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Winter Meetings Day 2: Rick Renteria’s first chance at a second year

A Manny Machado rumor makes a fleeting appearance

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MLB: Winter Meetings Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the bulk of Major League Baseball, Day 2 of the winter meetings resulted in a run on the second tier of pitchers.

  • Drew Smyly signed with the Cubs, and their Brandon Morrow signing became official.
  • Tommy Hunter joined Pat Neshek in signing with the Phillies.
  • Bryan Shaw signed with the Rockies.

It’s a little backwards to see guys like Shaw and Tyler Chatwood sign behind proven closers like Wade Davis or top-tier starters like Jake Arrieta, but the Rockies are expected to join the Phillies in teams adding multiple relievers this winter.

The day also yielded louder murmurs about bigger names. The Rangers inquired about Zack Greinke, which would be a ballsy trade for a Diamondbacks team coming off a postseason appearance, but worth considering given the size of the contract.

And Manny Machado is officially on the market. The Orioles have been soliciting offers for their star third baseman, who wants to be a star shortstop in his final year before free agency. He should have a rather robust market for a rental, and Buster Olney adds a team that is relevant to our interests:

Olney didn’t have the best day on Tuesday, as he said the Phillies had acquired Addison Reed rather than Hunter, so maybe he needs to head to the rumor shop for recalibration.

But it makes sense for the White Sox to be mentioned on a footnote level. It’s worth their time to see what kind of price he commands and what kind of extension discussion windows are allowed, if any. The timing is unusual now, and Rick Hahn said as much:

“Frankly we'll probably be in a little better position for deals like that a year from now. I think we'll have a much better understanding of which of this group is going to be taking a step forward. We'll certainly have a better understanding of what the timelines are and where potential holes may exist. To do such a trade at this point would be a little bit conjecture in terms of, 'Hey we think there's going to be a hole there, we think we have depth there,' whereas a year from now, we'll have a lot more information along those lines.”

But if enough players break the right way in 2018, it could make sense for the White Sox to make a push for Machado after the season, as his age-30 season won’t arrive until 2023. They may as well be on his radar sooner rather than later.

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As for the White Sox, Rick Renteria’s availability dominated the headlines. The Sox posted a transcript of the full interview, and between that and the video, you get the picture of a guy whose energy hasn’t wavered going into his first crack at a second season.

Sure, there are a few answers that some of us would rather not see:

Q. The game has trended into a lot of strikeouts and a lot of home runs. What role does speed play in the game right now and more specifically what role would you like speed to play for your club?

RICK RENTERIA: Well, I think if you're going to limit the scope of what your club can do, I don't know if that really makes a lot of sense. I get it. A lot of home runs, there are a lot of strikeouts. We as the White Sox, we love home runs. But we also want guys to be able to make contacts with two strikes. We also want them to be situationally be able to take care of things that the game is asking of you. Sometimes a home run isn't what you need. If I'm down by five runs and I need to start a line, a solo home run isn't going to do a lot. I know you score a run, but I want base runners to get us going. I think situationally guys have to understand where we're at.

The charitable reading is that he doesn’t want players to compromise their approach for homers when it won’t come close to settling the game. The uncharitable reading is that he thinks of the solo homer as a rally killer.

He also floated Adam Engel as a potential leadoff man, which falls into the “fast guy=leadoff” trap that snared Robin Ventura and Ozzie Guillen. In Renteria’s defense, he mentioned Leury Garcia first, and he was fine in that role in 2017. if he can start 2018 how he started 2017. He also buried Engel at the bottom of the order when the extent of his struggles became apparent, so I’ll give that greater weight.

At this juncture of the rebuild, his role is more about guiding players through mistakes and doing what he can to keep careers on track, and he’s maintained his enthusiasm for that part of the project. He’s also stoking enthusiasm about one player in particular: Luis Robert.

He's a pretty impressive specimen. He looks, listen, this kid can fly. I saw him run down to first I think it was like 3.56 after a full swing on a ground ball. He ran down a ball in center, right-center field effortlessly. He hit a ball against the wind and a gust in the center, left-center field that I thought had no chance and it ended up going over the trees.

For some context about 3.56, that’s more than a second quicker than the average MLB home-to-first time for a right-handed hitter, according to this Statcast-centric article from 2016. Statcast said Byron Buxton posted the quickest home-to-first time out of the right-handed batter’s box ... at 3.72. Hell, 3.56 is even faster than the quickest time for a left-handed batter (Billy Hamilton, of course, at 3.61).

Perhaps “I think it was like” gives Renteria some wiggle room, but that’s elite speed even if he’s wrong by two-tenths of a second. Either way, the ample lead time off-shore has created quite the hype pile, which will make his stateside arrival all the more fascinating.

Eloy Jimenez probably inherited the title of Most Important Prospect from Yoan Moncada since the Jimenez acquisition required the talents of Jose Quintana. Robert is a strong runner-up, and one could make the case that he tips the scales more. It’s not just his tools at a premium position, but the investment required more out of Jerry Reinsdorf and the front office, as they had never spent that much money on an international player of prospect age, and even if you count Jose Abreu, his signing didn’t force the Sox to accept a punishment for any bonus overages.

A lot of people scoff at the idea of Reinsdorf OKing a nine-figure deal for Machado or a similar premium free agent, but Sox skeptics also had an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it attitude toward Robert, and they were forced to believe it. If Robert makes strides and provides early positive returns, he’ll give the system a big boost, and ownership a shot of confidence. Maybe they can get what they pay for, if they commit to paying for it.