Contract intrigue for young stars
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.