MLB: Winter Meetings

Miracle on 35th Street: The White Sox Christmas Wishlist

Somewhere on 35th and Shields, Jerry Reinsdorf is reading his great-grandchildren stories of Paul Konerko grand slams, Scott Podsednik walk-off homers, and the greatest postseason run by a starting rotation in MLB history over a cup of hot cocoa.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic.

The Winter Meetings are over and the rumors are swirling, which means we are getting close to Christmas time. While it’s been a rather quiet offseason, that doesn’t mean the folks in Bridgeport aren’t wishing to make some noise this holiday season. In fact, some of their wishes could be coming true very soon.

Here what they might be asking for on the South Side this year.

Rick Hahn

Hahn’s Christmas Wish: An open Jerry Reinsdorf checkbook in 2018

Rick Hahn has done a lot with the White Sox in last 12 months. Committing to a rebuild and moving players has put the White Sox in a position to have not only top-tier blue chip prospects, but quality depth in their farm system as well.

While the Sox rebuild is still in progress, Hahn mentioned at the Winter Meetings that the team would look to add via trades and free agency if it fits in the long-term plans of the organization and an opportunity presented itself.

Manny Machado could be that opportunity. However, not necessarily this season. While I understand the thought of bringing him in for a year and hopefully getting him to sign an extension, there’s more risk than reward.

There’s reason to be skeptical about the White Sox chances to get Machado.  His market is already heating up with the Orioles putting the 24-year-old third baseman/shortstop on the trading block, and there will no shortage of suitors on the free agent market. It’s possible for Machado’s deal in 2018 to eclipse $300 million, which doesn’t fit the White Sox DNA. For one, the largest contract in Sox history was the 6 year, $68 million contract the team signed Jose Abreu to in 2014. Would Jerry Reinsdorf almost quadruple the largest contract they’ve given to any player, ever?  It’s hard to imagine.

Hahn and co. were able to get Reinsdorf to approve this rebuild, so whose to say they can’t convince the Sox chairman to write the check? Especially if it ignites the rebuild that gets him closer to winning World Series.

Rick Renteria

Renteria’s Christmas Wish: Be a more exciting version of the 2015 Minnesota Twins

The 2015 Minnesota Twins were very similar to the upcoming Chicago White Sox team. Like the Sox, the Twins were in the middle of their rebuild.  They had young players on the horizon, most notably Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, the latter being the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, and had very low expectations.

They had no position player hit more than 28 home runs and just one player had a batting average that eclipsed the .280 mark.  Their pitching staff was just as mediocre with a 4.07 team ERA and their best player by WARP was starter Kyle Gibson (11-11, 3.84 ERA, 4.1 WARP).

Yet despite all those different factors, they found a way to win games. 83 of them to be exact, and found themselves in the middle of the AL Wild Card race in late August and September.

Renteria’s squad can have a similar season in ’18 and his club is already more exciting than the team the Twins ran out there in 2018.

The White Sox will trot out one of the youngest rosters in baseball this Spring with four of its five starters and seven of its nine position players under the age of 26. That number will only continue to drop with the expected arrival of prospects such as Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech (we’ll talk about them later).

Because of the young players that will be playing, there is a level of variance as to how the White Sox will perform and likely have an affect on the team’s overall performance.

The White Sox will take a step forward this season. Like last year, they’ll be competitive, win some games and even surprise some people. An AL Wild Card run shouldn’t be something they expect, but if things go right and the Sox young players play well, they can definitely make August and September interesting.

Jose Abreu

Abreu’s Christmas Wish: Stay on White Sox long enough to see the turnaround

Abreu has been worth every penny of the $68 million the White Sox signed him to back in 2014. He’s been a leader both on and off the field and his presence has benefited several players including Reynaldo Lopez and his fellow countryman Yoan Moncada, who referred to Abreu as his “big brother.”

On a baseball level, Abreu has been just as great. He’s hit at least 25 homers in each of his first four seasons and slugged north of .500 in three of while four. There’s no doubt he’s become one of the most feared hitters in MLB during that time.

Can the White Sox get a nice return for the future if they shipped Abreu to a potential contender? It’s likely, even with the abundance of first base-types on the market. And for a team still in a rebuild, it would be crazy for the front office not to think about maximizing his trade value. But could Abreu’s continued presence in the White Sox’ clubhouse prove to be too valuable for a young team that will still need a leader as they start to win in the next two or three years? You bet they do. Look at what Carlos Beltran’s presence did not only the Houston Astros, but the Yankees two seasons ago. Same can be said for Chase Utley in Los Angeles. While Abreu has more baseball left in him than those two did when they were in their mentoring stages of their careers, it’s hard to put a price tag on a solid culture.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Abreu getting his wish.

Yoan Moncada

Moncada’s Christmas Wish: Become a 3.0 or better WAR player in 2018

When I wrote about Yoan Moncada last offseason, no one really knew what to expect from him. He had the tools, he had the physique, but with all the expectation, how would he fare?

Speed? Check.

Power? Check.

Ability to hit? Check.

Strong arm? Check.

Solid glove? Check.

While it took him some time to find that rhythm once he got to the big leagues, he found a nice groove the last month of the season, slashing .276/.349/.469 with eight extra-base hits.

Unlike 2017, Moncada will begin the season as the starting second baseman in 2018 and be penciled into the top of Rick Renteria’s lineup every day. Despite it being his first full season, there’s no reason to believe he can’t take a huge step forward and become a 3.0-WAR type of catalyst for the Sox.

Andrew Benintendi was a 2.6 WAR in his first full season in the big leagues for the Boston Red Sox last year as a main focal point of their lineup. Moncada will be one of the anchors for the White Sox and while there isn’t as big of a supporting cast as Benintendi has in Boston, he’ll have that same level of expectation in his first full season in 2018.

The Cuban phenom managed to have a 1.7 WAR in his brief 54 games with the Sox so looking for him to double that in 2018 isn’t unreasonable. He could even surpass that number if his defense, which is his weakest tool, continues to improve. Moncada actually graded well defensively in 2017.

Moncada is the cornerstone of the White Sox rebuild and may be the future face of the franchise. Everyone saw flashes of the tools that made him the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball and if can tap into all five of those tools, the sky is the limit for what this guy can do in 2018 and beyond.

Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech 

Jimenez/Kopech’s Christmas Wish: Force the team’s hand and break camp with the big-league club

Sure, this is every minor leaguer’s dream, especially when they are on the brink of making it anyway, but when it comes to the White Sox top hitting and pitching prospects, the idea is not too far-fetched.

After being acquired in the Jose Quintana trade, Eloy Jimenez, who was already rated as the eighth best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus and fourth-best by MLB Pipeline, seemed to get even better following the trade. He hit .345 with Winston-Salem before earning a promotion to Double-A Birmingham where he hit .353 in his small sample size there. Jimenez didn’t cool off when the season ended either as he tore up winter ball in the Dominican.

Michael Kopech, like Jimenez, exceeded the Sox expectation during his first season in the organization. The flamethrower had never topped 100 IP prior to 2017 and not only did he surpass that mark (134) he also remained healthy. Kopech showed that he could handle Double-A, and dominated in the process. He earned himself a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte where he more than held his own in his three starts there.

When discussing ETA of timelines for young players, Hahn always talks about how the “good ones” will force the team’s hand. There’s no reason to rush either of these guys to the majors as both are still just 21 years old. While I believe both will start the year in the minors, it won’t be long before they get the call. Jimenez and Kopech knocked on the door last season, expect them to kick it down in ’18.

Lead Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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