Eloy Jimenez will start winter ball in the Dominican Republic this weekend — a surprise development for a player of his pedigree after a relatively successful rookie season with the White Sox.
To Jimenez’s credit, though, he knows he’s far from a polished left fielder. In fact, he wasn’t very good in the field while slugging 31 homers, posting a .267/.315/.513 hitting line and finishing strong for the Sox in September. So he’ll grab his glove and get to work trying to make himself more serviceable.
“I would rather he just have a little break, get himself ready for the next season,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. “But this kid’s not going to stop until he reaches what he wants to be.”
Renteria, who was in town with his wife, Ilene, to serve Thanksgiving dinners at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in the West Loop on Tuesday night, is among those who believe Jimenez can be a capable left fielder.
“This young man is going to be a really, really outstanding major-league baseball player on both sides of the baseball,” Renteria said. “It’s just continuing to stay sharp, get experience and play. You don’t usually have a lot of guys play winter ball. But he’s a guy just loves playing.”
The Sox are entering a season in which they could contend, should they bolster their roster with two or three significant free agents or additions via trade, and they took an important step when they signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a team-record four-year, $73 million deal last week. They likely will have to improve defensively to be the kind of team that plays meaningful games in September. In 2019, they ranked 25th among the 30 teams in defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs. Only four teams committed more errors. What’s more, the Sox’ Gold Glove second baseman, Yolmer Sanchez, was placed on waivers Monday, his expected $6.2 million salary via arbitration deemed too pricey for an infielder who hit two homers in 2019.
“He’s going to help somebody,” Renteria said. “Maybe it’s us still.”
If Sanchez isn’t claimed, it’s possible he comes back on a smaller deal, Renteria suggested. But Sanchez probably wants to be a starter.
“This kid is an outstanding personality and a player who knows how to play the game,” Renteria said. “He can do little things to help you win.”
Renteria, who has managed the Sox through three losing seasons in their rebuild, hopes the front office does bigger things to help them win in addition to nabbing Grandal. Renteria said it’s time to think postseason.
“The organization has pivoted,” he said. “We are at a turning point and a very important phase of who we are as an organization. It’s time. It’s time to start being on the winning end more than the losing.
“Now you’re starting to go out and get some guys who have been around and have talent. I can’t speak for [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and everybody, but they’re working very, very hard to put things together for us. And it’s time. It’s time for us to start showing the promise that we’ve talked about. I think we started seeing little bits and pieces of it last year.”