Are you a Chicago native that has relocated to the Valley? Are you annoyed with the post World Series Cubs fandom? In that case, head over to Chase Field as this is the series for you! The Pit sits down with Patrick Nolan (pnoles) of sister SB Nation Site to discuss the good guys from Chicago, the White Sox. We thank him kindly for his participation!
AZSP: It has been rumored earlier this past weekend that the White Sox are close to signing a deal with top international prospect Luis Robert. The Cuban native is only 19 years old and is regarded as an immediate impact talent as an outfielder. How excited are fans in Chicago potentially having him and Yoan Moncada? What makes Robert a special player?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): Fans are extremely excited about Luis Robert. There has been a great deal of anticipation surrounding this signing and with a rebuild freeing up some of the team’s finances, many felt there wasn’t a good reason NOT to go broke to get him. He’s a five-tool talent whose speed/power combination has a potential to make him one of the cornerstones of the next competitive White Sox team.
AZSP: The White Sox enter this series at 20-22 and only 3 games back for the closely contested AL Central lead. Much like the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was expected that this would not be a contending season for the Chi Sox. What is on the horizon for Chicago as the season progresses? Do they stick with the plan after trading Chris Sale and continue to tear the team down to build towards future seasons? Is the early season success unsustainable? What path should the team take if they find themselves within striking distance by the trade deadline?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): They’re better than expected because they’ve received breakout performances from Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, Anthony Swarzak, and Tommy Kahnle. Much of these players’ gains appear to be legitimate, so the White Sox have fared much better than expected after sending away their two best players. Still, the front office is going to be realistic about the team’s chances to get into the playoffs. It’s a sub-par roster with a patchwork starting rotation. David Robertson and Jose Quintana are going to be on the block through the end of July, and hopefully each finds a new home.
If the team gets hot and finds themselves within striking distance by the trade deadline, however, I would be in favor of keeping the team intact and perhaps acquiring help via salary dumps. For this purpose, “striking distance” must take into account both the standings in July and reasonable expectations for the last two months.
AZSP: Should the team look to build around the future of Jose Quintana, or flip him in hopes to acquire additional impact prospects for the club?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): They should flip him. He’s here through 2020, but the majority of the surplus value on his contract will be depleted in 2017 and 2018, which are two years during which the White Sox do not expect to compete. The White Sox failed to win with Adam Eaton, Chris Sale, and Quintana because their core was not very deep, despite its strength at the top. Given management’s failures to supplement star talent at the major league level, they need to do whatever they can to ensure their next crop of young talent leaves fewer holes to be filled externally. A Quintana trade would greatly help that goal.
AZSP: The Diamondbacks know a thing or two about standout Venezuelan outfielders. Avisail Garcia is currently the best offensive player for the White Sox this season. His current performance comes on the heels of a .402 BABIP, and puts him on pace to have the best season of his career. What changes, if any, have led to this success? Is there any concern that he will be unable to sustain his hot hitting?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): Garcia’s raw power has always been impressive, but he hadn’t previously put it to great use because of how many ground balls he used to hit. He changed his swing this year to have a slight uppercut, and the result has been significantly more fly balls, which has driven the large increase in his power numbers. The .402 BABIP is of course not sustainable, but thanks to a drop in strikeouts and his development into a power threat, regression would merely mean he’ll wind up as a very good hitter rather than one of the best in baseball.
AZSP: Phoenix has a significant amount of transplants from Chicago. Spring Training was nearly unbearable with all of the “Cubs fans” flocking to their games. Is it time for White Sox fans to phone in a noise violation in Chicago? What has the atmosphere been like there in the heart of the action?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): Sometimes, the White Sox feel invisible with all the Cubs hype, but except for 2005-2008, that’s nothing new. The Cubs dominate this city and have for as long as I can remember. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding them ever since they started to break through in 2015 and it’s sometimes tough to bear. I just try to tune it out. The only parts that truly grind my gears are the asinine Quintana-to-the-Cubs trade proposals and perpetual Kyle Schwarber exaggerations. Usually those two overlap.
AZSP: Is Portillo’s the real deal when it comes to Chicago style dogs, or are Arizonans blindly accepting it as such?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): Like with any food, there’s going to be varying opinions but by and large our local population raves about Portillo’s. It’s legit. Before it became a more national chain, Chicago expats would cite it as a place that they absolutely had to hit whenever they came back home. My wife says I should mention the fries are great.
AZSP: How do the White Sox win the upcoming series versus the Arizona Diamondbacks? What are your predictions for the series?
Patrick Nolan (pnoles): I predict the Diamondbacks take the series 2-1, but even stealing one game will be difficult. Arizona has been extremely tough at home and they have a massive starting pitching advantage in two of the three games. The best hope for the Sox to win the series would be for Jose Quintana to twirl another gem on Wednesday like he just did against the Mariners and for Miguel Gonzalez to keep things close enough with Zack Greinke to turn the game over to the bullpens, where I’d give the Sox a slight edge. I’m basically conceding the game in which Dylan Covey is charged with navigating the tough Diamondbacks lineup.