Polished Rodon inked, but '14 MLB debut in question
Chicago's top pick, who hasn't pitched since May, a candidate for next year's rotation
CLEVELAND -- Since the White Sox selected Carlos Rodon with their top pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, the No. 3 pick overall, the question has been: When will the North Carolina State left-hander sign with the team?
Now that the White Sox made the signing of Rodon to a Minor League contract official with a franchise-record $6.582 million signing bonus on Friday, the question becomes: When will Rodon pitch for the White Sox?
Could Rodon even arrive out of the bullpen in 2014, taking a page from the Chris Sale development manual in his Draft year of '10, before taking his place with Sale as part of the rotation? White Sox vice president and general manager Rick Hahn wouldn't project any sort of timetable for Rodon during a conference call Friday afternoon -- other than saying that based on his immense ability, anything is possible.
"Obviously we're thrilled to add Carlos to the organization today," Hahn said. "Frankly, in having these conversations with our scouting director Doug Laumann going back about a year now, when it was fairly evident we were going to be picking toward the top of the Draft and this type of talent was going to be available to us, Carlos was our main target.
"We feel he fits best with our plan to turn things around and get this thing on track, and get this thing on track quickly. We view him similarly to how the rest of the industry views him, and that is as a premium front-end starter with the ability to help us in Chicago at some point in the not-too-distant future."
Rodon signed his contract at U.S. Cellular Field, in a picture tweeted out by the team on its account. He will return to Chicago next Friday with his family to meet with the media, but during the intervening week, Rodon will join Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
With the 21-year-old hurler "having not thrown a pitch in anger" since his last start for North Carolina State on May 16, as Hahn pointed out, Rodon will be building up his arm strength on the sidelines throwing with some of the coaches. A specific plan for activation and the particular affiliate will be decided during that next Chicago visit.
In 345 2/3 innings spanning three years with N.C. State, Rodon finished with a 25-10 record and a 2.24 ERA. He hurled eight complete games, recorded 436 strikeouts and held opponents to a .201 average. His makeup has also been noted to be as good as his stuff.
"He's a strong-willed kid. He's a competitor. He wants to be the best," Hahn said. "He wants the ball and wants to be that front-end type that we envision him being. Certainly everything about his makeup is a positive into making him the premium-type prospect we view him as.
"We're excited that we signed him," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "I know everybody that does scouting was excited that he was available to us. You're glad you got him. I don't like how we ended up getting him, losing as many games as we did last year, but you're glad that you get something out of it that hopefully will be here and be a big part of the future."
The recommended bonus slot for Rodon as the No. 3 pick was $5,721,500, so with his bonus number factored into the previous Draft signings, the White Sox will incur a tax for the first time for exceeding the Draft pool, per Hahn. MLB.com's Jim Callis lists that number at $356,175. The White Sox spent around $10.5 million on this year's Draft as presented by Hahn, with the general manager praising White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for allowing them to stretch and not skimp to get the players they wanted and needed.
"We've talked going back to the end of last season and into the offseason about the importance of this year's Draft and we're picking higher than we're accustomed to and the amount of resources we were going to devote to this," Hahn said. "Jerry absolutely followed through on that in allowing us to stretch our budget to the point where not only were we able to add Carlos as the premium pick but also drafting away through the rest of our pool.
"We didn't have to compromise those picks on talent to save money to make it all work. He allowed us to extend ourselves and ultimately we're going to be spending somewhere in the vicinity of $10.5 million on this year's Draft, which obviously was an important one to restocking the organization again as on track to where we wanted to be.
As for Rodon's future, it goes no further than workouts at Winston-Salem at this point and his eventual pitching out of the bullpen in the Minors to manage his workload. So the question of when Rodon joins the White Sox remains a good one to figure out, but the club believes when he arrives, Rodon will be around for quite some time.
"Until we have him on a pro routine, see how he's taking to our program and making adjustments to pro ball, it's premature to project when he arrives in Chicago," Hahn said. "Certainly it is conceivable we see him in Chicago at some point, but really that's going to be about how it fits in with his long-term development as a starter ultimately, and where he's at physically."