Thornton wants to be a lifetime White Sox

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Thornton wants to be a lifetime White Sox

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Posted: 11:31 a.m. Updated: 3:00 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Matt Thornton has signed a two-year extension with the Chicago White Sox, with a team option for the 2014 season, the club announced Sunday morning.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen grabbed me this morning when it was official and said, Hey, I really appreciate you being one of the core guys, Thornton said. It means a lot to them that I want to stay here and be a part of this.

The news came as a bit of a surprise here, on a sleepy Cactus League Sunday.

We started talks a couple of weeks ago, and it went quickly, Thornton said. Im more than satisfied. It's an exciting situation, a substantial amount of money for my family and hopefully their children and on and on with my family.

According to Thornton, there was little question of leaving the White Sox.

It was an easy choice with an organization like this, with what they've done the last five months or so, retaining the core guys, adding the pieces, and expecting to win, he said. That's my goal, to win at least one World Series.

The extension will pay Thornton .5.5 million in both 2012 and 2013. The 2014 club option is worth 6 million, otherwise Thornton will earn a 1 million buyout. Thornton will be paid 3 million in 2011, as the White Sox exercised their option on the lefty fireballer last fall.

To a man, Thorntons teammates were thrilled for him.

Obviously he deserved it, hes one of the best, said fellow bullpen lefty Chris Sale. I come in here and see what he does, pay attention to him, see how he goes about his business, especially because since Ive been out in spring training because Ive never been here before. If Im following him, Im going in the right direction.

His preparation and what he does to stay healthy shows you that theres no shortcut, echoed reliever Sergio Santos. Matts got his plan and he does it every single day. He doesnt deviate from it. He has his schedule and he sticks with it from April to October, and thats impressive.

Im happy hes gonna be here, said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, making it clear he wasnt worried about facing Thornton in the future because he owns him to the tune of a career zero-of-one batting record). Hes another piece of the puzzle: Him, Jesse Crain, Will Ohman, Sale, Santos the extension pretty much just solidifies the bullpen and takes the question marks out of it. Its a big thingit means a lot to him personally but also to the organization because we know what we have and can build around those guys.

Pitching coach Don Cooper takes personal pride in Thorntons career, having made his reputation as one of the games greatest pitching doctors on his work with the towering lefthander. A converted starter acquired from the Seattle Mariners for onetime top White Sox prospect Joe Borchard, Thornton has excelled in his five seasons on the South Side under Coopers tutelage, posting a 3.14 ERA and 10.1 K9. He made his first All-Star appearance in 2010, when he also posted a career-best 2.14 Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP, which is a truer ERA measurement, based solely pitcher performance). Thorntons FIP has decreased in five consecutive seasons, from 6.20 in 2005 with Seattle to last years mark.

Its nice to see guys being successful and making money, and its well deserved, Cooper said. This is not a gift, obviously, its deserved, through his work, and effort, and all that stuff. I backtrack it to how hes prepared: Every single day hes here early, and its nice to see hard work rewarded at the end of the day.

Impressionable young pitchers Sale, Santos, and John Danks all attested to the impact Thorntons hard-nosed attitude has had on them.

If theres anybody deserving, its definitely Matt, Santos said. Just being with him all last year, his work ethic speaks volumes. Its nice to see when you see a guy who does all the things right way and busts his tail.

He comes in every single day and is one of the first guys here. He works his tail off, Sale said. Thats why hes had the success hes had, because he prepares the way he prepares. I watch the way he goes about his businessyou come in here at any given time and hes always doing something: In the training room doing the shoulder program, being in the weight room working out. Thats why he is who he is and why hes had the success hes had.

He gets here, gets his work done, doesnt have to make a big deal of it and let everyone know, said the laid-back Danks, who appreciates the value of working hard on the down low.

Pierzynski, who has caught many of the biggest moments of Thorntons career, also attests to the veterans work ethic: Hes worked his tail off since hes been here. Matt takes the ball every time we ask him, doesnt complain.

Thornton had a career-high eight saves last season, taking over the balance of closer duties in the last month of the season, as Bobby Jenks was sidelined by injury. In 61 games, Thornton led all American League relievers in K9 (12.02), strikeouts (81), and inherited runners scoring percentage (.129). The lefthander was eighth in the A.L. in KBB (4.05) and holds (21) and was ninth in opponents batting average (.191). Thornton held lefties to a .175 average with 44 punchouts. He is one of four relievers (former Seattle teammate Arthur Rhodes, Pedro Feliciano, and Matt Guerrier) to record at least 20 holds in each of the last four seasons. He is the all-time White Sox leader in holds (100) and ranks fifth in club history with 336 relief appearances.

No decision has been made yet on whether Thornton will take the closers reins from the departed Jenks in 2011, but an extension that nearly doubles his 2010 salary indicates it is his position to lose this spring.

No, no, were still trying to work on what we need to get right with each guy, Cooper said when asked on Sunday whether Thornton is cemented as the teams closer. I dont believe thats going to be talked about at least until our next meeting, and I dont even know when thats scheduled. Our bullpen looks like its strength is flexibility; we feel like anybody can go out there and close a game on a given day.

As for Thornton, hes not hung up on any particular role with the White Sox. Hes simply happy to renew his return address labels.

I have no idea about closing. Im not worried about that at all. I don't care, whatever you want me to do, Thornton said, laughing. Ive made it clear I will do what they want, even before the deal. They gave me security and they trust me. My goal is to stay in Chicago the rest of my career.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Seems like every hour another juicy rumor surfaces in which the White Sox are considering the unthinkable: a trade for five-time All-Star Chris Sale.

With baseball’s Winter Meetings starting on Monday, those reports have begun to arrive at a furious pace. Team A has shown interest in Sale and plans to make a push at the four-day conference. Team B doesn’t think it can meet the White Sox reported asking price. Teams C and D have made their top prospects untouchable in a potential deal for Sale.

While the White Sox won’t reveal their direction until they make their first few major moves, the tone of most reports has made it clear they’re at least entertaining a trade for Sale, who has finished in the top six in the American League Cy Young Award vote in each of his five seasons as a starting pitcher.

In the past, trading Sale has been an afterthought as the White Sox have envisioned the lanky left-hander leading them back to the postseason. But those days appear to be numbered. To understand how they’ve reached this point, where Rick Hahn isn’t just humoring his fellow general managers by picking up the phone but is actively listening on Sale, you only need to look at the White Sox roster over the past five seasons.

While the White Sox have an extremely competitive top half of the roster, one that could seemingly compete on an annual basis in the AL Central, much of the rest has been comprised of what Hahn himself referred to as “stop-gaps” and “half measures.” Since the start of the 2012 season, more than 30 players who have appeared for the White Sox made their final major league appearances on the South Side. Several others made brief stopovers but have spent the rest of their time in the minors, another country or retired. Were they to begin a rebuild and bolster the farm system, Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams could better position themselves to avoid the use of short-term players and quick fixes to supplement the roster for a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2008.

“I think we’re veering away from the standpoint of looking for stopgaps,” Hahn said last month at the GM meetings in Phoenix. “A lot of what we did in the last few years had been trying to enhance the short-term potential of the club to put ourselves in a position to win immediately. I feel the approach at this point is focusing on longer-term benefits. It doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily be in a good position in 2017. It means that our targets and whatever we’re hoping to accomplish have a little more longer term fits in nature.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Whereas they were taking a step back in 2014, the White Sox at least went into four of the last five seasons with hopes of reaching the postseason.

But those aspirations were dashed in part because of a thin farm system. Whether depleted by an international program that was dormant for five seasons, trades of prospects to fill holes or previous draft misses, the White Sox have had few internal answers to cover for injuries or underperformance. That lack of depth has led to a number of short-term signings or bargain trades in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

Last season, the White Sox signed Jimmy Rollins, Mat Latos and Austin Jackson in February and March in hopes of providing depth at shortstop, in the rotation and in center field. Those moves are typical of the way the club has hoped to plug holes the past few years.

Rollins and Latos were released in June while Jackson suffered a season-ending injury. Jackson is a hopeful free agent this offseason and should find a home, but Rollins didn’t find a new team after the White Sox released him and Latos made six appearances with Washington, compiling a 6.52 ERA.

From the 2015 roster, Adam LaRoche retired and Mike Olt and Hector Noesi haven’t resurfaced in the majors since departing the White Sox. Kyle Drabek appeared in one game for Arizona before he was released last July.

One-time 2014 closer Ronald Belisario played six games for Tampa Bay in 2015 and sat out last season. Moises Sierra has spent time in the minors with Kansas City and Miami. Adrian Nieto played 37 games with Miami’s Triple-A squad in 2016, Felipe Paulino and Dayan Viciedo finished the season in Japan, Maikel Cleto split the year between Mexico and Atlanta’s farm system and Frank Francisco hasn’t played since winter ball in 2015.

Michael Taylor and Matt Lindstrom retired, Jordan Danks didn’t play in 2016 and Taylor Thompson, Scott Snodgress and Charlie Leesman all played independent ball.

Jeff Keppinger hasn’t returned to the big leagues since he was released in early 2014. The same goes for Hector Gimenez, Dewayne Wise, Tyler Greene, Blake Tekotte, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Brian Omogrosso and Deunte Heath from the 2013 club.

Casper Wells briefly played with Philadelphia after he was waived in 2013 while Kevin Youkilis only played 28 games that season, a year after the White Sox acquired him on the cheap from Boston. Orlando Hudson, Kosuke Fukudome, Ray Olmedo, Jose Lopez, Will Ohman, Brian Bruney and Leyson Septimo never appeared in the majors after 2012.

Starting with Hahn’s declaration in July that the White Sox were mired in mediocrity, the club has made its frustrations very clear. Whereas the Sale rumors once seemed far-fetched, they might not be this time as the White Sox look to replenish an organization short on talent past the very top portion.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve had our conversations internally with Jerry and Kenny and the coaches and our staff and our scouts where we realize putting ourselves in a better position for the long term is the more prudent path,” Hahn said.

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia will both return to the White Sox in 2017.

The team announced it reached deals with both players shortly before Friday’s 7 p.m. CST nontender deadline. Lawrie will earn $3.5 million next season and Garcia received a one-year deal for $3 million.

The club didn’t tender a contract to right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, which leaves its 40-man roster at 38.

Acquired last December for a pair of minor leaguers, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Lawrie produced 0.9 f-WAR when he suffered what then-manager Robin Ventura described a “tricky” injury on July 21. Despite numerous tests and a lengthy rehab, Lawrie never returned to the field and was frustrated by the experience. Last month, Lawrie tweeted that he believes the cause of his injury was wearing orthotics for the first time in his career.

He was projected to earn $5.1 million, according to MLBTraderumors.com and earned $4.125 million in 2016.

Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 453 plate appearances over 120 games. The projected salary for Garcia, arb-eligible for the first time, was $3.4 million.

The team also offered contracts to Miguel Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, who are eligible for free agency in 2018, first baseman Jose Abreu and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, among others.

The White Sox have until mid-January to reach an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players. If they haven’t, both sides submit figures for arbitration cases, which are then heard throughout February.