind Figgins there are going to be 30 teams. And when you have 30 teams, its like going fishing and there are 30 boats out there to catch one fish. Well, good luck.

And good luck to Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge, who struggled mightily at the plate this season, and will definitely have to improve if they hope to make the club next season. Guillen said he sent messages to both rookies.

They dont play the way they have to play," he said. "They struck out too much. Offensively, they want to play a big man game when theyre little. If they do that, theyre not going to go with me, because we need those guys to be better offensively than we had this year.

Probably the biggest surprise from our 25-minute interview was Guillens admission that he doesnt just answer fan e-mails, but that he has actually used some of your ideas in ballgames.

Said Ozzie, I put Carlos Quentin third in the lineup one time because we were desperate about something. One fan wrote it in, and I put him in third. I put A.J. Pierzynski batting second. Some idiot from Joilet. I said, Maybe this guy knows more than me. And we did. And we win with him!

Did you thank him?

Ozzie answered sarcastically, No, because I didnt want to give him the credit.
Part 2 of our conversation runs Tuesday at 6:30, 10:00 p.m. and midnight.

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."

[Buy White Sox tickets here]

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."

[Buy White Sox tickets here]

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."