Chicago White Sox: Contracts
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On draft day in 2010, a once-excited Adam Eaton grew despondent when his value kept plummeting, first out of the top 10 rounds, then out of the top 15.
By the time his name was called as an Arizona Diamondbacks selection in the 19th round, his reaction was as much relief as it was that his professional baseball career was about to begin.
Flash forward 5½ years, and the $23.5 million contract extension Eaton signed with the Chicago White Sox on Friday showed the assessment of his own talent was more than just a heavy dose of blind self-confidence.
"It almost brings a tear to my eye because I've been looked over my whole life," Eaton said. "I say that I dreamed about it, but really, I didn't. When I was in high school I dreamed about playing college baseball, Division II, Division III. When I was in college, [it was] just dreaming about putting a professional uniform on in Missoula, Montana, a little town where that's all that is going on. To sign a professional contract for five years in the big leagues is crazy. It's absolutely crazy how far we've come."
Even when he did reach the major leagues, the obstacles remained. He suffered an elbow injury with the Diamondbacks in 2013 that cost him a significant chunk of his rookie season. Then, there were teammates who thought he was too rah-rah for their tastes.
The question marks could have been a factor in the Diamondbacks including Eaton in a three-team trade that also involved the Los Angeles Angels last offseason. The White Sox could not be happier.
"These guys are hard to find, and you have a guy who addresses several needs of being able hit at the top of the order, get on base, run and play defense at a premium position. That's a nice piece to have on any club," general manager Rick Hahn said Friday.
Eaton always felt his grinder style had major value, even when he was causing opponents problems when he attended Kenton Right High School in Ohio.
When scouts and talent evaluators told Eaton he would go no later than the 10th round in the 2010 draft, and possibly sooner, he was eager to learn what club would take him. When the draft went on and on and on, eager turned to anxious.
While disappointed, Eaton understood what was happening. A 5-foot-8 baseball player who has a tendency to throw his body all around the field isn't exactly a safe recommendation for a scout to make to his bosses.
Even while knowing those concerns, Eaton has refused to play any other way, and because he continued to do it his way, Eaton got a contract Friday that validated the confidence he had in himself.
"Rick mentioned to my agent when I got traded that hopefully we'll have talks next year," Eaton said. "For me to prove him right, it was big for me to go out and hit .300 and play good defense day in and day out. And then to be able to have those talks is great.
"It's just confidence in the club and confidence in me, and I think it's going to be a lot easier for me to go out there and compete every day and compete at a high level with their confidence within me. It's a great day."
Contract talks started just over two weeks ago, and Eaton admitted to having many sleepless nights. His reaction was typical, and it's why many teams put contract talks on the shelf once the season begins. Jose Quintana was pounded in a Cactus League game last year, just before his own contract extension was finalized.
One year earlier, Chris Sale had his own contract extension completed. The Eaton contract means the White Sox have Sale, Quintana, Jose Abreu and Eaton locked into long contracts, all at team-friendly rates.
"To be in company with those guys, being signed early, it's a thrill for me," Eaton said. "With that being said, I kind of touched on it earlier, we've got a good group of core guys who are going to be here three, four, five years. It's exciting. The South Side should be proud and excited for that, some good arms and then myself and some other guys along for the ride. We're happy with that."
Even when he talks, Eaton's self-confidence bleeds through. He's been with the White Sox for just one full season, but so far, he's earned the right to tell it like it is.
Beckham is now in line to become a Chicago White Sox utility infielder this season at the discounted price of $2 million, after he made $4.175 million last season.
He was exactly what the White Sox were looking for as a plus defender, who could play some third base, shortstop and have the ability to take over at second if necessary.
But he also had the history of unfulfilled expectations from those six previous seasons, never able to build on his impressive debut in 2009, and he's often reminded about it. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels last August for a player to be named later, and then non-tendered by the Angels in December, making him a free agent.
“As any of our free agents will tell you, we were quick in reaching out to them as soon as we were able to, once the World Series ended,” Hahn said earlier this spring at a gathering of Cactus League managers and GMs. “With Gordon, I told his agent, and I told him, that if his name had been Joe Smith, or I had been in Atlanta and had the exact same roster, we probably would have called him the minute he was non-tendered because his skill set was a fit. But I didn’t place that call because I didn’t think this was necessarily right fit for Gordon Beckham, individually.”
Indeed Hahn took into account the added mental strains that would come with returning to a former team, when getting a fresh start elsewhere seemed to be the better idea.
But other factors seemed to be in play as well, presumably the fact that Beckham’s six weeks with the Angels might have been the break he needed, and that being free from the responsibility of playing everyday would help him to maintain his swing.
“As I explained to Gordon, and I explained to the agent after a few days, that I realized that’s not my job,” Hahn said about trying to decide a player’s comfort level. “My job is to put the White Sox in the best position to contend and if there is a player out there whose skill set makes us better, I have to let him say no if it doesn’t fit.”
Hahn even took his pitch -- and his concerns -- directly to Beckham.
“I explained to Gordon, I said, ‘I get it, if this doesn’t fit for you because of the history, then no hard feelings. A player with your ability makes us better, but if for you, Gordon Beckham, if this isn’t the best thing for you, I get it. Maybe sometime in a few years after you’ve been away longer, if it’s still a fit, we’ll revisit it,’” Hahn said. “Both his agent and Gordon said, ‘No, this is where want to be, and we’re comfortable.’ There isn’t that baggage, and if there is, he’s apt to deal with it.”
The reunion has been a work in progress. Beckham had just one hit in 21 at-bats heading into Cactus League play Tuesday, leaving him with a .048 batting average so far.
For now, the White Sox are satisfied if he is dialed in on defense. He still has time to reacquaint himself with hitting adjustments he made with the Angels last season.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia saw Beckham work on those adjustments and said that while the club declined to bring back Beckham at his arbitration rate (a raise on that $4.175 million he made last year), they were competitive with the $2 million deal he signed with the White Sox.
“Gordon is one of the guys we’re all disappointed we didn’t get back; we all wanted him back,” Scioscia said. “I think from what he was saying, he was going to get more playing time, or the possibility of more playing time, than he would have had with us.”
Hahn said that while no promises of playing time were given to Beckham, the familiarity between the player and the team probably put them on the same page much easier.
Assuming Micah Johnson wins the White Sox’s second base job, they will want Beckham to pick up a decent amount of games at second base to keep Johnson fresh. And since third baseman Conor Gillaspie has much lower production rates against left-handed pitching, Beckham has a chance to play there too.
Scioscia ended up using Beckham more at third base and shortstop than he did at second base.
“Gordon is a student of the game,” Scioscia said. “His talent is real, and he made some adjustments that made him more productive for us in the second half. I think he has a lot of baseball left and a lot of upside left in him, even though he’s been around for a while. He works hard at it. He’s a little hard on himself because he expects a lot, but mentally he’s ready to play, and he understands that he’s a very, very good player.”
The 11 pitchers who agreed to deals are, Maikel Cleto, Raul Fernandez, Onelki Garcia, Dan Jennings, Erik Johnson, Frankie Montas, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Eric Surkamp, Daniel Webb and Michael Ynoa.
Catchers include Rob Brantly, Adrian Nieto and Kevan Smith, while the infielders include Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia, Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Saladino, Carlos Sanchez and Andy Wilkins. The four outfielders are Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, J.B. Shuck and Trayce Thompson.
All members of the 40-man roster are now under contract for the 2015 season.
Samardzija, who can become a free agent after the 2015 season, signed his one-year deal for $9.8 million. Flowers agreed to a $2.675 million deal.
Samardzija, 29, is expected to be the No. 2 starter in the White Sox rotation behind Chris Sale. He went a combined 7-13 with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics last season, posting a 2.99 ERA while striking out 202.
Flowers batted .241 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 2014. His 1,052 innings behind the plate last season were fourth-most in the American League and eighth-most in baseball.
The White Sox already agreed to deals with four other arbitration-eligible players this week: Dayan Viciedo ($4.4 million), Javy Guerra ($937,500), Nate Jones ($660,000) and Hector Noesi ($1.95 million).
The 27-year-old Noesi, who came to the White Sox in 2014 as a waiver claim and ended up making 27 starts, will earn $1.95 million in 2015. Guerra agreed to a $937,500 deal, while Jones will make $660,000.
Guerra, 29, went 2-4 with a 2.91 ERA over 42 relief appearances last season. Jones, 28, pitched in just two games because of hip and elbow issues and isn’t expected to return to the field until midseason. Noesi was 8-12 with a 4.75 ERA.
Catcher Tyler Flowers and right-hander Jeff Samardzija are the only two arbitration-eligible players remaining for the White Sox.
The well-known treats of San Diego will take a back seat to roster construction, of course, as the White Sox appear to be venturing into the middle portion of their rebuilding process.
The club has not solidly been included in rumors for high-ticket free agents like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, other than the recognition that Scherzer certainly would fill a main need as a right-handed starter. It’s a development that seems to reveal where the White Sox stand as they try to compile a roster worthy of reaching the playoffs once again.
In the second half of the disappointing 2013 season, the front office shed high-price players like Jake Peavy and Alex Rios to take a strain off finances. Before the 2014 season, the White Sox added younger core pieces like Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, not to mention extending Jose Quintana to a team-friendly five-year, $26.5 million contract.
Moves this offseason for reliever Zach Duke and first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche seem to signal that the White Sox are in the process of building the internal bones of the roster with proven talent that comes at mid-range prices. The hope is to whittle down the roster holes to a select few and then attack those aggressively over the next year.
If all goes according to that plan, perhaps that could set up the White Sox to add a high-price free agent next offseason, not only because it would be a better risk at that point, but it would make the desirable free agent more willing to come to a team that looks like a contender.
If the White Sox do not end up aggressively chasing a big-ticket free agent, one of the reasons would be an unwillingness to burn one of that player’s high-priced seasons while still trying to get the roster up to speed.
If the above timetable is anywhere near correct, the White Sox have plenty of work to do not only next week, but over the remainder of the offseason. Here are the club’s current needs in order of highest priority to lowest.
The White Sox took a calculated gamble when they signed the right-hander to a one-year, $1.75 million deal last winter with a $4 million option for next season. Paulino made $1.5 million in 2014 despite making just four starts with an 11.29 ERA.
Paulino was coming off elbow and shoulder procedures and had not pitched since 2012 when the White Sox brought him aboard as a starting pitcher candidate.
The club elected to buy out the rest of his deal for $250,000.
The White Sox’s 40-man roster is at 37 players.
CHICAGO -- The end of the World Series sets the reset button for everybody, including the Chicago White Sox, who appear to be ready to do a little shopping this winter.
Free agents aren’t eligible to sign with new teams until Tuesday, and most won’t pick a club for another three to eight weeks, if not longer, but the White Sox’s front office has been putting together a roster plan even before the regular season ended.
Where the White Sox actually spend their money remains to be seen. Even if they get their No. 1 targets to listen to offers, there is no guarantee they will sign to play on the South Side. The club also knows that it won’t be feasible to afford everybody on its wish list anyway.
Then there are the trade targets the team has focused on as well.
“The board in my office has more than two names at each position, and that’s for a reason,” general manager Rick Hahn said at the end of the season. “Our intent is to convert on the No. 1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit. Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint.
“So, we’re realistic and know that we’re not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy. At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well-versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don’t want to say second-tier, perhaps less notable targets who’ve been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. So, the list is long. It continues to be vetted. It’ll continue to be vetted over the next few weeks.”
Talk about your changes in company policy.
When the White Sox were in sell-off mode last season, a big priority in making deals was finding trade partners who were willing to take most, if not all, of a player’s entire salary in a deal. With the Jake Peavy and Alex Rios deals, not to mention the Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton trades, the White Sox shed some $37 million-plus in future earnings, making that savings as attractive as the players who were being acquired.
What Wednesday’s move seems to signify is that guaranteed at-bats for infielders like Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien, and even Gordon Beckham, are worth the estimated $7.5 million the White Sox are set to pay Keppinger through the 2015 season.
All the players who reached deals had less than three years of major league experience, meaning they have not reached their arbitration-eligible years. Factors like performance and service time are considered, but the contracts for the players in the controlled group are modest when compared to the major league average salary of $3.4 million last season.
The top dollar amounts given to the 24 players under team control were the reported $550,000 deal for starter Jose Quintana and the $545,000 deal given to closer candidate Nate Jones.
The major league minimum salary is $500,000 for the upcoming season.
The remaining players to reach deals: Maikel Cleto, Frank De Los Santos, Erik Johnson, Charlie Leesman, Nestor Molina, Jake Petricka, Andre Rienzo, Eric Surkamp, Donnie Veal, Daniel Webb, Adrian Nieto, Josh Phegley, Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia, Conor Gillaspie, Carlos Sanchez, Marcus Semien, Jordan Danks, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson.
General manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday the team expects to have the situation resolved before the winter meetings begin Dec. 9, insisting that the wait isn't hurting the team's ability to put together next year's roster.
"It's not really hamstringing us in terms of our planning," Hahn said. "We have a plan, obviously, if he's back, and we have a plan if he's not back. We haven't missed on any opportunities to fill that role if he doesn't fill it himself. I think it's good to have it resolved for his own preparation, and for the terms of getting ready for spring training to have it set by December. I think we'll be able to do that."
Both Hahn and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf have said they will welcome Konerko back with open arms if he wants to forgo retirement, but there have been no indications about what the team would be willing to pay its team captain, who made $13.5 million in 2013.
Hahn and manager Robin Ventura met with Konerko in Arizona before this month's GM meetings to personally extend the offer of a roster spot.
After straining his back Saturday night, Konerko played just two innings Sunday in what could have been his White Sox farewell as his contract expired at the completion of the season.
The longtime team captain came to the plate in the first inning to a standing ovation from the crowd of 22,633 and fouled out, but even that was appreciated. Konerko received another modest ovation as he returned to the dugout.
In the second inning, Konerko took his position at first base, but was replaced by Conor Gillaspie before the first pitch. As he jogged off the field, he received yet another standing ovation, and then received a curtain call after getting back to the dugout.
“It always feels good,” Konerko said of the ovations. “The fans here have treated me great over the years. In a year like this, they treated me better than probably I deserved, really the whole team when you think about it. There were moments where they hung in with us where I knew they were antsy about what was going on (with the team).
“(Fan appreciation) always feels good. It certainly feels better when you're doing World Series parades but I don't take it for granted at all. It's always good, but this year was a little different circumstances.”
Now comes the waiting game. The White Sox are expected to be interested in re-signing Konerko, but their offer will likely come with a pay cut from the $13.5 million ($7 million deferred) he earned in 2013.
Konerko wants to take at least a month to decide if he even wants to play anymore, although at 37, he knows the itch will come with a vengeance soon.
General manager Rick Hahn already said that the team plans on having a face-to-face meeting with Konerko possibly in early November, if not earlier, and Konerko said he expects to have lunch with chairmain Jerry Reinsdorf in Arizona around that timeframe as well.
Because everything is in limbo, Konerko felt sheepish about getting so much attention from fans. He went through the same thing after his contract expired following the 2010 season and ended up returning.
“People treated me so well (in 2010) and it was such a big deal at the end, when I came back I felt like I kind of played with people's emotions even though that was nothing intentional,” Konerko said. “It was such a big deal at the end there and it was similar to that today where I didn't want to make a big spectacle out of it.
“There's no escaping it kind of at the end here when there is some unknown about what's going to happen. But I definitely had that in mind because I didn't want to be out there tipping my hat every time I moved a muscle and all that kind of stuff. I totally love it and the fact they're behind me, but I feel a little awkward not knowing.”
About the only thing Konerko does seem to know at this point is that if he does return in 2014, that will certainly be his final season.
If Konerko fans are able to find a silver lining from a miserable season it’s that struggles like this don’t necessarily inspire somebody to walk away.
“I feel probably like most of you people that have been around here and everybody I've talked to that this just doesn't seem right, the way this has gone down, so that lends itself to playing,” Konerko said. “But I also don't know about the team and all that kind of stuff so you still have to throw that in and say that's a possibility, that even if I want to that they don't want it.
“Nonetheless, they've given me more over the years and it’s not about this one day. Baseball's never summed up in one day. That's what great about baseball, it’s summed up over a whole season of games, a whole career of games. That’s how it is with me and the fans.”
With his two young sons waiting in the clubhouse while Konerko wrapped up his final interview of the season, he was asked if he just needs to get away from things for a while before deciding on the future.
“As soon as I walk out of here, regardless of what I want, it’s family time; I have to be a dad,” Konerko said. “Which reminds me, is anything on fire back there? I haven’t seen (my kids) in a while.”
If you had to get a read on Konerko on the final day of the season, the clues point to him wanting to return, with the White Sox his preferred destination.
“I have some trips planned, some things going on here, and (the downtime) does wear off,” he said. “That’s why I said the other day that there’s no doubt the next couple of weeks, month, the needle is going to move to wanting to get back here. That’s the nature of our habits as players. We were born to do this.”
Paul Konerko is under contract with the White Sox for only seven more weeks and the future remains murky beyond that.
Konerko has been in this spot twice before, of course, and both times he ended up reaching an agreement with the White Sox to stay a little longer. Odds of that happening this offseason are less certain since the White Sox are retooling the roster and, at 37, the team captain has performed well below his run-producing standards.
The White Sox traded Peavy to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night in a three-team that also included the Detroit Tigers. Part of the deal stipulated that the Red Sox pick up all of the remaining money owed to Peavy, who is still must be paid a third of the $14.5 million he is making this year and all of the $14.5 million he is owed next year.
There remains another $4 million, though, that the White Sox will still be paying to their former pitcher. When Peavy's contract was renegotiated by the White Sox shortly after the 2012 season, the White Sox bought out the $4 million option from his old contract.
They then agreed to defer it in four $1 million installments that run from 2016 to 2019. The Red Sox are not picking up that money.
"That was earned at the time of the contract and that's the obligation of the Chicago White Sox," Hahn said. "That's like a signing bonus. He's already earned that money, but in terms of his annual salaries, no cash went with that to Boston."
The soon-to-be 24-year old pitcher just had his five-year, $32.5 million contract announced Thursday, with club options that could take the deal in the neighborhood of some $60 million.
Appearing as a guest on ESPN 1000’s "Waddle and Silvy Show," Sale acknowledged that it’s probably time to take a group of White Sox players to dinner.
“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have any friends in this clubhouse,” Sale said. “That’s kind of what comes with the territory and I have no problem doing that. It’s something that’s fun for everybody. Everybody is happy for me and I am thankful for that. I wouldn’t be here without them so if it just costs me a nice steak dinner I’m more than happy to do that.”