The White Sox haven’t finished a season on the road since 2012 — you may remember the Dan Johnson Game in Cleveland -- so it’s a little strange to see various White Sox personnel providing season summaries with still a series yet to play.
Rick Hahn was chief among them, delivering some news and then some analysis before the home finale on Thursday. The topics included:
Carlos Rodon’s shoulder
If you believe the White Sox, Rodon got just about the best possible news considering the words “Dr. Neal ElAttrache” were involved.
Rodon underwent shoulder surgery at the hands of the California-based surgeon, but it revealed only severe bursitis. I cross-checked the descriptions of the event against John Danks’ procedure, and the only word in common was “debridement.” Aside from clearing out the scar tissue to address the inflammation, it didn’t involve his labrum, rotator cuff or shoulder capsule.
Hahn said Rodon is “projected to make a full recovery,” although it could take 6-8 months. Then again, that was kinda used for Danks:
Danks is expected to be fully able by the start of 2013 spring training, where he will be on a regular schedule— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 6, 2012
Any shoulder procedure is tricky, and there may be something inherently irritating about his delivery, so there are a couple of natural reasons to hesitate about any long-term outlook.
Another reason is the misdirection the White Sox tried early in the season. Rodon and his superiors tried to downplay his problems in the spring, even as the beat writers sensed a cover, and once the Sox admitted an injury, they gave it a bogus description (biceps bursitis).
Rodon didn’t talk to the media about it until late May. That’s his prerogative, but the silence stood in contrast to the average injury disclosure, and he didn’t spring a pleasant surprise on everybody by the end of it, making it easy to assume the worst both then and in the future.
The way Rodon and the Sox handled the second shutdown — normally, basically — indicates that both parties could be done hiding from bad news. A shoulder surgery would have made that very difficult anyway.
The surgery and forecast shouldn’t drastically alter the pitching part of the White Sox’ offseason plan. I’m guessing they’ll try another Derek Holland-type contract, but if Rodon is indeed on an optimistic track after shoulder surgery, they won’t need two Holland types.
Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia
Both players are free agents after the 2019 season, making them less-than-natural fits for a rebuild by contract status alone. That said, a number of elements have made an Abreu extension easy to envision, both on the field (his steady, high level of performance) and off (as a mentor, especially to Cubans). He’ll also turn 33 during the winter of his free agency, and since he’s already received one big payday, he may be more willing to extend a comfortable situation rather than explore a market that hasn’t been all that hospitable to 30something corner power types.
For his part, Abreu said what players in his position usually say:
“I would like to stay here forever,” Abreu said before the White Sox played their final home game of the season Thursday night. “I would like to play with this team my whole career. But it is a business, and we have to accept and respect what’s in the future. I would like to stay here forever.”
The extension speculation hasn’t flowed so easily around Garcia. He’s building the classic free agency case, on track to hit the open market as a 28-year-old at the top of his game. This is also the first time he’s played this well, he had his usual DL stint, and his plate discipline numbers and BABIP all seem difficult to sustain.
But Josh and I talked about this on the podcast, and I wouldn’t overlook the sweat equity that has gone into making Garcia an All-Star. Both sides have taken a ton of time, effort and public floggings to get to this point, and it’d be anticlimactic if he reached his final form only to result in an intriguing trade for prospects at the end of it.
I’m ambivalent about an extension for Garcia, because I can see the whole range of outcomes and headlines from either course of action. Hahn didn’t really have an answer to the question, either. Instead, he just assessed the scenario out loud.
“They’re both special cases, and there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond. Abreu, obviously you can’t say enough about the season he had on the field, but his importance in the role he plays in our clubhouse. Avi is still very young in this game at age 26 and has had his breakout season, and you would have reason to believe that kind of performance is going to become the norm for him going forward. And those are considerations as we make that assessment. Are we better served trying to control these players through the bulk of what we project to be our window, or are we better served as an organization doing what we had to do with Chris, Adam (Eaton), Jose and others?”
Reading the tweets as the session unfurled, the direct and indirect isolated quotes of Hahn’s answers made it possible to interpret them on a spectrum from “foreshadowing” to “ultimatum.” Reading the answers in full, Hahn walked the line between the two carefully, which is about all he can do, even if talks were progressing.
It looks like “Top Chef: Baseball Manager” will be picked up for a second season this time around.
"I see no reason he's not," said Hahn when asked if Renteria was the long-term answer as manager. "I can't tell you how many various fans have stopped me or emailed me or mentioned to me that they have never been this excited over a 60-win team or a team that isn't going to the playoffs. So much of that is based upon on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out."
Renteria’s season will be the subject of an October post around here, but it’s fair to say that he’s risen to the occasion. The White Sox hired him without a full external interview process, but it’s hard to reasonably imagine anybody doing a better job.
Setting aside concerns about lineup cards and bunting — both of which were diminished by the end of the season — the top job for a manager at this stage of a rebuild is keeping his players engaged amid turmoil, talent shortages and mountains of mistakes. The eighth-inning comeback they pulled off on Thursday was characteristic of their effort.