Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Blog

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Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Blog

Monday, December 7th

5:48 pm

Sitting down with Ozzie Guillen today, I asked the Sox manager the one thing his team needs more than anything else. His answer?

A leadoff hitter.

Are you going to find one?

"That's Kenny's job," Ozzie said. "That's why they pay him the big money."

Unfortunately, the Sox GM doesn't have the kind of money needed to sign a Chone Figgins (I'm frankly tired of typing Figgins name. I think I'm just going to start calling him "the free agent the Sox have coveted for years and will never, ever get. Period.) So Williams is going to have to be creative if he's hoping to give his manager the kind of table-setter Ozzie would love to have.

In fact, when I asked Kenny what's tougher to find, a leadoff hitter or frontline starter ...his first answer was:

"It's harder to find a good manager. I'm still working on that."

Ozzie was in the room, but on the phone, so I don't think he heard the joke.

But then Williams said, "There aren't any more Rickey Hendersons. You have to draft them and develop them. Hopefully we're on the path as far as that's concerned."

The Sox are still having dialogue with Scott Podsednik's agent, but Williams didn't sound too optimistic about bringing Pods back. At least, not right now.

"I don't feel anything one way or another about it. We made no secret earlier on in this offseason that we felt there was a place of Pods," Williams said. We made overtures to that affect but he wanted to test the market and that's his right and we respect that."

The biggest surprise may have come when I asked Kenny if he hadn't traded for Jake Peavy, would he be involved in the trade market for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.

Kenny produced a wide grin and said, "no comment."

Dave Van Dyck then followed up, asking if the Sox were interested in Halladay.

Kenny's answer..."no comment."

Hmmmmmm.

3:12 pm

Ozzie met with the media a short time ago. Among the highlights:

If Kenny can't find a leadoff hitter, he reiterated that Gordon Beckham can bat in the 1 spot. I later asked Ozzie if he'd consider using Alex Rios, who has led off in the past with Toronto. Ozzie said yes, but he'd have to hit a lot better than he did with the Sox last year.

Asked if the Sox are the best team on paper in the AL Central, Ozzie said, "I have the best 5 starters."

He added, "I think we can take a little bit advantage of Detroit because I think we play with more fears when we're facing Polanco. A lot of people talk about Cabrera and Magglio and Inge, and to me Polanco, he's hurt our ball club a lot. Right now we look pretty good. We're waiting to see September where we are, but right now in the paper all five starters are pretty solid. If something happened to one of those guys, we've got a couple backups we've never had. Now we do."

Freddy Garcia will come to spring training as the 5th starter, not with a pen, but a pencil.

Said Ozzie, "It should be Freddy Garcia. It's not going to be, but it should. I think (Daniel) Hudson is a candidate. He did a tremendous job. I think the way I look at it...Freddy has to stay in shape and stay strong. Before he was a tremendous pitcher, and now what we're doing right now, he knows every winter he's got to work hard because the problems he had in the past."

We also sat down with Ozzie for an interview that will run tomorrow. Kenny Williams was one of the last GM to arrive here. Not sure if that's a sign of things to come this week. Maybe he got stuck in a snowstorm on I-65. He speaks to the media in 10 minutes. Gotta run!

1:23 pm

A quiet start so far. That is unless you include the Pirates signing free agent pitcher...and one of my favorite names of MLB.....Vinnie Chulk. He pitched 12 innings last year for the Indians. If Vinnie and I shared the same last name, I would be Chuck Chulk.

I just saw Ozzie Guillen in the hotel lobby. He'll be speaking with the media in about a half hour. Kenny will talk at 3:30 central. Crickets so far.

10:29 am

It's a wintry morning in America's heartland. Fitting that we're on our way to baseball's Winter Meetings.

Last year, they were held in the posh Bellagio Hotel in sunny Las Vegas. This year, we're headed for that vacation wonderland....Indianapolis.

Darn, I forgot to bring my bathing suit.

You never know what will happen, or not happen at this annual get-together. Kenny Williams said on Friday that he expects to be busier after the meetings. However, put 30 general managers in the same hotel for 4 days, and who knows.

The Sox need help in the bullpen, another outfielder, and a lead-off hitter...if they can find one.

The free agent market has been stagnant so far. Expect that to continue for a bit. In the meantime, it seems like many teams have come to Indy to deal. We'll see how it all shakes out.

We'll be talking with both Kenny and Ozzie this afternoon. I'll be giving updates here in the Sox Drawer throughout the day. And feel free to ask me a question regarding what the Sox are doing or not doing. I'll try to answer as many as of them as I can throughout the week.

We just arrived in Indianapolis. The outside temperature, a balmy 28 degrees. Sunblock anyone?

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Saladino hit leadoff on Wednesday, finishing with a home run and a single.

Saladino's first-inning drive was one of eight combined homers hit between the White Sox and San Diego Padres, who finished in a 9-all tie at Camelback Ranch. Before the game, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said that Saladino, who finished 2-for-2, would see most of his playing time at second base.

"He's been developing and continuing to grow every single season," Renteria said. "The flexibility that he brings allows him to be in the lineup over an extended period of time. But we want to make sure we take care of him as we want to do with everybody else, kind of keep them all fresh as much as we can.

"He's developed into a pretty good major league baseball player."

Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico and Jake Peter all homered for the White Sox. Delmonico led the White Sox with five homers this spring. Abreu went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs.

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Rule 5 pitcher Dylan Covey, who appears primed to make the Opening Day roster, allowed two earned runs in his lone inning pitched. Covey then headed to the bullpen and threw additional pitches there as the White Sox continue to build up his arm strength.

Veteran Anthony Swarzak allowed a run and struck out two in two innings. Reliever Dan Jennings allowed five runs (four earned) and four hits in 1/3 innings.

First-rounder Zack Collins drew a pair of walks in his only plate appearances and scored a run.

The White Sox ended the spring with a 16-15-2 record.

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

MESA, Ariz. – One minute into the media scrum outside the West Wing, a Washington reporter asked Theo Epstein if this season would be considered a disappointment if the Cubs don't win the World Series.

"Oof, I hadn't thought too much about 2017 yet today," Epstein said after President Barack Obama's final official White House event. "But, yeah, I mean, that's our goal. I think the organization has come such a long way and we have this talented young core. We're clearly in a very competitive phase where I think if we do our jobs, we could be as good, if not better, than any team in baseball.

"So if you're going to compete, you set your sights for the world championship. It doesn't always work out that way. But we see it as our jobs to do everything we can to be back at the White House next year."

Whether or not Epstein would actually go through with a Donald Trump photo op is a different story. But with the Cubs signaling their Opening Night roster – keeping outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella while lefty reliever Brian Duensing begins the season on the disabled list – you could make the case that the team breaking camp on Wednesday looks better on paper than last year's World Series winner.

"This is a crazy talented group," All-Star closer Wade Davis said. "There's 10 or 12 players on this team that are some of the best players in baseball."

That doesn't mean the Cubs will develop the same chemistry or sense of purpose, but this team is completely used to the national spotlight, hanging out with celebrity fans and being followed around like rock stars on the road. 

Epstein compared this camp in Arizona with what the Boston Red Sox faced after ending the 86-year drought. 

"I will never forget in '05 spring training, we had 5,000 people the first day, 3,000 fans every day," Epstein said. "I was expecting it to be as nuts. But it's been refreshingly normal, reflecting the personality of our players, taking everything in stride."   

This doesn't mean the Cubs will stay as healthy as they did last year, when the projected rotation made 152 starts combined. But four-fifths of that group returns with Brett Anderson – given his natural ability, pitching IQ and extensive medical file – appearing to have a higher ceiling and lower floor than Jason Hammel.

As Anderson said: "It's not too often that you have a salty veteran with multiple rings (John Lackey) in front of you and a guy (Kyle Hendricks) that led the league in ERA behind you."

The 2016 Cubs won 103 games and scored 800-plus runs: without Kyle Schwarber contributing a single hit during the regular season; and with Jason Heyward finishing with a .631 OPS (or 103 points below the league average).

Manager Joe Maddon said Geek Department projections have this lineup generating even more offense with Schwarber as the new leadoff guy (even with a brace on his left leg), continued growth from young players like Addison Russell and Willson Contreras and Heyward not being one of the worst hitters in the majors.

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The Cubs are also counting on a full season from Davis, instead of a half-season rental like Aroldis Chapman. Where last year's Opening Night bullpen featured three guys who would get DFA'd or traded by midseason (Neil Ramirez, Clayton Richard, Adam Warren), this version features three guys who've already notched the final out in a World Series (Davis, Koji Uehara, Mike Montgomery).

"All the additions are wonderful complements to what this team was already," Schwarber said. "Upgrades. It's going to be really cool to see how it all plays out this season with more guys getting another year of experience under their belt."

Ian Happ raising his profile and hitting around .400 in the Cactus League should help his trade value if the Cubs need to deal for pitching at the trade deadline. The combination of Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in center field should be an improvement over Dexter Fowler for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year.

As someone with fresh eyes – and the perspective from being on Los Angeles Dodgers teams that won back-to-back National League West titles – Anderson hasn't see any signs of complacency.

"Not at all," Anderson said. "The young guys are still hungry. And the handful of guys that weren't here last year makes you that much more hungry and itchy to get back where they were last year.

"It's a really good mix – if not a perfect mix – of young guys, veteran guys and a couple fresh faces that are eager to get back to what these guys accomplished last year."