White Sox manager Robin Ventura benched outfielder Alex Rios after failing to run out a ground ball double play in yesterday’s 6-4 loss to the Braves. Prior to this afternoon’s game, when he went 3-for-5 with five RBI including a grand slam, he had been scuffling, posting a .367 OPS since his 6-for-6 game against the Tigers on July 9.
Rios told the media he would have preferred Ventura pull him aside privately to discuss the matter, rather than make a public example out of him. From MLB.com’s Scott Merkin:
“If he wants to make a statement for the team, it probably worked,” Rios added. “I don’t know what his intentions were. But that’s what I wanted to see.”
Ventura didn’t respond harshly to Rios’ critique. In a matter-of-fact but direct tone, Ventura said the moment was handled and you go from there. He also understood Rios’ request for the one-on-one admonishment, but made the basic point that physical errors are acceptable, but the same can’t be said for lack of hustle.
“Again, you’re handling it for 25 guys,” Ventura said. “I get where he’s coming from, but from where I’m coming, he probably understands how I have to do it.
No matter the case, Rios may have a new manager before the beginning of August. His sudden disappearance last night prompted many to speculate that the Pirates and White Sox had agreed to a trade, and several other teams — including the Red Sox — have been linked to him recently as well. Rios, 32, is earning $12.5 million this year, will earn another $12.5 million in 2014, and has a $13.5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2015.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.