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White Sox spring training preview

White Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training Tuesday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. It will be a group that includes the most closely watched trade candidate in baseball, left-hander Jose Quintana.

Steady, focused and resolute, Quintana calmly answered questions about his precarious position as the Sox’ most valuable trade chip during SoxFest, saying he not only hopes to remain but expects to stay on the South Side.

It seems more a matter of when, not if, Quintana is politely shown the door.

While deals are indeed made during spring training, the big ones involving players of Quintana’s stature are not commonplace. If he stays, look for him to start Opening Day (April 3 against the Tigers), then go through the trade-rumor mill again as the non-waiver Aug.  1 deadline approaches. Barring injury or a first-time sag in performance, the 2016 All-Star figures to bring the return general manager Rick Hahn is fixed on securing.

White Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training Tuesday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. (Getty Images)

Hahn’s objective? Get a similar package of prospects to what Chris Sale and Adam Eaton yielded to check off the goal of trading the Sox’ top three players according to WAR (wins above replacement) as the first phase of the rebuilding plan.

Jose Quintana. (Getty Images)

Jose Quintana. (Getty Images)

Whether the trade noise affects Quintana during the spring and/or during the first few months of the season bears watching.

When he was hours away from signing a five-year, $26.5 million extension in the spring of 2014 (which includes club options in 2019 and 2020), Quintana had the roughest outing of his life, failing to retire all nine batters he faced in the first inning of a Cactus League outing against the Athletics.

Then 25, Quintana would admit to a rare case of nerves. Hahn would say that “it played very much on his mind during spring training.”

Aside from that hiccup, Quintana has been unaffected by everything else, most notably a slew of no-decisions and losses attributable to poor run support.

When the time comes, Quintana will be missed. In the meantime, with Sale gone, he’ll be the leader and ace of the pitching staff starting Tuesday. Barring a trade, that is.

What’s new?

Besides a new plan, new manager (Rick Renteria) and new ballpark name (Guaranteed Rate Field), these staffers have new positions: Joe McEwing, bench coach; Nick Capra, third base coach; Curt Hasler, bullpen coach. Former Sox infielder Chris Getz, hired out of the Royals organization, takes Capra’s place as director of player development.

He gone

Sale, Eaton, Justin Morneau, J.B. Shuck, Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro, Matt Albers.

They’re here

New guys on 40-man roster: left-handers Derek Holland and Giovanni Soto, right-handers Lucas Giolito, Dylan Covey, Brad Goldberg and Reynaldo Lopez, second baseman Yoan Moncada and outfielders Willy Garcia and Rymer Liriano. Holland, signed for one year and $6 million, will offset a good portion of the innings left by Chris Sale.

They’re invited

Free agents who signed minor-league contracts with invitations to spring training: catchers Geovany Soto and Roberto Pena, outfielder Peter Bourjos, third baseman/outfielder Cody Asche, infielder Everth Cabrera, left-handers Cory Luebke and David Holmberg and right-handers Anthony Swarzak and Blake Smith. Soto, if healthy, figures to share catching duties with Omar Narvaez. Bourjos also stands a very good chance of making the Opening Day roster.

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Peter Bourjos. (Getty Images)

They are, too

Also invited to big-league camp, from within the farm system: right-handers Zack Burdi, Michael Kopech and Spencer Adams, left-handers Jace Fry, Matt Purke, Brian Clark and Aaron Bummer, catcher Zack Collins, outfielder Courtney Hawkins and infielders Danny Hayes and Nicky Delmonico.

Top ten list

With two December deals, the Sox completely remodeled their farm system. The Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades alone converted the Sox’ top-prospect list into something worth posting and will make minor-league camp more interesting this year. Here is the top 10, according to MLB.com (with rankings in baseball’s top 100 in parentheses). Baseball America lists the same 10 but in a different order.

  1. *IF Yoan Moncada (No. 2)
  2. **RHP Lucas Giolito (No. 12)
  3. *RHP Michael Kopech (No. 16)
  4. **RHP Reynaldo Lopez (No. 46)
  5. RHP Carson Fulmer (No. 71)
  6. C Zack Collins (No. 81)
  7. RHP Spencer Adams
  8. RHP Zack Burdi
  9. *CF Luis Alexander Basabe
  10. **RHP Dane Dunning

*Acquired in Sale trade.

**Acquired in Eaton trade.

We have a date

Tuesday: First workout for pitchers and catchers.

Saturday: First full-squad workout.

Feb. 25: Cactus League opener vs. Dodgers.

April 3: Season opener vs. Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

April 11: First road game at Indians.

July 24-27: Cubs, at Wrigley Field 24-25; at GRF 26-27.

 

By the numbers

76-86

Won-lost record projected by Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system. This isn’t all that bad, considering the Sox haven’t had a winning record since 2012 and are rebuilding now, but it should have an asterisk, with a potentially fluid roster in flux, especially near the trade deadline. Barring an unexpected flirtation with being in contention, closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier, left fielder Melky Cabrera and starting pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland — to name a handful — could be gone by the trade deadline.

9

Number of seasons Sox have trained in Glendale, Arizona (including 2017), as well as the number of consecutive years they’ve missed the postseason. Only the Mariners (15 years), Marlins (13) and Padres (10) have longer droughts.

7

Shortstop Tim Anderson’s new jersey number (it was 12). Other switches: Tyler Saladino, 20 (was 18); Matt Davidson, 24 (was 22), Charlie Tilson, 22 (was 24).