To say the 2022 season has been disappointing would be an understatement of epic proportions. This is easily the sorriest season I’ve seen in 31 years of being a Chicago White Sox fan. Supposedly, help is on the way. But I’m very skeptical.
I don’t have any faith in the White Sox, due to the constant mistakes the club has made since the 2016 rebuild began.
One of the biggest mistakes the organization made was hiring Tony La Russa as the team’s manager prior to the 2021 season. La Russa had been retired as a manager since 2011, and it showed in his poor decision making. The Sox were able to overcome those shortcomings with talent in 2021, winning 93 games and the American League Central Division title.
Fast forward one year and the talent just couldn’t carry the team anymore and they’ll likely finish right around .500 in a year they were considered to be a World Series contender.
As of today (October 3, 2022) La Russa is now officially out as manager of the White Sox. While the decision for La Russa to leave was based on some medical issues (one being a pacemaker and the other La Russa refused to elaborate on), everyone agrees that retirement is the best thing for both La Russa and the organization.
Now, that brings us to his potential replacements.
Some ridiculous names have been thrown around (as usual, a number of former Sox players like A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, none of whom have any on-field coaching or managing experience). I’m hopeful the White Sox remember the Robin Ventura era and don’t repeat the mistake of hiring a first-time manager with no experience.
A number of bench coaches and base coaches are being considered, including Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, and Indians, er, Guardians first base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. Former MLB managers Bruce Bochy and Fredi Gonzalez have also been mentioned.
But the name I keep hearing that fits all the boxes this organization likes to check is Chicago Cubs third base coach Willie Harris.
Former White Sox player? Check. Pulling a fast one on the Cubs? Check. Would make less money than any other potential manager? Check.
The White Sox haven’t hired a manager who didn’t have any White Sox connections since Jerry Manuel, who was hired in 1998. In 2004, the Sox hired former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen as manager. In 2012, Ozzie’s former teammate Robin Ventura was hired. In 2017, Ventura’s bench coach, Ricky Renteria was hired, followed by La Russa.
No other team in baseball has such a track record. Most teams hire the best available option, the White Sox hire the best available option who has played for or coached for the team at some point in the past.
While Thome, Konerko and Pierzynski are ridiculous to even consider, Harris does have minor league managerial experience and MLB coaching experience.
This is exactly why he’s going to be the White Sox manager of the future.
Harris will be compared to Ozzie Guillen, as Harris was a member of the 2005 White Sox roster (he played for the organization from 2002 through 2005) and is currently serving as an MLB base coach (Guillen was hired after serving as a coach with the Montreal Expos (2001) and Miami Marlins (2002-03).
Most importantly, Harris will likely command the smallest salary among all the options listed, and that will play a very important role to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Am I saying Harris would be a poor choice? No, I think he would bring a fresh perspective to the organization and an infusion of youth (Harris is 34 years younger than La Russa). Is he a perfect choice? Absolutely not. A team that is contending should be hiring a manager with managerial experience, not someone who is going to require on the job training.
My first choice? Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals. Yes, they’re having a horrible season but they’ve also stripped the team down to the bare bones. He has a sub-.500 record but also has a World Series championship, something not a lot of guys can say. And with the Nats in a major rebuild and a sale of the franchise, it seems like the new owner would want to clean house and begin anew. Which would be great for the White Sox.
Martinez also is a former White Sox player so that clicks the important box for the Sox.
A new manager should be in place within the next three weeks, due to the fact that the organization needs to have a staff in place to help sell to potential free agent signings.
So, we’ll wait and see what happens. Right now, I’ll put $100 on Willie Harris as the next White Sox manager. He does seem to be a relatively good fit and I do think there are worse options out there. There are also better options, but I don’t think that’s going to matter.
This is a blog I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time, and something I’ve touched on in previous blog entries stretching back to 2018. This may draw the ire of the Chicago White Sox fan boys, who think this team can do no wrong regardless of what they do, but the fact of the matter is, this rebuild has not gone to plan in spite of the back to back playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021. While the original trades that set off the rebuild were universally praised, I think they need to be revisited, as well as the free agent signings and pursuits that have taken place since the rebuild was instituted following the 2016 season.
I want to take a look at the rebuild in a season-by-season view:
This is where it all began. In December 2016, the White Sox made three moves that would have a profound effect on the organization, two trades and one Rule 5 Draft pick.
– On December 6, the White Sox traded LHP Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for IF Yoan Moncada (at the time the #1 prospect in baseball), RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Alexander Basabe and RHP Victor Diaz.
– On December 7, the White Sox traded OF Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for RHP’s Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.
– And on December 8, the White Sox selected RHP Dylan Covey in the Rule 5 Draft from the Oakland A’s.
This was also the year the White Sox hired career loser Rick Renteria to be their manager, once again sniffing fumes from the Chicago Cubs, who had hired Renteria four years earlier to handle their rebuild on-field.
Now fully into the rebuild, not much was expected in terms of free agent signings or trades, as the Sox had little left with which to deal (though they still made a major deal before the trade deadline).
– On May 27, the White Sox signed OF Luis Robert as an international free agent from Cuba.
– On July 13, the White Sox traded LHP Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Dylan Cease, OF Eloy Jimenez, 1B Matt Rose and IF Bryant Flete.
– On July 19, the White Sox traded 3B Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson and RHP Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for RHP Tyler Clippard, OF Blake Rutherford, OF Tito Polo and LHP Ian Clarkin.
In the first season of the rebuild, the Sox finished the 2017 season with a 67-95 record.
The worst season of the rebuild, by far. The Sox finished with a record of 62-100.
– On November 23, 2017, the White Sox signed OF Daniel Palka off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.
– On December 1, 2017, the White Sox signed C Wellington Castillo to a two-year deal with an option to lock down the catcher position that had been in flux since A.J. Pierzynski was let go.
– On December 22, 2017, the White Sox signed RHP Jose Ruiz off waivers from the San Diego Padres.
The Wellington Castillo deal was one of the first ones to implode on this team, as Castillo was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy on May 24, 2018. Unaware of it at the time, this was going to be an omen of things to come, not in terms of drug policy violations but in terms of poor free agent signings and a poor performance in free agency, in general.
This is where the rebuild really started to go south. Prior to the season, the White Sox were considered one of the front runners to sign free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. In fact, some media outlets said there was a chance the White Sox could sign both. Instead, their offseason acquisitions amounted to:
– On December 15, 2018, the White Sox traded minor league OF Alex Call to the Cleveland Indians for 1B/DH Yonder Alonso.
– On December 19, 2018, the White Sox signed C James McCann as a free agent from the Detroit Tigers.
– On January 10, the White Sox signed OF Jon Jay as a free agent from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
– On March 22, the White Sox signed OF Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43 million extension.
The Chicago press pointed out that Alonso and Jay were offseason workout buddies of Machado, while the Sox front office did everything they could to downplay the connection publicly.
While the Chicago media circled the wagons around the franchise, the rest of the country was laughing at the White Sox over the attempt to sign Machado. After announcing they had made an eight-year, $250 million offer, and Machado had signed a 10-year, $300 million offer, White Sox team president Kenny Williams was left to try to justify that the offer could have reached 10 years and $350 million if all options were exercised and all criteria were met in on-field performance. In the same breath, he said the White Sox just couldn’t afford to go to $300 million guaranteed. I feel like this was lost on most people, saying “we can’t afford to pay you $300 million, but we can afford to pay you $350 million.” The White Sox were the laughingstock of baseball outside of the city of Chicago (and were publicly laughed at during Machado’s press conference announcing his signing with the Padres) and the Sox finished the season with a 72-89 record, a 10-game improvement from hitting rock bottom the previous year with a 100-loss season.
The window of contention begins to open. And the White Sox struck hard and fast.
– On November 21, 2019, the White Sox signed C Yasmani Grandal to the largest contract in team history, four years and $73 million.
– On December 10, 2019, in an attempt to shore up right field for the contention window, they traded OF Steele Walker to the Texas Rangers for OF Nomar Mazara.
– On December 30, 2019, in an attempt to shore up the rotation, they signed free agent LHP Dallas Keuchel.
– On January 2, the White Sox signed minor league OF Luis Robert to a six-year contract worth $50 million with options that could push the deal to $88 million.
– On January 9, the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion as a free agent to plug a hole at DH.
The White Sox were rumored for months to be in the market for RHP Zack Wheeler, who signed with the Phillies for less money than the White Sox offered (no monetary information was ever released but the significant facts were never disputed by the White Sox or Wheeler) and for the second straight offseason the Sox were left with egg on their faces, and as I’ll address later, I think this was the end of the big market free agent pursuits by the White Sox. Whether they were scared or just figured it wasn’t worth it, I don’t know.
In the season shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19, the White Sox finished with a 35-25 record.
The White Sox entered 2021 as legitimate World Series contenders, according to the press. They fortified the roster with the following moves:
– On October 29, 2020, the White Sox hired Tony La Russa as manager, replacing Renteria.
– On December 7, 2020, the White Sox traded Dane Dunning to the Texas Rangers for Lance Lynn.
– On December 10, 2020, after failing to acquire Joc Pederson for the third consecutive offseason and releasing Nomar Mazara after he fell flat on his face as the everyday right fielder, the White Sox signed Adam Eaton as a free agent from the Washington Nationals.
And while I can’t find the exact date, at some point during this period, the White Sox signed 3B Yoan Moncada to a five-year, $70 million extension.
– On January 15, the White Sox had a big day. They signed Liam Hendriks and signed international free agents Yoelqui Cespedes and Norge Vera.
The White Sox let C James McCann go, and he signed a $40 million deal with the New York Mets, a little more than half what Yasmani Grandal would make in the same four years.
The Chicago media was all in, thinking the White Sox would acquire everyone from Trevor Bauer to Michael Brantley to George Springer to Kris Bryant. The Chicago fan boys were picturing a $400 million payroll. What the White Sox got was a 93-69 record, an AL Central Division title, and a first-round loss in the playoffs.
Again, the idea that the White Sox were going to break the bank hung over the team as free agency started in November, 2021. Such arrogant statements as “we’re going to sign Marcus Semien but in case we don’t, Eduardo Escobar is our backup plan.” (Escobar signed with the New York Mets before Semien signed with the Texas Rangers and the White Sox were clearly never in on either of them). Another embarrassing situation revolved around OF Michael Conforto, whose name was bandied about for months until it was revealed he wouldn’t be playing in 2022 due to shoulder surgery. (Prior to this announcement, a White Sox “news” site had posted a column saying that the Sox had a massive offer on the table for Conforto, but because he wasn’t vaccinated the team wouldn’t sign the deal. Every bit of that was subsequently proven to be completely fabricated in someone’s brain).
The 2022 MLB lockout lasted from December to March, and the White Sox made two moves prior to the beginning of the lockout (during which MLB transactions were not allowed):
– On November 30, 2021, the White Sox signed RHP Kendall Graveman as a free agent.
– On December 1, 2021, the White Sox resigned IF/OF Leury Garcia.
Following the lockout, and with most of the top-flight talent off the board, the White Sox made the following transactions:
– On March 14, the White Sox signed RHP Joe Kelly as a free agent.
– On March 15, the White Sox signed IF Josh Harrison as a free agent.
– On April 1, the White Sox traded RHP Craig Kimbrel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for OF A.J. Pollock.
– On April 3, the White Sox traded C Zack Collins to the Toronto Blue Jays for C Reese McGuire.
– On April 5, the White Sox signed RHP Johnny Cueto as a free agent.
At the trade deadline, the White Sox sent McGuire to the Boston Red Sox for LHP Jake Diekman.
Not mentioned in the transactions (as I made those strictly important acquisitions) was LHP Dallas Keuchel was designated for assignment on May 28.
Now, I went through all of those transactions so we can look on a case-by-case basis how the rebuilt roster looks and how the players who were acquired for and during the rebuild have fared. I’m going to list the most relevant statistics to each player listed above in bold and these numbers are the stats the player accumulated as a member of the White Sox ONLY. And I’ll start at the beginning:
Yoan Moncada: In six seasons with the White Sox, Moncada has compiled a 13.2 WAR and a .254/.337/.425 stat line. His 2019 season is an outlier, with a 5.2 WAR and .315/.367/.548 line and 25 home runs. A consistent stolen base threat in the minor leagues, he’s stolen 3 bases in 5 attempts since the beginning of the 2020 season.
Michael Kopech: Kopech missed the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery and the 2020 season with “personal problems” as best as I can describe them. He seems to finally be putting it together in 2022, but has compiled a 9-12 career record and a 4.1 WAR (four of those victories and 2.6 WAR coming in 2022). Hopefully his best years are ahead of him because he seems to really be perfecting his craft.
Lucas Giolito: This was the guy I thought would be the centerpiece of the rebuild. Like Moncada, he’s had one very good season and a lot of average-to-below-average seasons around that. In 2019, Gio made the All Star team and finished with 14 wins, a 3.41 ERA, a 134 ERA+ and a 5.5 WAR, all career highs. His 2022 season has been poor, with eight wins, a 4.91 ERA, an 81 ERA+ and a 0.1 WAR.
Reynaldo Lopez: Like Kopech, Lopez has really hit his stride this season, but not as a starter, as a high-leverage reliever. A failed starter (in 2019, Lopez compiled a 10-15 record with a 5.38 ERA in 33 starts, with an 85 ERA+ and 0.3 WAR). In 2022, after corrective eye surgery and a move to the bullpen, Lopez is 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA, 141 ERA+ and 1.0 WAR.
Dylan Covey: My choice for the worst player acquisition during the rebuild (and everyone knows my feelings about Adam Eaton). In three seasons with the White Sox, Dylan Covey compiled a 6-29 record, a 6.54 ERA, a 66 ERA+ and a -3.0 WAR. I don’t know who saw what in this guy, he is literally one of the worst pitchers I have ever seen in 30+ years of watching baseball. Absolutely pathetic. Thankfully he was let go in 2019.
Luis Robert: This is a guy that I can honestly say, the numbers don’t tell the story. Robert has a career .297/.342/.488 line with an OPS+ of 128 and an 8.0 WAR in three seasons. The problem is, he’s played in 206 of 335 games (as of the time of this writing), which means he has missed roughly 40% of the Sox games he’s been eligible to play up to this point. The talent is definitely there. But if you can’t play the game, those “five tools” are completely worthless.
Dylan Cease: The real gem of the rebuild, Dylan has compiled a 34-23 record with a 3.66 ERA, 118 ERA+ and 7.3 WAR since 2019. His 2021 season was excellent, featuring 13 wins and leading the league in starts with 32, to go along with 226 strikeouts in 165.2 innings. His 2022 season has been transcendent, with 12 wins, a 1.96 ERA, 204 ERA+, a 4.4 WAR and 174 strikeouts in 128.2 innings. There is either a Cy Young award or a massive free agent deal with a better team in his future. Or maybe both.
Eloy Jimenez: Being honest, Eloy is my second favorite player on the White Sox after Jose Abreu. But he suffers from the same issue as Luis Robert: An inability to stay healthy. Eloy has played 271 games for the White Sox over the past four seasons, out of 497 possible. That’s roughly 55%. Just a little more than half of the games he could have played in. While his stat line is certainly solid (.273/.319/.498 with an .817 OPS and 118 OPS+), it doesn’t really matter if you can’t stay in the lineup.
Blake Rutherford: Blake was going to be the third outfielder with Robert and Eloy. He was highly-touted coming from the Yankees. However, in his six-year minor league career, he has compiled a .250/.286/.404 stat line with an OPS of .731. Those numbers wouldn’t cut it at the MLB level, let alone the MiLB level, and he was designated for assignment before being brought back off the 40 man roster.
Jose Ruiz: It’s amazing to think this guy is in his fifth season on the south side. Ruiz looked like he had turned a corner in 2021 (3.05 ERA, 144 ERA+, 1.1 WAR) but he has quickly fallen back to earth in 2022 (4.03 ERA, 99 ERA+, 0.5 WAR). Good stuff but nothing more than a spare arm that should never see a high-leverage situation.
James McCann: Even though he’s no longer on the team, I just wanted to point out that McCann signed a four-year, $40 million deal with the Mets the year after Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox. Considering both of their numbers with those teams, I can’t imagine anyone would want four years of Grandal at $33 million more than McCann. Neither can hit a beach ball but McCann is certainly more mobile behind the plate. For the record, McCann’s stat line with the Mets (.223/.285/.335) compared with Grandal’s line with the Sox (.225/.368/.408 and Grandal’s OBP is out of whack due to his insane 2021 season and .420 OBP). Nothing will ever convince me that Grandal is $33 million better than McCann.
Yasmani Grandal: See above. I don’t know if the Sox thought they were getting Carlton Fisk 2.0 but they didn’t. Grandal was on the wrong side of 30 and was coming off a 2019 season with the Milwaukee Brewers in which he hit a career-high 28 home runs and drove in a career-high 77. He’s come nowhere near those numbers since while making $18 million a year. His 2022 batting line (.203/.307/.264) will be the worst of his career by far and he still has another season to go at $18 million. I know it’s unpopular to say, especially among the fan boys, but that was a truly poor signing.
Nomar Mazara: This deal made me angry because I really started to notice the Sox had decided to take the cheap way out in their future acquisitions. The Chicago press presented him as untapped potential, even though he had over 2,000 plate appearances at the MLB level. I heard numbers thrown about like “35 home runs and 100 RBI” from a guy who had never hit more than 20. I told everyone who would listen it was a bad signing. Come to find out, it was a bad signing. Mazara hit .228/.295/.294 with 3 home runs in 42 games and was not brought back after the season.
Dallas Keuchel: Another deal I didn’t like. Not that I didn’t like the signing at the time but the contract was insane from my perspective. Clearly on the downside of his career, Keuchel got a three-year deal from the White Sox for $55.5 million. This was nothing more than a way for the White Sox to save face after Zack Wheeler signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for less money, embarrassing the White Sox organization in the process. So what did the White Sox get for that $55.5 million? A 17-16 record, a 4.79 ERA, a 91 ERA+ and a 0.9 WAR. Also $18 million wasted that they have to pay him after he was DFA’d.
Edwin Encarnacion: Not much to say here, his contract wasn’t that outlandish (one year for $12 million) but in typical form, he was a free agent signing that woefully under performed. In 44 games, Encarnacion put up a .157/.250/.377 stat line with a 70 OPS+ with 10 home runs and 19 RBI. He topped off what is, in retrospect, and absolutely horrible offseason that was celebrated at the time.
Lance Lynn: I like Lance Lynn, and he’s been relatively successful in his White Sox tenure, but I would have stopped short of giving him the two-year, $38 million extension he received. While his first year was certainly acceptable (2.69 ERA, 163 ERA+, 5.3 WAR), he’s not looking like he’s worth the money in 2022 (5.88 ERA, 68 ERA+, -0.7 WAR). A starting pitcher could be found somewhere to put up better numbers than that at half the price.
Adam Eaton: This is just covering his second round with the White Sox. Eaton was signed to a $7 million deal after perennial target Joc Pederson refused to sign and instead took less money to play across town for the Cubs. Eaton’s return engagement was not quite as productive as his first, as he compiled a .201/.298/.344 stat line with a 75 OPS+ and 0 WAR. The hole in right field that Mazara was supposed to fill ate up Eaton as well. He was designated for assignment after 58 games.
Liam Hendriks: Another sore spot with me. The numbers didn’t tell the story with this guy, either. A failed starter who then became a failed middle reliever somehow caught lightning in a bottle and became a very good closer for a year and a half before the White Sox dumped a three-year, $54 million deal in his lap. Hendriks is a low-leverage closer who does his best work starting a clean inning with a three-run lead. Anything less than that and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for him to blow it.
Kendall Graveman: A good signing (though a bit expensive for a set-up man at three years and $24 million) who has pitched very well and looks like a good investment so far, with a 2.59 ERA, 155 ERA+ and 1.1 WAR so far in 2022.
Leury Garcia: Longest-tenured White Sox player, been with the team for a full decade. And in that full decade, he has put up a .253/.294/.353 stat line with an OPS+ of 77 (remember, 100 is average and this is over the entire 10 years he’s played for the White Sox) and a WAR, over 10 years, of 4.5. And signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract prior to the 2022 season. I don’t care if he can play every position on the field, pop the corn and clean the toilets, you can pick up utility players every day that would make half that amount and put up superior statistics. No one will ever be able to explain this to me to my satisfaction.
Joe Kelly: “Let’s throw money at the bullpen” seemed to be the mantra of the White Sox front office during the 2021-22 offseason. Joe Kelly was not really a needed asset, and his multiple injuries in 2022 to go along with his 5.84 ERA and -0.4 WAR show this wasn’t a great investment. Yes, his numbers are skewed by his poor start to the season, but this is supposed to be a team that’s contending for a World Series, not nursing guys back to health that shouldn’t have been signed in the first place.
Josh Harrison: I like Josh Harrison, but I didn’t like this signing other than it would have been perfect as a replacement for Leury Garcia. Harrison’s days of being an everyday second baseman should have ended around 2017 in Pittsburgh, and he should be a full time utility player, a role I believe he would excel in. He started extremely poorly in 2022 but has since ramped up his stats to an acceptable level (.245/.312/.381 with a 96 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR) for a utility player, far better than Garcia is producing.
A.J. Pollock: I wanted to see the Sox acquire Pollock in 2019, when he left the Arizona Diamondbacks for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent. That version of Pollock was coming off a 21 home run season, a .257/.316/.484 stat line with an OPS+ of 108 and a 2.2 WAR. The A.J. Pollock the White Sox got is hitting .236/.287/.351 with five home runs and a -0.1 WAR.
Johnny Cueto: After all those acquisitions that failed to pan out or even come close to what was expected, Johnny Cueto was a Godsend. A 2.91 ERA, 137 ERA+ and 2.9 WAR in 15 starts is outstanding, and I’d have to think there’s nothing less than a 100% chance he’ll get a free agent deal this offseason that prices him right out of the White Sox plans. In fact, to put it into perspective, Cueto is making roughly half what Lucas Giolito is making and about about ¼ what Lance Lynn is making.
If we look at this rebuild academically, with our minds instead of our hearts or fandom, it’s clear it’s been a massive failure pretty much across the board. This team, as it is built now, has no chance whatsoever of getting to the World Series. The offense is worse than any I’ve ever seen, regardless of how poor the opposing pitcher is. Pitchers with ERA’s above 5.00 routinely shut down the White Sox offense.
I’m worried about where we go from here. The concept of just saying “well, let’s just take the same group into next season and hope it’s better” isn’t going to do anything for anyone, and I’m sure Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t want to spend another $200 million on a .500 team. But those long-term contracts that Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert signed, along with the overpays for Liam Hendriks and Leury Garcia and Kendall Graveman and Lance Lynn have the Sox in a precarious position, there isn’t going to be a lot of roster turnover (Cueto and Jose Abreu and Josh Harrison are the only pending free agents) unless the White Sox can somehow convince another team to take one of those overstuffed contracts off the books.
That’s not gonna be easy because I can’t picture anyone saying “sure, I’ll take two years of Yoan Moncada at $41 million and I’ll give you a nice prospect package or a serviceable veteran at a lower pay rate in return.” The long-term deals didn’t quite work out the way the deals for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana did. Those were the building blocks of the rebuild. This team is in a purgatory where they can’t really move those contracts to rebuild because the players attached to them are not worth the money they’re being paid, pretty much across the board (with the exception being Johnny Cueto). This is basically what happened to the Chicago Cubs, who priced their players right out of their payroll. But at least they got a World Series ring out of the deal. The only White Sox players with rings in their future will be getting wedding rings.
If I were running this organization, this offseason I would trade Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito (both of whom I don’t expect to be around long term and both of whom are at the height of their value as trade pieces), I would see if Jake Burger is a legitimate full-season third base option and if I can’t trade Moncada, I’d DFA him after next season (it would be easier to accept blowing $20 million than $40 million for absolutely nothing). I’d also DFA Leury Garcia. The Sox were willing to do so with Dallas Keuchel and the money would be less if Garcia were DFA’d next season. The problem is I just don’t see the Sox being willing to either eat that much money in DFA’s or be willing to admit that chances that extreme need to be made. But the Sox managed to get rid of Chris Sale, who had far more success than Lucas Giolito (who is guaranteed gone as a free agent after the 2023 season anyway). The bottom line is, changes need to be made.
If you took the time to read this entire presentation, I thank you. I’ve worked on this for the better part of three days because I’m tired of arguing with people about the state of this franchise. It’s in a bad way right now. The Sox aren’t suddenly going to “get hot” and just mow through the rest of the season and the playoffs and win the World Series. Those things just don’t happen. Or don’t happen often. Everyone uses the 2021 Atlanta Braves as an example but what are the chances of that happening two years in a row?
I sincerely believe the Cleveland Guardians will win the AL Central in 2022, with the White Sox finishing second and the Minnesota Twins finishing third. The Sox will also fall short of the Wild Card. At that point, hopefully changes will be made. Or they’ll stand pat and say “if it wasn’t for all the injuries…”
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.
Rather than filling it out and posting on their blog I just decided to pinch their template and fill it out myself, which will make my offseason plans blog a lot easier to follow along with. I don’t want this to end up being 5,000 words like my last entry. And I need to point out, this isn’t what I think the team is going to do, this is what I would do. I did this last year as well, and was horribly wrong with all of my predictions, so we’ll see how it flies this year. I think things are a little more “defined” this year with the roster so there won’t be a lot of changes except in the bullpen and at second base.
So, here we go.
The White Sox are still the class of the AL Central, though the Detroit Tigers are closing the gap and closing it fast, especially with their young pitching. I still see the White Sox winning the division by at least five games, however.
The number after the player name is what MLB Trade Rumors projects the player will receive in arbitration.
Lucas Giolito: $7.9M – Tender. This is a textbook example of a “no-brainer.” Lance Lynn, Giolito and Dylan Cease are the backbone of the rotation.
Reynaldo Lopez: $2.8 – Tender. He did a great job in the spot I said three years ago he was made for, a long reliever and spot starter. Now that “bullpen games” are a thing, it’s nice to have a former full-time starter in that spot.
Evan Marshall: $2.3M – Non-tender. Some people say bring him back on a Minor League deal since he’s about to have Tommy John Surgery. I say don’t bother, thanks for the help the past few years but it’s time for you to move along.
Brian Goodwin: $1.7M – Non-tender. I like Goodwin alright but at this point he would be a fifth or sixth outfielder and I don’t see that being worth $1.7 million.
Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M – Non-tender. This guy’s career was nearly ruined by Ricky Renteria, but he’s not worth $1.2 million at this point. I would extend a Minor League deal and an invitation to Spring Training, however.
Adam Engel: $2.2M – Tender. Last season I wanted to see Engel start full time in right field, but the Sox brain trust decided that signing Adam Eaton was the answer. I said that wasn’t a good idea, come to find out it wasn’t a good idea. I do like the idea of bringing back Engel but just as a fourth outfielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner.
Jace Fry: $1M – Non-tender. This guy has pitched in 162 games at the Major League level. He has a career ERA of 5.04. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a million dollar salary.
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option. These were already announced but I’m giving my theory behind what I would have done had I been in charge.
Craig Kimbrel: $16M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox but lights-out closers don’t grow on trees and he’ll be worth something to someone, a team that’s smart enough to use him where he’s comfortable, not as a set-up man. The Sox won’t get a return anywhere near what they paid, but getting anything back at all is a bird in the hand.
Cesar Hernandez: $6M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox (is there an echo in here?) but given his salary and the lack of good available second basemen, I’d absolutely have brought him back and given him a chance to make us forget 2021.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, or let go?
Leury Garcia (Made $3.5 million in 2021) – Resign – I would bring Leury back at the right price, as insurance at second base and as my main utility player. Having said that, he would NOT play every day or even close to that. Once or twice a week, unless he’s filling in for someone injured.
Carlos Rodon (Made $3M in 2021) – Let Go – So long, Carlos. His inability to stay healthy for a full season in seven years is not lost on anyone, and the idea of him getting a three or four-year deal in this economic climate in baseball is a joke. He’ll get a one-year “prove you can stay healthy just once” deal and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get another one-year deal for 2023, or maybe a one-year deal with a club option or vesting options if he pitches a certain number of innings.
Billy Hamilton (Made $1M in 2021) – Resign – I like the idea of bringing Billy back as a fifth or sixth outfielder because there is no one equal with the glove or the speed that he can bring to the roster. I wouldn’t want to see him starting for an extended period but he definitely has a place on the roster.
Ryan Tepera (Made $950,000 in 2021) – Resign – He was absolutely lights out with the Sox in 2021 (and with the Cubs, as well) but he’s going to make up for his paltry salary. Given the lack of arms in the White Sox bullpen right now, I would offer Tepera a two-year deal for $8 million as a starting point and be willing to go two-years for $12 million at most.FREE AGENTS
List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.
Ryan Tepera (White Sox relief pitcher) – For the reasons mentioned above. There are few better relief arms available on the market and the White Sox bullpen has been decimated. Hold on to one of the best. Two years, $8 million.
Leury Garcia (White Sox IF/OF) – As I said above, I don’t want to see Leury on the field every day unless there’s an injury. He’s the longest-tenured player on the team and deserves to see it through. He can also play any position on the diamond except first base and catcher and play them well. His bat isn’t gonna win a Silver Slugger anytime soon, but it’s far superior to Danny Mendick and years of experience counts for something too. He’s also go the hottest wife in the organization but that’s neither here nor there. Two-years, $8 million.
Collin McHugh (Rays relief pitcher) – I acquired this guy in 2020 on MLB The Show because (a) he’s got a career ERA under 3.80 and is 20 games over .500, (b) in 37 games last year, including 7 starts, he had a 1.55 ERA and (c) he was born in Naperville. This is the guy you want in your bullpen as a contender, not Jose Ruiz.
Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.
Dallas Keuchel and $10 million to whatever team will take him for whatever they’ll offer. Some of you will no doubt think I’m crazy but I didn’t realize until just a few days ago that Dallas Keuchel does NOT have a mutual option in his contract, he has a VESTING option: If he pitches 160 innings in 2022, he will then be under contract in 2023 for $20 million. If you think there’s NO chance of that happening, he pitched 162 innings in 2021. Get a Minor League player who ranks between 15-20 on his club and get this guy out of town, fast.
Yoan Moncada to the Seattle Mariners for one of their Minor League outfielders. The Mariners are loaded with top-shelf Minor League outfielders and their starting third baseman for the past decade, Kyle Seager, is a free agent. While I’m a fan of Moncada, his salary more than doubles in 2022 (from $6 million to $13 million) and tops off in 2024 at $24 million. For that kind of money, I’d like more than .263/14/61 and 157 strikeouts. This will also give some payroll relief going forward. I’d give Jake Burger every opportunity to take over at third base, even if that means hitting him in the 9th spot in the order and letting him work through whatever issues he’ll have, just like the Sox did with Robin Ventura over 20 years ago. Robin had an 0-41 streak at one point during his rookie season but they didn’t lose faith and he became one of the best third basemen in franchise history.
Craig Kimbrel to the Philadelphia Phillies for MiLB IF Logan Simmons and LHP Kyle Dohy. These two are not top prospects for the Phillies but given Kimbrel’s poor two months with the White Sox, it’s definitely not a bad return. Dohy made it to the Phillies last season after a tough year at AAA but you can always find room for a LHP in the bullpen. Simmons is more of a long-term flier, he can play second, short and third and he’s only 21 years old, showing good power (21 home runs in 413 career Minor League at-bats) and speed 14 stolen bases). He won’t help now, but when the next rebuild begins in 2024 or 2025, he could be a good piece to have on hand.
My lineup will consist of Yasmani Grandal at catcher, Jose Abreu at first, Cesar Hernandez at second, Tim Anderson at shortstop and Jake Burger at third, with Eloy Jimenez in left, Luis Robert in center and Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets platooning in right. Vaughn and Sheets would also split the DH role with whoever needs a day off. The bench will consist of Zack Collins, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Billy Hamilton and a couple of current minor leaguers as depth pieces.
My rotation would consist of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Jimmy Lambert, with a mix of Reynaldo Lopez and Garret Crochet handling long relief and spot starts. Aaron Bummer and Ryan Burr handling set-up duties with Liam Hendriks closing. The rest of the bullpen would consist of Tepera, McHugh, Matt Foster and whatever Minor League arms have a good Spring Training, possibly Jimmy Cordero.
I know the fan boys are going to hate this, because I’m sure they’re sitting with their phones right now just waiting to hear that the White Sox signed Marcus Semien to play second base and Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto to play right field. I absolutely guarantee none of those moves are going to happen. The payroll currently sits around $140 million, and that’s before those arbitration numbers are figured in.
This is why I think now is a good time to try moving some excess payroll. Moncada is not so dynamic that he’s worth the money he’s going to be making the next three seasons, Keuchel could be making $38 million over the next two seasons (and definitely making $18 million in 2022). Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are also due raises each year for the next few years as well, and the White Sox only have control over Lucas Giolito until 2024.
I’d love to see the White Sox just go balls out with a $200 million payroll but that has never happened and it’s never going to happen, at least not this decade. So if you’re looking for free agents, don’t look for the $200 or $300 million deals, look for the one-year or two-year deals for under $20 million to fill in the holes. The rebuild is over, for now.
And for everyone who wants to crucify me every year for saying the Sox aren’t signing any $100 million free agents, just remember that they never have, even when they had the payroll flexibility to do so. And by 2024, this team, just as it is now, will have an astronomical payroll, and at that point, a new rebuild will begin. So hopefully, over the next couple of years, the White Sox can get to (and win) a World Series. They have the talent.
I decided that this year I would do an immediate review of the Chicago White Sox season rather than waiting and letting things settle down and taking emotion out of the equation. I wanted to allow myself some feelings in the review instead of being so academic about it. So, immediately following the White Sox ALDS Game Four loss to the Astros, I went to work.
Looking at the big picture, it was a reasonably successful season for the White Sox. A 93-69 record and the American League Central Division title was almost expected, but winning the division by 13 games was not. The Sox were the only AL Central team with a record over .500 and the Minnesota Twins, two-time defending champions, bottomed out with a 73-89 record and a last-place finish. On the surface, it was a dominating performance by the Sox.
But if you look a little closer, you see just how much of a down year it was for the division. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are embarking on rebuilds, the Twins just imploded and the Cleveland Indians were unable to overcome injuries to their starting rotation. And the White Sox, in general, feasted on their division rivals. They were not as good against teams over .500 and that was a known issue when the team headed into the playoffs.
Manager Tony La Russa was a surprise, as much as a Hall of Fame manager can surprise, as a lot of fans thought he would be a poor fit with the team. That was not the case and he had an exceptionally good season, and should finish in the top two for AL Manager of the Year. I hope he’ll be back in 2022 because the options to replace him do not instill much confidence.
The lineup was expected to be a juggernaut and fell well short of expectations. Part of this, of course, was due to injury, as RF Eloy Jimenez, C Yasmani Grandal and CF Luis Robert all spent extensive stretches on the injured list. White Grandal and Robert seemed to catch fire after they returned, Jimenez seemed lost after his return from the IL. Shortstop Tim Anderson and OF Adam Engel also spent time on the IL and injuries were a year-long issue for the franchise.
Among the players who were able to remain healthy, 3B Yoan Moncada saw his numbers take a precipitous drop from 2019 (.315 with 25 home runs and 79 RBI in 149 games in 2019 compared to .263 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 144 games in 2021). First baseman Jose Abreu put up extremely similar power numbers (33 home runs and 123 RBI in 2019 with 30 home runs and 117 RBI in 2021) but saw his batting average lose more than 20 points.
The pitching staff was supposed to be one of the league’s best and fell far short, both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Lucas Giolito was an early season Cy Young favorite and finished the year with an 11-9 record and a 3.53 ERA, while Dallas Keuchel completely fell off, with a 9-9 record and an unsightly 5.28 ERA. Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon both had solid seasons but injuries were an issue, leaving Dylan Cease (13 wins and 226 strikeouts in 165 innings) as the de facto ace, with Jimmy Lambert being the only legit minor league option.
The White Sox bullpen carried the team at times, as closer Liam Hendriks lead the American League in saves (38) despite giving up more home runs (11) than walks (7). The trade deadline move for All Star closer Craig Kimbrel was a complete and total bust, as Kimbrel’s splits between the Cubs (0.49 ERA, 64 strikeouts, 13 walks) and White Sox (5.09 ERA, 36 strikeouts, 10 walks) were shocking. Future starters Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet were solid but their time in the bullpen should end, if not next season by 2023 at the latest.
The future, however, isn’t as bright as the fan boys would have you think.
No, I’m not expecting a Twins-style fall-off. The Sox will still be contenders. But there are problems and they are significant. For starters, the Sox are going to be looking for a right fielder for the third straight season. The White Sox tried a committee in 2019 after letting Avisail Garcia leave, then brought in Nomar Mazara in 2020 and Adam Eaton in 2021, all small-minded moves made on a budget and all failed miserably and the hole still remains.
Second base is also a question mark now with the trade of former first round pick Nick Madrigal to the Cubs in the Kimbrel deal and the deadline acquisition of Cesar Hernandez from the Indians, though Hernandez hit only .232 (compared to his .270 career average) with three home runs in 53 games. Hernandez has a $6 million club option for 2022 and may return anyway despite his lackluster season due to lack of options and his reasonable salary. Which brings me to the biggest issue this offseason: The payroll.
As of this moment, the White Sox 2022 payroll stands at $141 million, an astronomical sum for this club, and not counting potential free agents or any players with club options, like Hernandez and Kimbrel (for the record, Kimbrel’s option is valued at $16 million). Many of the players the club signed in previous years to long-term extensions are due for large raises, not the least of which is Moncada, who will go from making $6 million in 2021 to $13 million in 2022. Jimenez and Robert will both see their salaries double and Tim Anderson is set to get a $2 million raise. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez should both expect raises as well.
Adding those numbers to the big salaries for Abreu, Lynn, Grandal and the basically-worthless Keuchel (all of whom are scheduled to make more than $18 million in 2022) will absolutely handcuff the White Sox when it comes to potential free agent upgrades.
The fact is, the 2021-22 free agent class isn’t exactly outstanding, other than the shortstop class, which the Sox have no use for. Second base and right field, the spots the White Sox need help the most, are generally weak, minus second baseman Marcus Semien who should easily score $20 million annually in free agency and right fielder Nick Castellanos, who can opt out of the remaining two years and $34 million on his contract with the Cincinnati Reds. There is no way the White Sox can afford to sign top-shelf talent with the current payroll situation, so they’ll likely continue to do bargain bin shopping and hope to catch lightning in a bottle.
It’s also only going to get worse as by 2024 Moncada will be earning $24 million, and Jimenez and Robert will hit the $10 million mark by 2023. The payroll will be completely out of control by 2023 and at that point I expect a tear down and likely anyone on the roster besides Robert and youngsters like Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets and Kopech and Crochet is likely to be traded for prospects and some payroll relief.
There is no doubt in my mind that 2021 was the year for the White Sox to win the World Series. The division was winnable (though I never imagined winning it by 13 games) and there was no clear-cut dominant team in the American League. Instead, the offense fell flat on it’s face for a large portion of the season and the pitching struggled and another first round playoff exit was the end result. So while it feels like it was a reasonably successful season, the finish was basically the same as last season other than the division title. And things will get a lot more difficult in the division next season as the Twins and Indians attempt to rebound and the Tigers and Royals take the next steps in their rebuilds. While the White Sox should still win the division in 2022 I can’t see next year’s playoffs going much better than the 2021 version. And chances are the Wild Card teams will both come from the AL East again, so finishing second in the AL Central won’t be worth anything.
Besides second base and right field, decisions have to be made regarding the backup catcher situation (where I would keep Zack Collins, but that’s just me), the rotation (where Carlos Rodon is a free agent and Dallas Keuchel is an $18 million question mark) and the bullpen (I can’t see Kimbrel’s option being picked up and Ryan Tepera is a free agent). Also, super-sub Leury Garcia is a free agent and he played all over the diamond in 2021 and drove in 54 runs.
There is also very little talent in the minor leagues that is Major League ready, and the system itself ranks next to last in Major League Baseball, just ahead of the Washington Nationals. While Jared Kelley, Norge Vera, Sean Burke and Matthew Thompson all have future potential, none are even close to being Major League-ready and there are few bats that figure to ever make the transition. The fact that Jake Burger is still a highly-ranked prospect at age 26 shows how thin the talent is in the organization. This lack of depth, on both the MLB and MiLB levels, will hurt when injuries strike.
It’s not going to be easy in 2022 but the White Sox should win the AL Central and make the playoffs again, but another first-round exit is likely. I can’t see Tony La Russa managing more than one more season, and I’m anxious to see what direction the franchise goes in 2023, whether they go “outside the family” for a manager or hand the job to bench coach Miguel Cairo for the inevitable rebuild that should begin in 2024, or 2025 at the latest.
In closing, I’ve been a White Sox fan for 30+ years and that’s not going to change. And while it isn’t pleasant knowing the White Sox likely won’t make it to a World Series during the early to mid-2020’s, its still nice to be able to at least have the chance by being a consistent playoff participant. Hopefully next year the team will show some kind of sense of urgency, even though I don’t think it’s going to matter in the long run, I have no doubt 2021 should have been “the year” and it was, without question, the best chance for a World Series win.
As a longtime Chicago White Sox fan, I can say this offseason has been quite a roller coaster ride. The disgust over the deciding third game of the 2020 American League Wild Card series against the A’s turned into absolute euphoria at the announcement that manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper had been relieved of their duties.
That quickly turned to surprise and confusion when general manager Rick Hahn did a 180 on his “what we’re looking for in a manager” talk, telling the press he wanted to hire a manager with recent championship experience, only to turn around and pass on the guy he was describing (A.J. Hinch) to bring back a nearly 80-year old Tony La Russa.
In turn, that negativity quickly turned around with the hiring of pitching coach Ethan Katz, who turned the career of Lucas Giolito around completely and will hopefully be the breath of fresh air the White Sox pitching staff has needed for five years or more.
While I really did think Hinch was the goal, I can live with La Russa for a couple of years managing the team because I know he’s well-schooled and one of the most successful managers in the history of the game. No one will out-manage him. But I do admit I’m worried about what comes after La Russa leaves the dugout, who will replace him.
As to the roster, I was never stupid enough to believe the White Sox would drop $30 million a year on Trevor Bauer, though I did think maybe there was a chance they would loosen the purse strings for George Springer, not at $30 million annually but maybe at or around $20 million. As it turns out, the purse strings are still quite taut, as instead of spending $30 million on one player, the White Sox will spend $15 million for two, acquiring starting pitcher Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers and signing retread Adam Eaton as a free agent, with Lynn making $8 million in 2021 and Eaton pulling down $7 million.
So far, these are not the moves of a major market team gearing up for a championship run. These are the moves of a small market team who thinks they have enough in the tank to make a one-year run at a championship before it all comes crashing down.
Rick Hahn had said on numerous occasions that the White Sox would not be taking on “rentals,” or players with one year (or less, depending on when they were acquired) of control in exchange for younger talent that they had multiple years of control over. In a trade that reeks of Kenny Williams, the White Sox traded former Top 100 prospect Dane Dunning (who is basically under control until 2027, the last year he’ll be arb eligible) for ONE YEAR of Lance Lynn. And if Lynn goes out in his first Spring Training appearance and his elbow pops? The White Sox are just plain out of luck, without much depth behind him.
Big market championship teams have depth. They can overcome a serious injury and still make a run. If the White Sox were to lose one of their starting five, it’s anyone’s guess where they’re going to get a replacement. Pull Garrett Crochet out of the bullpen and stick him in the rotation to work 200 innings? To put that into perspective, in three years at the University of Tennessee, Crochet worked a total of 132 innings. Jonathan Stiever? He has worked a total of 173 minor league innings. Of course, there’s always Reynaldo Lopez.
After those three, there is literally nothing. A major injury would be a disaster. Two major injuries would cripple the franchise in 2021 and possibly beyond, especially if the injury turned out to be a Tommy John situation. These are dangerous waters.
There is also the back end of the White Sox bullpen, as they are rumored to be pursuing Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks (or at least the Chicago press is hoping they are) while the White Sox own closer for the past two years, Alex Colome, is also a free agent. While the smart money says they’ve GOT to bring one of those two in to close, there’s also the possibility that they hand the job to Aaron Bummer and his $3 million contract.
Again, this is what small market teams do, they make due with what they can.
The offense can be otherworldly, assuming catcher Yasmani Grandal doesn’t get injured, third baseman Yoan Moncada bounces back from COVID-19, Luis Robert makes adjustments from his poor final month of the season and Eaton shows his three year regression with the Nationals is a fluke rather than a trend (everyone already knows what I think).
Barring injury, there’s no reason this team can’t win the American League Central with the team they have. But one catastrophic injury, especially in the rotation, and their goose is cooked. I’m still hopeful of at least one more starting pitcher as well as one of the two closers mentioned earlier and maybe an extra outfielder who can split time with Eaton or Jimenez in the outfield and also spend time at DH. I think the perfect pick for that spot would be Michael Brantley, of the Houston Astros. A veteran and a winner, with a .297 career batting average, he could play a day or two a week in the outfield while Eaton or Jimenez serves as DH, and then DH himself while those two play the outfield.
This would also be good for top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who has never played above Class A and if he were handed the DH job with no safety net and failed, now you’ve got another hole in the lineup. Brantley would solve a lot of problems in one signing. You also can’t overestimate having a winning veteran in the clubhouse with a young team.
So at this point (December 18, 2020), I’m underwhelmed with the White Sox offseason so far. The bungled managerial hiring, trading seven years of Dane Dunning for one year of Lance Lynn and bringing back Adam Eaton were all poor decisions, but none of them should have lasting implications, as I doubt La Russa lasts more than two years in the dugout and Lynn and Eaton will both likely be gone in 2022, regardless of Eaton’s option.
However, a lot can be rectified by signing Brantley and either Colome or Hendriks, as well as another starter, preferably either Jose Quintana or James Paxton, who can fill in the back of the rotation, allow Dylan Cease to hold down the fifth spot as he works to regain his lost command, let Michael Kopech get himself back into game shape at AAA Charlotte after a full two years off and move Reynaldo Lopez into a swingman role as a long reliever and spot starter, a role I think he would excel in because he still has outstanding stuff.
Next year (2021) will mark 30 years I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan, and while it’s been great to experience the 2005 World Series title and the division titles in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2008 and the Wild Card appearance in 2020, that’s not much to show in 30 years. I’m hoping the 30 years going forward, and especially the next five or six, will exceed the previous 30, but this team needs to develop a winning attitude, not so much on the field as they do in the front office. So I’ll wait to see what happens between now and February before I make a final grade on the White Sox offseason. But there definitely needs to be some more improvement and it would still be cheaper overall than signing Trevor Bauer for $30 million.
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.
Rather than filling it out and posting on their blog I just decided to pinch their template and fill it out myself, which will make my offseason plans blog a lot easier to follow along with. I don’t want this to end up being 5,000 words like my last entry. And I need to point out, this isn’t what I think the team is going to do, this is what I would do.
So, here we go.
I have no question whatsoever that this team is a World Series contender. The Sox need depth more than they need any front-line players, so I will be using that as a guide through this exercise.
The first number after the player name is his 2020 salary and the second is what MLB Trade Rumors projects the player will receive in arbitration.
Nomar Mazara: $5.6M | $5.9M – Tender. I can’t believe I’m saying that under the circumstances, but since he’s under team control for one more year, let him be in a legit platoon with Adam Engel. When I get to free agency, I’ll expand on this decision.
Carlos Rodon: $4.5M | $4.5M – Non-tender. It’s almost funny that a team with starting pitching depth problems would non-tender a former #3 overall pick but this guy has never made 30 starts at the MLB level (and was called up in 2015). Let him be someone else’s problem.
Lucas Giolito: $2.5M | $5.3M – Tender. That’s a no-brainer. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to rush in with a contract extension offer just yet. I want to see how he reacts to not having James McCann carrying him through a game.
Reynaldo Lopez: $1.7M | $2.2M – Tender. But I’m moving him to a long-reliever/spot starter swingman role. I think if he’s asked to do less than go five innings, he may be a lot better at his job.
Evan Marshall: $1.3M | $1.9M – Tender. That’s getting a little expensive for a middle relief type, but the guy’s been pretty much lights-out the past two years (2.49 ERA in 2019 and 2.38 ERA in 2020).
Adam Engel: $1M | $1.4M – Tender. See Nomar Mazara. Engel has improved every year and is absolutely worthy of a chance to get some legitimate playing time again, even if it is in a platoon. And sometimes platoons just work themselves out and one guy separates himself while the other flounders.
Jace Fry: $800K | $1M – Non-tender. Dude had a career-low ERA in 2020, but it was still 3.66. That’s the first time since his 2017 call-up he’s had an ERA below 4.00. A million dollars is a little steep for that kind of production. And in spite of the ERA drop, he walked 12 in 19.2 innings. No, thanks.
Yolmer Sanchez: Uncertain – Non-tender. Anyone who knows me knows what I think of Yolmer. While he was more subdued and professional in 2020, I just don’t think he is of any real value. Danny Mendick can do his job just as well, just with more speed and more power (but admittedly less glove).
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
Edwin Encarnacion: $12M – Decline. A .157 batting average and 19 RBI in 44 games? He gone. Now hand the everyday DH job to Andrew Vaughn, because he was drafted for his bat, not his glove.
Gio Gonzalez: $7M ($500K buyout) – Decline. A 4.83 ERA and declining stats over the past several years says this was likely Gio’s last hurrah. At least he finally got to pitch for the White Sox. It wasn’t worth the wait.
Leury Garcia: $3.5M ($250K buyout) – Pick Up. My main reason is to have a buffer in case Nick Madrigal has issues post-surgery or if he gets injured again. Leury can play all over the diamond (except 1B, C and P) and that kind of versatility is valuable.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, or let go?
Alex Colome (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) – I would do everything I could to hold onto Colome. Outstanding closers are not as easy to find as some people think, and I would definitely NOT hand the job to Cody Heuer or Matt Foster, or even Aaron Bummer just yet. Yes, I know the White Sox caught lightning in a bottle in 2005 with Bobby Jenks but let’s not tempt fate twice. Better to have an experienced, successful closer.
James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) – I was one of the few people who were stoked when the Sox signed McCann prior to the 2019 season, because I knew he would be a massive upgrade behind the plate. The offense came out of nowhere. In a perfect world, the Sox would have given him an extension last offseason and used the money they spent on Yasmani Grandal to acquire more pitching. Now, I let McCann walk and get a starting job (which he deserves) and the payday that comes with it (which he deserves) and let the trio of Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes and Seby Zavala compete for the backup job.
Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) – Absolutely no reason to hold onto Dyson.
Here’s a first: Pick your manager and pitching coach, with any elaboration.
Manager: A.J. Hinch. No-brainer. How often do you get a chance to hire a successful manager who’s not even 50 years old and has won a World Series in the past few years? Cheating scandal aside, there’s no question he’s the best option available.
Pitching coach:Matt Zaleski. May not be Hinch’s first choice, but Zaleski has gotten rave reviews from all of the pitchers he’s worked with as the pitching coach with AAA Charlotte. He’s also young enough to mesh well with the MLB staff.
List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.
Marcus Stroman – Immediately steps in as the number three starter and improves the rotation. I’m sure he and Tim Anderson can mend fences when it comes to winning a World Series together. Four years, $68 million.
Jose Quintana – Immediately steps in as the number four starter improves the rotation. He’s clearly on the downside of his career (even though he’s only 31) but I still would say he’s a lot more dependable than Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning or Michael Kopech at this point in time. These two moves should allow Cease to take over as the fifth starter and let Kopech and Dunning head to Charlotte to increase their workload and build arm strength. One year, $5 million.
T.J. McFarland – Here is your replacement for Jace Fry. Put up less-impressive numbers overall than Fry in 2020 but limits the walks (in his last full season, he walked 20 in 56 innings in 2019) and that’s more important than anything else. One year, $2 million.
Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.
I really don’t see any trades that would make sense unless the White Sox decide to move on from Nomar Mazara and don’t think Adam Engel is the answer and no one on the free agent market is worth a flier. This team is solid top to bottom and only need a few tweaks here and there (mostly depth moves).
My lineup will consist of Grandal at catcher, Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third, with Jimenez in left, Robert in center and Engel/Mazara in right. Vaughn will be the everyday DH. The bench will consist of Zack Collins, Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia and a couple of current minor leaguers as depth pieces.
My rotation would consist of Giolito, Keuchel, Stroman, Quintana and Cease. Colome will close, with Foster and Bummer serving as set-up men. Lopez will serve as a swingman. The rest of the bullpen would consist of Heuer, Marshall, Crochet, Jimmy Cordero and McFarland.
I wanted to make this post much more in-depth, as I had last year but at the moment that was impossible due to a personal situation. I’m showing multiple symptoms of COVID-19 and not knowing what the future may hold if I do, in fact, have the virus, I wanted to at least have something up for the post-season in case I don’t have a chance to actually experience it. Thank you for reading. Peace.
I had planned on doing a season-ending critique of the 2020 Chicago White Sox, much as I had last year, but had planned on waiting until after the World Series. Today’s situation, however, made me move my timeline up a bit.
October 12, 2020: The Chicago White Sox announced they were “parting ways” with manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper, and that the rest of the staff was basically waiting to see if the new manager would retain them. This really came out of left field, as it was pretty much set in stone all season that Renteria and his staff would return until he decided it was time to move on.
Of course, maybe he did. The whole “parting ways” thing really doesn’t give us much insight into who made the decision and what exactly went down. The White Sox are becoming notorious for playing things close to the vest, as Renteria received a contract extension that was not mentioned until months after it had been signed, and no information about length or amount was ever discussed openly.
So first, I’ll touch on the 2020 season and then I’ll move into my top five picks to replace Ricky Renteria, with an “honorable mention” dark horse candidate that most people probably would never even consider.
When I think of the 2020 season, looking back a year or a decade from now, I’ll always think of this team winning in spite of it’s manager. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. This team is so talented that the worst tactical manager I’ve seen in 32 years of watching baseball couldn’t derail this team from a playoff birth. With the exception of DH, third base and right field, this team was exceptional.
Third base should fix itself, once Yoan Moncada recovers fully from COVID, assuming that people do fully recover. Since we don’t know what the long-term effects of the virus are, we can’t really say he’ll immediately bounce back to his 2019 form (.315/25/79). While he only missed eight games in 2020, his numbers took a nosedive (.225/6/24, which would project out to .225/19/75 over a 162 game season).
Moncada clearly looked like he was fighting every day to make contact. If he is able to recapture his health, there’s no reason he can’t bounce back.
Designated hitter and right field are a different matter. I was stoked when the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion, I figured there was no reason he couldn’t come in and drive in 45 runs and be the best DH the Sox have had since Jim Thome left town. Instead we got a .157 batting average and 19 RBI in 44 games. A total waste.
Right field was even worse. While I was really happy about the Encarnacion signing, I hated the acquisition of Nomar Mazara from the day it was announced. I saw Mazara for what he is, a worse version of Jason Heyward, a guy who looks like he should be a .300/40/120 hitter who, for whatever reason, just isn’t. In a full season, Mazara is a .260/20/70 guy. He has a track record. There is no “untapped potential,” he’s been the guy he’s going to be for the past five years. There’s nothing hidden in his ability.
I will admit I was impressed with his glove, as I was under the impression he was not much of an outfielder but he played reasonably well, displaying a soft glove and a strong arm. But as much as his defense improved, his hitting tanked.
This was the first spot where I started to ask myself “why does Renteria insist on playing this guy so much when there’s a better option on the bench?” Adam Engel hit .295 in limited time, has a far better glove (even taking into account Mazara’s improvement) and showed himself to be at least a borderline option to start in 2021.
I had figured all season the Sox would retain Mazara because he’s eligible for arbitration and would surely not be so foolish as to take his case to a hearing, considering his .228/.295/295 slash line. However, after the Renteria firing, I now am not so sure this team won’t just cut it’s losses and non-tender him. Which just makes the whole acquisition that much more ridiculous because they could have Steele Walker in the system and instead may end up with absolutely nothing. Those are loser moves.
The rest of the team, from Jose Abreu’s incredible MVP-caliber season to Tim Anderson’s chase of a second batting title that ran out of gas to James McCann’s excellent second-showing to Eloy Jimenez continuing to improve to the solid debut seasons of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, this team is really solid top to bottom.
That said, Madrigal will improve on his base running and defense and Robert will improve on his strike zone judgment; neither is a finished product.
The pitching was amazing considering the shortcomings. The Sox had only two legit starters and a collection of maybe’s to fill in the other three slots. But they were able to overcome that with a lights-out bullpen that may be the best I’ve ever seen. My hope is that if they can’t sign closer Alex Colome they’ll at least make him a Qualifying Offer, which would give the team an experienced closer again in 2021 and give Colome a nice raise ($18.9 million) for the outstanding season he had. But works needs to be done.
Rick Hahn has been vocal about the faith he has in his young pitchers, mentioning Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Garrett Crochet in particular. I have faith in Cease and Dunning and Crochet, but am not really sure what Kopech will bring to the table, assuming he ever makes it to the table to begin with. He needs to learn that there’s more to life than women and get his head screwed on straight.
So if I were serving as general manager of the White Sox heading into the 2021 season, there are a few obvious areas of need. One, maybe two starting pitchers. A decision to make at closer. A bullpen arm or two to compete with the likes of Jimmy Cordero and Jose Ruiz. A decision about James McCann. And Nomar Mazara. And what to do with the DH spot and whether or not to exercise the option on Edwin Encarnacion.
I’ll begin with the pitching situation. The obvious #1 option on everyone’s board is Trevor Bauer, and no question he would be an incredible addition to the White Sox rotation. However, if his goal is to be a vagabond for the rest of his career, and sign only one-year contracts, I’m going to pass. The White Sox are more than one player away from a World Series-contending team, so signing a guy who is a “final piece” doesn’t make sense if you only get one round into the playoffs and then he leaves.
I’m OK with the names I hear most often after Bauer: Jose Quintana and Marcus Stroman. Yeah, they’re not the biggest names in the world but since we already have Ace 1 and Ace 1-A, we don’t really need to go out looking for a top of the rotation starter. The Sox need back of the rotation production and these guys are both viable options. Neither will be particularly expensive and could be easily jettisoned if one of the younger options (Cease or Kopech or Dunning or even Jonathan Stiever) locks down a spot.
As much as I like James McCann, it’s also time to let him walk. He’s earned an opportunity to be a #1 starting catcher somewhere. Had I been running the team last season there is NO WAY I would have given that massive contract to Yasmani Grandal, I would have given McCann an extension and used what was left over to bolster the pitching staff. Grandal was a luxury this team really didn’t need under the circumstances.
But now that he’s here, we’re stuck with him and hopefully there won’t be a massive decline in his skills as he’ll turn 32 in November.
Since I would also not even consider exercising Encarnacion’s option, my roster would consist of Grandal and Zack Collins at catcher and a platoon of Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn at first base and designated hitter. I don’t see the need to add anyone to this mix, though if Collins fails as the backup catcher, bring up Yermin Mercedes or Seby Zavala and give them a fair shake. There’s lots of depth at the position.
As for right field, my plan there would be the same as it was a year ago. Sign Yasiel Puig. He could probably be had for next to nothing and chances are he’ll give you .265/25/80 and steal 15 bases, far better production than the team has gotten at the position in several years. Worst case scenario, just hand the job to Adam Engel.
This team has proven it is talented enough to win in spite of these holes, but there’s no need to have them when upgrades are available and cheap.
Now, to move on to the managerial vacancy and what I see ahead.
First, I’ll give my top five options as I see them and my darkhorse candidate and I’ll explain who I think will actually get the job and why I see it that way.
Yes, this will probably be eye-rolled over but hear me out.
You want someone whose been a winner recently? This guy lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs three years in a row, a team that hadn’t been there in 21 years. He also has a World Series appearance on his resume with the Colorado Rockies.
I would imagine his age (63) would be the biggest obstacle to his hiring but he’s known as a player’s manager and his resume is excellent. Definitely worth a look.
I think Super Joe is more than qualified to be a Major League manager, and it has shown itself when he’s stepped in for Renteria. The team plays hard for him and he seems to have a plan. He also likes to use the running game, which for some reason Renteria never did, even though this team is loaded with speed and could dominate teams with it, as the old St. Louis Cardinals teams of the 1980s did during their run of success.
But I think Joe may have the same stench of losing on him that Renteria does, not because he’s a loser but because he’s so closely identified with this team during the rebuild, first as third base coach and then as bench coach under Renteria.
A former White Sox player, Joey Cora has done it all in his career except manage at the MLB level. He’s been a minor league manager, MLB coach (including serving as Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach in 2005) and has even served as a broadcaster for MLB Network during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. For whatever reason, he’s never gotten a shot at managing an MLB club and currently serves as third base coach of the Pirates.
Cora should have gotten an MLB managerial job a decade ago, especially coming off serving as bench coach for a World Series team. Not sure what the problem is.
The pluses and minuses here are obvious, as the younger brother of Joey Cora has excelled as a coach and manager, winning two World Series in two years, as a coach with the Houston Astros in 2017 and as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2018.
Then there’s the sign stealing scandal that caused him to lose his job with the Red Sox heading into 2020. That’s likely to follow him wherever he goes and be a detriment to the team that hires him. Honestly, considering the firing of Ron Roenicke, I think the Red Sox will bring Cora back into the big chair again and move forward with him.
SANDY ALOMAR, JR.
Much like Joey Cora, I think Sandy Alomar, Jr. should have had a MLB managerial job a decade ago. A former catcher (which is always considered a plus for a manager since they’re basically an on-field manager and handler of a pitching staff), I can’t for the life of me understand why he hasn’t been hired as a manager. It was rumored that the White Sox wanted to hire Alomar to serve as bench coach under Robin Ventura (a job which subsequently fell to Rick Renteria) but Alomar didn’t want Ventura to be feeling the heat if the team played poorly and his replacement was right there.
There’s another angle to the Alomar story, and that’s the health of Indians manager Terry Francona, who missed a large portion of the 2020 mini-season with health problems. If Francona is unable to return, Alomar would certainly be his replacement, I can’t think there would be any second thoughts about making that move.
The obvious choice. World Series winning manager who is only 46 years old and famously has a degree in psychology from Stanford University. The only downside to Hinch is the cheating scandal with the 2017 Houston Astros and the bad blood that will follow him wherever he goes, much like Alex Cora. But I think it will be worse for Cora than it will be for Hinch, as Cora has been guilty of the charge twice.
Like Alomar, Hinch is a former catcher and one of the best bullpen managers I’ve seen, he’s basically the polar opposite of Ricky Renteria. He’s originally from Iowa and has seven years of managerial experience in spite of his age.
There’s literally no downside here. The guy has a .558 career winning percentage. He’s managed three 100-win teams in his career.
There is also the elephant in the room with Ozzie Guillen, who I think is a better choice than Hinch, because of his connection to the team and the city, the fact that he’s bilingual and the fact that he’s won here before. But Rick Hahn was quick to mention that he would not be considered for the job. At first I thought this was ridiculous, but the more I think about it, the more I understand why they made this decision.
Let’s take a recent example of how managers deal with things today. Late in the 2020 season, Renteria put pitcher Carlos Rodon into an unwinnable situation, pitching him out of the bullpen in an important game when he hadn’t worked out of the ‘pen in five years and was just coming back from injury. The move backfired badly and Ricky was quick to go to the press and say “put that one on me,” meaning the criticism.
Let’s be honest, first, Ozzie would never have made a move that ridiculous. Ozzie was an excellent bullpen manager. Second, if a guy went out and completely blew it, Ozzie wouldn’t think twice about going to the press and saying “Rodon really blew it today.” That was about accountability. That’s not really popular in today’s world.
So maybe if this team was a little older, Ozzie would be perfect. But these are still “kids” in the grand scheme of things and I don’t think they wanted Ozzie throwing them under the bus while they’re still “growing.” And I kind of understand that.
Naturally, there will be other candidates besides these and the manager may end up being someone we haven’t even considered. I’m thankful that Rick Hahn mentioned he wanted someone who had experience because that eliminates guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko, who have no business managing a team that’s on the cusp of being a legit World Series contender for multiple seasons.
As this coming year will mark 30 years that I’ve been a fan of this franchise, I have kind of become cynical when anything happens, expecting the team to make the worst decisions but they seem to be growing out of that, so I’m not going into the offseason automatically expecting the worst. I did expect them to keep Nomar Mazara and platoon him with Adam Engel in 2021 just because they had a year of control left, now I’m not so sure. They finally seem to be at the point where they know they can contend and they’ll do the best they can to win. Today’s decision proves that point beyond dispute.
I now want to address Renteria and Cooper. I was never a fan of Renteria’s hiring, and made that clear publicly on a number of occasions immediately after his hiring as well as in the three years since. I always thought of his hiring the same way I looked at the White Sox hiring of Eddie Stanky 50 years earlier or the White Sox trade for Ron Santo in the early 1970s, it was just a way to “put one over” on the Chicago Cubs.
“We’ll take the guy you couldn’t win with and we’ll win with him.”
Naturally I don’t have any personal dislike for Renteria. He’s a good coach and seems to foster a good vibe in the clubhouse. He seems to be a good teacher. But he’s as poor of an in-game strategist as I’ve ever seen. While most managers are playing chess, he seems to be playing 52-card pick-up. Some coaches are just not cut out to be managers and yet they still get opportunities. Lloyd McClendon is a good example, as he proved to be a poor manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates but somehow has gotten opportunities since, with the Mariners and as a interim manager with the Detroit Tigers.
Ricky will be known from here on out as a guy you hire when you do a rebuild and get rid of when it’s time to compete, since it’s now happened twice. The Cubs were smart enough to get rid of him before they were ready to make the jump. The White Sox held onto him a year too long but at least they wasted little time in fixing that.
Coop is a different situation entirely. For whatever reason, the front office was always enamored of Coop even though I think his abilities were grossly overrated. When you look at the parade of guys who were either stars before he got a hold of them (Mark Buehrle was a 16-game winner the year before Coop was promoted to the MLB staff) or were legit starters that saw their careers point down with Coop (Javier Vasquez and Jeff Samardzija). The only two starters that Coop really developed who amounted to anything were Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, which isn’t much to brag about in 19 years.
We were told how great Coop was almost daily from Steve Stone and Rick Hahn and now he has a chance to go get another job and prove it. I think enough people realized that the 2005 staff was loaded with good veteran pitchers who were successful before they came to the White Sox and his recent failures (Samardzija, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease dealing with regression, Lucas Giolito going to his high school coach for help) have rightfully tarnished whatever reputation Coop had cultivated in the past.
This is a “what have you done for me lately” world we live in and Coop hasn’t done anything of note in a long time. And I’ll stick to what I’ve said throughout the mini season of 2020: This team won IN SPITE of the coaching staff, not with it.
So, in closing, this should be a really fun off-season. In a perfect world, the White Sox will hire A.J. Hinch and sign a couple of back-of-the-rotation starters, resign Alex Colome and bring in a legit right fielder who is more production than “untapped potential.” This team can be dominant for a good five or six years, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and go out and win. The Renteria Era is over. The Winning Era has begun.
Peace. And Go Sox. #ChangeTheGame #WhiteSox
After writing this blog I heard that the White Sox are entertaining the idea of talking to former White Sox manager Tony LaRussa about the job.
I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous that idea is. LaRussa is 76 years old and hasn’t managed in nine years. Who in their right mind would want to take a young club and saddle them with a manager who was born during World War II?
There is no way LaRussa could interact with the baseball player of the 2020s, there’s a cultural divide there that’s unbridgeable. And there is an example of the White Sox trying that once before, with disastrous results: In 1976 the White Sox rehired former manager Paul Richards, who had managed the team from 1951 to 1954. He was 67 years old (a decade younger than LaRussa) and hadn’t managed since 1961, a layoff of 15 years. He was totally unprepared for the job and the Sox finished 64-97.
LaRussa was a great manager a generation ago. But his time has passed and the very idea of even discussing the job with him makes me cringe. Don’t do something so ridiculous when you have a great, young team that’s ready to contend.
Overall, the 2019 MLB Winter Meetings, held in San Diego last week, will be remembered for being a lot more action-packed than previous installments. The signings of the top three free agents (Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon) were almost a watershed moment, since we had to wait until Spring Training had started last year for the top two free agents to finally sign their massive contracts.
At last year’s Winter Meetings, the Chicago White Sox made a blip-on-the-radar trade, acquiring starting pitcher Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor leaguer Yordi Rosario and $500,000 in International Bonus money. Not exactly setting the world on fire but bigger things were expected with the pursuit of Manny Machado. In the Rule 5 Draft, the White Sox selected pitcher Jordan Romano from the Toronto Blue Jays and immediately sold him to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.
This year’s winter meetings were not much more exciting than last, and there’s no huge signing to look forward to that explains the lack of movement. The only White Sox transactions to take place were the acquisition of outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for Steele Walker, the 46th overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft and considered the sixth-best prospect in the White Sox organization.
In the Rule 5 Draft, the White Sox made no moves until the minor league portion, when they selected pitcher Will Carter from the Yankees.
A lot of negativity came from the Mazara acquisition, and I can certainly see the reasoning, considering the fact that the front office made the point that they were going to really shake things up this offseason. A below-average corner outfielder isn’t exactly making anyone buy season tickets, so where do they go from here?
People are down on the team (as usual) but this time, it’s not so much the White Sox fault directly as it is the White Sox fault that they’re just not a “destination team.” It’s a fact that the White Sox offered more money to pitchers Zack Wheeler and Jordan Lyles, but both accepted less to sign with the Phillies and Rangers, respectively.
Both were interesting case studies in the White Sox not being a “destination.” Wheeler took less money because his wife wanted him closer to her New Jersey home, which made the White Sox look even more ridiculous since last off-season they figured the way to get Manny Machado was to tug at his heartstrings by bringing in his good buddy Jon Jay and his brother in law, Yonder Alonso. This year, family did matter.
Jordan Lyles, while not a huge acquisition, struck me as even more strange. He turned down less money to sign with the Rangers without giving a reason, but acknowledged the fact that his best season to date (12 wins in 28 starts with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.7 WAR) was a result of working with catcher Yasmani Grandal, now with the White Sox. But apparently working with the catcher that helped him succeed and making more money than he would have made with the White Sox was not enough to seal the deal.
I truly believe the White Sox were going into the Winter Meetings expecting to “win the offseason,” and they had the rug yanked right out from under them.
Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams love to fall back on the rebuild and use that as an excuse every time something doesn’t go their way. After the Machado deal went nowhere last year, the company line was “we were a year too early,” which I agree, made sense. However, what did I hear from Hahn after the Wheeler deal failed? “we are probably a year too early.” Yeah, that’s the kind of excuse that works exactly once.
Unlike every other team in baseball, the White Sox front office does not want to be competitive one second before they absolutely have to be. I’m not sure where this mindset came from, or if it’s just loser thought from a loser franchise, but they are already falling back on the “it’s just year four of the rebuild,” which I expected, but they are spicing it up a bit with “the rebuild slowed down in 2019 due to injuries in the minor leagues,” which means they can try to add a year or two at the end and make it a six or seven-year rebuild instead of five, simply to cover their butts for more losing seasons.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year contract and I doubt they are going to just lay down and let the White Sox walk all over them when it comes time for the Sox to finally be “competitive.” It may just get uglier.
I still see parts of this rebuild that remind me of the 20-year rebuild of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which began in 1993 and finally ended with a playoff appearance in 2013, the first of three Wild Card appearances. But, alas, it went nowhere, no World Series appearances, let alone a championship. Is that in the White Sox future? Maybe.
So, as we move from the 2019 Winter Meetings into the holiday season, little is expected to change until January rolls around. At that point, expect the remaining free agent pitchers (Ryu, Keuchel and Bumgarner) to finally find new homes and I don’t see the White Sox making a major push for any of the above. I see more of a plan of re-signing Ivan Nova and bringing in a pitcher like Shelby Miller on a minor league deal, like the White Sox did last offseason with Ervin Santana, which was a major disappointment.
The White Sox are not close to contending, regardless of what fan boys and manager Rick Renteria will tell you. The pitching staff has one verifiable starter in Lucas Giolito, followed by question marks with Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon (injury), Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez (poor production) and a few minor league options.
And the push for 2021 being the “White Sox year” when it comes to free agency, it seems the train has already left the station because 2021 is going to be one of the weakest free agent classes, especially for pitching, in the past decade or more.
Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts will absolutely be the gem of the players available, while a few will command big money deals and get them (including Astros outfielder George Springer, A’s shortstop Marcus Semien and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto potentially hitting the open market, depending on if any sign extensions before then).
The pitching that will be available is nothing to get excited over, the best likely being Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks (an All Star in 2017) and Marcus Stroman of the Mets (a 2019 All Star despite finishing the season with a 10-13 record). Neither is the kind of pitcher you want as your #1 or #2 option on a championship team.
There is a part of me that truly believes the White Sox hope is that they can fill in their entire team with players they have drafted, minor leaguers they have acquired via trade and castoffs or “change of scenery” players and avoid having to pay a true “superstar” to play for the team. This will get to be a problem as guys like Yoan Moncada and Giolito head into salary arbitration and, eventually, free agency, unless they can pull the Chris Sale/Jose Quintana/Eloy Jimenez trick again and sign them to friendlier deals.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but look at the Astros, whose rebuild is the blueprint other teams like to follow, and even though they have a fantastic minor league system with a number of home-grown talents on their MLB roster, they still had to supplement that group with Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Michael Brantley in order to reach the World Series. You have to acquire top talent to be a top team in this era.
So, a lackluster Winter Meetings performance (which is less the Sox fault than it was last year) will leave the team as a third place entity behind the Twins and Indians in 2020 and if Kopech and Cease and Lopez develop into front-line starters, a run at a Wild Card birth is possible but I’m thinking this team is going to finish 2020 at 82-80.
I’ll blog again in the event there is some kind of free agent signing or trade acquisition between now and the start of Spring Training. Thank you for reading.