Con­tract in­trigue for young stars

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - WHITE SOX - By La­Mond Pope

SoxFest con­cluded Satur­day at McCormick Place West. Here are four takeaways from the var­i­ous sem­i­nars.

1. What’s the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tract ex­ten­sions for young stars Yoan Mon­cada and Lu­cas Gi­olito?

Left fielder Eloy Jimenez and the Sox agreed to a five-year, $43 mil­lion deal be­fore the start of the 2019 sea­son. In Jan­uary, the Sox agreed to terms on a six-year, $50 mil­lion deal with cen­ter fielder Luis Robert.

On Satur­day, a fan asked about pos­si­bil­ity of ex­ten­sions for third base­man Yoan Mon­cada and pitcher Lu­cas Gi­olito, and Sox gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn ini­tially joked, “I can’t hear you.”

Hahn then dis­cussed the process of try­ing to sign play­ers to ex­ten­sions.

“We’ve had a de­cent amount of suc­cess for the past cou­ple of decades in terms of ex­tend­ing young guys, go­ing back to (Mark) Buehrle and (Paul) Kon­erko, back when they were ar­bi­tra­tion-el­i­gi­ble or pre-ar­bi­tra­tion-el­i­gi­ble, go­ing through (Chris) Sale, (Jose) Quin­tana and (Adam) Eaton and now Tim An­der­son and Robert and Eloy,” Hahn said.

“It cer­tainly is a pri­or­ity for this or­ga­ni­za­tion to keep this group to­gether as long as pos­si­ble and make all the pieces fit for as long as we can. When we pre­sented the blue­print for the re­build a few years back to (Chair­man) Jerry (Reins­dorf ), one el­e­ment of it was our eco­nomic strat­egy and that in­cluded not only con­tin­u­ing to be ag­gres­sive try­ing to sign young play­ers, per­haps be­ing even more ag­gres­sive than we have be­fore as you saw with Eloy and Luis, sign­ing them be­fore they had a big-league AB.

“The only thing I’ll say is that it con­tin­ues to be a pri­or­ity for us, but it does take two to tango. Some­times play­ers pre­fer to go year-to-year and main­tain their own flex­i­bil­ity to hit free agency as soon as pos­si­ble. We’re not go­ing to con­vert on ev­ery­one, but we’re go­ing to go down swing­ing on the ones we re­ally want.”

There’s still time. Mon­cada and Gi­olito, who both had break­out sea­sons in 2019, are set to be­come free agents after the 2023 sea­son.

2. Want an­other prospect to keep tabs on? Chris Getz sug­gests pitcher Jonathan Stiever.

A lot of at­ten­tion has gone to top prospects Luis Robert, pitcher Michael Kopech, first base­man An­drew Vaughn and sec­ond base­man Nick Madrigal. And right­fully so. When asked by a fan for an­other young player to watch, Sox direc­tor of player de­vel­op­ment Chris Getz pointed to pitcher Jonathan Stiever as a prospect who fared well at a lower level.

Stiever went 10-10 with a 3.48 ERA, 154 strike­outs and 27 walks at Class A Kan­napo­lis and Win­ston-Salem in 2019.

“He’s been talked about here and re­cently,” Getz said. “A fifth-rounder (in 2018) out of In­di­ana, who re­ally took a big step for­ward last year for us. He’s a guy that’s caught a lot of at­ten­tion. We feel like he has the chance to be part of a ro­ta­tion here in Chicago hope­fully in the near fu­ture.”

Stiever is the No. 6 prospect in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He earned a spot as a non-ros­ter in­vi­tee to Sox spring train­ing camp.

3. Pitch­ing coach Don Cooper en­vi­sions Dal­las Keuchel help­ing the staff in a va­ri­ety of ways.

Sox pitch­ing coach Don Cooper said one rea­son a team ac­quires a free-agent pitcher is the num­bers on the back of the base­ball card.

The Sox liked the num­bers — and more — when they added Dal­las Keuchel.

“We ex­pect and hope that Dal­las Keuchel will take the ball 32 times for us, pitch some­where be­tween 180 and 210 in­nings,” Cooper said, “be­cause that would mean he’s tak­ing the bulk of the game, six, seven, eight and some­times nine in­nings.

“But also a big as­set for the younger kids, they have a guy who has been through it and has done it for many years. (There’s) not much that Dal­las hasn’t seen or been through dur­ing that time and he can help the younger guys with stuff that might be go­ing on in their world, as a vet­eran should do. A lot of talk about be­ing good in the club­house. I like that. But I first want them to be good on the field.”

4. The pur­suit of Yas­mani Gran­dal in­cluded a rare fea­ture.

Catcher Yas­mani Gran­dal was the first ma­jor ad­di­tion of the off­sea­son for the Sox.

Gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn walked fans through part of the process of at­tain­ing the catcher on Satur­day, with de­tails that in­cluded a face-to-face with Sox man­age­ment dur­ing the GM meet­ings in Novem­ber.

“That’s not too rare, that tends to hap­pen, guys like to hear pre­sen­ta­tions about where you’re at and how they fit,” Hahn said. “What was a lit­tle bit rare was after that meet­ing, within 48 hours, Yas­mani was com­ing back to us with more de­tailed ques­tions about our ad­vanced scout­ing, what an­a­lyt­ics we use, he wanted video on a num­ber of pitch­ers within our or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

The mo­men­tum picked up from there with con­ver­sa­tions with Gran­dal’s agent, and the four-year, $73 mil­lion deal was an­nounced Nov. 21.

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