Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Stone's Mailbag: Big Z and Sox pursuit of Dunn

Thursday, July 8, 2010
3:48 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the White Sox being buyers, Andrew Cashner starting, what to do with Carlos Zambrano, and more!

Question from JJ S.--Oak Park, IL: J.J. Putz has undergone an interesting transformation, throwing his fastball significantly less and his splitter significantly more this year than he did in his heyday with Seattle. And yet, he's had about as good of success as he did in his dominant 2006-2007 seasons. Steve, did you or anybody you played with ever undergo such a drastic change in his pitch selection, and did you or he ever do it with as much success at Putz has had?

Steve Stone: Well before we anoint him as the next Mariano Rivera, lets wait a little and see what happens. Coming back form the arm problems he is coming back from, that necessitated the change in repertoire somewhat to take some pressure off the arm. The point remains, he has been most valuable; given the opportunity to close, there have been a lot of pitchers over the years who have transformed their repertoire. Sometimes its losing a pitch and gaining another, sometimes its coming back from a surgery or injury that necessitates a change. Baseball is littered with guys who have abandoned one or two pitches or refining another pitch they have. J.J. is no exception to that. I think the Sox and I both hope he continues with his resurgence. He was a dominant closer; he still remains as a useful and piece of the puzzle for the bullpen and Kenny is happy with him. No matter where he puts him, he will get an outstanding effort from him.

Question from David F--Wood Dale, IL: Steve, in regards to the White Sox, which areas do you think they can improve in? Do you feel they need to make trades to improve these areas?
Stone: I think the Sox would be the first to tell you that, a lot like the Cubs in this respect, they could use a left handed run producer. That being said, they are difficult to come by. When the cubs didnt make a specific offer to Bobby Abreu and allowed him to go to the Angels, only to try to fill that spot with first, Fukudome and second, Milton Bradley, it gives you some sort of an idea on how difficult it is to find that guy. Occasionally a player like Raul Ibanez will come onto the scene but not only his age and his position precludes some teams from acquiring him. Obviously the number one choice remains Adam Dunn; then it becomes, do you want to use him as a 2.5 or 3-month rental. If you do, its difficult to rationalize giving up one of your best young control and inexpensive major league players or giving them a couple very advanced but still young and controllable minor league players. That could be one of the sticking points as Washington looks to get rid of Dunn as others try to pursue him and see him as the missing piece of the puzzle. One area to look at is the bidding war for Seattle's Cliff Lee. He is probably the biggest prize as far as trade-ability is concerned. If you take a look at baseball standings, although things will clarify before the July 31st trade deadline, you can take a look at teams who are going to be sellers, looking to unload some players include Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland as well as Baltimore and quite possibly Toronto from the American league. In the national league, you have Arizona, Pittsburgh and Houston, certainly Washington and before its all over, the Cubs who at this writing are 10 under 500 and 9.5 games back in the central. They might find it advantageous if they fall a little deeper behind in the All-Star break to start to unload some of their higher salaried guys with or without the full no trade protection.

Question from Steven S--Orion, IL: With the turmoils and issues of Big Z and a no trade clause in his contract, what do you think are the Cubs best options to get this issue straightened out? Will they get him right or can they get some team to take him of the Cubs hands?

Stone: Fortunately that tricky bit of negotiation lands squarely in the lap of Jim Hendry who did manage to sign him to a long-term 91 million full no trade clause contract. I think it all comes down to, of the 45 million owed to the formerly Big Z, Jim is going to have to go to his owner Tom Ricketts and the Ricketts family and figure just how much he would be willing to ear of this contract. Already out there trying to trade Fukudome and eat as much as 12 million of his remaining guarantee dollars, one can only wonder just exactly how much of the contract or Big Z will they be able to move. It has been clearly illustrated before the blowup and after the blowup that at this point in his career; Tom Gorzelanny can actually out pitch Carlos Zambrano. And so, if Z does come back and is accepted on to the Cubs, the option of putting him back in the semi-limbo in the bullpen does not sound particularly appealing. Far be it for me to suggest to the boys on the North side on just how to get themselves out of this position, but I do know if you have some assets that are fairly valuable, it would be wise to move those assets before perhaps something happen that renders them unmovable. I of course am referring to the immediate attempt to trade Silva. They owe him 18 million for the remainder of this year and next year, and he is throwing the ball exceptionally well. However an occasional leg problem will lead to occasional back problems and I would be rushing onto the trade market to see if I can dump his contract, eliminate some salary for this year and next and perhaps get something of value before a guy who weighs what he does, eventually and inevitably starts to break down.

Question from Larry S--Chicago, IL: Do you see Andrew Cashner eventually ending up as a reliever or starter for the Cubs?
Stone: I think Andrew has the chance to be an exceptional pitcher. He has picked up some losses and the opposition has gotten to him but the Cubs envision him as a starter. I believe he has a very good speaking disposition; I had an opportunity to speak to him during CubsSox series. I think he would like to start, and Cashner being a young pitcher, an inexpensive pitcher, a controllable for a long time pitcher as far as the organization goes, I believe he will find his way into the starting rotation. He will certainly get the chance after this season, but could very well start in 2010 as an opportunity to stretch him out if they fall out of this race. If they do put together a hot streak and get back in the race, there is a good chance he stays in the bullpen for the remainder of this year.

Question from John S--Elmwood Park, IL: With two no-hitters, two perfect games, and one should've-been-perfect game, is this the year of the pitcher?

Stone: It certainly appears to be the year of the pitcher. Occasionally you have that which shows you a couple different things. One is that there are a lot of very good young pitchers coming up tot he Major Leagues and two, a lot of pitchers find themselves with quality bullpens behind them which on days when they dont have their great stuff, come in handy. I look at Felix Hernandez of Seattle and I see a guy despite a 6-5 record, has a 3.03 era, he just went and shut out the New York Yankees in New York. You look at baseball and you see some really good pitchers, Cincinnatis Johnny Cueto, the Yankees have Phil Hughes, Tampa Bay has David Price, Washington has Stephen Strasburg (though he hasnt had much of an opportunity to this point). You could probably go on and on with young pitchers around baseball that have suddenly burst on the scene and done a terrific job. No one can understand why one-year pitchers dominate. Hopefully there wont be any knee jerk reactions like in 1968. As a result of that year, the mound was lowered from its height of I believe 13 inches to 10 inches high where it still stays today. I would hope that baseball would not make any such tinkering with the mound again in a way to let the hitters resurge. I believe there is enough hitting and there is always going to be good pitchers, but now because of economics, they are giving younger pitchers with great arms a chance to get to the big leagues faster.

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

Jose Abreu has made quite a turnaround from being a guy who was admittedly lost to bashing the ball like Abreu of old.

From April 19th on, Abreu has hit at another level, reminiscent of the performances he put on throughout an eye-opening 2014 campaign in which he was the unanimous American League rookie of the year winner. Over that stretch, Abreu has slashed at an absurd .347/.404/.677 clip with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances.

Earlier this week, Abreu said the run is the product of trusting his tireless preparation.

"I struggled in the first few weeks of the season but I kept working," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Now I'm at this point where I feel very good and confident with my offense and things are going well for me. That's part of what you work for and if you work hard, you know the results will be there at the end of the day."

Two numbers that have improved significantly during Abreu's five-week tear are his average exit velocity and strikeout rate.

Abreu entered Wednesday 39th in the the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph this season, according to Baseball Savant.

But Abreu wasn't hitting the ball nearly as hard early this season, which was littered with weak contact. Abreu stumbled out of the gate with a .157 average, one extra-base hit and only five RBIs in his first 54 plate appearances. Through the first two weeks, Abreu's average exit velocity was 89.0 mph on 31 batted-ball events, which was slightly down from last season's 89.6 mph average and significantly down from 2015, when he averaged 90.9 mph.

Since then, however, Abreu has seen a significant increase in hard contact. Over his last 92 batted-ball events, Abreu is averaging 92.6 mph, a total that would qualify for 15th in the majors this season. Included in that span is 35 balls hit 100 mph or more.

But Abreu's success isn't just related to how hard he has hit the ball. He's also made much better contact this season and is striking out less than ever. Abreu struck out 14 times in his first 54 plate appearances (25.9 percent). But since then, he has whiffed only 17 times in 136 plate appearances, good for a 12.5 percent strikeout rate.

His season K-rate of 16.3 percent, according to Fangraphs.com, is down from a career mark of 19.6 percent.

"You have started to see him heat up a little," manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's in a good place right now."

Actually, it's a great place and one Abreu hasn't done with consistency since 2015. He once again looks like the hitting machine he was for most of his first two seasons and the final two months of 2016.

Abreu is on pace to hit 36 home runs this season, which would match his 2014 total. His current wRC+ of 138 is his highest since he finished 2014 at 167.

Last season, Abreu didn't hit his 10th home run until June 18. He hit his 11th homer on June 23 and then didn't hit another until August 4. That stretch raised myriad questions both inside the organization and externally about whether or not Abreu would return to prominence as a hitter. Perhaps inspired by the August arrival of his son, Dariel, Abreu finished 2016 with a flurry, hitting .340/.402/.572 with 14 home runs in his final 241 plate appearances.

General manager Rick Hahn said last September that the stretch was important for White Sox evaluators to see.

"It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career," Hahn said. "Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks."

The White Sox offense has benefitted from Abreu's leap back into prominence. The team has averaged 4.53 runs per game this season and is 9th in the American League with 204 runs scored and 17th overall in the majors. But the increase in offense still hasn't helped the White Sox improve in the standings. While Abreu is glad to be on the roll he is, he'd prefer if his team is along for the ride.

"We're are passing through a tough moment, a rough stretch," Abreu said. "For me as I've always said the team is first. I want to thank God for how I've performed through this rough stretch. But it's not something makes me feel happy because we didn't win as many games as we wanted to win. It's tough."

Has Jose Quintana's slow start to the season affected his potential trade value?

Has Jose Quintana's slow start to the season affected his potential trade value?

 

Jose Quintana has not started his 2017 campaign as many White Sox fans had hoped or expected.
 
Through nine games the 2016 All Star has posted just two wins and watched his ERA climb to 3.92 after Wednesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. 
 
This past offseason, Quintana was frequently mentioned as a possible trade piece for the White Sox who if moved might have brought in other key pieces for the retooling South Siders, much like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton did. 

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
 
Have Quintana’s early season struggles impacted his trade value?
 
White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti weighed in while appearing on Wednesday’s edition of SportsTalk Live.
 
“Somebody's trade value isn’t contingent necessarily on what he’s doing right now,” Benetti said. “I mean general managers are smart enough to know Jose Quintana is worth X over the course of time and a lot of what trade value has to do with, is what other teams need. So as injuries continue to pile up to other pitchers, if we’re talking about the value of a starting pitcher, the market has as much to do with that as his performance in one specific game.” 
 
Listen to what else Benetti had to say in the video above.