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White Sox finally linked to top international talent

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Plus: Jose Abreu ate a page from his passport, and Chance The Rapper explains his change of caps

Sport In Cuba Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In the first part of Larry’s top 10 White Sox prospects list, he noted how tough it would’ve been to assemble a list had the White Sox not decided to rebuild, and the inability to convert international spending into legit prospects played a non-negliglbe part.

The White Sox haven’t had an international signing make it safely out of A-ball. Part of the reason may be a self-limiting strategy. Under the previous CBA, the White Sox never blew out their international budget the way both big- and small-market teams did. They invested more in Latin America, and it did represent a healing from the Dave Wilder scandal, but they adhered to the international budget pool much like they did slot values in the draft, and it has hampered them in a similar fashion. Marco Paddy and his crew have spent what they were allowed, but following the guidelines hasn’t resulted in a pipeline, or even a trickle. In fact, the only thing to show for the White Sox in this department is James Shields (Fernando Tatis Jr. was traded along with Erik Johnson).

But with a new CBA imposing even harsher restrictions on exceeding international budgets, the White Sox could have increased access to Latin America’s top talent. And actually, it may be starting before the deadline. Over at Baseball America, friend of the podcast Ben Badler links the White Sox to 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert in a way the White Sox are never linked to any major international prospect:

The team that comes up the most in discussions of where Robert might land, however, is the White Sox. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals are automatically out, since they each exceeded their pool in 2015-16 and as a penalty can’t sign anyone for more than $300,000 in either this signing period or the next one. Then most other teams are unofficially out of the mix because they have millions of dollars committed to players who will sign on July 2 in the 2017-18 signing period. If one of those clubs were to sign Robert before June 15 and blow past its bonus pool, that team wouldn’t be able to sign anyone for more than $300,000 in 2017-18. They can’t sign Robert without those commitments evaporating. And if for some reason Robert isn’t cleared until after June 15, those teams have already tied up a huge chunk of their pool space anyway.

The White Sox, though, are different. They have been laying low for the high-priced talent in the 2017-18 signing period. If Robert is not cleared until after June 15, the White Sox would have more room than most in their bonus pool to sign him. Even if Robert is cleared during the current signing period, the White Sox might just blow through their bonus pool to sign him anyway, since it wouldn’t affect their July 2 plans.

If you follow July 2 signings before they happen, you know that teams linked to players don’t fluctuate very often. Players’ suitors firm up pretty quickly, and months before the deadline, there’s usually a clear favorite, with a couple of backup teams in case something falls through.

The White Sox are seldom, if ever, even associated with top-15 (or top-20) players because they tend to be snapped up by teams unafraid to take the hit for overspending their international allowance. They’re not even mentioned as a third- or fourth-best possibility, even though they theoretically have the ability to spend. That’s why this Robert report is a marked departure and worth leading a couple other items.

And what are those other items?

No. 1: Jose Abreu eating a page from his passport.

Abreu is in federal court in Miami testifying in the trial of former agent Bart Hernandez. The more you learn about his defection from Cuba, the more you realize how much he had to go through to end up on the White Sox.

For instance, he acquired a fake passport in Haiti in order to fly to the United States, but he had to destroy it in order to cover tracks for his “fixer.,” and I guess there aren’t many ways to do it:

He testified Wednesday that he went to the restroom as soon as possible after the flight took off from Haiti. But flight attendants quickly started knocking on the door.

So he ripped out the first page of the passport, which bore his photo and a fake name, and dumped the rest of the passport in the restroom garbage.

"I went back to my seat, I ordered a beer — a Heineken beer — and then, little by little, I swallowed that first page of the passport," Abreu testified, speaking Spanish translated by a courtroom interpreter.

On one hand, it’s a pretty serious situation. On the other hand, it’s funny. I mean, look what Carl Skanberg did with it.

No. 2: Chance The Rapper’s deal with the White Sox fizzled.

I’d noticed Chance The Rapper wearing the “3” hat instead of a White Sox cap since his ‘Coloring Book’ album came out, but I figured it was a way to promote his third project, and that it was more lucrative than wearing another property’s trademark.

Chance told Katie Couric there’s a little more to it, and it doesn’t reflect well on the Sox.

“I went to the White Sox and said, “Yo, I want to do a deal with you guys where I wear this hat and I become the official spokesman of the White Sox, and they said, ‘No.’ So then I came back the next year and they were like, ‘No, but you can do some commercials for us.’

“I wore a Sox hat everywhere. When I was making my cover for ‘Coloring Book,’ then I had a Sox hat on, and I was like, ‘Man, these Sox dudes never finished that deal for me.’ Take off the Sox cap.”

This is only one side of the story, and given how much he’s blown up, wearing his own line probably was probably inevitable. U.S. Cellular Field also hosted his successful Magnificent Coloring Day Fest in late September, so it doesn’t seem like the well was poisoned. Maybe the Sox couldn’t afford him to any reasonable degree, and were lucky to be such a prominent feature of his rise, but “these Sox dudes never finished that deal for me” seems to warrant a response. Hopefully it’s not merely a the result of an oversight or ultra-cautious philosophy, because with Barack Obama’s second term coming to a close, they could count the days on the other major component of their visibility.