Need a reason to smile?
Think about how great Chris Colabello is going to feel at Monday's Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field. He gets to jog out to the first-base line when the Twins are announced before the game.
Undrafted out of Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., Colabello is a 30-year-old who spent seven seasons in independent baseball before being offered a Minor League contract by the Twins two years ago. He's run with the chance he got, crushing the ball in Double-A and Triple-A, and was so happy to have a shot at making a Major League roster that he turned down a guaranteed $1 million to play in Korea.
During Spring Training, he told me he's never played baseball for money.
"This game has never not been fun for me," said Colabello, a right-handed hitter who will back up first baseman Joe Mauer and serve as a DH option. "Every time the lights come on, you step between the lines, it's everything I could ever imagine it to be -- whether it's in the big leagues, Triple-A, Double-A, even in the [independent] CanAm League. The lights come on, umpires meet at home plate with the coaches and you run on the field. You get goose bumps and butterflies and things like that because you are in a position where you get to compete … I love to play."
He's you and me, but with baseball talent and a uniform. Now some questions:
With their payroll scheduled to be so low, can the White Sox go after a top free-agent pitcher like Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, etc., after this season?
-- Matthew D., Chicago
They are positioned to do exactly that. The White Sox payroll grew as high as $127.8 million in 2011 and is at $90 million opening this year, almost $30 million less than the start of last season. But the really intriguing factor is they have only $46.4 million of guaranteed money on the books for 2015. They could be a major player in the offseason market but face a difficult task landing one of the big fish, as they'd probably have to come up with an offer bigger than those from powerhouses like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Rangers, to name four.
What do you see as the upside for Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia?
-- Tom D., Chicago
While Garcia has already shown he can be a solid regular, I haven't talked to any scouts who get hyperbolic about his potential. The Tigers felt Nick Castellanos was the better hitter when they had both of them. But the scouts who saw Abreu play for Cuba think he could be a monster. The White Sox have worked hard to maintain a poker face about his potential, but there are guys inside and outside the organization who think he could be a real force -- like Miguel Cabrera, a power hitter who doesn't sacrifice average. I think he could hit .280-plus with 40 home runs. Garcia might hit .300 some season, but I think his power will be more along the lines of Alex Rios -- 25 homers in a good season.
Do you think Javier Baez is up in the big leagues right after the Super Two status deadline or closer to September?
-- Chris M., Chicago
I don't think the Super Two deadline is that big of a concern for Theo Epstein and Co., and if I'm right on that, the only marker to watch for comes early. Anybody making his big league debut after April 11 will not get the 172 days of service needed to make 2014 count as a full season's service time, so potential free agency is pushed back until after 2020, not 2019. That's why the Rays had Evan Longoria spend the first two weeks of 2008 in Triple-A, and that timing would apply to Baez, the Cubs' top prospect. It's logical to leave him in the Minors for another full season, getting him beyond 300 Minor League games, but I've got a hunch something's going to happen early in the season to get him to the big leagues for on-the-job training with manager Rick Renteria and his coaches -- an injury, a trade, something. Just a guess.
Will Mike Olt, Starlin Castro and Baez set a record for most errors by a second-third-shortstop combination in 2014 and '15?
-- Chad R., Greenville, S.C.
I'm not sure what that record is, but you could be on to something. Some crazy stuff will almost certainly happen if they are on the field at the same time. However, a lot of people think Olt, ranked No. 14 among the Cubs' top prospects, will settle in and develop into a plus fielder with a regular spot and good health. In the 2013 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America wrote, "Olt is a joy to watch defensively, owing to his agility and ability to make throws from any angle." His shoulder was a concern in Spring Training, so let's wait a bit to draw any conclusions on him. Both Castro and Baez have big arms and will get a lot of outs on tough plays but do make a lot of errors, and that's a part of their baseball DNA that probably isn't ever going to go away. No one with the organization has told me this, but I think the Cubs hope that Castro will rebound from his 2012-13 regression as a hitter so they can shop him in trades for pitching, opening shortstop up to either Baez or Arismendy Alcantara, another stat-producing middle infielder.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.