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Inbox: Where do Vaughn, Burger, Kopech fit?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers fans' questions
@scottmerkin
November 24, 2020

CHICAGO -- Here’s this week’s White Sox inquiries, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Is there any chance we see Jake Burger **as a DH this season? Can’t we just wait and see at the Trade Deadline to get [a DH] because we have guys like him and [Andrew] Vaughn in

CHICAGO -- Here’s this week’s White Sox inquiries, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Is there any chance we see Jake Burger as a DH this season? Can’t we just wait and see at the Trade Deadline to get [a DH] because we have guys like him and [Andrew] Vaughn in the system?
-- Kevin, Chicago, @theswiz

Don’t count out Burger from anything with the intense fight he has shown in working back from a pair of ruptured left Achilles. Some in the organization compared the sound of the baseball leaving his bat upon connection to that of Kyle Schwarber, so the skill is there. The main issue for Burger -- and it’s a significant one -- is that he hasn’t played in a Minor League game since Sept. 4, 2017, with Class A Kannapolis. A Major League promotion seems unlikely in ’21, but the White Sox obviously saw something to purchase his contract and add to the 40-man roster.

As for Andrew Vaughn, I would expect him to be the designated hitter for the bulk of the 2021 campaign. That idea won’t preclude the White Sox from adding another more veteran possibility, but Vaughn should be ready for regular big league time.

Will Michael Kopech be a starter in 2021 or start the season in the bullpen?
-- Tony, @RymaTony

Some view Kopech ultimately as a high-end, high-leverage reliever. Those views aren’t representative of those in the White Sox organization, where Kopech is valued as a potential front-end starter. Valued, in the sense the White Sox weren’t willing to move Kopech at the Trade Deadline last season to enhance their 2020 playoff chances. The right-hander is part of their long-term championship picture.

But along the same lines as Burger, from a higher competition level, Kopech has not pitched in a regular-season big league game since Sept. 5, 2018, so Chicago will be cognizant of his workload upon return.

Are the Sox more likely to add a SP via free agency or trade?
-- Steve, Cody, Wyo., @NWI_Steve

I’m guessing the White Sox add two starting pitchers, and both could come via free agency. But the key in this instance is to spend wisely, not to necessarily be the biggest spender, although the concepts could meld into one.

Chicago certainly has the prospects for a potential deal, ranging from Major League-ready -- or close -- to exceptional talent further down the development line. But the White Sox are going to be very careful not to put a dent in what they’ve built. I’ll be curious to see if teams who want to move players will be looking to win the deal or make deals that benefit both clubs.

Which member of the #WhiteSox beat has the best Zoom background?
-- Beef Loaf, Chicago, @MrDelicious13

My Zoom background is basically a white wall with a picture of me with my two younger brothers from my brother Randy’s wedding. It’s a tremendous, treasured picture, although the picture looks a little like a marquee shot for our musical appearance at the local Holiday Inn. I’ve also used a picture of myself with former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks from 30 years ago. But I’m going to say NBC Sports Chicago's Vinnie Duber has the best Zoom background. He's got a great rock 'n' roll theme with posters on his wall.

Do the Sox have any interest in Nelson Cruz? Knows the division and would hurt the Twins.
-- Sergio, Chicago, @kal_sergio

Cruz is not only a highly productive hitter but also a tremendous clubhouse force for a burgeoning young team. And yes, he has almost single-handedly destroyed the White Sox during his time with the Twins. I’ve seen some sites put Chicago near the top of the list for Cruz, but I don’t think they add a pure DH.

Has Tony La Russa contacted any players?
-- Joe, Wilmette, Ill., @joeysox1952

He has, and José Abreu and Tim Anderson have discussed their conversations with the new manager. Those offseason talks are important, especially with no 2021 SoxFest, a time where players and coaches have previously talked about getting to know each other a little better.

With [Lucas] Giolito pushing for [the club] to re-sign [James] McCann as his personal catcher, what are the Sox chances of doing so?
-- JJ, Wood Dale, Ill., @JJHantsch

Giolito isn’t pushing for a personal catcher, even though the AL Cy Young Award candidate has excelled with McCann behind the plate. He’s a smart baseball guy who wants a significant part of the White Sox success to return. McCann has earned the right to see what’s available to him on the open market, in regard to starting opportunities, money and years.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.