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White Sox won't stray from plan at Meetings

Club focused on rebuild despite big moves by other AL clubs
MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton officially was announced as the newest member of the Yankees on Monday during the Winter Meetings.

That media conference followed two days after Shohei Ohtani's introduction by the Angels on Saturday, making the American League even more difficult at the top. But these new sensations don't really have any effect on the overall plan for the rebuilding White Sox, who understand patience is a virtue both with their young prospects' development and in terms of potential moves within the trade or free-agent market this week.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton officially was announced as the newest member of the Yankees on Monday during the Winter Meetings.

That media conference followed two days after Shohei Ohtani's introduction by the Angels on Saturday, making the American League even more difficult at the top. But these new sensations don't really have any effect on the overall plan for the rebuilding White Sox, who understand patience is a virtue both with their young prospects' development and in terms of potential moves within the trade or free-agent market this week.

"It doesn't change for us what we're trying to build," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "We know we need to have a club that is capable of winning in the vicinity of 95 games a year to guarantee ourselves a spot in the postseason.

Video: Merkin on White Sox desire to meet with Ohtani

"Certainly we prefer the quality impact players to stay in the National League or outside our division at least, but it doesn't change the type of players we're trying to acquire for the long term, the type of team we're trying to build for the long term. Had both those players landed in the National League it wouldn't have allowed us a moment's rest to take our foot off the gas in terms of what we're trying to create."

Pierzynski to return as White Sox ambassador

In reality, the White Sox busiest of these four days at the Winter Meetings could come on Thursday morning during the Rule 5 Draft. The club's 40-man roster presently sits at 36.

Monday's media line of questioning for Hahn was fairly standard for Day 1 of the Winter Meetings: Has interest picked up for players such as first baseman Jose Abreu and outfielder Avisail Garcia? Is there extra pressure to get deals done at the Winter Meetings? Are other teams fearful of dealing with Hahn following the prospect haul he assembled this past year?

Hot Stove Tracker

Hahn laughed at the last question, while providing a quick counter.

"At least one general manager jokingly said that to me a few weeks back," Hahn said. "I quickly pointed out how many former White Sox were contributing in October on playoff teams. We were able to move the conversation because of that."

The market still appears to be developing for Garcia, 26, who broke out last season with a .330 average, .885 OPS, 137 OPS+ and 80 RBIs. Abreu's value, much like that of Garcia, goes beyond on-field contributions in the leadership department.

With two years of control on each in the midst of a rebuild, the White Sox certainly can wait well past the Winter Meetings to decide on future fits for both players.

"Again, it's easier to line up when you're in different spots in your success cycle, and the clubs we've been dealing with in the last 12 months have benefited from enhancing their positions into the postseason," Hahn said. "And it seems we've enhanced our position for the long term as well.

"If we're able to find a similar match in the coming days, we'll move on it. But at this point my common theme of needing to be patient needs to be reiterated, not necessarily for White Sox nation, but for those of us up in the room."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

Pierzynski to return as White Sox ambassador

Former catcher will represent club at Draft, wants to announce game with Hawk
MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A.J. Pierzynski will return to the White Sox as a team ambassador, the former All-Star catcher announced Monday afternoon at the Winter Meetings.

Pierzynski mentioned that he will take part in 2018 Opening Day ceremonies and attend other games in relation to his role, as well as represent the team during the MLB Draft. The durable left-handed hitter, who retired in 2016, played eight seasons for the White Sox and was a major part in the team's '05 World Series championship.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A.J. Pierzynski will return to the White Sox as a team ambassador, the former All-Star catcher announced Monday afternoon at the Winter Meetings.

Pierzynski mentioned that he will take part in 2018 Opening Day ceremonies and attend other games in relation to his role, as well as represent the team during the MLB Draft. The durable left-handed hitter, who retired in 2016, played eight seasons for the White Sox and was a major part in the team's '05 World Series championship.

"Obviously, I consider myself a White Sox after all the years and winning a championship there," Pierzynski said. "For them to approach me about coming back, it means a lot.

Video: Hahn excited for Vizquel, Pierzynski to return

"It's special, because it's the place where people ask you, 'Where did you play?' And I remember a lot of the other places, but I always remember that one. When they ask to come back, it's hard to say no."

Tweet from @whitesox: Spotted signing autographs at the #WinterMeetings: AJ! pic.twitter.com/s05relPzg3

One primary 2018 goal for Pierzynski is broadcasting a White Sox game with Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, whose illustrious career as White Sox play-by-play television announcer comes to an end next season. The White Sox and Pierzynski tried to do it in '17, but due to his FOX broadcast commitments, it never happened.

After talking to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert and senior director of business development and broadcasting Bob Grim, Pierzynski hopes to be part of Harrelson's broadcasting farewell.

"I told Scott and Bob that I'll move heaven and Earth to make sure I'm able to get at least one game in with Hawk, since it is his last year and we need to make this happen," Pierzynski said. "This year, they're only doing Sunday games, so it will make it a lot easier to be able to come out and just ride on Hawk's coattails.

Video: Hawk Harrelson on state of announcing in baseball

"My biggest goal is to get him into the Hall of Fame. Hawk is a special person and once-in-a-multi-generation announcer. People use his phrases all the time, walking down the street. They don't even know where it came from. Hawk is special and special to White Sox fans and special to me and my family."

Jose Contreras also will be announced as a new White Sox ambassador later this week, as mentioned by general manager Rick Hahn during his Monday media session. Contreras, 46, will be going to work on the baseball side as well, spending time in the Minor League system and working with some White Sox Latin players in their acclimation to being professionals in the states.

Contreras, who pitched six years for the White Sox, produced a 3-1 record during the 2005 postseason.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

Hawk excited for baseball future in Chicago

Longtime broadcaster believes White Sox on winning track
MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Imagine an all-Chicago World Series for the first time since 1906, when the Cubs and White Sox matched up for baseball's ultimate prize, and the Fielder Jones-managed Sox won the title in six games.

Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the White Sox iconic television voice moving into his 34th and final season in the booth covering 20 games during the 2018 season, believes that particular postseason matchup stands closer than most people think.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Imagine an all-Chicago World Series for the first time since 1906, when the Cubs and White Sox matched up for baseball's ultimate prize, and the Fielder Jones-managed Sox won the title in six games.

Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the White Sox iconic television voice moving into his 34th and final season in the booth covering 20 games during the 2018 season, believes that particular postseason matchup stands closer than most people think.

Harrelson made that point to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts when they spoke recently during the offseason and again on Monday as the Orlando, Fla., resident held court for close to 20 minutes with the media during the Winter Meetings.

Video: Hawk Harrelson on state of announcing in baseball

"I congratulated [Ricketts] on winning a World [Series] championship," Harrelson said. "I also told him in two years from now our club is going to have a lot of fun playing his because they're not going anywhere, they're good.

"That makes it good for us because it makes us have to get better. And when you have to get better, you work a little harder, subconsciously or consciously. That's the way sports is. Inner drive, and getting that adrenaline flowing."

White Sox won't stray from plan at Meetings

Harrelson added:

"Chicago fans are going to have a wonderful next decade in baseball. They're going to have a lot of fun watching our Sox. And at least we get to play six times this year, not this ridiculous Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Can you believe that? How bad is that. We get them on the weekend."

The Cubs host the White Sox at Wrigley Field on May 11-13, with the Cubs traveling to Guaranteed Rate Field for a series on Sept. 21-23. Harrelson believes a time is coming, quite possibly not in his lifetime, but still coming, where reorganization leads to the Cubs and White Sox playing 18 times per season.

Hot Stove Tracker

"Baseball is built on great players, it's built on rivalries, and it's built on tradition," Harrelson said. "We're a generational game. Football's not, basketball's not, baseball is, where you can talk to your grandchildren and relate stories more on a regular basis because there's 162 games, almost 200 counting Spring Training."

Video: Hahn feeling no pressure, pleased with progress

During the present ranging to the not-too-distant future, Harrelson will focus on the White Sox rebuild development.

"In two years, we're going to be a monster," Harrelson said. "I've never seen a team do a [rebuild] better than this one. I've never seen a team get as much back.

"It's been phenomenal. They've done their homework. I'm just ecstatic. As always, I can't wait for the season to start."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

White Sox auction offers fans incredible chances

MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The White Sox will be providing three outstanding options as part of a charity auction involving Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 Clubs during Baseball's annual Winter Meetings.

This auction enters into its sixth consecutive year benefitting a special cause close to the game. This year's auction supports the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The White Sox will be providing three outstanding options as part of a charity auction involving Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 Clubs during Baseball's annual Winter Meetings.

This auction enters into its sixth consecutive year benefitting a special cause close to the game. This year's auction supports the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

A hitting lesson with White Sox legend Harold Baines serves as one auction item. The winning bidder receives a 30-minute hitting lesson in the White Sox batting cages with Baines, who finished his 22-year-career with 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBIs, on a mutually agreed upon date. The experience also includes four premium lower-box tickets to the game (excluding April 5, Sept. 21 and Sept. 22). The winner is responsible for travel costs to and from Guaranteed Rate Field.

Another White Sox item to bid on is a Spring Training experience. The winner gets the opportunity to spend the day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., as special guests with a behind-the-scenes tour and a meet-and-greet with White Sox players.

Throwing out a first pitch before the game and four premium game tickets also are included. The experience is for a mutually agreeable 2018 White Sox Spring Training game and the winner is responsible for travel costs to and from Camelback Ranch.

The third option centers on being a White Sox VIP for a day. This experience starts with watching White Sox batting practice from the field, with the opportunity to meet White Sox players and coaching staff during BP. The winning bidder and his/her guests will then enjoy the game from the comforts of the all-inclusive Guaranteed Rate Club, with this experience set for four guests.

Guaranteed Rate Club tickets include a premium buffet, in-seat food and beverage service, an open bar and access to a private indoor lounge. Each guest receives a White Sox premium gift bag. The game date is mutually agreeable for a 2018 regular-season home night game. The winner is responsible for travel costs to and from Guaranteed Rate Field.

This year's auction is now LIVE at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction and runs until 10:00 p.m. ET Thursday. Employees, friends and fans of the game affected by cancer originally inspired this initiative, which has raised more than $900,000 since its inception.

With Feeney's unfortunate and sudden passing, as well as her commitment to helping and mentoring others throughout her 40 years in the game, the charity auction shifted to support this specific cause.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

White Sox pressure-free entering Meetings

Chicago front office focused on adding young talent, but timeline not rigid
MLB.com @scottmerkin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Members of the White Sox front office have arrived in Florida with the addition of free-agent catcher Welington Castillo via a two-year, $15 million deal and an $8 million option for 2020 already in place.

They might leave the area Thursday, following the 2017 Winter Meetings, with that deal still standing as their primary offseason move. The team remains focused on procurement of young talent as part of its rebuild, while looking to be opportunistic in adding veterans who can help in the short and long term.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Members of the White Sox front office have arrived in Florida with the addition of free-agent catcher Welington Castillo via a two-year, $15 million deal and an $8 million option for 2020 already in place.

They might leave the area Thursday, following the 2017 Winter Meetings, with that deal still standing as their primary offseason move. The team remains focused on procurement of young talent as part of its rebuild, while looking to be opportunistic in adding veterans who can help in the short and long term.

But there's no pressure felt by the White Sox to get things done over the next few days.

"You have to go in with the attitude that nothing has to happen here and you want to be fully prepared for however you can best anticipate the market unfolding while you are down there," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "In reality, there is a bit of a fever pitch when you are there and teams do seem to get themselves into deal mode, whether it's with free agents or via trade.

Hot Stove Tracker

"So if you have had something percolate for a few weeks, there's a decent chance it's going to come to a decision point while you are there. We try not to get too carried away with something [that] has to be done while we are there to show progress. It's another four or five days on the offseason calendar, and the goal is to get the thing right by Opening Day, not necessarily by Dec. 15."

Video: Hahn on chances Abreu gets traded, market

MLB.com and whitesox.com will be at the Winter Meetings for all the action. Follow me, @scottmerkin, on Twitter and check in frequently for Hahn's analysis, other events and important moments related to the White Sox.

Manager Rick Renteria holds his 30-minute interview session on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. CT, possibly focusing on the next phase of the rebuild involving patience and development. It was one year ago when this rebuild began at the Winter Meetings, with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, which changed the franchise in the process.

"I suspect last year will be one [Winter Meetings] that we look back on very fondly here in the not too distant future," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said. "It was the first opportunity we had to start from ground zero and reshape the team and the organization as we had kind of wanted to do at various junctures, but for various reasons, didn't have the opportunity.

"So when you talk about excitement and anticipation and the back and forth of conversation, and Rick and I going into a room to the side of our meeting room to talk by ourselves and then to talk with another club … . And then the anticipation of how this thing was going to come together and the way that it did, I suspect that one certainly is going to be a memorable one."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

Sox reflect, give thanks for missed opps in '07

Chicago takes AL Central in 2008 after Cabrera, Hunter disappointments during Winter 2007
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The White Sox already had an active offseason in place by the time they arrived in Nashville for the 2007 Winter Meetings.

On Nov. 19, they traded right-handed pitcher Jon Garland to the Angels in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. On Nov. 23, they agreed to a four-year, $19 million deal with right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink.

CHICAGO -- The White Sox already had an active offseason in place by the time they arrived in Nashville for the 2007 Winter Meetings.

On Nov. 19, they traded right-handed pitcher Jon Garland to the Angels in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. On Nov. 23, they agreed to a four-year, $19 million deal with right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink.

And on Dec. 3, while the front office was stationed at Opryland Hotel, the White Sox picked up slugging outfielder Carlos Quentin from Arizona in exchange for Chris Carter. Quentin became an American League Most Valuable Player Award candidate in 2008.

Yes, they missed out with their pursuit of free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter. But with the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera as a trade target, these particular Winter Meetings had a chance to reshape a franchise only a few years removed from the dominant run to a 2005 World Series title.

Then a not-so-funny thing happened in Music City. Cabrera not only didn't go to the White Sox but ended up moving within the AL Central to Detroit, coming over with left-handed hurler Dontrelle Willis on Dec. 4 in exchange for six players, including Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo.

The White Sox serious interest in Cabrera did not turn into an important acquisition.

"Well, I would imagine a lot of teams had serious interest, but you know, we were having some serious dialogue," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said, looking back 10 years when he was the team's general manager. "I know that."

Reports indicated the White Sox had offered a package with third baseman Josh Fields and pitchers such as John Danks and Gio Gonzalez. Williams acknowledged at the time the White Sox offering "didn't measure up" to what the Marlins' "particular needs were."

Willis also became a deciding point for the South Siders. The affable left-hander, who had two All-Star campaigns during his first four years, was coming off a 35-start 2007 performance that he finished with a 5.17 ERA and allowed 342 baserunners in 205 1/3 innings. After earning $6.45 million for the Marlins in '07, Willis agreed to a three-year, $29-million extension with the Tigers a little more than two weeks after the deal.

Losing out on Hunter, who the White Sox thought was in their grasp, served as a greater disappointment than the failed pursuit of Cabrera. That solace didn't prevent Williams' competitive fire from appearing in Nashville after being criticized in the media following a franchise player moving to Detroit.

During his daily Winter Meetings media session, a session a little more tense and direct then the laid-back meeting the day before the trade was announced, Williams stated Cabrera and Willis simply gave the Tigers a better chance to catch the White Sox in 2008. Remember, the White Sox were coming off of a 72-90 campaign, the first sub-.500 showing in Williams' tenure, and the Tigers had finished '07 with 88 victories.

"Yeah, I guess we got lucky in that respect," Williams said, of his memorable comment from Nashville. "You lose out on a player like that as impactful as he is, you are not kidding anyone. You would have been better with him than without him.

"You have to remember that was at a time where we, even though it was after the 2005 World Series, we were still fighting for our identity, coming off of a bad year. So we were fighting to make sure people knew that we were still very serious about winning and cementing our place in our market. That was a little bit more of a louder type of leadership at that point then I certainly employ now."

Little did Williams know his comments would ring prophetic. The White Sox won the 2008 AL Central, beating the Twins in a Game 163 at U.S. Cellular Field considered by many the most exciting game in franchise history.

Danks turned in one of the best seasons of his career in 2008 and then threw two-hit baseball over eight scoreless innings in the 1-0 Blackout Game victory. The Tigers finished last with 74 wins, although they have reached the AL Championship Series three times and the World Series once with Cabrera, one of the game's all-time great hitters.

Results weren't as strong for Willis, who posted a 6.86 ERA over 24 games and 22 starts covering parts of three years in Detroit and didn't pitch in the Majors after 2011. Williams looks at the '16 Winter Meetings as one the organization will view fondly in the not-too-distant future, highly memorable for the plan general manager Rick Hahn and the front office had to reshape the organization firmly taking root.

As for 2007, it became about the good things actually transpiring for the team after what might have been in Nashville.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

Moncada a key cog in White Sox rebuild

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Yoan Moncada turned 22 on May 27, so the Cuban native is a bit young to be considered the face of the White Sox franchise.

But Moncada grew a lot during 231 plate appearances and 54 games for the White Sox in 2017, and the switch-hitting second baseman was a difference maker for the White Sox rebuild.

CHICAGO -- Yoan Moncada turned 22 on May 27, so the Cuban native is a bit young to be considered the face of the White Sox franchise.

But Moncada grew a lot during 231 plate appearances and 54 games for the White Sox in 2017, and the switch-hitting second baseman was a difference maker for the White Sox rebuild.

"My confidence level is high because now I know how to perform and how people here handle themselves," Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo. "Just keep doing my routine.

"I have more experience and more focus because now I'm going to finish the season at this level. That's going to give me more awareness about what I have to do to be in better shape and to be in better position for next Spring Training."

Moncada's 2018 campaign will serve as a more telling analysis than anything he did during his White Sox debut, because he will be in the lineup every day for a full season. He should be able to help the White Sox on numerous levels after being the centerpiece of a four-player return from Boston in the Chris Sale trade one year ago.

Moncada fits as a No. 2 hitter in the White Sox lineup with a blend of power and speed, although strikeouts certainly will be part of Moncada's game. Moncada produced seven home runs and an .817 OPS over 153 plate appearances in that lineup slot in 2017.

Video: Merkin talks about Moncada's rookie season

Second base will be Moncada's position defensively, forming a strong up-the-middle combination with shortstop Tim Anderson, a crucial component to any good team. Moncada was used at third by Boston and there was even talk during Spring Training of how Moncada could fit in center field because of his high level of athleticism, but playing one position has helped his mindset.

There's also a quiet confidence residing within Moncada. It's difficult to tell by Moncada's demeanor whether he's in an 0-for-20 funk or a 10-for-20 hot streak, a trait helping him make adjustments on and off the field. He understands the process doesn't always lead to overnight results.

The White Sox have amassed a critical core of young talent during this rebuild and aren't done yet with the procurement portion of this process. So, Moncada is not alone, but the former top prospect in the game per MLBPipeline.com and five-tool talent certainly figures to be at the center of any great future success coming for this team.

"He's going to have some fits and starts over the next few years," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "But based on everything we've seen since he stepped on campus, we continue to project him as a special talent."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox, Yoan Moncada

Renteria right choice to be White Sox leader

Players reflected attitude, approach set by skipper in 2017
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- A few media members and a White Sox media relations representative were talking one October morning near the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, when manager Rick Renteria briefly strode up to the group.

Renteria exchanged pleasantries and doled out a few pats on the back but quickly excused himself because he had to attend an instructional league contest in Mesa, Ariz.

CHICAGO -- A few media members and a White Sox media relations representative were talking one October morning near the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, when manager Rick Renteria briefly strode up to the group.

Renteria exchanged pleasantries and doled out a few pats on the back but quickly excused himself because he had to attend an instructional league contest in Mesa, Ariz.

Whether it's instructional league, Cactus League, regular season or even Intrasquad, it's still a part of the White Sox development toward a championship organization in Renteria's mind. The man who turns 56 on Christmas features an unending commitment to baseball and the team, emerging as the right fit at the right time to guide the club's rebuild vision and beyond.

"Listen, I don't think about the longevity of it," Renteria told MLB.com during a recent interview. "I think simply about the moment in which we exist at this particular time.

"Maybe it's just more to define what everybody would like for the organization to be identified as. So, I happen to be the person that's at the helm right now, trying to present a particular idea of how we want the organization to proceed in terms of how we perform between the lines, the attitude that we take.

"I just always believe you have to respect how you go about doing your business. That crosses timelines. It's the way I believe it's supposed to be played. That will remain, that doesn't change. Whether it's two years from now or 10 years from now or 15 years from now, that will always remain. There's nothing that can make me change. It's the way I'm put together."

Video: Part 2: One on one with Renteria

From this strong, personal belief, the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra emerged during Renteria's first year at the helm on the South Side. It depicted the daily tenacity and intensity shown by the White Sox even when the team was undermanned.

In reality, the players reflected an attitude and approach set by Renteria from Day 1 of his tenure. It was an imprint left throughout the organization and lived by Renteria, who routinely arrived at the ballpark mid-morning for a 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch as an example, pouring over video with bench coach Joe McEwing and looking for any sort of edge to impart to his players. Renteria was creating an identity with his staff via a consistency of message.

Reliever Zach Putnam, who recently was non-tendered by the White Sox, regretted not being able to play a full season for Renteria as manager. Putnam's 2017 campaign came to an end on April 22, an elbow issue that led to Tommy John surgery.

"His enthusiasm was palpable from Day 1," Putnam said.

"He likes to work with everybody," White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo. "Young players, veteran players, but especially with the young players, he has a connection. He likes to teach you, he likes to communicate with you in a clear way. And he's always asking you to play hard. That's something for young players, like me, it's created an impact."

T-shirts paying light-hearted tribute to Renteria popped up in the White Sox clubhouse during the '17 season, featuring some of his favorite sayings on the back such as "Never give up," "Keep fighting, keep grinding" and "Because we are White Sox." They are ways of life for Renteria, and in turn, for the franchise, specific ways playing out for a team in the development stage of a rebuild and when this same team reaches prime contending years.

Video: Renteria on excitement around instructional league

"Every team, every now and then, spits out something that doesn't look very good, but I'm proud to say these guys have given me as much joy and pleasure in watching them grow and perform and play," Renteria said. "Not only these guys, but everybody who has been here since the beginning of Spring Training and those guys who have departed and are with other clubs. I'm very proud of every single one of those guys because they have contributed in a big way."

"Even when we are playing, he's always fired up and there's so much positive energy coming from him. He's definitely someone you want around you," shortstop Tim Anderson said. "He has the impact that brings you to keep going."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox

Moncada shows off muscles during workout

When you think of holiday season "gains," you're probably thinking of the effects of egg nog and pumpkin pie. Not for Yoan Moncada. After a strong showing in his rookie year with the White Sox, Moncada is looking to come back ready to knock out a few more dingers.

Prepare to get muscle envy: 

Vizquel's Hall case spans decades of growth

MLB.com @philgrogers

There's a great scene about the cultural challenge that faces Latin American players included in Ken Burns' classic documentary. In an unforgettable interview included In "Baseball -- The 10th Inning," Burns talks to Omar Vizquel about what it was like to spend a summer in Butte, Mont., shortly after the Mariners signed him as a 16-year-old.

"You say, 'Wow, I'm going to America, I'm going to play baseball in America,' and you expect these big buildings, big highways -- stuff you see in movies and magazines," Vizquel said. "You were dreaming to come to a huge city like New York or Chicago, something like that. When we got to Butte, we didn't really see too many people. I remember I went there with a friend of mine -- we both signed from Venezuela -- and when we got there, it was like, 'Are we really in the United States or what?'"

There's a great scene about the cultural challenge that faces Latin American players included in Ken Burns' classic documentary. In an unforgettable interview included In "Baseball -- The 10th Inning," Burns talks to Omar Vizquel about what it was like to spend a summer in Butte, Mont., shortly after the Mariners signed him as a 16-year-old.

"You say, 'Wow, I'm going to America, I'm going to play baseball in America,' and you expect these big buildings, big highways -- stuff you see in movies and magazines," Vizquel said. "You were dreaming to come to a huge city like New York or Chicago, something like that. When we got to Butte, we didn't really see too many people. I remember I went there with a friend of mine -- we both signed from Venezuela -- and when we got there, it was like, 'Are we really in the United States or what?'"

Vizquel didn't know how to order a cheeseburger at the McDonald's. But he figured it out, and he has never really stopped growing.

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More than three decades after that disorienting introduction to baseball, the 50-year-old Vizquel is one of the most intriguing additions to the Hall of Fame ballot, and he just agreed to begin what could be a relatively short apprenticeship as a manager. He returned to one of the last of his six organizations as a player, with a deal to manage the White Sox Class A Advanced Carolina League team, the Winston-Salem Dash.

Video: Omar Vizquel on becoming White Sox Class A manager

Vizquel, one of the game's greatest defensive shortstops, is sure to command respect when he gets to Arizona next spring. He's taking over a White Sox farm team loaded with talent after spending the past four seasons working as a coach for Brad Ausmus with the Tigers.

Vizquel earned respect throughout a 24-year career spent mostly with the Indians and Mariners. He voiced a desire to become a manager in the latter years of a career that ended with the Blue Jays in 2012, when he was 45.

Vizquel would have been a great candidate to be a player-manager in another era. But he has spent the five seasons since his retirement as a coach. To have a team of his own -- especially one loaded with top prospects like center fielder Luis Robert, outfielder Blake Rutherford and third baseman Jake Burger -- should round out his education.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see Vizquel making the transition to a Major League dugout in the near future, although it's unlikely that opportunity will come with the White Sox.

They're expected to give Rick Renteria the chance to stick around for some winning seasons after their rebuild -- the chance he didn't get when he managed the Cubs -- but Vizquel adds another resource to an organization that hopes for a run like the Indians had when Vizquel played shortstop.

"The White Sox have a great farm system right now, one of the strongest because of all the trades they've made in the last couple of years," Vizquel said. "These guys are ready to be contending in the big leagues not too far away."

As Vizquel did as a player, he is paying dues in the Minor Leagues with the dream of a Major League job. He interviewed with the Tigers in October, but they hired Ron Gardenhire instead. So Vizquel is off to Winston-Salem, N.C., where the Dash's new BB&T Ballpark is a far cry from the Butte Copper Kings' Alumni Field.

Vizquel hit .272 and won 11 Gold Glove Awards during his career, with his Cleveland teams going to the postseason six times in seven years. Three of his teammates on those teams have already gone into the Hall of Fame (Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield and Roberto Alomar) and a fourth (Jim Thome) is likely to join Chipper Jones as a first-ballot pick in January.

Video: Vizquel is a candidate for the Hall of Fame in 2018

What about Vizquel? He's going to be a tough call for most voters, because he was 32 before he had his breakout season as an offensive player (batting .333 with an .833 OPS, 42 stolen bases and 112 runs scored). But Vizquel was a really, really good player for such a long time that he had 2,887 hits when he retired.

In his prime, Vizquel put up a slash line of .285/.355/.382 over 11 seasons (1996-2006) while playing for the Indians and the Giants, doing almost all of that after his 30th birthday. He had more walks (642) than strikeouts (613) in this period, averaging 26 stolen bases and 85 runs scored as a complementary piece in lineups that included guys like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds.

And Vizquel just kept going and going.

Vizquel's last season with the Giants came in 2008, but he played four more seasons as a utility infielder for the Rangers, White Sox and Blue Jays.

Vizquel climbed past countryman Luis Aparicio to take the career lead for games played at shortstop -- the White Sox unretired Aparicio's No. 11 so Vizquel could wear it as a tribute to him -- and Derek Jeter couldn't quit catch him.

The current ranking: Vizquel, 2,709; Jeter, 2,674; and Aparicio, 2,581. Jose Reyes, the active leader, is at only 1,602, which ranks 49th all time. Is this one of those records that will never be broken?

Maybe Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts or someone else will pass Vizquel, but you wouldn't want to bet on it. That's why I've decided to check his name when I fill out my Hall of Fame ballot. Vizquel has earned everything he's gotten, and he looks more than ready to begin expanding his legacy as a manager.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox sign catcher Castillo to 2-year deal

Backstop eager to play for manager Renteria, help young team develop
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

Free-agent catcher Welington Castillo is headed to the White Sox on a two-year, $15 million deal, the club announced on Friday. Castillo will receive $7.25 million in both 2018 and '19, while the White Sox hold an $8 million option for '20 with a $500,000 buyout.

Castillo hit .282/.323/.490 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs in 96 games for the Orioles in 2017, after signing with Baltimore last offseason. His 20 homers were a career high, and his .282 batting average was his best over a full season.

Free-agent catcher Welington Castillo is headed to the White Sox on a two-year, $15 million deal, the club announced on Friday. Castillo will receive $7.25 million in both 2018 and '19, while the White Sox hold an $8 million option for '20 with a $500,000 buyout.

Castillo hit .282/.323/.490 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs in 96 games for the Orioles in 2017, after signing with Baltimore last offseason. His 20 homers were a career high, and his .282 batting average was his best over a full season.

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Video: Hahn elaborates on how Castillo fits with White Sox

"We view it as an upgrade both in the short-term and the long-term," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "He's been one of the most productive catchers in baseball over the last few years. We think he'll make an impact on both our young pitchers and our young catchers."

The 30-year-old is an eight-year Major League veteran, debuting for the Cubs in 2010, so this marks a return to Chicago for Castillo and also reunites him with White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who was Castillo's manager with the Cubs in 2014. He also played for the Mariners and D-backs before joining the Orioles. Castillo has hit double-digit home runs in four straight seasons, averaging more than 16 a year since 2014, and said playing for Renteria was something that drew him to signing with the White Sox.

"It means a lot for me to play for him again," Castillo said. "I've worked with him. He's a great human being and a great manager. He's a player's manager. I'm excited to have the opportunity to play for him. I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win."

Video: Castillo excited to reunite with Renteria

Hahn also said he believes Castillo has improved defensively as a catcher, as the knock on Castillo early in his career was he struggled with pitch framing. But Castillo said it remains a point of emphasis for him to improve, and he's asked backstops such as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for advice.

"This last year with Baltimore he continued to make progress in that area," Hahn said. "It says a lot about his work ethic and character."

The White Sox used Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith as their primary catchers last season, but neither put up the level of offensive production that Castillo did. The 25-year-old Narvaez hit .277/.373/.340 with two home runs in 90 games, and the 29-year-old Smith hit .283/.309/.388 with four homers in 87 games.

Video: Castillo discusses playing time, young pitching staff

Castillo said he's looking forward to working with the other catchers this spring, and plans to study the club's young pitchers over the coming months to get a better feel before the club heads to Arizona for Spring Training.

"There are a lot of young guys," Castillo said. "It's a young team, but I wanted to come here and help them."

Video: Zinkie on Castillo's fantasy impact with White Sox

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
After posting a helpful .282 batting average and reaching the 20-homer plateau for the first time last season, Castillo should fall comfortably into the top 10 catchers for 2018 fantasy leagues. Although he may have limited RBI opportunities playing for a club that ranked 23rd in runs last season, the catcher should continue to provide solid power -- especially at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Rhett Bollinger has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago White Sox, Welington Castillo

MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects for 2018

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

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"There's less things that can go wrong," one National League scouting director said. "I can't see him coming out and 'laying an egg,' so to speak. He's a little more of a pitcher, when they were more power guys."

While the list doesn't have a high schooler at No. 1, it does have a ton of high-end prep pitching on it, starting at No. 2 with Ethan Hankins. The Atlanta area standout had a very impressive summer and is armed with the best fastball in the Top 50. He might not be atop the list, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the same class as Groome and Greene, who went No. 12 and No. 2 in their respective Drafts.

"He's right up there," the scouting director said. "He's very, very impressive. He has size, strength and stuff. What Hunter had over him, he could do it as a position player, so you knew that when he gives that up, there might be more to come. But he's right up there with the better high school kids I've seen in the last couple of years."

2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

The top high school bat comes in at No. 4 on the list in the form of Phoenix-area infielder Nolan Gorman. His raw power was on display for much of the summer as he stood out in multiple elite-level home run derbies, with the ability to drive the ball also showing up in games. Nick Madrigal is the top college position player on the list, coming in at No. 11. He's undersized, but that doesn't seem to matter as much these days, and the Oregon State infielder has a strong track record and perhaps the best hit tool in the class.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

College hitters are often hard to come by, especially this early, but scouts are encouraged that there seems to be more advanced bats to consider in the first round than usual. Given that college performers tend to float up as the Draft nears, seeing Madrigal or some of the others on this Top 50 land in the top 10 seems very feasible.

"I think I like the list this year more than last year," the scouting director said. "I like the depth. There's college pitching, if you're at the top. I think there are some college position players. Who were the college players last year at the top? There's very good high school pitching. I think it's deeper all the way around."

Class breakdown

It's a fairly even split in this year's Top 50, with 26 high schoolers and 24 from the college ranks. It's split right down the middle at the top, with the top 10 filled with five college players and five prepsters. While it is pitching heavy at the top, with seven of the top 10 on the mound, there are more bats to be found later on. That speaks to the aforementioned depth. There might not be a college bat in the top 10, but there are five in the 11-20 range -- led by Madrigal at No. 11 -- and no one would be surprised to see some of them end up in the top 10 once the Draft rolls around.

In total, there are a dozen college hitters in the Top 50, up from eight a year ago. The 12 college pitchers on the list, five in the top 10, is down a touch from 15 on our 2017 Top 50. Of the 26 high schoolers, half are pitchers. High school right-handers are a particular strength in this class, with 11 in this Top 50. The complete positional breakdown of this list is as a follows:

RHP: 18
OF: 11
LHP: 7
SS: 4
1B: 3
3B: 3
C: 3
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 - Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State, Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS
Power: 60 - Nolan Gorman, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
Run: 70 - Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
Arm: 70 - Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hatiesburg (Miss.) HS, Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (Snellville, Ga.)
Field: 60 - Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter (Philadelphia), Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

Pitchers
Fastball: 80 - Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Curveball: 65 - Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
Slider: 65 - Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Changeup: 65 - Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Control: 60 - Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vizquel joins Sox as Winston-Salem manager

HOF candidate to play key role in organizational rebuild
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Omar Vizquel was asked to describe personal attributes that make him a good manager in the White Sox Minor League system, a position he will now hold for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, the team announced Monday.

The 11-time Gold Glove Award winner at shortstop and first-time candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame responded with one important word.

CHICAGO -- Omar Vizquel was asked to describe personal attributes that make him a good manager in the White Sox Minor League system, a position he will now hold for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, the team announced Monday.

The 11-time Gold Glove Award winner at shortstop and first-time candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame responded with one important word.

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"Communication," said Vizquel during a conference call on Monday. "That's No. 1 for me: if you know how to communicate with your players. Let them know what you want from them and speak clearly. Tell them the truth.

"Let them know right away what you want to accomplish with these guys. It makes their job easier and you have more confidence with everybody."

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Tweet from @whitesox: The #WhiteSox have named former major-league infielder Omar Vizquel as the new manager at Class A Winston-Salem. pic.twitter.com/xgOe9RFAz2

Vizquel, who had a successful run as player with the White Sox from 2010-11, takes over the Dash after a strong 2017 managerial stint by Willie Harris. The job serves a crucial function for the organization's rebuild, with outfielder Luis Robert (Chicago's No. 3 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com), outfielder Blake Rutherford (No. 4), third baseman Jake Burger (No. 10), outfielder Micker Adolfo (No. 14), first baseman Gavin Sheets (No. 15) and outfielder Alex Call (No. 26) all figuring to start the season with Winston-Salem.

For the past four seasons (2014-17), Vizquel served as the Tigers' first-base, infield and baserunning coach. Vizquel, 50, knew managing was in his future after playing 2,968 games over 24 Major League seasons with Seattle (1989-93), Cleveland (1994-2004), San Francisco (2005-08), Texas (2009), the White Sox and Toronto (2012).

Video: Vizquel extended his great career with White Sox

After a stint managing Team Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Vizquel takes on a younger challenge in shaping the White Sox future.

"This is a great opportunity for me because I'm going to start working with a bunch of young guys that are looking for a journey to get to the big leagues," Vizquel said. "It's a pleasure to work with a lot of prospects. The White Sox have a great farm system right now, one of the strongest because of all the trades they've made in the last couple of years. These guys are ready to be a contending in the big leagues not too far away.

"Obviously it's like the little school you have to go through. I'm glad to speak out to some of these guys, because I know it's hard for them sometimes to understand how the process builds up and how it goes. But a guy that has been there and done that for a long time, he can be a very positive thing for them getting to higher levels."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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