More Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox

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I didn’t think I would be hitting this subject again this soon but the more I see, the more I feel a need to try to understand what I’m seeing, as well as try to explain my thoughts. Having been a baseball fan for nearly 35 years, and a White Sox fan for going on 30, I think I have some level of knowledge to be able to put forth my thoughts.

The first thing I want to cover is the amount of dishonesty I am noticing in the White Sox front office. All of which kind of surrounds the failed attempt to sign Manny Machado this past offseason. Let’s begin with the acquisitions the Sox did make.

Minor league outfielder Alex Call was traded to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman/DH Yonder Alonso, a journeyman in the truest sense of the word (Alonso has played for six teams in nine MLB seasons) and then free agent outfielder Jon Jay was signed. The front office insisted these were deals made to improve the team, not to sway Machado even though Alonso is his brother-in-law and Jay is a longtime friend. I was skeptical, to say the least.

Considering the fact that the White Sox could have kept Matt Davidson for less than $3 million while paying Alonso over $8 million was a clue to the disingenuousness of the acquisition. In addition to being a fan favorite, Davidson could also play third base in a pinch while also performing admirably on the mound as a pitcher in a few select outings. Jay, meanwhile, was 34 years old and was exactly the kind of player we had been told the White Sox would not be acquiring: Players past their prime who weren’t part of the future. Does anyone think Alonso and Jay will be here in 2020?

Rick Hahn was able to look people in the eye and say he did not acquire Alonso and Jay to help sway Machado into signing with the White Sox. Straight dishonesty. But that’s also not the only company line lie regarding the Machado failed chase.

Machado was offered a ten-year, $300 million contract, fully guaranteed, by the San Diego Padres, which, obviously, he took. We were told the White Sox offered him an eight-year, $250 million but somehow there would be incentives and options that would push it to a ten-year, $350 million deal. Kenny Williams pushed that aspect of the deal hard, “he could have made more money overall.” As well as per year. The per-year aspect is true, as he pulls down $30 million in San Diego he could have pulled down $31.5 million per in Chicago. The “more money overall” part, however, is quite misleading, and leads to another slight of mouth statement from the front office that I haven’t been able to grasp.

KW has said, point blank, that the White Sox “could not afford” to guarantee Machado ten years at $300 million but somehow it was feasible that they could have paid him $350 million over the life of the deal, incentives and options included. Now, I’m no Albert Einstein, but I’m pretty good at mathematics and last time I checked, $300 million is less than $350 million, so if you can’t afford to pay him $300 million, how could you afford $350 million?

Easy. Those options would never have been exercised and it would have remained much less money overall. We have never been told the exact makeup of the deal the White Sox offered, but I have surmised the incentives would have been of the ridiculous variety and the options would have been team options that the club could have declined.

And how can you put $100 million worth of incentives and options into a contract that totals $350 million? If I were a player, I wouldn’t even consider such a deal.

This takes us to our next point of dishonesty with this front office.

Things changed drastically during the 2019 offseason, with a large number of potential 2019 and 2020 free agents signing contract extensions with their current clubs. I am not laying the blame on this on the White Sox, as no one saw this coming. However, it did shoot a big hole in the company line of “we’re going to spend on free agents” because suddenly there’s a big lack of quality free agents hitting the street. When Machado signed with the Padres, the White Sox Universe immediately turned focus to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who then signed a $260 million extension with Colorado and took himself out of the mix.

Luckily, the White Sox were either forward-thinking enough (or lucky enough) to cover themselves, by drafting second baseman Nick Madrigal, and shifting Yoan Moncada to third base, they were able to eliminate their need for a major free-agent third base acquisition. And so far, the Moncada angle has worked out better than imagined.

However, the front office began pushing the company line that since free agency wasn’t going to work out going forward, the White Sox would acquire premium talent on the trade market. I literally laughed out loud when I heard this. This franchise is on a razor’s edge with this rebuild, pretty much every prospect has to make it. If you want to trade for premium talent, you have to trade premium prospects. Take pitcher Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease (among others).

If the White Sox want to trade for premium talent, who do they part with? They can’t exactly trade Yolmer Sanchez and Adam Engel for Mike Trout. Value receives value. So in order to acquire premium talent, they have to cut a hole in the roster somewhere in order to fill one somewhere else. Or, they just fall into the Pittsburgh Pirate model.

Beginning in the early to mid 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates began a rebuild, and I lived through all 20 years of it. It wasn’t called a “rebuild” in those days, it was a “five year plan for contention.” They would lay out a plan for five years, based on acquisitions and maturity of prospects. Only, the Pirates never saw one all the way through. Three years in, they would blow it up, trade whatever they had of value, and start over.

That went on for 20 years. And that’s what I’m scared to death is going to happen with the White Sox. Once they realize there is a massive lack of depth in the organization, maybe they decide to trade Yoan Moncada, pick up three or four prospects to help fill in. Now you have a gaping hole at third base again. Maybe pitcher Lucas Giolito has really hit his stride and becomes one of the top pitchers in baseball, maybe the Sox better move him to acquire a third baseman to fill the Moncada hole. Now there’s a hole in the rotation.

This can literally go on indefinitely. If three of the top ten prospects develop, trade them and bring in nine new prospects. Now you’ve filled in some depth in the organization and maybe one of those will fill in the holes you just tore open. And once they develop into serviceable Major League players, you can trade them for prospects. And so on and so on.

I was all in on the rebuild and still am. Had we kept Sale and Quintana and Eaton and Frazier, chances are we would be in exactly the same place we are now, maybe with the same record. The past supports this. We wouldn’t have Moncada or Jimenez, instead of looking at 2020 and seeing Kopech and Cease we would be looking at “how are we going to replace Sale when he leaves?” There would be no light at the end of the tunnel.

At least this way, there is a possibility that this team can be a contender. The left side of the infield is set. Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third base. Eventually Madrigal will take over at second with Jose Abreu at first. That should be a pretty solid infield. I imagine Jimenez will settle in at DH sooner or later. And that won’t be a bad thing.

The outfield and pitching staff is another matter, as is the catching situation.

While the White Sox have control over James McCann for at least another year via arbitration, they should just sign him to a long-term deal and let him mentor whoever makes it to the MLB level as our “catcher of the future.” As for the outfield, I imagine Luis Robert will settle into center field in the next couple of years, with some combination of young players flanking him (Micker Adolfo? Blake Rutherford?). That could make for a solid outfield.

I worry more about the pitching. Yes, there’s a lot of depth right now but hardly any of it is proven. While Giolito may have found his footing, I can’t see him being the ace of a staff with Kopech and Cease. Assuming they work out. Reynaldo Lopez is learning, and he has excellent stuff. Assuming Carlos Rondon comes back healthy, that’s probably your rotation going into 2021, when we are supposed to be legitimately contending.

Is there an absolute, guaranteed number-one ace starter in that group? I don’t know. Maybe Kopech. Maybe Cease. Maybe not. I guess time will tell.

I would love to see the Sox be able to acquire a legit ace, like Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros, I know that the chances of that happening are beyond slim. But he would be a perfect fit at the front of the rotation, and he’ll be 29 years old when he hits free agency, a perfect age for a pitcher on a four or five-year deal to lead a staff.

But, in addition to the lack of money the club spends, there’s also the issue of the substandard coaching staff. I keep listening to pundits and scribes (and announcers) talk about the Houston Astros being the blueprint on rebuilding. And they’re right. They talk of the smart talent acquisitions, drafting well, especially in the later rounds and making the most of their down years. What they fail to mention is that the Astros fired manager Bo Porter right in the middle of their rebuild and then hired A.J. Hinch to take them over the top. The White Sox seem committed beyond reason to Ricky Renteria and his staff.

In the back of my mind I can’t help but think (and always have) that this is somehow the White Sox organization thumbing their collective nose at the Chicago Cubs.

We’ll take the manager you didn’t want and win a World Series with him.” Well, let’s call a spade a spade, the Cubs didn’t want Renteria because a better option was available. Smart teams hire the best manager they can get. Except for the White Sox. When Terry Francona was available and could have been had, the White Sox hired Robin Ventura. When Joe Girardi was available and could have been had, the White Sox gave Renteria a contract extension coming off a 100-loss season. That’s not just stupid, it’s madness.

And that’s the part that scares me most about this rebuild, even if it is a complete success on the field, if every single prospect makes it, we have a coaching staff and a manager that is almost guaranteed to screw it up. I have heard for over a decade that Renteria is a “great teacher,” and maybe he is. But a great manager, he is not. Not even close.

I want to see this team win. I didn’t get to celebrate the 2005 World Series with anyone, I had to enjoy it completely alone, because here in the mountains of West Virginia I have no fellow White Sox fans, and at that point in 2005 social networking was in it’s infancy. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I really started networking online with other White Sox fans. And I have struggled right along with everyone else these past 11 years.

In my lifetime, the professional and college teams that I have followed (Pittsburgh Pirates, West Virginia Mountaineers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, UCLA Bruins) have won a total of three championships. That’s including multiple sports on the college level. I didn’t get to “enjoy” the Bears 1985 Super Bowl title because I hadn’t started watching football. The 1995 UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team, the 2005 Chicago White Sox and the 2013 UCLA baseball team are the only titles I have witnessed.

That hurts. I can’t deny I am jealous of fans of the Yankees and Patriots and Lakers who got to watch their teams win multiple titles while I keep thinking “maybe next year.”

I’m ready to win. I’m tired of losing year in and year out, it’s been seven years since the White Sox had a winning season, 11 years since a playoff appearance. It’s time. The pieces may be in place. A new manager and staff could put it over the top in 2021.

Or, there could be a work stoppage and all of this will amount to exactly nothing. Anyone who was a White Sox (or Montreal Expos) fan in 1994 can remember what it was like to be so close and have it all just collapse in front of you. There is also the cloud of relocation hanging over this franchise once Jerry Reinsdorf decides to sell the team. He’s made a point of saying he doesn’t want to leave it to his family. I’m not a Portland White Sox fan. At that point I’ll either latch back onto the Pirates or look longingly at the Los Angeles Angels.

In conclusion, I’m not giving up on the rebuild but I’m also not about to believe everything that comes out of the mouths of Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams, because they have already proven themselves to be disingenuous. I’ll believe more in what I see on the field, in the dugout and in the clubhouse. The White Sox were supposed to show improvement this year and they are ahead of their 2018 pace. I still see a 72-90 record at the end of the year, a ten-game improvement over 2018. Another ten-game improvement in 2020 would bring them in at 82-80, a record over .500. Ten more in 2021 and you have a 92-70 team that would no doubt with the division and be a legit World Series contender.

So let’s get it done. Go Sox!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

Talkin’ Baseball #2 (February 27, 2019)

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While doing this series, I’m trying to avoid overloading with so much White Sox coverage but considering the topic, I have very little choice right now.

I’m going to have to talk about Manny Machado again.

Not because I want to, but because that seems to be the only thing the Chicago media can focus on. Not Machado, necessarily, but the fact that the White Sox made him an offer and that seems to be tantamount to actually accomplishing something.

I don’t get it. As the old saying goes, “trying is not doing.”

That’s great that the White Sox offered Machado a $250 million deal that could have reached $350 million with various options and incentives. And the Chicago media cannot let that go, it’s like the team just exploded onto the scene because they made an offer in free agency.

I mean, I could have called Machado’s agent and offered him $150 to just stay home for the year. As absurd as that sounds, I could still boast that I had “made an offer.” Would that get me a seat at the big boy table? I doubt it. And making an offer doesn’t have any tangible value.

I preach this a lot, because I lived through it and watched it unfold. In the early 1990s, the Yankees wanted to buy themselves a World Series. They were willing to outspend everybody. They made a mega offer to Barry Bonds, more than he received from the Giants, but he turned it down. They made a mega offer to Greg Maddux, more than he received from the Braves, but he turned it down. Players just didn’t want to play for the Yankees back then. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a dark time for the organization and even overpaying didn’t get them the players that they wanted.

That’s the Chicago White Sox right now. This team is a perennial loser. They haven’t had a winning record since 2012. There is no guarantee they’ll have a winning record anytime soon. Most players want to play for teams that have a chance of winning, because the money will be there one way or another. The White Sox are the laughingstock of baseball, on a number of fronts.

And what bothers me is the fact that some in the media, and a lot of fans, have the audacity to laugh at the San Diego Padres. Really? The Padres are selling the same bill of goods as the White Sox, “yeah, we suck now, but we have a great farm system!” The only difference being that the Padres had a better record in 2018 than the White Sox and the Padres’ minor league system is ranked higher.

I’m not laughing and see nothing there to laugh about.

So the White Sox were basically willing to max out at $250 million for Manny Machado. So the thinking, after he signed with the Padres, turned to Nolan Arenado, scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. He’s older than Machado and definitely takes advantage of the thin air in Colorado (Arenado has a career .320 batting average at home and .263 on the road). Arenado may be defensively superior to Machado but not by a considerable margin. In fact, had Machado played third base exclusively his entire career, it may be a lot closer than you think to compare them from a defensive standpoint.

The point is, Arenado is basically not as good a player, overall, as Manny Machado, and I don’t think anyone would argue that point, especially with Arenado’s inflated numbers playing in Colorado. And Arenado still got a larger contract than the White Sox were willing to offer Machado.

Not only did Machado get $50 million more than the White Sox offered, but Arenado got $10 million more despite being older and just not as good. Let that sink in for a minute.

But the Chicago media doesn’t want to touch that. Oh, the fan blogs do, and they take it to the other extreme, but I prefer to stay in the middle. Yes, the White Sox will sign free agents, eventually. It won’t be Mike Trout or Chris Sale or J.D. Martinez but it may be someone like Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (though he is rumored to be open to a contract extension with the Nats, which would be the same fly-in-the-ointment as the Arenado extension has turned into for the White Sox.

I think the White Sox took a great deal of care in constructing the rebuild so there is at least the possibility of having a homegrown or acquired minor league prospect at every position going forward. It’s entirely possible that by 2021, the Sox could feature Seby Zavala at catcher, an infield of Gavin Sheets, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and an outfield of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford, with Micker Adolfo or Zack Collins handling DH duties and a rotation of Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, with any number of other guys filling in the bullpen (Alec Hansen, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Guerrero, Dane Dunning, Jace Fry, Thyago Vieira, Connor Walsh, Aaron bummer, etc) with Zack Burdi closing. And I think that is not only a worst-case scenario, but a recipe for disaster.

Rick Hahn himself has said he expects only one out of every four prospects to be a MLB regular. I just listed 24 players in the previous paragraph. That means that of those 24, six could become legit MLB contributors. So we figure Jimenez and Cease are the closest things we have to “guarantees.” Madrigal and Robert look solid early in their careers and certainly Kopech and Lopez have had some level of MLB success. In other words, chances are you can take everyone else on that list and scratch them off.

I know there are fans out there that think every one of those guys is going to develop into a superstar; when the end of season awards are announced, it will be a list of 10 White Sox players for AL MVP, the whole starting rotation will finish one through five in AL Cy Young balloting, etc. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. We have already watched Giolito and Fulmer and Moncada struggle mightily at the MLB level, none of the three looked ready but were rushed to The Show for some unknown reason.

The point of that is, you have to acquire some outside, established help. You can’t build a team 100% from prospects and compete. It’s not only impossible, it’s ridiculous.

The White Sox didn’t sign Machado or Harper or Arenado and they’re not going to sign Trout or Sale. So the Chicago media can stop trying to pretend that the White Sox are big players on the free agent stage. But they can supplement what they have and fill holes that prospects can’t fill, so the fans who think the White Sox are completely incapable can stop being ridiculous as well. It’s not all or nothing.

One last thing I want to touch on is the talk of a strike in 2021, which was a hot topic when the top free agents were unsigned. At the time, I kind of understood where the players were coming from, MLB is raking in money, hand over fist, and the players have a right to the biggest share of that pie. Manny Machado just signed a $300 million contract. Nolan Arenado signed a $260 million contract. Bryce Harper will make more than either of them. So the players grievance has suddenly become hollow.

And if Harper signs with the Phillies and it’s more than the $325 million contract that Giancarlo Stanton is currently playing for, that’s gonna make the players look even more ridiculous for even considering a work stoppage. The money is out there, players are just overvaluing themselves. Craig Kimbrel thinks he deserves $100 million to pitch 3 outs a game? The market says no, take the best offer you can get (probably six years at $85 million) and be happy with it. Dallas Keuchel thinks he’s worth a six-year contract? No, you’re on the down side of your career and nothing is going to change that. Take a three-year deal for $45 million and be happy with it. Guys are getting more than they’re worth, statistically.

Hell, Bryce Harper hit .249 last year. For most guys going into free agency, that would be bad news. But for some reason Harper is considered a generational talent. Though I don’t know why.

He only hit seven points higher than Yolmer Sanchez. Yes, I know, the home runs and the walks, but the fact remains, he’s not infallible or miles ahead of anyone else in the game. He’s just “good.”

The numbers are out of control, and I think a player’s strike would be pretty stupid, given the money the players who have signed are getting compared to five years or a decade ago.

And that’s my opinion on everything. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

My Final Analysis Of The Manny Machado/Chicago White Sox Fiasco

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After what feels like an eternity, we’ve finally reached the end of the road on the Manny Machado Magical Mystery Free Agency Tour. Obviously, it did not end as we all wanted it to, with Manny signing a reasonable contract with the White Sox and taking over at third base. Instead, it ended in a clusterfuck with the White Sox supposedly offering more money in the form of incentives and option years and San Diego Padres finally winning the battle with a straight ten-year, $300 million deal and an opt-out after five years.

Now I could sit and complain and be aggravated that, as usual, the train has left the station and the White Sox are still standing in the baggage area looking stupid. But I’m not going to do that. Do I think adding Machado would have been a coup? Of course. Is it the end of the world? No. We still have a stacked minor league system. The future should be bright, regardless of the fact that Manny won’t be playing on the South Side.

I’m more angry about the fact that the White Sox had the option to spend the kind of money they are rumored to have offered Machado (between $320 and $350 million according to various stories I have read, had he reached his incentives and had his options exercised) but now there isn’t much available to spend that money on. The best option for this team, with a gaping hole at third base, was Mike Moustakas, who took a pitiful $10 million to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers. And given the way their respective stadiums play, Moose may well end up hitting more home runs in 2019 than Machado will. Ouch.

The White Sox have needs. Lots of needs. So far none of the “prospects” that have been called up have come close to meeting expectations, let alone exceeding them. Carson Fulmer, the 8th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, looks like a bust on every level, carrying a 6.68 ERA over 67 1/3 innings at the MLB level and a 5.04 ERA over 319 2/3 innings at the minor league level. Our 2016 first round pick, catcher Zack Collins, has a .232 career batting average over 924 minor league at-bats. The Sox second round pick in 2016 was considered a steal, but rolled up a 6.31 ERA in 14 minor league starts. Of course, our 2017 first round pick, Jake Burger, suffered two Achilles tendon injuries in less than a year. None of these players are close to being MLB contributors.

I would also be remiss not to call out our prospect acquisitions, including the haul from the Chris Sale trade (Yoan Moncada and his .235 batting average and league-leading 217 strikeouts in 2018, as well as Michael Kopech and his Tommy John surgery, which pushes his development back a full year) and the Adam “Dickhead” Eaton trade (Lucas Giolito and his 6.13 ERA over 32 starts, but did lead the team in wins with 10, and Reynaldo Lopez, who looks like the best of the bunch after compiling a 3.91 ERA over 188 innings and looked like a legitimate ace at times). Clearly, this team has a lot of needs.

There is also the possibility that the rookies who have had success at the minor league level won’t translate that success to the big league level. Moncada was once considered the top prospect in baseball. At this time, Eloy Jimenez is considered the third-best prospect in baseball, but what if he also hits in the .230s? None of these prospects are guaranteed stars, if any player came close, it would have been Moncada, who was the consensus best prospect and considered the front-runner for AL Rookie Of The Year in 2017.

A year, incidentally, in which he hit .231 in 54 games at the MLB level.

The White Sox need way more than one $300 million player. The only OF spot that seems secure at this moment is CF, where Gold Glove finalist Adam Engel hit .235 but did hit a robust .260 in the second half. Left field awaits Jimenez. Right field belongs to Jon Jay, who, despite whatever spin the White Sox front office wants to put on it, was signed to help lure Manny Machado. The only possible power option with a track record in the OF is Daniel Palka, who will more than likely regress and is more of a left-handed platoon DH option than a full-time starting outfielder. Like I said, this team has needs.

The starting pitching simply swapped Big Lame James Shields for Ivan Nova. Nova is an upgrade in that he has FAR superior control to Big Lame James, but is also susceptible to the home run ball. The bullpen, on the other hand, did get a bit of a makeover and should be the strength of the team. But you have to get late in the game with a lead for that to matter, and as of now, I don’t know where the runs are going to come from.

While I’d love to see the White Sox be a year-in, year-out contender, not only in the standings but also in the free agent pool, at this point I just think it’s better to tone it down a tad. A 100-loss team like the White Sox, with little improvement throughout the roster and probably staring down another 100 loss season, doesn’t need a $300 million player right now. That’s like putting $3,000 Vossen rims on my 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport.

At this point, I would like to see the White Sox sign another free agent starter (Gio Gonzalez?) and take the ball out of Dylan Covey’s hand every fifth day because we already know what Covey’s capable of (5.18 ERA over 21 starts and six relief appearances). A power upgrade in the OF would also be a blessing (Adam Jones?).

In closing, yes, I’m disappointed that we didn’t sign Machado. I’m disappointed that we won’t sign Bryce Harper and that next year we won’t sign Nolan Arenado. Who may not even make it to the free agent market anyway. I’m annoyed that we’re coming out on the short end of the stick, as usual. Especially if the Phillies sign Harper, we’ll be the only team that was in on both, and the only team that came out with absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, if you scroll back you’ll see that three months ago I said this would be the end result, so I was mentally prepared for it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ll suffer through another poor season with my Sox friends and in a couple of years, if everything breaks right, we’ll be celebrating a nice window of contention where we could be seeing a Sox World Series win at any time. And we’ll forget this point in time ever happened. And it will all be worth it. So here’s to that day. GO GO WHITE SOX!