Chicago White Sox: Offseason Update (November 12, 2019)

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An important week in baseball, the general manager’s meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona began yesterday (Monday) and last through Thursday. While not nearly as important in the big picture as the Winter Meetings, which take place in San Diego, December 8 through 12, the general manager’s meetings help set the foundation for the Winter Meetings.

The White Sox are in the news quite a bit as Bob Nightengale of USA Today has tried to again fan the flames of importance around the Chicago White Sox, as he did last offseason by announcing, at one point, that the White Sox were not only the front runners for shortstop Manny Machado, but that they were also the favorites to sign outfielder Bryce Harper!

Those two combined for $630 million over the length of their respective deals, which last 10 years (Machado) and 13 years (Harper), a bit above the White Sox pay scale.

Now Bob is pushing the concept of the White Sox being all in on every available free agent on the market this offseason, though he was quick to pull back on the top player available, pitcher Gerrit Cole. But continued to push the assertion that third baseman Anthony Rendon is a viable possibility, and maybe even to go so far as to say a legit target.

I don’t want any misunderstandings here, I have nothing negative to say about Rendon whatsoever, he is a legit MVP candidate (.319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs and an MLB-leading 126 RBI in 2019 as well as winning a Silver Slugger and making the All Star team) but he isn’t a fit with this White Sox team. I HATE this idea (which is bandied about regularly on the Sox Talk Podcast) that you just sign the best available players you can get and worry about where to play them later. That concept is totally insane in my opinion.

You build a team and fill in your needs. If you don’t need a third baseman, you don’t sign a third baseman. You find the best player available, either by free agency or trade, at the position you have a need. So as great as Rendon is, you just say “I don’t need a third baseman” and you move on to where you do have a need. It’s simple.

The Sox have three major needs: Starting pitching, right field and designated hitter.

In my perfect world, the names you fill in are Zack Wheeler, Yasiel Puig and Edwin Encarnacion. You’re getting a good strikeout pitcher with outstanding control (195 K’s versus 50 walks in 2019) who will be a perfect fit in the ballpark and the rotation, a right fielder who you can pretty much pencil in for 20+ home runs (maybe 30 playing 81 games a year at Sox Park) and 15 steals per season and a DH who has hit 32+ home runs 8 years in a row.

Yes, each has their negatives, Wheeler has had Tommy John Surgery twice (but worked 195 innings last year and has less than 900 innings on his arm), Puig can be an attitude problem (which I think would be remedied by the strong Cuban culture within the organization) and Encarnacion will turn 37 in January, so he’s not a long term solution, but I think he can help a guy like Jose Abreu adjust to being an everyday DH and that’s a win/win situation.

As starting pitching goes, I just don’t see the White Sox going $250 million (or more) for Gerrit Cole or $150 million (or more) for Stephen Strasburg. Not only is that not something they have done in the past, but I don’t see the Sox spending that kind of money (more on that later). The next group of starters includes Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Wheeler, guys who you could get for under $100 million. While I am a big fan of Bumgarner, I see him staying in the National League and the 1,800+ innings on his arm is a concern. Keuchel is a guy who probably slots as a #4 within the White Sox rotation and I don’t see what’s to be accomplished paying $60 million over three years for a number four who pitches to contact in a hitter’s park and who has never been much of a strikeout guy.

Right field is a conundrum because the Sox have been linked since the offseason began to Nicholas Castellanos. While I am a big fan of his bat (.289/.337/.525 with 27 home runs and 58 doubles in 2019) his defense is well below-average and he’s only been slotted at DH 40 times in 839 career games. So you’re giving up something with him either way, you’re guaranteeing yourself two below-average gloves in the outfield (along with left fielder Eloy Jimenez) or you are giving yourself the unknown of what he can produce at DH.

The DH position is a bit of a monkey in it’s own right, due to the lack of productive ones (Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and Mark Trumbo look to be the only full-time DH options outside of Encarnacion. Morales hit .194 with two home runs in 53 games, Smoak hit .208 with 22 home runs and Trumbo hit .172 with no home runs in 31 plate appearances.

I’ll pass on all three. And that leaves Encarnacion and guys like Avi Garcia.

There is also the possibility of rotating the DH (which has been about as productive as the past few full time DH options the White Sox have signed) and letting Zack Collins, Jose Abreu and the right fielder (Castellanos or Kole Calhoun or Corey Dickerson) to split time at the position. Not something I am a big fan of, but I like to have a set lineup every day.

As I have been writing this and doing my research prior to, one guy who keeps catching my attention is the aforementioned Corey Dickerson. While he is a left fielder, not a right fielder which the Sox need (and he has only six games of experience in his career in right field) I realized he has 128 games of experience at DH, mostly during his two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. In addition to his left-handed bat, he also carries a .286 career batting average. He’ll turn 31 in May and maybe could be a good option as an everyday DH.

I hate feeling negative about the team, especially this offseason because the position player that is considered the #1 free agent plays a position they don’t need and if they don’t pursue him fans will take that negatively and I don’t think that’s fair. I wasn’t big on last year’s pursuit of Manny Machado (and was active about pushing that fact in my blog) because he didn’t fill a need; I knew they planned to play him at third base but that wasn’t his preferred position. I don’t want to see the Sox spend money just for the sake of saying “look, we signed Anthony Rendon, now we have to change our infield around to fit him in because we signed a guy at a position we didn’t need to fill, let’s hope Moncada is OK with another position switch.”

That doesn’t work. Spend the money, but spend it responsibly. Spend it on need. But don’t sign the cheapest player available and hope he’s a bounce-back candidate. Don’t sign an outfielder because he had a good season six years ago. Don’t sign a pitcher because he won a Cy Young award five years ago and he’s been awful since then. That doesn’t work.

I am 100% convinced this team can, with the right additions, contend for a Wild Card spot in 2020 and then for a division title in 2021. But there are holes that need to be filled and they need to be filled properly, with players who play the position and have been successful, recently. Winning teams have winning players. Let’s go out and find some.

Thank you for reading. Peace.

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