Tag: Zach Putnam

Jose Abreu

2015 Preview: Chicago White Sox


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

The Big Question: Should we be taking the rebuilt White Sox seriously as contenders?

It got largely overshadowed by the non-stop wheeling and dealing in San Diego, but the White Sox also had an extremely busy offseason as general manager Rick Hahn attempted to turn an 89-loss team into a potential contender in one winter.

Hahn beefed up the rotation behind ace Chris Sale by trading for impending free agent Jeff Samardzija, remade the bullpen by signing closer David Robertson and setup man Zach Duke, added a pair of good bats to the lineup in first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Melky Cabrera, and even gave manager Robin Ventura a bit more bench versatility in utility man Emilio Bonifacio.

Hahn had a busy, productive, high-impact offseason, but will it be enough to pull the White Sox up from 73 wins to the 85-plus typically required to be a factor deep into September? Fortunately for the White Sox they were starting with two hugely valuable, young building blocks in Sale, who finished third in the Cy Young balloting at age 25, and first baseman Jose Abreu, who won the Rookie of the Year award and finished fourth in the MVP balloting at age 27. Not many 73-win teams have two elite players around which to build.

Sale won’t be ready for Opening Day after breaking his foot in late February, but assuming he’s back in the rotation by mid-April the White Sox top three of Sale, Samardzija, and Jose Quintana is one of the best in baseball. Their bullpen, which was a major weakness last year, now has a shutdown closer in Robertson, allowing guys like Duke, Jake Petricka, and and Zach Putnam to settle into setup roles. And within a couple months last year’s No. 3 overall pick, stud left-hander Carlos Rodon, should be ready for his call-up.

The turnaround offensively won’t be as dramatic, but it doesn’t need to be. Chicago ranked in the middle of the AL pack in run scoring and is essentially replacing the corner outfield/designated hitter trio of Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo, and Alejandro De Aza with LaRoche, Cabrera, and Avisail Garcia, who returned from injury to play 46 games down the stretch. Toss in center fielder Adam Eaton’s on-base skills atop the batting order, plus Alexei Ramirez having more pop than the average shortstop, and even with second base and catcher being question marks this has a chance to be a much deeper, more dangerous lineup surrounding Abreu.

Going from 73 wins to 85-plus wins in one offseason is extremely difficult, but the White Sox absolutely look like a team that should have a winning record and contending in a relatively mediocre AL Central division is entirely doable.

What else is going on?

  • For a long time Carlos Rodon was the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, but then his stock dipped a bit and both the Astros and Marlins passed on the North Carolina State ace. Six months later it’s probably safe to assume both teams would do things differently, because Rodon struck out 38 batters in his 24-inning debut, ranked as a top-20 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com this offseason, and then impressed this spring with a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 12 innings. He looks just about ready and has top-of-the-rotation upside.
  • Because he was 27 years old and a superstar in Cuba it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to put Abreu’s numbers up against other “rookies” … but why not. He had a 169 OPS+ last season. Here’s a list of all the other first basemen in MLB history to top a 150 OPS+ as a rookie: Mark McGwire, 164 in 1987. That’s it. That’s the entire list. Even setting aside the whole rookie thing, the last 27-year-old first basemen with a higher OPS+ than Abreu were Miguel Cabrera in 2010 and Frank Thomas in 1995. And then no one else since 1962.
  • Adam Eaton played so well in his first season with the White Sox–hitting .300 with a .362 on-base percentage and solid defense in center field–that Hahn signed him to a long-term contract extension that keeps him under team control through 2021. Eaton lacks power, but his on-base skills and speed are top notch and are an ideal fit atop the lineup and in front of Abreu. Eaton hit .348 in the minors, including .364 with 40 steals in 133 games at Triple-A.

Prediction: One of the biggest improvements of any team in baseball, going from 73-89 to at least .500 in a division where four of the five teams figure to win 80-something games. But just short of the playoffs.

Zach Putnam lands on disabled list with shoulder inflammation

Zach Putnam
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Zach Putnam has had a share of the closer role with the White Sox in recent weeks, but now he’s headed to the 15-day disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation.

Putnam struggled in his most recent appearance yesterday against the Royals, allowing one unearned run on two hits and two walks over one inning. He threw just 13 out of 27 pitches for strikes. Even with the shaky outing, the 27-year-old owns a 2.33 ERA over 33 appearances this season to go along with three saves and a 32/15 K/BB ratio over 38 1/3 innings.

Jake Petricka is now the default frontrunner for save chances with Chicago, but Matt Lindstrom is close to a rehab assignment as he makes his way back from ankle surgery and could soon find himself in the mix once again.

Ronald Belisario is out as White Sox closer

Ronald Belisario

Ronald Belisario came into last night’s White Sox Blue Jays game in the ninth inning to lock down a 5-2 lead. When he left it was 5-3, with Belisario having given up a homer and having put two more runners on, one of whom came around to score. Robin Ventura had to call on two more relievers to wiggle out of the jam and escape the game with a 5-4 win.

Afterward Ventura announced that Belisario — who now has a 5.54 ERA and has allowed 84 hits in 74.1 innings — has been removed from his role as the team’s closer. Jake Petricka, one of the two who came in to bail out Belisario, could be his replacement. Or possibly Javy Guerra and Zach Putnam. We just know it ain’t Bellisario anymore.

Breaking down Friday’s non-tenders: Wilson, Reynolds and more

Brian Wilson Getty

Here’s the official list of Friday’s non-tenders:

American League

Angels: none

Athletics: OF Jermaine Mitchell

Mitchell had already been designated for assignment. He had a breakthrough 2011 in Triple-A, hitting .302/.401/.453, but he regressed to .252/.345/.386 for Sacramento last season.

Astros: none

Blue Jays: C Bobby Wilson

Wilson is minor league contract material. The 29-year-old has hit .208/.272/.321 in 389 major league at-bats. 

Indians: 3B Jack Hannahan, LHP Rafael Perez, LHP Chris Seddon

The Indians seem to like Hannahan as a part-timer, but they paid him $1.75 million to hit .244/.312/.341 last season. Maybe he’ll be brought back for less if he doesn’t find the open market to his liking. Perez is a goner after shoulder surgery limited him to eight appearances last season, but there will be several teams interested in taking a flier on him.

Mariners: INF Robert Andino

Andino would have been non-tendered by the Orioles, but the Mariners traded outfielder Trayvon Robinson for him earlier this month, apparently with the idea that he wouldn’t be looking for much of a raise on top of the $1.3 million he made last season. He balked, so he’s gone for now. He could always be re-signed if he doesn’t find free agency to his liking.

And the Mariners have already re-signed Andino to a one-year contract. He’ll serve as a backup at both middle infield spots next year.

Orioles: RHP Stuart Pomeranz, INF Omar Quintanilla, 1B Mark Reynolds

Reynolds says the Orioles didn’t even offer him a deal after a down season in which he hit .221 with 23 homers in 538 at-bats. He could bounce back to 30 homers next year and he has more defensive value at first than he did at third, so some team could commit $8 million to him on a one-year contract.

Rangers: RHP Jake Brigham, 1B Brandon Snyder, C Geovany Soto

The Rangers traded Brigham to the Cubs for Soto in July and then took him back earlier this month as a result of his arm problems (the Cubs ended up getting RHP Barret Loux instead). It’s a pretty good guess that he’ll will be re-signed to a minor league deal. … Soto, on the other hand, seems likely to depart after he failed to come to terms on a one-year deal. Even though he hit just .198/.270/.343 in 324 at-bats last season, he could well wind up as a starter. Expect the Yankees to give him a look.

Rays: OF Ben Francisco

Francisco’s OPS has dropped three years running (he came in at .670 in 2012), and he hasn’t hit lefties the last two seasons. He’s not worth a guaranteed roster spot at this point.

Red Sox: RHP Scott Atchison, LHP Rich Hill, OF Ryan Sweeney

No Alfredo Aceves, though that seemed to be a given when he wasn’t let go prior to the purge of non-arbitration eligible players last week. … Atchison was Boston’s best pitcher last season, finishing with a 1.58 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. Hill was also quite effective, amassing a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings after returning from Tommy John surgery. One gathers that the Red Sox will attempt to re-sign both, but there’s certainly no reason for either to accept minor league contracts. … Sweeney hit .260/.303/.373 in 62 games last season before going down with a self-inflicted hand injury.

Royals: OF Derrick Robinson

Luke Hochevar keeps his spot despite last season’s 5.73 ERA and a likely $4 million salary. … Robinson reached Triple-A in his seventh season in the Royals minor league system, hitting .268/.344/.325 with 23 steals for Omaha. Even a future as a fifth outfielder seems unlikely at this point. He could be re-signed to a minor league deal.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Schlereth

A key component in the big Curtis Granderson-Max Scherzer-Edwin Jackson deal, Schlereth was supposed to develop into a big-time reliever after getting sent from Arizona to Detroit. However, his command has never come around and he missed most of last season with shoulder woes. The Tigers will try to keep him in the organization on a minor league contract.

Twins: RHP Lester Oliveros

Oliveros remains a promising reliever, but Tommy John surgery will sideline him for most or all of 2013. The Twins will want to re-sign him to a minor league deal.

White Sox: RHP Anthony Carter, 1B Dan Johnson

Carter was an intriguing relief prospect a couple of years ago, but he’s stumbled to 5.84 and 4.60 ERAs the last two seasons. Johnson would make for nice insurance for Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, but he’s the kind of player the White Sox would much prefer to have on a minor league deal than occupying a 40-man roster spot.

Yankees: none

National League

Braves: RHP Jair Jurrjens, RHP Peter Moylan

After two lost seasons due to back and shoulder seasons, Moylan wasn’t going to get much of a guarantee from the Braves. However, he’s healthy now and he should draw quite a bit of interest. … That Jurrjens went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 2011 has already been forgotten after a 2012 season in which he showed diminished stuff and got knocked around in 10 starts. No one was interested in acquiring him and paying him $6 million through the arbitration process, but now that he’s free, several teams will come calling. 

Brewers: LHP Manny Parra

Parra was nearly non-tendered last winter, but the team opted to give him one more chance. A full-time reliever for the first time, he had a 5.06 ERA in 62 appearances, though it did come with 61 strikeouts and just three homers allowed in 58 2/3 innings. He still has plus stuff, and several teams will think they can get better results from him.

Cardinals: none

Cubs: RHP Zach Putnam, RHP Jaye Chapman, 3B Ian Stewart

Stewart was known to be long gone after hitting .201/.292/.335 in 55 games and then missing the rest of the season with a wrist injury. In such a thin third base market, he could get a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere in the spring. The two righties will likely be offered minor league contracts to stick around.

Diamondbacks: C Wil Nieves

The Diamondbacks won’t splurge on a backup catcher, but it won’t be hard to find an upgrade over Nieves, even if was a nice surprise in limited action last season (.301/.330/.410 in 83 AB).

Dodgers: none

Giants: RHP Brian Wilson

Even though he missed all but the first 10 days of the season following Tommy John surgery, Wilson wasn’t interested in taking a significant paycut. He’ll draw plenty of interest in free agency, so his Giants career is almost surely over. Between Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, the Giants will be spending plenty on their bullpen regardless. 

Marlins: none

Mets: RHP Manny Acosta, RHP Mike Pelfrey, OF Andres Torres

Pelfrey’s non-tender was a given after he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Mets will likely attempt to re-sign him for about half of the $5.6875 million he made last season. … Acosta shook off a horrible start to post a 1.78 ERA in the second half of the season. He would have earned $1.5 million or less in arbitration, so it’s disappointing the Mets didn’t bring him back. … Torres will be looked at as a fourth or fifth outfielder after hitting .230/.327/.337 in his lone year with the Mets.

Nationals: C Jesus Flores, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP John Lannan

It seems like the Nationals are just throwing away a fair amount of talent here, but it must be that no one offered anything in trade. Lannan was likely due about $6 million in arbitration, Gorzelanny $3.5 million and Flores $1.2 million. Lannan is a lock to wind up in some team’s rotation next year after the Nationals allowed him to waste away in Triple-A for much of 2012. Gorzelanny had a nice 2.88 ERA in 72 innings out of the pen last season. Flores was a disappointment after initially stepping in for the injured Wilson Ramos, hitting .213/.248/.329 in 277 at-bats. Still, someone will want him as a backup.

Padres: LHP Juan Oramas

Oramas, who went 3-4 with a 6.37 ERA in eight Double-A starts last season, will miss at least the first couple of months of 2013 after Tommy John surgery. The Padres will likely re-sign him to a minor league contract.

Phillies: OF Nate Schierholtz

With his fine defense in right field, Schierholtz makes for a quality fourth outfielder. The only problem there is that he has yet to resign himself to a career as a bench player, and he’s made it clear he much prefers to start. He hit .257/.321/.407 in 241 at-bats for the Giants and Phillies last season.

Pirates: RHP Jeff Karstens

I never imagined Karstens would stick when he originally came up with the Yankees, but he’s added some velocity through the years and he posted ERAs of 3.38 in 162 1/3 innings in 2011 and 3.97 in 90 2/3 innings last season. He’s a fringe guy as a full-time starter, but as a swingman, he’d be very handy to have around.

Reds: INF-OF Kris Negron, OF Denis Phipps

Two expendable players. The 26-year-old Negron is very versatile, but he’s posted OPSs of .607 and .628 in two years in Triple-A. Phipps has a little pop and enough range to handle center on a part-time basis, but he just isn’t good enough in any one area to carve out a career.

Rockies: none

Indians acquire Kevin Slowey from Rockies for Zach Putnam

Kevin Slowey

Last month the Rockies acquired Kevin Slowey from the Twins and penciled him into their rotation, but after picking up more pitching in the Seth Smith trade with the A’s they decided Slowey was no longer needed.

Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Rockies have traded Slowey to the Indians for pitching prospect Zach Putnam, which is a pretty solid move for Colorado considering he’s more highly thought of than the prospect (Daniel Turpen) they sent to Minnesota for Slowey in the first place.

Slowey gives the Indians some rotation depth in case Fausto Carmona’s legal situation keeps him from being cleared to pitch (or the team tries to void his contract).

He struggled with the Twins last season, angering management by refusing to accept a bullpen role, but Slowey has generally been a solid mid-rotation starter with mediocre raw stuff and excellent strikeout-to-walk ratios. He’ll make $2.7 million in 2012.

Putnam, who was the Indians’ fifth-round pick in 2008, ranked 10th on Baseball America‘s list of Cleveland’s top prospects.