Every year the Sox Machine blog posts a template for what is known as the “offseason plan project,” where anyone can give their thoughts on what they would like the White Sox to do in the offseason, in terms of whether to tender or non-tender eligible players, sign or not sign pending free agents, propose trades and things like that.
This year I’m going to do this a little differently, I’m going to list not only what I would do in terms of roster construction, but what I think the team will do as well, because there will definitely be a lack of consensus between myself and the Sox front office.
This is going to be a difficult season for the White Sox, possibly worse than 2022. The lack of talent, health, depth and camaraderie are going to sink the team for the remainder of the “contention window.” This team was poorly built and too many players were paid before they had actually accomplished anything, thus we have a roster full of overpaid bums who can’t stay healthy and have no reason to try.
Lucas Giolito: $10.8M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Dylan Cease: $5.3M (the Sox will tender, I would tender and try to work on an extension)
Reynaldo Lopez: $3.3M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Adam Engel: $2.3M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)
Michael Kopech: $2.2M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Kyle Crick: $1.5M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)
Jose Ruiz: $1M (non-tender, the Sox are in love with him and will tender)
Danny Mendick: $1M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) (pick up, I would trade if possible, I think the Sox will pick up)
Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) (buyout, I think the Sox will tender due to lack of options)
AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) (No way he leaves $13 million on the table, exercise option)
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Jose Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) (resign, 2 years for $20 million, I think the Sox let him walk)
Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
Vince Velasquez ($3M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
My pick: Ozzie Guillen. You want a manager with a successful body of work and championship pedigree? Here he is. You want a guy who knows it’s his final chance and wants to right his previous wrongs? Here he is. I don’t want to hear about what happened in 2011, that’s ancient history. This is 2022.
The Sox pick: Mike Shildt. I know this guy has cooled down considerably as a candidate but here is my rationale: Kenny Williams wants Ron Washington. Rick Hahn wants Joe Espada. I think Tony La Russa will have Jerry Reisndorf’s ear and like the last time the White Sox hired a manager, Jerry gets the final say.
No. 1: Jose Abreu (two years, $20 million). You just don’t let the face of the franchise walk away because you have some kid who was a high draft pick waiting to take his spot. Mark my words, Andrew Vaughn will be more Greg Walker than Jose Abreu or Paul Konerko when all is said and done.
No. 2: Willson Contreras (two years, $32 million). I’m not a huge fan of this signing, but something has to be done. Can’t go into another season with Yasmani Grandal at the top of the depth chart. Let Contreras do the bulk of the catching through the remainder of the contention window, and he can still sign another free agent deal after the 2024 season as a 33-year old.
No. 3: Adam Frazier (one year, $7 million). Frazier is coming off his worst season and should be had for a small amount. He set full-season career lows in just about every category (.238/.301/.311 line with an OPS+ of 80 and a 0.7 WAR) but he plays every day (156 games in 2022 with the Mariners) and his defense is certainly passable (6 errors in 435 chances at second base in 2022). It’s an upgrade from nothing.
As for what I think the White Sox will do in free agency, I see a couple of low-end fifth starter candidates on minor league deals (someone like Jordan Lyles or Michael Pineda), a fourth or fifth outfielder to replace Adam Engel (Ben Gamel? Jackie Bradley? Chad Pinder?). Other than that, and maybe a flier on a bullpen arm or two for “depth,” I don’t see the Sox making any free agent signings. The roster is full.
This is the hardest thing to try to forecast, because no one knows who is available or who could be traded for whom.
No. 1: Trade Yoan Moncada and Colson Montgomery to the Seattle Mariners for Eugenio Suarez and Jarred Kelenic. Yes, it’s giving up the Sox #1 prospect and not getting a ton in return but it’s not a straight salary dump and Suarez fills in third base for the remainder of the contention window and Kelenic isn’t the superstar prospect he was two years ago. This opens up some salary room for the White Sox and eliminates one of the team’s biggest issues, and if Kelenic can outplay Gavin Sheets in RF, you could have a solid OF lineup for years (Kelenic, Luis Robert and Oscar Colas) after the contention window closes.
No. 2: Trade Leury Garcia and Bryan Ramos to the Oakland A’s for Tony Kemp. The A’s take on a little extra salary (Kemp is expected to make around $3.2 million in arbitration this season while Garcia will make a little over $5 million in the second year of his three-year deal) in order to pick up a decent prospect in Ramos and the Sox get their replacement for Garcia. Seems like a win/win trade to me.
No. 3: Trade Yasmani Grandal to any team that will take him for any price they’ll pay, and agree to pay half of his salary. Straight salary dump, find some team that could use an occasional switch hitter at the DH position and could be a once-a-week or even emergency catcher, for $9 million. Trade him for some team’s 50th ranked prospect. Anything to get him off the payroll and out of the organization.
As for what I think the Sox will do in the trade market, I think they’ll strongly consider trading Gavin Sheets (likely to the Orioles in a nice homecoming) because he is still a man without a position (he’s a 1B/DH and those spots are filled) and I think they could get a minor league pitching prospect in return, maybe a future piece for the back end of the rotation. I don’t think the front office has the balls to really move a Moncada or an Eloy Jimenez or a Lucas Giolito for anything.
This would be my every day lineup: Contreras (catcher), Abreu (1B), Frazier (2B), Anderson (SS), Suarez (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Kelenic (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Kemp would be my top utility player. For those wondering, I’d either trade Andrew Vaughn or just let him play 1B or DH when Abreu or Eloy need a day off. Remember, he’s making the MLB minimum. At best he’s a .280/20/80 hitter, he’s not the second coming of Frank Thomas.
The pitching rotation: Cease, Lance Lynn, Kopech, Giolito and Davis Martin.
The bullpen: Liam Hendriks (closer), Reynaldo Lopez, Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, Tanner Banks, Aaron Bummer and Jake Diekman.
I think the White Sox will try to find someone/anyone to be their fifth starter because they have absolutely no faith in their own homegrown pitchers (Cease came from the Cubs, Lynn from the Rangers, Kopech from the Red Sox and Giolito from the Nationals; Banks and Bummer are the only homegrown relievers), and they’ll sign a guy who is looking to rebound (like Johnny Cueto in 2022 or Ervin Santana in 2019, just showing the extremes of how those kinds of deals can work out).
So, here is what I see the Sox running out there every day:
Everyday lineup: Grandal (catcher), Vaughn (1B), Harrison/Leury (2B), Anderson (SS), Moncada (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Sheets/Colas (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Leury will be the top utility player but Danny Mendick is going to get a good look after a solid (but short) 2022 season (.289/.343/.443, OPS+ of 121 and 0.5 WAR in only 97 at-bats).
I can see my version of the 2023 White Sox finishing 85-77, thanks to the power provided by Contreras, Suarez and Kelenic to push a few more runs across the plate. The pitching was middle-of-the-pack and I expect Cease and Kopech to get better, so I think “my” 2023 White Sox could finish second to the Guardians (again) but maybe a little closer (five or six games out).
I see the real 2023 White Sox finishing 79-83, spending the season wondering if Vaughn or Moncada or Robert is going to break out, if they can get anything close to a positive WAR out of second base and hoping Colas finally fills the hole in RF that’s basically been there since Jermaine Dye left. This is not a good team, and removing the best player (Abreu lead the team in WAR, games played, hits and batting average, period) isn’t going to make the offense better, and if you believe that, you’re a moron.
Things may eventually start to look up once Grandal and Moncada and Giolito and Hendriks and the other massive drains on payroll are gone and the Sox could potentially do a legitimate reload in 2025 with all that available cash. However, I have absolutely no faith in this front office. Luckily, as Rick Hahn said, they know when they’re not doing the job anymore so once the guy who has had 2 winning seasons out of 10 as a general manager figures out he can’t do the job, it will get better.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.