White Sox want Youkilis, but they're not the only one

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White Sox want Youkilis, but they're not the only one

One baseball source identified the White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies as the two most aggressive teams this offseason in pursuit of a third baseman.

Both are on hot on the trail of Kevin Youkilis, who is without question the class of a thin crop of free agents available at the hot corner.

General manager Rick Hahn made it clear early last month: he wants Youkilis back and has pursued him accordingly.

Meanwhile, other potential suitors -- a group that includes the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland As and Baltimore Orioles -- all seem to have solved their vacancies internally, the source said.

But at what cost are the White Sox willing to bring Youkilis back?

Even though Youkilis had a lions share of magical moments on the South Side after a June 24 trade brought him over from Boston, the White Sox sound as if they are prepared for his possible departure. Hahn has noted that once a player hits free agency it lessens the chance of a return. What if the Los Angeles Dodgers were to get involved and a bidding war ensued?

With the team already near its projected 2013 payroll, Hahn would likely need to move another high salary to be able to afford to sign Youkilis. Though Youkilis is their top target, the White Sox have identified a number of potential options, both internal and external, in case Youkilis moves on.

Theres a lot of speculation about what were going to do at third base, Hahn said. Weve got some options lined up. Weve got a list prioritized and we have had some good conversations along different avenues. But there may well come a point where we decide, ultimately, the options that we have internally are superior to whats out there in the market via free agency or trade. While figuring out what were going to do at third base is a priority, its not necessarily one thats going to mandate an acquisition from outside the organization.

The White Sox have discussed a number of internal options. They seem to have no interest in moving Gordon Beckham to third from second base, or moving Dayan Viciedo back from the outfield, though both ideas were considered.

A middle infielder by trade, prospect Carlos Sanchezs name has come up, but the White Sox would prefer to keep him at second base or shortstop. They also would like to give Sanchez, who began last season in Single-A, more time in the minors.

Then theres Brent Morel, a wild card because the team isnt certain a bad back that bothered him for all of 2012 is healthy. As if that werent enough, assistant GM Buddy Bell said Morel will have to unlearn some of the bad habits he developed at the plate last season in order to play through his back pain.

Externally, one team source said he didnt see many everyday options aside from Youkilis in free agency.

But one potential option who could be high on the teams wish list is free agent Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger --- who earlier this week broke his fibula --- is a career .288 hitter. Last season, Keppinger had a .325.369.439 slash line with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 115 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. The infielder has a good reputation and several sources believe Keppingers injury shouldnt keep him from being ready by spring training.

Power-hitter Mark Reynolds, who has hit 181 homers in six seasons, was added to the potential pool on Friday night when the Baltimore Orioles didnt offer him a contract. But Reynolds has 114 errors in 655 games at third base and the Orioles moved him to first base last season.

The White Sox also think there are several other part-time options available that they could mix and match.

One such option might be left-handed hitting third baseman Eric Chavez, though a source said he has drawn significant interest in free agency. Chavez would be a good fit for the White Sox, who would be in need of another left-handed bat if A.J. Pierzynski departs via free agency.

I think there are some everyday options out there and there are some platoon opportunities out there as well, Hahn said. We might have to be creative if you wind up going down one of the more platoon routes, but sometimes thats not such a great obstacle and the sum is greater than the individual pieces when you piece them together correctly.

As for how Youkilis market will play out, Hahn surmises it still is coming together. Youkilis ability to play first base could lead to further interest in him. Hahn believes the next week will bring further clarity on Youkilis situation.

Theres no certainty as to exactly what the economic market or the package available to Kevin is going to be ultimately, Hahn said. We continue to monitor that and will check until it gets flushed out thoroughly.

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carlos Rodon was scratched from a Friday start with tightness in his upper left bicep, and it could land him on the disabled list to start the 2017 season.

General manager Rick Hahn said on Friday that the team's initial exam of their third-year starter was "positive." But the White Sox intend to be extremely cautious with Rodon, who is headed to have an MRI instead of starting against the Oakland A's in Mesa. Hahn said Rodon also is likely to have a second opinion early next week.

"We're going to err on the side of caution here, even if it winds up costing him his first couple starts because we're slowing down the schedule now by scratching him," Hahn said. "It's too early to speculate how long we're going to be without Carlos. I hate to speculate, but since we are slowing down his schedule by having him miss the start today, the odds are probably that he starts the season on the DL. But again we'll know more after he takes his further exams."

Rodon informed the White Sox he felt some tightness in his bicep on Thursday, at which point they examined him. The team's exam suggested Rodon has no structural damage, Hahn said.

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Free of worry, Rodon requested to make his start against Oakland, but the team declined and opted for a second opinion. Zach Putnam will start and pitch one inning instead.

With the intent of helping him reach the 200-inning mark this season, the White Sox took a slower route with Rodon this spring, similar to the way they handled Chris Sale last year.

Rodon went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts last season, striking out 168 batters in 165 innings.

Rodon has done most of his work this February and March on back fields and in simulated games. He made his first Cactus League appearance against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday and struck out five in four scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and walked one.

Hahn said the injury could land Rodon on the DL to start the season as the White Sox intend to make sure the left-hander is healthy and prepared to return.