It’s that time of year again, as the World Series is scheduled to begin next week and we can start looking ahead to the offseason happenings. Of course, as a Chicago White Sox fan, I’m usually thinking about the offseason possibilities long before the actual season ends, as the playoffs are usually 15+ games out of reach by the end of August.
This little exercise is going to be a look at what I would like to see the White Sox accomplish this offseason (and what I’m likely to do with my roster on MLB The Show) versus what I think the White Sox will actually do; and I’m going to keep it realistic, as much as possible, basing my forecast on what I have heard in the media and the team itself.
So, let’s begin.
Preference: Naturally, my preference here would be signing Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros to a long-term deal with every cent of the Manny Machado money from last offseason. However, I know that’s a pipe dream because of how this team (general manager Rick Hahn, in particular) likes to contradict himself, as one minute the team “has a lot of flexibility” in terms of “cash to spend,” while at the same time having to be “careful” what they spend.
So, my preference for starting pitching would be to sign New York Mets RHP Zack Wheeler. This is one of those moves that I consider a no-brainer. He won’t turn 30 until May, which makes him younger than Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel and he has FAR less wear and tear on his arm (749 career Major League innings for Wheeler as opposed to 1,302 for Keuchel and 1,846 for Bumgarner) than the other possibilities most linked to the White Sox. In addition, his 11 wins in 2019 were more than either Bumgarner or Keuchel.
For depth, I would not be opposed to resigning Ivan Nova, who lead the American League in starts in 2019 (34) and was durable and reasonably successful given the circumstances. I definitely don’t want to see him leading the staff, but as a depth piece instead.
Probability: While I don’t see the team springing big money for Wheeler, I don’t see them springing big money for Bumgarner or Keuchel either. The name I hear most regularly is Cole Hamels, most recently of the Chicago Cubs, as the big acquisition for the rotation. This makes no sense to me whatsoever, as the Sox would be bringing in a soon-to-be 36-year old pitcher with almost 2,700 innings on his arm, in spite of not reaching 200 innings in a season since 2016. If this move does happen, it reeks of “putting one over on the Cubs.”
For depth I do not see them resigning Nova, who will be able to score a bigger payday with one of the other rebuilding franchises (the Marlins, Orioles, Royals or Tigers) so I picture the White Sox big depth piece being a non-tendered-and-resigned Dylan Covey. I have also wondered if Kenny Williams would pitch the idea of being on a contender to Felix Hernandez.
Preference: I don’t make a big deal over relief pitching but I would like to see Jimmy Cordero back, due to his outstanding 2.75 ERA over 36 innings in 2019. Most relievers are interchangeable but I think a back end of Alex Colome closing with Aaron Bummer and a rejuvenated Kelvin Herrera setting him up, that’s pretty solid and I’ll take it.
Probability: As the White Sox don’t really make a big deal over middle relief and the set-up and closer roles are defined and filled, most anything can happen here. Cordero and Evan Marshall could come back just as easily as they could be replaced. The name I hear mentioned in the press is Dellin Betances, but that doesn’t make sense in a number of ways, not the least of which is his health (2/3 of an inning of work in 2019) as well as the fact that he really wouldn’t have a traditional role, since the back end of the bullpen is set.
I also think he is a little more expensive than the Sox tend to spend on middle relief.
Preference: This is easy for me. Sign James McCann long-term since he can be a free agent following the 2020 season, because even if his offensive numbers regress, and they will, he was a boon to the pitching staff. Zack Collins can serve as the backup and catch two or three times a week. Keep Yermin Mercedes at AAA Charlotte for a time when needed, or bring him up to fill the 26th man spot on the roster, as he certainly seems to be ready for The Show (.317/23 home runs/80 RBI in 2019). No big acquisitions are needed behind the plate.
Probability: The name I keep hearing here is Yasmani Grandal. In addition to the fact that he’ll be 31 when the season starts and hit .246 last year (while establishing career-highs in home runs, RBI and walks, to be fair), he turned down a multi-year contract offer from the White Sox last year in order to take a one-year deal with the Brewers. It doesn’t make much sense to offer more money this time around when he is a year older, with more wear and tear.
… and I see no circumstances whatsoever that Welington Castillo comes back in 2020.
Preference: This is easy. Resign Jose Abreu to a two year deal with a club option for a third and non-tender Yolmer Sanchez. Let Danny Mendick hold down second base until Nick Madrigal is ready and you’re set. Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Tim Anderson at short and Yoan Moncada at third, with Mendick covering second, short and third and Zack Collins handling first when needed. This should produce the easiest decisions on the roster.
Probability: I’m worried that Sanchez will be tendered at over $6 million to keep a seat warm for Madrigal, then kept on as a utility player in spite of the fact that his bat is worthless and this isn’t the National League where you see a lot of defensive replacements late in games. At one time, I was worried that the Sox would fall over themselves offering Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon a contract, but after he turned down a seven year, $215 million deal from the Nats, I’m not worried about that at all. The White Sox lucked out last year by not spending $250 million for Manny Machado, they won’t repeat the mistake this year and make a garish contract offer to the top offensive player available.
Preference: The White Sox are set in LF (Eloy Jimenez) and CF (Luis Robert) but RF is a bottomless pit. In my world, the Sox would sign Yasiel Puig to a four-year deal and park his 20+ home runs and 15+ stolen bases beside Jimenez and Robert in what could be described as a “dream outfield.” Hang onto Adam Engel as a pinch hitter and pinch runner and rare defensive replacement when needed, as well as Leury Garcia, who was solid in 2019.
Probability: This is where I get annoyed, as Kole Calhoun is apparently the overwhelming favorite due to the fact that he hits left-handed and he hit 33 home runs in 2019. It should be noted that (a) Calhoun is almost five years older than Puig, and (b) Calhoun’s 33 home runs in 2019 are not really comparable to his home runs totals in 2018 and 2017 (19) or 2016 (18). Calhoun clearly benefited from the juiced ball in 2019 and if that is remedied in 2020, those home run totals will drop. And that ugly .232 batting average and .325 OBP doesn’t help.
I do hear Corey Dickerson mentioned but I have a feeling the Sox are absolutely set on Kole Calhoun, but I’m not sure he’s going to get more than a one-year contract. I also hear Joc Pederson mentioned a lot but it would require a trade to get him and I’m not sure what the White Sox have of value that the Los Angeles Dodgers would want, maybe Mercedes and a pitcher but it would have to be one of the lower level/lower production pitchers.
Preference: J.D. Martinez. No question. Now, this is assuming he opts out of his current deal with the Detroit Tigers, of course. Offer him a four year deal for $100 million with an opt-out after two years, he’ll blow town after two years and the club would only be on the hook for $50 million, or $7 million more than they spent on Melky Cabrera in 2015. If Martinez is unavailable or too pricey, skip DH and rotate it between Abreu and Collins.
Probability: This is one area where I can see the Sox making the move and spending the money and it paying off. It’s a win/win for everybody. Martinez gets more money than he would have had he stayed with the Red Sox (and there’s has to be a reason to opt out and taking a pay cut would be out of the question), the White Sox shore up the offense and should get 40+ home runs from Martinez the next couple of seasons and don’t have to spend an ungodly amount of money to do so. It all makes too much sense not to do it.
I do worry that, if this option doesn’t work out, they’re going to try going over the top to sign Grandal and work him between catcher, first base and DH, and I don’t like anything about that idea. I’d rather let Collins develop into whatever he is going to be going forward.
So, all in all, it should be a fun offseason regardless of the direction the White Sox go. There is a good talent base on this team and it only needs to be filled in, but with the right pieces. The Sox don’t need a starting catcher, or a third baseman. The needs are obvious, a right fielder, a starting pitcher and a DH, and Puig, Wheeler and Martinez are the guys I want to see on the roster when we get to Spring Training next February. Will it happen? Most likely not. And not a whole lot of the “Machado Money” will be spent this offseason, regardless.
I’ll blog again after the Winter Meetings and hopefully we’ll have a better understanding of where we stand, assuming free agency moves at a better pace than it did last year.