The White Sox’ Cuban roots run deep, as far back as Minnie Minoso, the first black Cuban to play baseball in the United States and the first black Sox player, and in the now with first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Yoan Moncada and center fielder Luis Robert who will represent one third of the team’s current lineup when baseball resumes.
Toss in Cuban-born catcher Yasmani Grandal (who emigrated to the U.S. at age 10) and a premium Cuban contingent of cornerstone talent expands even more, to the tune of $240 million worth of multiyear contracts invested in Cuban stock.
As the amateur draft approaches Wednesday and Thursday, the international signing period follows shortly after in July and the Sox might make room to add one more. They are considered among the favorites to sign 21-year-old Cuban right fielder/pitcher Oscar Colas, a left-handed hitter who batted .302/.350/.516 with 11 homers and 19 doubles in 66 games in Japan last year and, while less polished as a left-handed pitcher, has unleashed 95 mph velocity off the pitcher’s mound. They call Colas the Cuban Shohei Ohtani.
While money most assuredly spoke the loudest, the Sox’ rich history with Cuban players was a drawing card for Abreu and Robert, who signed as free agents and are likely pitching in, along with Moncada, on recruiting efforts to put Colas in Sox pinstripes.
Colas defected from Cuba on Jan. 3 looking for a major league team and certainly looks more than interested in the Sox, appearing on social media in Sox gear, answering “yes” or hoisting a thumb to questions of, “Do you like the White Sox?” For what it’s worth, he’s following Moncada, Robert, Grandal, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, James McCann and Dallas Keuchel on the Sox’ Instagram account.
The Sox, who reportedly have deals with a half dozen or so international prospects that will become official July 2, including 19-year-old Cuban right-hander Norge Vera for $1.5 million (considered the top international pitcher on the market), will probably have $5,398,300 in bonus pool money to spend. They can make wiggle room for more pool money to sign Colas with trades, if necessary.
They can also try selling him on the comfort level afforded by an organization that put Robert’s spring training locker between Abreu’s and Moncada’s a year before he became a big leaguer, and one that proudly boasts a long line of 20-plus Cuban players that includes five-time All-Star Minoso and 1954 All Star pitcher Sandy Consuegra from half a century ago; Jose Canseco, who finished his career by hitting 16 home runs for the Sox in 2001; and right-handers Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, who played prominent roles on the 2005 World Series championship team. Before and during Abreu’s tenure, there was All-Star shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
‘‘It’s great to see that secret sauce they’ve created the last couple of years,” Minoso’s son, Charlie Rice-Minoso, said when the Sox signed Robert, “of understanding better the talent that’s been coming their way and how to connect and communicate at basic levels on and off the field, which relates well with a player as they’re cultivating and refining their talent.’’
Abreu’s journey from Cuba to the U.S. was fraught with much more personal and family challenges, difficulty and stress than Colas will have had to endure. Abreu, forever committed to the Sox even when he wasn’t under contract for a short period after the 2019 season, has been quick to spread the word about how good the Sox have been to him.
Are you listening, Colas?
‘‘I consider it an honor,” Abreu said of speaking well of the organization to prospective talent. “This is a team that really takes care of us as Cuban players and as Latino players.’’
There’s always room for one more.