Don Cooper's 'eyes lit up' watching White Sox prospect Michael Kopech

Don Cooper's 'eyes lit up' watching White Sox prospect Michael Kopech

There are bittersweet emotions because he's no longer Chris Sale's pitching coach, but Don Cooper is excited about the future of the White Sox.

The team's veteran pitching coach joined the White Sox Talk podcast on Tuesday and said even though he's sad see Sale go, it's hard to overlook the talent the team has received in return. Last month the White Sox traded their five-time All-Star to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for four prospects, including Michael Kopech. The club also added Lucas Giolito and two other pitching prospects in a trade for Adam Eaton. 

"When I saw Kopech, my eyes lit up," Cooper said. "Not only is he a big strong son of a gun, the stuff out of his hand is really good, life, energy stuff. He's just untapped talent right now. He's 20 years old. But he's already moved up the scale. 

"Delivery-wise it was like, 'Whoa.' Everything I like, he does. ...

"If he stays healthy he has a chance to be a killer."

Cooper also has high hopes for Giolito, baseball's top pitching prospect in 2016, who posted a 6.75 ERA in six big league games last season. He discounted Giolito's struggles as a small sample size and hopes to maximize the pitcher's talent.

"He still has his good stuff," Cooper said. "We've got to mix it up. We need more strikes. We need more consistency."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Cooper also noted that the stuff of Reynaldo Lopez, acquired with Giolito and Dane Dunning from Washington for Eaton, caught his eye. Combined with the pitching prospects already in the organization, Cooper thinks the White Sox have a talented farm system.

"Looking around, all of a sudden, combined with the younger pitchers we had in the system already, the injection of these guys that Rick (Hahn) has traded for, it's giving us a stronger, stronger system," Cooper said. "We’re amassing a lot of good talent."

Cooper said Sale is the most talented pitcher he's ever coached and he'll miss their everyday relationship. He described Sale as one of the 10 best pitchers on the planet. But Cooper hasn't been surprised by any moves since the White Sox allowed Mark Buehrle to leave via free agency. 

"It's sad that Chris is gone because my individual everyday relationship with him is over as a coach," Cooper said. "But the exciting thing is one of the reasons, the excitement of the guys you get back in return.

"It was mixed. 'Listen man, I'm sad you’re leaving because of that, the relationship. The everyday relationship is no longer there. We're friends.' I know this guy. I've seen every pitch in the big leagues he's thrown. 

"When you get to see every pitch and you're with them every single day and that relationship is over, it's sad in some ways. But this has happened before. It happened to Buehrle. If it can happen to Buehrle, it can happen to everybody."

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer not banking on Dexter Fowler's return: 'We know how this business works'

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer not banking on Dexter Fowler's return: 'We know how this business works'

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer says Dexter Fowler will always be welcome in Chicago. But that probably means not having to pay for a meal or a drink in this city. Or getting a standing ovation and a tribute on the video board when he returns to Wrigley Field in a different uniform. Or going to the 10-year reunion of the team that won the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908.

The Cubs couldn’t have done it without Fowler, the “you go, we go” leadoff guy for a team that won 200 games and five playoff rounds across the last two seasons combined.

But the Cubs are moving on, signing outfielder Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million contract while Fowler expects to cash in with the multiyear offers that didn’t really materialize last winter.

“We would never close the door on a reunion with Dexter,” Hoyer said Wednesday on a conference call. “He’s always welcome here. He’s a guy that’s going to live in Cubs’ lore for a long time.

“If the unexpected happens – like it did last offseason – we would love to have him back. But we know how this business works. And that’s not something we necessarily count on.”

The Cubs see Albert Almora Jr. as a defensive upgrade and a future Gold Glover and felt enough confidence to put the rookie on the playoff roster for all three postseason rounds. Jay also grew up in Miami and worked out with Almora last winter. Jay represents a left-handed platoon partner and another veteran voice in the clubhouse after winning a World Series ring with the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.

“We think Albert is definitely ready to play center field in the big leagues,” Hoyer said. “He’s a very instinctive player. He’s a great defensive outfielder. And I think Jon allows him to sort of ease into that role a little bit if Dexter doesn’t return.

“We would never close the door on Dexter. But we are aware that it’s something that may not happen for us.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Theo Epstein’s front office tries to adhere to an overall philosophy of never ruling anything out. It paid off when Fowler remained out there as a free agent in spring training, willing to accept a $13 million guarantee with his market dragged down by the qualifying-offer system that’s been a focal point in the ongoing labor negotiations.

Fowler, who will be 31 next season, bet on himself and earned his first All-Star trip, putting up 13 homers and an .840 OPS in 125 games, presumably answering some of the questions other teams may have had about him. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Thursday, the hot-stove season could be about to heat up or shut down.

“There’s a little hesitancy (for) everyone,” Hoyer said. “You don’t know the rules of the game yet. People are moving forward with stuff. But I think that’s always sort of in the back of people’s minds.

“My hope, certainly, is that we know the rules very soon. But, yeah, it’s added a different element to this offseason. Hopefully, that’s behind us in fairly short order.”