Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

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Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

Friday, December 4th

Its three days before baseballs winter meetings in Indianapolis. What is Kenny Williams thinking? Judging by his opening comments on a Friday conference call with the media, he certainly isnt going to tell us.

Kenny Williams here, he began. Ready to not answer any questions that you might have.

Okay

But in the 20-minute session, the Sox GM did provide some glimpses into their current mind-set, and what might happen between now and Opening Day.

The 2010 team:

Were going to pitch, and were going to play defense, and were going to scrap like hell to score runs, Williams said. Sounds like the blueprint from 2005. But will he have enough cement and bricks to build a winner?

The rotation is already one of the best in the majors. The defense is in the process of getting an upgrade. Adding Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones, along with re-signing Mark Kotsay also gives the Sox one of the best benches in the majors.

And speaking of the bench, if another person makes a crack at how old those three guys are, Im going to send your antiquated thinking straight to a local nursing home where you will have nothing but a television and rabbit ears for White Sox information.

Sorry about that. Gotta vent here.

When it comes to a bench, you have to ask yourself one question, are the players major league competent? Seriously, thats all you want and all you need from your bench. Wilson Betemit, Brian Anderson (minus his glove), Brent Lillibridge, and DeWayne Wise (minus the Buehrle perfect game and 2008 playoff HR) = not competent.

Even if Jones shows up in Glendale weighing 250 pounds with McDonalds wrappers trailing his Rolls Royce on the freeway, if he can find his way to hit 15 homers for the Sox next season (which is completely attainable because he will run through a wall for his good friend Ozzie Guillen), you should take it.

Kenny added that Jones has accepted his role as a back-up, but wants to have the opportunity in spring training to compete for a starting job. Sounds like a guy preparing for career redemption. I like it.

And did you notice that Vizquel did not make a single error last season playing second, shortstop, and third? Again, take it.

Williams also gave a hint about his possible outfield, saying that Jones and Kotsay are insurance in case they decide to carry a youngster in the outfield. Jordan Danks, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

As for the rest of the squad..

The Sox leadoff situation:

There are two questions Kenny Williams never wants to hear ever again. One is Are you trading Bobby Jenks? And two, Who is going to bat leadoff? When the latter question was asked, I think another gray hair shot out of Kennys noggin, into his phone, and pierced every media member on the line.

Replied a sarcastic Williams, We wont forfeit that spot in the order. There will be someone there.

As for exactly who (forget about the Chone Figgins pipe dream. Hes likely headed for Seattle), dont get your hopes up. Williams pointed to the fact that as much as 90 percent of teams in the league dont have the ideal leadoff hitter.

So unless hes able to open up the Jerry Reinsdorf vault (Were always trying to find some wiggle room. It probably annoys Jerry to no end), or someone falls into their laps, or Scott Podsednik asks for less yearsmoney, or Rudy Law drinks from the fountain of youth and plays for 1983 money, the Sox will likely have to settle for an experiment in the leadoff spot. Sorry to break the news, but hope is not lost. As Williams put it, Just like we had Orlando Cabrera a couple years ago. It wasn't the ideal situation, but we won a division title with it.

Alex Rios, anyone? He is a career .282 hitter in the 1-spot. Just saying. Hopefully he shortens that swing. Greg Walker, do your magic. Maybe Frank Thomas can talk to him.

Theres always Jerry Owens. Oh wait. There isnt.

Bobby Jenks:

There have been so many rumors about Bobby Jenks, he could probably have his own special section on TMZ.

If the Sox want to upgrade somewhere on their roster without taking on more salary, their large closer (Im not going to call him overweight for fear that he might sit on me at spring training) remains one of their biggest (and by that I do not mean heavy) bargaining chips.

However, Kennys fuel gauge in regards to the Jenks trade question currently has a flashing yellow light. Hes about done with it. Or at least, thats what hes telling us, which is what keeps the Jenks trade rumors going. Is this a Kenny smokescreen or is he legitimately going to keep him here next season? Once a players name gets on the hamster wheel, its tough to make it stop.

Williams referred to the Jenks speculation as the media running with something, and added, I havent had any conversations with anyone about trading Bobby Jenks. Im really surprised that this has continued on. I think what keeps the Jenks rumor alive was Williams next sentence: This is the same stance Ive taken since Day One sitting in this chair. If the right opportunity presents itself, well travel down that road.

And the hamster wheel just took another violent spin.

Williams predicted that the Sox will be busier after the Winter Meetings than during it. So with that line of thinking...expect an interesting week in Indy. Always is, even if nothing happens.

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

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USA TODAY

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

HOUSTON -- Don’t think the White Sox front office isn’t enjoying every second of Yoan Moncada’s tear.

Everyone can breathe a little easier knowing there are fewer questions for baseball’s top prospect to answer headed into 2018. Pleased as they’d been with Moncada’s patient plate approach, the club desired a breakthrough before Oct. 2 for the confidence boost it would provide him alone. Moncada continued a torrid run on Wednesday night that should have him bristling with poise when he arrives in Glendale, Ariz. next February. He homered as the White Sox fell 4-3 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ve been looking for him to continue to try and make adjustments,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There was probably a point there where people were a little concerned. Truthfully, when you see some of the talent these kids have, you recognize that their skillset is going to play up, it’s just a matter of getting the repetition.”

The White Sox have been impressed with Moncada’s improved awareness as he gains more experience.

One area in which Moncada has made the most gains is pitch recognition. The book has been that second baseman has had trouble with offspeed since he arrived in 2016, hitting .154 against sliders and .238 against curveballs entering Wednesday, according to Brooksbaseball.net.

But Moncada is trending upward. The first-pitch slider from Astros starter Brad Peacock that Moncada ripped for a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning was his fifth hit of the trip on a slider or curveball in 11 at-bats. On the trip, Moncada -- who has 209 plate appearances this season -- is hitting .415/.477/.683 with three homers, eight RBIs and 12 runs in 41 plate appearances.

[MORE: Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

Given Moncada’s struggles in a brief 2016 tryout with the Boston Red Sox, having success is certainly helpful as he won’t head into another offseason wondering when it might happen for him. Moncada doesn’t compare the two situations because of playing time -- he was limited to 20 plate appearances over a month in 2016. But he agrees his recent play is good for the psyche.

“It’s important for my confidence, especially thinking about next year,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “With this run, I have been able to have more confidence and believe in myself and my talent, and I think that’s something I can carry into next season.”

“This offseason is going to be different because I’ve been able to play almost every day. I have more confidence in myself. I know the game better. Last season I had an opportunity to be at this level a little bit, but it wasn’t the same. This year is the opposite because I’ve been playing a lot and have been able to handle good and bad stretches at this level.”

While a reduction in strikeout-rate is still needed to be more effective, Moncada has begun to establish himself as a major league hitter. It’s exactly how teammate and mentor Jose Abreu hoped Moncada would spend his time this season.

“He has to get to know a lot of things at this level,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The game, the pitchers, the culture here -- there’s a lot of little things he has to get to know here. The way you can work through it is give your best every day and try to learn as much as you can and try to use all your knowledge and to pool your knowledge on each play in the game. That’s the only way you can get results and you can build on those results and this experience for the future. I think he’s finally doing it and that’s important for him and for us thinking of the next season and beyond.”

Renteria not only likes the pitch recognition but the way that Moncada has tried to hit through the shift several times against Houston. Though the White Sox never wavered, they’re certainly happy to see Moncada produce the way they thought he eventually would.

“He’s starting to slow it down a little more,” Renteria said. “He’s starting to see more of the landscape and making adjustments in general. It’s been a good run for him. We thought he would show signs of growth at the end of the season and he’s doing that.”

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

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USA TODAY

Look away, White Sox fans: Chris Sale makes history

This one may sting a bit, White Sox fans.  

On Wednesday evening, former White Sox ace Chris Sale accomplished a feat that no other American League pitcher has since 1999. The current Red Sox left-hander whiffed his 300th batter of the season, becoming the first A.L. hurler since Pedro Martinez to do so. 

Sale reached the impressive milestone in a dominant eight-inning, 13-strikeout gem. Vintage. 

Overall on the season, he's posted a 2.75 ERA with opponents hitting a mere .203 against him. Before his postseason debut in October, Sale has a shot at leading two franchises in season strikeout totals: 

The consolation on the South Side is that the prized prospect acquired in the Sale blockbuster had a pretty nice night himself. Yoan Moncada drilled a two-run blast in Houston, his seventh since being called up from Triple-A Charlotte on July 19. 

The great trade debate wages on.