With everybody but Ronald Belisario present and accounted for at Camelback Ranch on Thursday, Robin Ventura delivered his opening address to certain and potential members of the 2014 White Sox. He didn't get into details. The description he did provide sounded Ventura-like:
"It was quick," Ventura said of his address. "But it was more about being ready, getting your mind ready...When you’re doing drills you have to make sure your mind is ready and you’re doing the right things to get better."
I dunno, after seeing the Braves sign yet another homegrown product to a contract extension on Thursday, maybe Rick Hahn should have given the speech.
If you missed it, Atlanta gave defensive marvel Andrelton Simmons a seven-year, $58 million contract. That comes less than a week after Frenk Wren extended Craig Kimbrel (four years, $42 million) and Julio Teheran (six-year, $32.4 million extension). Add them all up, and it comes up just short of the total cash they allocated for Freddie Freeman earlier this month -- $135 million over an eight-year extension.
Extensions aren't coming as cheaply as they used to, but these are still on the sensible side, career catastrophes notwithstanding. One would think the White Sox would want to get in on this before it approaches some sort of threshold, but after locking up Chris Sale to an extension that looks better with each passing contract, there isn't much else behind him.
The value ship has sailed on Gordon Beckham, and even if the window is theoretically open for Dayan Viciedo, he's a Scott Boras client, so, y'know, what's the point. Avisail Garcia, whom Paul Konerko said could hit 40 homers this year, is at least a year away. Same goes for Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson.
There's the potential for a Braves-like offseason over the next year or two if everything breaks right, and that could be used for motivation. Eaton has told us that Hahn has the ability to get guys fired up, and he missed a golden opportunity for a grand statement on Thursday.
Guys, it's this simple: I have access to money. Lots of money. And I'll have access to more once ... *glances off to side* ... certain things come to pass. I want to get rid of it. I've shown that I will get rid of it. But nobody has shown me they're worthy of it, and so it just sits there. There's one young guy on this team who has proven himself over two full seasons. He got paid. Go and do likewise, gents. The money's out there. Pick it up, it's yours. You don't, I got no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits this year and close, CLOSE. It's yours. If not, you're gonna be shining my shoes.
There is one guy wouldn't have to be present for the speech. Jose Quintana has exceeded even the most optimistic projections bestowed upon him by Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers, the scouts who recommended the signing. Pound for pound, he enters the season as baseball's unlikeliest No. 2 starter. If one of the rookie position players had the hitting equivalent of Quintana's first two years, I don't know if Sox fans would know how to handle it.
There hasn't been much chatter about a Quintana extension, except a stray tweet saying a source "does not expect" the Sox to discuss one. I imagine the idea's being batted around the front office, but there is less urgency with Quintana, say, compared to Sale after his first full year as a starter.
For starters -- har -- Sale was one year further into his career (2.061 years of service time) compared to Quintana (1.133). Sale also finished sixth in Cy Young voting -- and that was with the closer kerfuffle in May, and late-season fatigue in September. Give him a better idea of how to get through the grind, and the Cy Young becomes an even stronger possibility. He probably would've had it last year if it weren't for those meddling Cleveland Indians.
Nobody's writing off Quintana's success as fluky anymore, especially since he moved all his key peripherals into ingredients for sustainable run-prevention. He just doesn't have the apparent room for improvement that Sale did. Quintana doesn't possess an overwhelming arsenal -- he just knows how to command his fastball and use all parts of the strike zone. That makes for an effective pitcher, but given the sheer amount of strikeout talent in the American League, it's hard to see him making a run at any hardware. He already gets a crazy amount of popups, so he doesn't have much room to grow in the good-fortune department. In fact, he might be due for some regression, but he managed to stave it off last year, when he was a much bigger risk.
I wouldn't be surprised if 200 innings of 3.50-ERA ball is his ceiling, and that's fine. As long as Quintana keeps turning in full seasons with an ERA below 4.00, he'll be the gift that keeps on giving.
Maybe the Teheran extension is a harbinger that accelerates matters, because he's accrued less service time than Quintana (1.062 years), and maybe pitchers in Quintana's situation are about to cost more in a hurry. But because the Braves jumped in so early, they had to hand him a six-year deal to get into the free-agent years. The Sox's track record of pitcher contracts implies that they won't rush that far ahead just yet.
One more sturdy season from Quintana will probably force the issue, though, because he's in line to qualify for Super Two status, and his salary trajectory gets steep from there. Waiting shouldn't cost them too much money, unless Quintana has another pleasant surprise in store and becomes a Cy Young candidate. Even then, that's one of the better problems to have.