Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura

White Sox make Cabrera signing official

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
9:56
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox officially announced their newest member of the outfield Tuesday as free agent Melky Cabrera has agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal.

The 30-year-old left fielder and No. 2 hitter will receive $13 million next season, $14 million in 2016 and $15 million in 2017.

Cabrera was a .301 hitter this past season for the Toronto Blue Jays in 568 at-bats, the second most at-bats in any one season behind the 658 he had in 2011, when he batted .305 for the Kansas City Royals. He posted a .351 on-base percentage in 2014 and has a .339 OBP over 1,211 career games.

“Melky provides us with a professional hitter, who reaches base on a consistent basis,” general manager Rick Hahn said in a release. "We think he slides into Robin's batting order perfectly and adds depth to a very versatile lineup. We are very excited about his addition to our roster.”

Robin, of course, is manager Robin Ventura, and in his fourth season at the helm of the club, he is expected to bat Cabrera right behind leadoff man Adam Eaton and right in front of rookie of the year Jose Abreu.

Cabrera reportedly turned down a four-year offer to sign the White Sox’s three-year pact and the opportunity to bat in front of a hitter like Abreu could have played into that decision.

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Cabrera move gets White Sox into fast lane

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
12:43
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Not content to let 2015 solely be about the 10-year reunion of last decade's World Series championship team, the Chicago White Sox have managed to construct a brand-new title contender in a matter of weeks.

A roster rebuild that began at the 2013 trade deadline has added significant pieces since the start of November as Zach Duke and David Robertson have been added to the bullpen, Jeff Samardzija has been added to the rotation, and Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera have been added to the lineup. The news of the Cabrera deal started to break late Saturday night.

The White Sox have spent $128 million alone on Duke, Robertson, LaRoche and Cabrera, with $42 million of that going to Cabrera for three years, according to a source who confirmed the numbers with ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.

[+] EnlargeJeff Samardzija
AP Photo/Pat SullivanIn Jeff Samardzija, the White Sox got a top-of-the-rotation pitcher who won't break the bank. His one-year deal is likely what prompted a speed-up in Chicago's rebuilding plan.
Adding the $9 million to $10 million Samardzija is set to make in his final season of arbitration eligibility, the White Sox have made a serious investment to the on-field product this winter.

Where some believed the White Sox would extend the rebuild into next offseason, the front office had a quicker timetable for trying to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that has experienced back-to-back losing seasons and has been to the postseason just once since its 2005 title.

The White Sox's arrival to their current winter spending spree was two-fold.

First, the White Sox started erasing big contracts from the books starting with the Jake Peavy trade at the 2013 trade deadline. That deal is also known as the one that added current right fielder Avisail Garcia into the mix.

Subsequent big-money deals that came off the books were those of Alex Rios (he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 2013), Paul Konerko (his big-money deal expired after the 2013 season) and Adam Dunn (he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in August).

But there has been more to the White Sox's decision to start spending now.

Team-friendly contracts to Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have also been key in establishing a solid starting rotation. And after one season of Jose Abreu's six-year, $68 million deal, that contract so far looks like a steal.

It wasn't a coincidence that the White Sox's current slide coincided with the bloated contracts to aging former stars who still were on the payroll. The sense was that the club might not hurry to get into that situation again, and the front office possibly would take a look at it next year when the roster was allowed to stabilize for another year.

The offseason started slowly enough with the three-year, $15 million deal for Duke and the relatively safe two-year deal for LaRoche, which will pay him $25 million through 2016.

Even the move for Samardzija seemed relatively conservative, even for a player who could bolt via free agency after one season. Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley were considered expendable since the club had multiple options at both second base and catcher. Pitcher Chris Bassitt, who was also in the deal, did not project as high as a No. 2 starter, which Samardzija would be.

And the White Sox got a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in the deal with the A's, and one who won't break the bank at that, unless a contract extension is agreed upon before spring training, something that isn't expected.

But perhaps the one-year status of Samardzija is what prompted a speedup in the rebuilding plan.

Things took on a different aura when Robertson was added for four years and $46 million. Big-money free-agent deals have their inherent risk, and none are more risky than high-priced deals to back-of-the-bullpen types.

"We worked hard to get to the point we're at right now where we have some flexibility," Hahn said mere hours before a deal with Robertson was agreed upon last week at the winter meetings. "And we knew that entering the 2015 season was going to be a bit of a pivot point for the major league club, even going back a couple of years when you looked at us on paper when you knew that Dunn, Peavy, Rios and PK were likely going to be elsewhere for 2015. This was always going to be a time where we had some choices to make.”

In Robertson, the White Sox felt the roll of the dice was worth it. The 29-year old had been a proven set-up man with the New York Yankees and then proved his mettle by saving 39 games this past season as the Yankees' replacement at closer for Mariano Rivera.

With the need to fix the bullpen the greatest, the White Sox took the plunge on a proven performer who has been healthy throughout his career. In doing so, they bucked a few trends -- like the one that says relievers are the most volatile parts of a team, and the one that saw them develop their own closers for the past decade, from Bobby Jenks to Sergio Santos to Addison Reed.

In signing Cabrera, the White Sox have finally moved on from Dayan Viciedo, even though Viciedo is just 25 years old, and right-handed power is a prized commodity in the game today.

The White Sox's front office has gathered for some tough conversations this winter, and the answers have been that this offseason was the time to take some financial risks. Hahn outlined those conversations last week.

"Do we spend more for free agents? Do we try to acquire some high-priced talent via trade? And how is the best and most prudent way to put that club together?" Hahn said. "When we make a large commitment, whether it's a guy like [Jose] Abreu or [Chris] Sale or the next free agent we sign, it's not with the eye that we're going to necessarily have dead money on the back end of it.

"Does it happen? Yeah. It's part of the cost of doing business, and none of us in this industry are smart enough to identify on the way in where it's going to be. We sort of know, in our mind, that that's going to happen, but as a result we don't shy away from deals that have a reasonable chance to make us better for an extended period of time."

Now comes the task of blending it all together on the field. Hahn has done his job, and now it's up to manager Robin Ventura to make it all mesh.

The front office has remained solidly behind Ventura, even through 188 losses over the past two seasons. Ventura has the horses now, though, so is there pressure to have success?

"Hopefully," Ventura said last week, slowly looking around at the faces who will report all season on how he is handling that pressure. "That would be fine. I hope so."

Pressure means Ventura has a good team now, and he will gladly take it.

Melk Man helps pour out better lineup

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
9:20
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- With a source confirming the Chicago White Sox's addition of Melky Cabrera to play left field and bat second, an impressive lineup has emerged with spring training just more than two months away.

A team that had Conor Gillaspie bating third on Opening Day in 2014 has its pieces in better alignment now, especially up top, where the first five hitters weren't even in the organization at the All-Star break in 2013.

How the 2015 Opening Day lineup now looks:

Adam Eaton, center field
Melky Cabrera, left field
Jose Abreu, first base
Adam LaRoche, designated hitter
Avisail Garcia, right field
Alexei Ramirez, shortstop
Conor Gillaspie, third base
Tyler Flowers, catcher
Micah Johnson/Carlos Sanchez, second base

Suddenly, manager Robin Ventura's refusal to ponder a potential lineup while being interviewed at the winter meetings earlier this week makes much more sense.

Of the 1,211 games Cabrera has played in his career, the biggest number has come in the No. 2 spot. He is batting .292 there with a .341 on-base percentage, and represents a much better fit in the second spot instead of Ramirez, who had his issues with situational hitting behind Eaton last season.

With Eaton and Cabrera in the first two spots, it also would give more RBI opportunities to rookie of the year Abreu, who still managed to drive in 107 runs in 2014.

White Sox No. 2 hitters had a combined .237 batting average last season, 26th in baseball, and a .279 on-base percentage, 29th in baseball. Cabrera had a .351 OBP last season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 139 games. He also has a career .339 on-base percentage over 10 major league seasons.

The Cabrera addition also provides better lineup balance with the left-handed hitting Eaton up top, followed by the switch-hitting Cabrera, the right-handed hitting Abreu and the left-handed hitting LaRoche and the right-handed hitting Garcia

Gillaspie and Ramirez are presumably interchangeable in the sixth and seventh spots, depending on the pitcher. Gillaspie's presence as a No. 7 hitter gives the lineup a left-handed line-drive hitter toward the bottom of the order for the first time since A.J. Pierzynski departed as a free agent following the 2012 season.

Gillaspie was batting .321 as late as July 31 and was among the league leaders in hitting most of the season. He faded late, though, batting .222 in August and just .208 over the final two months to finish with a .282 batting average and a .336 OBP to go along with a .416 slugging percentage.

The second base job is the only real spring training battle remaining among position players. Sanchez has a slight edge based on his 28 games of experience there in 2014, but Johnson has more upside, and his speed in the No. 9 spot, leading to Eaton in the leadoff spot, provides intrigue.

New Sox closer Robertson: Nice guy, mean competitor

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
8:45
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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David RobertsonKim Klement/USA TODAY Sports"I'm excited ... and I'm hoping I can get back to the playoffs," David Robertson said.

SAN DIEGO -- Talk to David Robertson for any length of time, and the Chicago White Sox' new closer sounds nothing like the cold-blooded attack dog who had the ability take over after one of the most storied runs in major league history and make the job his own.

If nice-guy Robertson has a switch he flips when he takes the mound in the ninth inning, the White Sox hope he remembers to pack it for his move to Chicago this spring.

The White Sox needed bullpen help moving forward after a season that offered little to no relief, and Robertson, 29, fit the bill. The right-hander's credentials were sparkling, from his 2.81 career ERA to the 1.08 mark he posted in 66⅔ innings in 2011 to the 39 saves he had in 2014 after taking over the New York Yankees' closer role from legend Mariano Rivera.

While some pitchers suddenly melt amid the pressure of the ninth inning, even when they aren’t taking over for a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Robertson had the mental acumen to avoid making things harder on himself.

“When he retired and I took over as the closer I wasn’t really worried about what was going to happen because I knew if I could stick to my guns and do the same thing I’ve done in the eighth inning in the ninth inning that we’d be all right and we’d win ballgames,” Robertson said during a conference call Wednesday. “I never approached it as anything more than that. It’s just a job. I’ve got to go out and do my job, get three or four outs and we win and we go home.”

It’s about keeping things simple and doing the little things, such as his unprompted statement at the end of the call.

“One more thing I’d like to say is that I would like to thank Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf for making this happen,” Robertson said. “I’m excited about my new time in Chicago, I’m excited to be a White Sox and I’m hoping I can get back to the playoffs.”

In one statement, Robertson gave a shout out to his new bosses, as well as the guy who signs the paychecks, all while dropping the one word every White Sox fan wants to hear: playoffs. Talk about a strong closer.

Hahn and Williams, who preceded him as general manager, have talked about the value of bringing aboard players with high character.

“I think with all four of the guys we have acquired this offseason -- [Zach] Duke, [Adam] LaRoche, [Jeff] Samardzija and Robertson -- their makeup has been a strong part of their selling point and how they fit,” Hahn said. “Obviously, we have a club on the younger side of things, and as we try to take that next step we wanted to have some guys that have won before, some veteran presence, and guys who are good at sort of bringing a clubhouse together and leading them through tough times. Each of these guys has a track record of being able to do that.”

Wanting character guys is one thing. Convincing them to come to your team for reasons more than just the most money offered is another. Whether they knew it or not, the White Sox managed to convince Robertson to come to Chicago with their early-offseason acquisitions of Duke and LaRoche.

To Robertson, it showed the White Sox were committed to winning sooner rather than later. That Samardzija was added essentially at the same time as Robertson only felt like more validation of the decision he made.

“From playing against the White Sox, every time we played them they were an incredibly tough team to beat; they just grinded it out against us,” Robertson said. “Obviously they were on my radar from the beginning and I was glad that I was approached by them. Making those extra moves really helped solidify the direction I wanted to go, which was being a Chicago White Sox.”

Robertson might be happy with his new club, but it’s probably harder to have more excitement than manager Robin Ventura, who struggled making moves with a group of relievers who rarely were in their proper roles.

“You are getting a guy that there’s no question of roles or anything at this point,” Ventura said. “You trust a guy to go out there and do it. He’s done it in some tough situations. I think pitching where he was, for a team following who he did, you know he’s got the stuff.”

As it was with his acquisition of Samardzija on the starting side, Hahn said Robertson was always atop his wish list for fixing the bullpen. Long-term, big-money contracts for relievers -- Robertson is due $46 million over four years -- tend to be as risky as it gets, but the White Sox feel as if they have made a calculated gamble.

“His consistency, his durability, his makeup and work ethic made us a lot more comfortable about David being that guy to take that risk on,” Hahn said. “He really checked a lot of boxes for us in terms of having swing-and-miss stuff, profiling for the ballpark, filling, when needed, a multi-inning role, as well as his character and what he means in the clubhouse. It was really a nice fit for us.”

2015 lineup? Not so fast, Ventura says

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
6:33
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN DIEGO -- Hold on with those Chicago White Sox starting-lineup projections, even as it looks like the club is running out of money to spend on the free-agent market.

Manager Robin Ventura refused to play around with a lineup Wednesday, saying only that Chris Sale would be his Opening Day starter, with Jeff Samardzija pitching in the second game, followed by Jose Quintana.

At least the Kansas City Royals know what they are up against for the opening three-game series during the first week of April.

Reading between the lines with Ventura, the sense is that the White Sox will zero in on trade targets. Making a change in left field could be high on the team’s priority list.

“I don’t know necessarily if you are done doing anything; it’s premature to do that,” Ventura said. “I can tell you that I know, I’m very hopeful, I will start Chris on Opening Day and Jeff on Day 2 and Jose, Day 3. Other than that, we’ll see what happens. It’s premature, lineup-wise, [to say] what we are doing.”

The White Sox elected to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible Dayan Viciedo, and as of now he would be the leading candidate to start in left field. The 25-year-old still has youth on his side, and general manager Rick Hahn has remarked how hard it is to find right-handed power these days.

But Viciedo is a defensive liability in the outfield -- and defense is the only one of the White Sox’s offseason needs they have not yet addressed.

If the season started today, the White Sox lineup would look something like: Adam Eaton CF, Alexei Ramirez SS, Jose Abreu 1B, Adam LaRoche DH, Avisail Garcia RF, Conor Gillaspie 3B, Viciedo LF, Tyler Flowers C and Micah Johnson/Carlos Sanchez 2B.

Just don’t write that down in ink.

“We have a lot of time left,” Hahn said about the window to make moves this offseason. “I meant it when I said there was no urgency to get anything done [at the winter meetings], and obviously we did get two major things done. We aren’t on any time frame, other than getting the best team on the field by Opening Day. If nothing happens until January, that’s fine. We know the areas we want to address.”

Is improved White Sox bullpen enough?

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
7:09
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN DIEGO -- As one of the busiest teams in the offseason and the champions of the winter meetings so far, the question surrounding the Chicago White Sox now is whether or not their big offseason splashes have been enough.

Specifically, have the additions of left-hander Zach Duke and pending acquisition of right-hander David Robertson, made the White Sox a better-than-average bullpen?

Two pitchers do not a bullpen make, but the Kansas City Royals did some pretty serious damage to American League foes with setup man Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland.

Matching Davis and Holland will be a tall order for Duke and Robertson, so the early reviews are that the White Sox are going to have to add even more just to be considered the best bullpen in the American League Central.

"Well, you continue to try to improve; I think that's the biggest thing about being here," manager Robin Ventura said. "And you're able to talk with different teams and see what they're trying to do. But you are improving to a point, and you see what's there, what Detroit's done the last few years, and Kansas City going to the World Series, Cleveland's been a good club for the last couple of years. You're either going to try to improve or you're not. I think we're improving to be in that discussion."

General manager Rick Hahn, while saying his spending wiggle room is starting to get a "little tight," has promised to do even more this winter, although he might or might not have been talking about the bullpen in particular.

"Even putting aside what we hope to announce later in the week [Robertson's signing], we still have other areas we need to improve, and we're hopeful that, over the coming days -- and if not the coming days, over the coming weeks -- we'll be able to fill a couple more voids on our roster," Hahn said. "As soon as we're done doing this [news conference] we'll be back upstairs and talking about some alternatives."

Considering that injuries and poor performance put the White Sox's bullpen among the worst in baseball last year, Hahn has to be considering more relief help. But a better rotation, thanks to Samardzija's presence, would help take some of the weight off the relievers.

How much can the club's internal options make a difference? Last year's first-round pick, Carlos Rodon, would be a logical left-handed complement to Duke, but the White Sox haven't committed to that plan yet.

"We view Carlos long term as a part of the rotation," Hahn said Tuesday. "When that date arrives it's not clear just yet. It's possible he comes along through the bullpen as we did with [Mark] Buehrle and [Jon] Garland and Chris Sale. Or it's possible he's just in the minors making starts and comes up once he's truly ready. Long term he's in the rotation. How he gets there is still to be determined."

Other White Sox relief options include Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Daniel Webb, Javy Guerra and Maikel Cleto. Nate Jones isn't expected to return from Tommy John surgery until July.

Managing his bullpen was clearly Ventura's toughest responsibility this past season, and he said the club's new additions, including Robertson, make everybody better. It can't get any worse for the bullpen.

"Yeah, it's usually the hardest thing, anyway," Ventura said. "I think with the amount of youth that we had out there, and guys trying to be put in different positions, in different roles and things that they weren't necessarily comfortable with at first, everybody tried it. We tried plenty of guys in different spots.

"It's just a tough [situation]. It's a tough thing to do, especially with guys that are young, and I think when they fail it's different when a veteran fails. They can bounce back easier."

At the very least, the White Sox have some of those veterans now who can rebound quickly when things don't go as planned. The question remains: Do they have enough of those guys?

Ynoa more than just a throw-in to Sox

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
6:01
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN DIEGO -- While Jeff Samardzija was the focus of Tuesday's trade between the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics, he was not the only asset the White Sox received.

[+] EnlargeMichael Ynoa
Lance Iversen/USA TODAY Sports Ynoa, only 23, has battled health issues, but the White Sox believe in his potential as an important bullpen piece.
Also obtained in the deal was right-hander Michael Ynoa, a pitcher once believed to be headed for stardom only to run into injuries, such as Tommy John surgery in 2010, that have derailed his development.

Consider Ynoa (pronounced IN-oh-uh) the longer-term project in the deal and a piece the White Sox can keep if Samardzija decides to leave via free agency after the 2015 season.

The 6-foot-7, 210-pounder is a reliever now, no longer being looked at as the next Felix Hernandez, as he was when the A's signed him as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 for a $4.25 million signing bonus. If he can get his health issues in order, he could be able to dominate out of the bullpen one day.

"He's a guy with a multipitch mix," manager Robin Ventura said. "He has a plus fastball and a plus slider and a feel for two other pitches as well. We think he’s taken to the transition to the bullpen well, and we certainly believe that's his long-term future. But it's a big arm and a guy who, if he continues to progress the way he did in '14 in that new role, that we can see him helping the back end of the bullpen in the not-too-distant future."

Despite his injury issues, Ynoa still has time on his side. He is only 23. His reliever skills are raw, as he has been a reliever for only one season, coming out of the bullpen at Class A Stockton this past year.

"He was a 16-year-old kid who got the largest bonus in history at that time, so obviously, a great deal of expectation comes with that," Ventura said. "He then had to battle through some health issues. It was a tough transition for him. I know our scouts were very optimistic about the transition to the pen and how he responded to that, and they think he's found a home in the back end of the bullpen there."

Samardzija deal: Much more than a homecoming

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
5:52
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeff SamardzijaJason O. Watson/Getty ImagesJeff Samardzija, who grew up a White Sox fan, appears to be a great fit for the club.
SAN DIEGO -- It is doubtful anybody ever compared storied Notre Dame Stadium with Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field ... until Tuesday.

Jeff Samardzija did it and without a hint of irony as the right-hander, giddy with emotion, continued to process the trade that took him from the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago White Sox, the team that was his favorite as a boy.

Samardzija poured his heart and soul into the Chicago Cubs for 6 seasons. Before that, it was four years at Notre Dame, where he was better known for his football skills. Now, Samardzija gets to put on the White Sox pinstripes and the Valparaiso, Indiana, native was beaming.

“I can't tell you how many times I drove by that stadium on the Dan Ryan coming home from Valpo to Chicago,” Samardzija said Tuesday shortly after his trade to the South Side became official. “It reminds me a lot of being at Notre Dame, and being on a recruiting trip and passing Notre Dame Stadium and really thinking about possibly playing there but nothing ever came of it.

“And then you get the scholarship, or you get traded in this case, and all of the sudden in a blink of an eye, you're a part of that now, and all those thoughts and ideas you had of what could happen if you ever got an opportunity to play there, it becomes real. That's where I'm at now. It's still kind of sinking in. It's been a crazy experience and for it to work out this way, it's even more mind-blowing. I'm still here soaking it all in and thinking about all the old ties I had and how fun it's going to be to go back.”

The team that claimed Samardzija was No. 1 on its wish list all along acquired the one pitcher that wanted to be with the White Sox probably more than anybody else. We will find out now if “happily ever after” really does exist.

“This was the guy we wanted; this was the guy that fit for us,” general manager Rick Hahn said when asked why giving up four players for Samardzija was a better option than signing a free agent. “This was the guy we felt was a perfect complement to [Chris] Sale and [Jose] Quintana and at the same time has the ability to fit in seamlessly within our clubhouse. Obviously knows the market, has had success in the market. It might be a little bit of a gamble, but we’re optimistic we’re able to extend his stay as well.”

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Projected lineup: LaRoche cleaning up

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
4:38
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- With a few exceptions, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura expects to use new left-handed hitting run producer Adam LaRoche as his cleanup hitter.

For now, the plan is to have the right-handed hitting Jose Abreu bat third, have the lefty swinging LaRoche in the No. 4 spot and the right-handed hitting Avisail Garcia batting fifth.

“Yeah, that’s how I see it,” Ventura said. “You’re able to split that up and it really balances out our lineup to have Conor (Gillaspie) in a more comfortable spot of just being a line-drive hitter just batting in the sixth hole.

“I would expect (LaRoche) to mostly be in the four-hole unless we somehow end up where Jose’s batting fourth and then (LaRoche) is probably fifth. As of right now, I have him batting right behind Jose in the four-hole.”

Gillaspie played 43 games last season in the No. 3 hole as Ventura tried to balance his lineup between right-handed and left-handed hitters. Gillaspie was even the surprise No. 3 hitter on Opening Day.

The upper two-thirds of the batting order seems to be set. Adam Eaton figures to be the leadoff hitter, followed by Alexei Ramirez, who has been in trade rumors but isn’t likely to be moved unless the White Sox get an impressive haul in return.

Abreu, LaRoche, Garcia and Gillaspie round out the top six spots. That would leave the left fielder -- whether it is Dayan Viciedo or somebody else -- aimed toward the seven-hole, with catcher Tyler Flowers the likely No. 8 hitter.

As of now, the lineup would appear to close with the second baseman. Candidates at second include Carlos Sanchez, Marcus Semien and the speedy Micah Johnson.

At first, LaRoche needed convincing

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
4:20
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox did not just have to sell Adam LaRoche on coming to a team with consecutive losing seasons, they had to convince him to relinquish some responsibilities for the benefit of the team.

The sales pitch worked as the slugging left-handed hitter agreed to join the White Sox as a free agent last week. The contract was made official Tuesday.

It was probably the $25 million over two years that sealed much of that sales pitch, and LaRoche admitted the team’s financial commitment was impressive. But it still took LaRoche some time to be comfortable with the fact that he wouldn’t be a primary first baseman anymore.

A reduction of playing team on defense gave pause to the National League’s 2012 Gold Glove winner at first base.

“Absolutely, it did because honestly it never crossed my mind that I would sign as a DH somewhere, even a part-time DH,” LaRoche said. “I never, for whatever reason, I never even thought of the possibility or would I like to do it, or would I not want to do it.”

Manager Robin Ventura clarified the situation Tuesday, saying at this early time he sees LaRoche playing about two games of first base a week while standout rookie Jose Abreu handles the rest.

Any defensive metric will say that LaRoche is far and away the team’s better defensive option. The White Sox aren’t blind to that, they have just elected to make a decision in an area that isn’t so black and white.

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Mental edge helps Jose Abreu excel

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
5:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose Abreu hit 36 home runs with 107 RBIs in his rookie season with the White Sox.AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJose Abreu hit 36 home runs with 107 RBIs in his rookie season with the White Sox.
CHICAGO -- As much as it was the physical tools that led Jose Abreu to one of the best offensive seasons in Chicago White Sox history -- rookie or otherwise -- there was another key element at play this past year.

The newly crowned American League Rookie of the Year carried a mental edge into this new phase of his life that allowed him to adjust to the rigors of living in a new country, manage the pressures that come with a new financial windfall and perform at a high level all while trying to orchestrate a reunion with the family he had left behind in his native Cuba.

As with any great performer, Abreu was able to compartmentalize his responsibilities, diving into his work during spring training and then letting that preparation shine once the regular season started.

One of the most impressive rookie seasons in major league history got off to a fine start when Abreu had two hits in an Opening Day victory over the Minnesota Twins, and while Abreu appeared to be an unfazed robot, he was really anything but.

Abreu doubled on the first pitch he ever saw in a major league game, eventually scoring the White Sox’s first run of the season in a two-run second inning. In his second at-bat, he swung at the first pitch again, missing that one but eventually collecting a single in the at-bat. He admitted to being a little anxious afterward.

“I don’t usually swing at the first pitch,” he said through an interpreter afterward.

Even while he was a bit out of sorts, Abreu was able to deliver and it’s what helped him to arrive in a new league and perform at a high level. Of course it didn’t hurt that he was a 27-year-old rookie who had played as a professional for 10 seasons in his native Cuba.

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White Sox coaching staff looks set for 2015

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
3:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While Chicago White Sox roster decisions are still to come, the coaching staff appears set for 2015.

General manager Rick Hahn confirmed that, saying the club "expects" all the coaches to return. Next season will be Robin Ventura’s fourth as manager.

The club went through the 2014 season with Mark Parent as bench coach, Todd Steverson as hitting coach, Don Cooper as pitching coach, Joe McEwing as third-base coach, Daryl Boston as first-base coach, Harold Baines as assistant hitting coach and Bobby Thigpen as bullpen coach.

At the end of the season, Hahn left the coaching staff’s return unconfirmed saying, “We might lose some to these potential (manager) openings.”

McEwing was an early candidate for the Arizona Diamondbacks' manager opening, but the National League West club eventually hired Chip Hale as their new field boss. While the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays have manager vacancies, no White Sox personnel are being viewed as a strong candidate for those jobs.

The White Sox could still be in the market for a base stealing/base running coach. While not a member of the major league staff, a new base-running coach could be a roving instructor within the organization.

Leadoff man Adam Eaton excelled in many areas this past season with a .362 on-base percentage and a nomination as a Gold Glove Award finalist, but base stealing appears to be an area where he could greatly improve. In addition, speedy second baseman Micah Johnson is close to making a breakthrough to the major league level.

Hahn did not confirm if the White Sox are in pursuit of a base-running coach.

White Sox set to undergo more rebuilding

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
5:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Headed in a positive direction now, the Chicago White Sox still finished with a losing record in 2014, and the bar is set extremely high for general manager Rick Hahn as the offseason begins.

The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton last winter have the offense in better shape than it was a year ago. But those additions also are a tough act to follow for Hahn, as the fan base yearns for more improvement and a better 2015.

Is Hahn challenging himself to match and possibly exceed last year’s roster maneuvering?

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe addition of Jose Abreu was huge for the offense this season, but what do the White Sox have in store for next season?
“Absolutely, and there’s sort of, I suppose, two categories of moves: Some that are sort of more short-term fixes that are going to improve the club and slightly move the chains, and then there’s sort of the longer-term fits, such as Abreu or (Avisail Garcia) or Eaton or some of the other guys that we feel we have coming,” Hahn said.

“The addition of (left-handed pitcher) Carlos Rodon in the last draft is another example, and we’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority. At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.”

While making some long-term roster additions in order to get better for the long run, the White Sox also have been creating financial flexibility. Payroll was down some $30 million from last year, and with big-money players like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all gone now, Hahn said he expects to have some freedom to spend a little more to shore up roster spots.

“The flexibility helps a lot,” Hahn said. “Having some important players signed long term, you have that cost certainty about what your obligations are going to be going forward, and we’re in a position now where we’ve managed to create some economic flexibility going into the offseason. We can deploy that via free agency or via trade and really not be precluded from any opportunities right now due to economic reasons.”

The White Sox still might not be ready to push past the $110 million mark in player salaries, but overall talent still could be younger and better than it has been the past two seasons. Just don’t expect the White Sox to spend like the deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

“Our intent is to convert on the No.1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit,” Hahn said. “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, but perhaps less notable targets who have 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.”

Yet for all the positives, there is no getting around the fact that the White Sox finished with just 73 victories this season, a mark that was 15 games under .500. That is not a positive no matter how many long-term impact players have been added since the July 2013 trade deadline.

“If you're asking me for a pass-fail grade on the 2014 season, it's a failure,” Hahn said. “The goal is to win a championship. The goal is always to win a championship, and we're not going to do that.”

That’s the black-and-white summary of the season. The gray area offers intrigue.

“'From the standpoint of putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships, there are some successes that we can feel happy about,” Hahn said. “Obviously, last offseason we were able to acquire the rookie of the year (Abreu). It would be nice to do that again this offseason and continue that process.

“Adam Eaton is going to be the mainstay at the top of our order for a long time. Obviously, Chris Sale took another step forward, as did Jose Quintana. Avi Garcia has shown flashes. It would have been nice if he had been healthy the whole year to continue that development, but at the same time, he continues to be a very integral part of our plan going forward.”

As for there the fixes that need to be made, a right-handed starter is a priority and a decision on a left fielder will be key. But one other area will have much of the emphasis.

“When you look at our bullpen, you wish that was better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be guys that are improving or different people. That’s just the way the game goes. You look at what you’re weak at and try to figure out a way to improve it. There are quite a few things.

“When you end up 15 games back in your division, you look back at a lot of games you lost; see how you lost them, why you lost them. I think defensively for us, there’s ways to improve. Offensively there’s ways to improve. There are a lot of different things to it. We’ll definitely go over that. We’ve been going over that as we move along and kind of start focusing on what we want to see this offseason.”

While questions have been raised this season about Ventura’s job stability, Hahn said he has no issues with his manager moving through the current roster rebuild.

“Robin continues to do an excellent job at the helm of the club,” Hahn said. “Obviously, when you evaluate managers, you have to take into account the personnel that they're given. I don't think it's fair to expect them to have every player on the roster consistently overachieve or achieve at perhaps a level beyond the player's capabilities.

“So we judge it from the prism of what was he given and what did he get out of them. His communication continues to be outstanding, his ability to keep all the players involved, and keeps them on point to prioritize the things that we feel are important and respond to inevitable challenges.”

Rapid Reaction: Royals 6, White Sox 4

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
4:47
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko's career came to a close Sunday in the Chicago White Sox's 6-4 defeat to the Kansas City Royals.

How it happened: Konerko ended his 18-year career Sunday with an 0-for-3 performance. He played 16 of those seasons in a White Sox uniform. With standing ovations in his honor all day long, Konerko struck out twice and grounded out to third base during his final at-bat in the fifth inning. Konerko took his position at first base before the sixth inning started, but he was replaced by Andy Wilkins before a pitch was thrown, getting a standing ovation as he left the field one last time.

What it means: Although Jose Abreu played the majority of games at first base, Konerko’s departure officially passes the torch to the new slugging first baseman. Abreu’s numbers this season (.317 batting average, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs) are on par with what Konerko produced in his prime. Abreu already has one All-Star Game appearance to his credit. Konerko played in the All-Star Game six times.

Outside the box:
Konerko finished his career as the White Sox’s all-time leader in total bases at 4,010. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383), games (2,268) and extra-base hits (846). He is third in team history in hits (2,292) and doubles (406). Konerko is the White Sox’s leader in 20-homer seasons with 12, 30-homer seasons with seven and 100-RBI seasons with six. Konerko’s 10 grand slams are tied with Robin Ventura for the club record.

Off beat:
Konerko had a touching tribute of his own to deliver as he recognized his family in the dirt. During the first inning, Konerko scratched the names of his sons Nick and Owen on the skin part of the infield near first base. As the game proceeded he added a letter “J” for his wife Jen and a letter “A” for his daughter Amelia. He finished it off with a heart. The names easily could be read from the Konerko family suite above first base.

Final record: The White Sox finished 73-89 on the 2014 season, a 10-game improvement on last year’s 63-99 mark. The White Sox had consecutive losing seasons for the first time since they finished under. 500 for three consecutive years from 1997-99.

Abreu sits with record in hand

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
1:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- With the Chicago White Sox rookie record for home runs already his, Jose Abreu was not in the starting lineup for Sunday’s season finale.

Abreu broke a tie with Ron Kittle for the rookie mark when he launched his 36th home run in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.

Where it once looked like Abreu would be a lock to own the record, a significant power outage took the matter down to the final weekend of the season before the slam-dunk rookie of the year found the strength for one more long ball.

“I think we see great things,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Any time a guy gets into his first year and has the impact that he had, you’re very excited to see what comes of it. Just his mechanics, who he is and everything. You can sit here and say next year might be not as good, but with his work ethic and everything that he brings to the table on a daily basis, I see him staying consistent. I feel very fortunate that he’s in the middle of our lineup.”

Abreu headed into the final day with a .317 batting average, 107 RBIs, a .383 on-base percentage and 176 hits to go along with his 36 homers. All of those led the White Sox. In addition, Abreu’s .581 slugging percentage was tops in baseball.

Those numbers have provided a smooth transition from Paul Konerko at his heyday, to the next generation of White Sox first basemen. Taking over first base from somebody like Konerko has not been lost on Abreu this season.

“It’s very tough to replace a captain,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Everyone knows him and loves him here and all I can do is to go out there and do my best every day and hopefully the fans will grow to love me as well.”

Outside of run production if there is a trait that runs deep in both Konerko and Abreu, it is modesty. Is there a leadership gene in both of them as well?

“I feel that if the team feels like I should be the captain of the leader of the team, I’ll take that with great strides and with much respect that comes with that,” Abreu said. “All I want to do is win as many ballgames [as possible] so we can have a championship here.”

Spoken like a true leader.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.17 208 174
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .317
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208