Every year the Sox Machine blog posts a template for what is known as the “offseason plan project,” where anyone can give their thoughts on what they would like the White Sox to do in the offseason, in terms of whether to tender or non-tender eligible players, sign or not sign pending free agents, propose trades and things like that.
This year I’m going to do this a little differently, I’m going to list not only what I would do in terms of roster construction, but what I think the team will do as well, because there will definitely be a lack of consensus between myself and the Sox front office.
This is going to be a difficult season for the White Sox, possibly worse than 2022. The lack of talent, health, depth and camaraderie are going to sink the team for the remainder of the “contention window.” This team was poorly built and too many players were paid before they had actually accomplished anything, thus we have a roster full of overpaid bums who can’t stay healthy and have no reason to try.
Lucas Giolito: $10.8M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Dylan Cease: $5.3M (the Sox will tender, I would tender and try to work on an extension)
Reynaldo Lopez: $3.3M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Adam Engel: $2.3M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)
Michael Kopech: $2.2M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Kyle Crick: $1.5M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)
Jose Ruiz: $1M (non-tender, the Sox are in love with him and will tender)
Danny Mendick: $1M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)
Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) (pick up, I would trade if possible, I think the Sox will pick up)
Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) (buyout, I think the Sox will tender due to lack of options)
AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) (No way he leaves $13 million on the table, exercise option)
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Jose Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) (resign, 2 years for $20 million, I think the Sox let him walk)
Johnny Cueto($4.2M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
Vince Velasquez ($3M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)
My pick: Ozzie Guillen. You want a manager with a successful body of work and championship pedigree? Here he is. You want a guy who knows it’s his final chance and wants to right his previous wrongs? Here he is. I don’t want to hear about what happened in 2011, that’s ancient history. This is 2022.
The Sox pick: Mike Shildt. I know this guy has cooled down considerably as a candidate but here is my rationale: Kenny Williams wants Ron Washington. Rick Hahn wants Joe Espada. I think Tony La Russa will have Jerry Reisndorf’s ear and like the last time the White Sox hired a manager, Jerry gets the final say.
No. 1:Jose Abreu (two years, $20 million). You just don’t let the face of the franchise walk away because you have some kid who was a high draft pick waiting to take his spot. Mark my words, Andrew Vaughn will be more Greg Walker than Jose Abreu or Paul Konerko when all is said and done.
No. 2: Willson Contreras (two years, $32 million). I’m not a huge fan of this signing, but something has to be done. Can’t go into another season with Yasmani Grandal at the top of the depth chart. Let Contreras do the bulk of the catching through the remainder of the contention window, and he can still sign another free agent deal after the 2024 season as a 33-year old.
No. 3: Adam Frazier (one year, $7 million). Frazier is coming off his worst season and should be had for a small amount. He set full-season career lows in just about every category (.238/.301/.311 line with an OPS+ of 80 and a 0.7 WAR) but he plays every day (156 games in 2022 with the Mariners) and his defense is certainly passable (6 errors in 435 chances at second base in 2022). It’s an upgrade from nothing.
As for what I think the White Sox will do in free agency, I see a couple of low-end fifth starter candidates on minor league deals (someone like Jordan Lyles or Michael Pineda), a fourth or fifth outfielder to replace Adam Engel (Ben Gamel? Jackie Bradley? Chad Pinder?). Other than that, and maybe a flier on a bullpen arm or two for “depth,” I don’t see the Sox making any free agent signings. The roster is full.
This is the hardest thing to try to forecast, because no one knows who is available or who could be traded for whom.
No. 1: Trade Yoan Moncada and Colson Montgomery to the Seattle Mariners for Eugenio Suarez and Jarred Kelenic. Yes, it’s giving up the Sox #1 prospect and not getting a ton in return but it’s not a straight salary dump and Suarez fills in third base for the remainder of the contention window and Kelenic isn’t the superstar prospect he was two years ago. This opens up some salary room for the White Sox and eliminates one of the team’s biggest issues, and if Kelenic can outplay Gavin Sheets in RF, you could have a solid OF lineup for years (Kelenic, Luis Robert and Oscar Colas) after the contention window closes.
No. 2: Trade Leury Garcia and Bryan Ramos to the Oakland A’s for Tony Kemp. The A’s take on a little extra salary (Kemp is expected to make around $3.2 million in arbitration this season while Garcia will make a little over $5 million in the second year of his three-year deal) in order to pick up a decent prospect in Ramos and the Sox get their replacement for Garcia. Seems like a win/win trade to me.
No. 3: Trade Yasmani Grandal to any team that will take him for any price they’ll pay, and agree to pay half of his salary. Straight salary dump, find some team that could use an occasional switch hitter at the DH position and could be a once-a-week or even emergency catcher, for $9 million. Trade him for some team’s 50th ranked prospect. Anything to get him off the payroll and out of the organization.
As for what I think the Sox will do in the trade market, I think they’ll strongly consider trading Gavin Sheets (likely to the Orioles in a nice homecoming) because he is still a man without a position (he’s a 1B/DH and those spots are filled) and I think they could get a minor league pitching prospect in return, maybe a future piece for the back end of the rotation. I don’t think the front office has the balls to really move a Moncada or an Eloy Jimenez or a Lucas Giolito for anything.
This would be my every day lineup: Contreras (catcher), Abreu (1B), Frazier (2B), Anderson (SS), Suarez (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Kelenic (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Kemp would be my top utility player. For those wondering, I’d either trade Andrew Vaughn or just let him play 1B or DH when Abreu or Eloy need a day off. Remember, he’s making the MLB minimum. At best he’s a .280/20/80 hitter, he’s not the second coming of Frank Thomas.
The pitching rotation: Cease, Lance Lynn, Kopech, Giolito and Davis Martin.
The bullpen: Liam Hendriks (closer), Reynaldo Lopez, Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, Tanner Banks, Aaron Bummer and Jake Diekman.
I think the White Sox will try to find someone/anyone to be their fifth starter because they have absolutely no faith in their own homegrown pitchers (Cease came from the Cubs, Lynn from the Rangers, Kopech from the Red Sox and Giolito from the Nationals; Banks and Bummer are the only homegrown relievers), and they’ll sign a guy who is looking to rebound (like Johnny Cueto in 2022 or Ervin Santana in 2019, just showing the extremes of how those kinds of deals can work out).
So, here is what I see the Sox running out there every day:
Everyday lineup: Grandal (catcher), Vaughn (1B), Harrison/Leury (2B), Anderson (SS), Moncada (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Sheets/Colas (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Leury will be the top utility player but Danny Mendick is going to get a good look after a solid (but short) 2022 season (.289/.343/.443, OPS+ of 121 and 0.5 WAR in only 97 at-bats).
I can see my version of the 2023 White Sox finishing 85-77, thanks to the power provided by Contreras, Suarez and Kelenic to push a few more runs across the plate. The pitching was middle-of-the-pack and I expect Cease and Kopech to get better, so I think “my” 2023 White Sox could finish second to the Guardians (again) but maybe a little closer (five or six games out).
I see the real 2023 White Sox finishing 79-83, spending the season wondering if Vaughn or Moncada or Robert is going to break out, if they can get anything close to a positive WAR out of second base and hoping Colas finally fills the hole in RF that’s basically been there since Jermaine Dye left. This is not a good team, and removing the best player (Abreu lead the team in WAR, games played, hits and batting average, period) isn’t going to make the offense better, and if you believe that, you’re a moron.
Things may eventually start to look up once Grandal and Moncada and Giolito and Hendriks and the other massive drains on payroll are gone and the Sox could potentially do a legitimate reload in 2025 with all that available cash. However, I have absolutely no faith in this front office. Luckily, as Rick Hahn said, they know when they’re not doing the job anymore so once the guy who has had 2 winning seasons out of 10 as a general manager figures out he can’t do the job, it will get better.
Like last year, I’m posting my season review immediately after the final game so the emotion remains and the fact that I’m beyond annoyed with this franchise isn’t lost on anyone.
I’ve been a fan of the White Sox since 1991. This was, without question, the most aggravating, disappointing and rage-inducing season of my life. A few seasons have been close (1994 due to the player’s strike, 1995 due to the Sox pitching staff completely imploding, definitely 2018 when the Sox bottomed out during the rebuild with a 62-100 record) but nothing was this bad.
For a team with a short contention window (which is generally accepted to be ending after the 2024 season) the fact that the White Sox wasted two years of contention with Tony LaRussa managing the team is unforgivable. Last year, I said the team won in spite of TLR, and in 2022 they couldn’t overcome whatever negative cloud TLR brought back to the organization.
I’ll begin my player review with the offense. And it was not good. Only one player managed to play 140 games this season, and only one player managed to attain a WAR over 2.2, the heart and soul of the White Sox, Jose Abreu, who played 157 games with a 4.2 WAR. The only other player with a WAR over 2.0 was Luis Robert, in 98 games. Truly a pathetic performance.
TEAM LEADERS: OFFENSE
Games: Jose Abreu (157) Hits: Jose Abreu (183) Doubles: Jose Abreu (40) Triples: Josh Harrison (2) Home Runs: Andrew Vaughn (17) RBI: Andrew Vaughn (76) Stolen Bases: Adam Engel (12) Walks: Jose Abreu (62) Batting Average: Jose Abreu (.304) OPS+: Eloy Jimenez (140) WAR: Jose Abreu (4.2)
It was really a very sad season for the White Sox offense. It was the first time since 1990 that the White Sox offense was this bad. That year, Carlton Fisk lead the team in home runs (18) and the team leader in RBI was the late Ivan Calderon (74). That team, amazingly, finished the year in 2nd place with a 94-68 record, a game better than the 2021 AL Central champion White Sox. That was due to exceptional pitching, as the team had two 14-game winners, a 13-game winner, a 12-game winner and an 11-game winner in the bullpen, not to mention Bobby Thigpen and his (at the time) record of 57 saves.
Speaking of pitching, the 2022 White Sox pitching staff didn’t set the world on fire, but it was solid enough that they should have finished in a better position than 81-81. Dylan Cease had his breakout season, but no one else showed any level of superiority in the rotation, though a couple of names did stand out in the bullpen; Reynaldo Lopez and Jimmy Lambert.
Let’s take a look at the White Sox pitching leaders in 2022.
*special mention to Johnny Cueto who finished third on the team in WAR with a 3.4 despite a losing record.
The pitching staff certainly was not as good as the 1990 staff, or the 1993 staff or 1994 or 1983 or 2005 but it also didn’t get the ending it deserved.
I don’t want to bring in a lot of other outside influences into my review, but this will be forever looked at as the worst White Sox season I have ever endured and some of that is due to some outside influences that are not necessarily directly related to the team, but are related to the city. So that’s why I’m keeping my review somewhat short and, dare I say, “sanitized.”
In closing, I can say this was basically the second wasted season in a row of this “contention window,” and with a $190+ million payroll in 2022 (and not a lot coming off and a lot of players getting hefty raises next season due to either long-term contracts or through salary arbitration) there won’t be much wiggle room unless the team is able to unload one of the bigger contracts that’s on the books for next season, especially the dead weight (Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal who will both be making in the neighborhood of $17 to $18 million for minimal production).
I’m hoping this will be a fun offseason, beginning with the search for a new manager and hopefully some improvement to the roster. Time will tell. I’ll go more in-depth when I post my Sox Machine 2022-23 Offseason Plan Project blog entry, which I usually drop around mid-November. By that point, I’m assuming the team will have named a manager and we’ll have some idea what direction the team is going, especially in regard to Jose Abreu.
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.
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.
An important week in baseball, the general manager’s meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona began yesterday (Monday) and last through Thursday. While not nearly as important in the big picture as the Winter Meetings, which take place in San Diego, December 8 through 12, the general manager’s meetings help set the foundation for the Winter Meetings.
The White Sox are in the news quite a bit as Bob Nightengale of USA Today has tried to again fan the flames of importance around the Chicago White Sox, as he did last offseason by announcing, at one point, that the White Sox were not only the front runners for shortstop Manny Machado, but that they were also the favorites to sign outfielder Bryce Harper!
Those two combined for $630 million over the length of their respective deals, which last 10 years (Machado) and 13 years (Harper), a bit above the White Sox pay scale.
Now Bob is pushing the concept of the White Sox being all in on every available free agent on the market this offseason, though he was quick to pull back on the top player available, pitcher Gerrit Cole. But continued to push the assertion that third baseman Anthony Rendon is a viable possibility, and maybe even to go so far as to say a legit target.
I don’t want any misunderstandings here, I have nothing negative to say about Rendon whatsoever, he is a legit MVP candidate (.319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs and an MLB-leading 126 RBI in 2019 as well as winning a Silver Slugger and making the All Star team) but he isn’t a fit with this White Sox team. I HATE this idea (which is bandied about regularly on the Sox Talk Podcast) that you just sign the best available players you can get and worry about where to play them later. That concept is totally insane in my opinion.
You build a team and fill in your needs. If you don’t need a third baseman, you don’t sign a third baseman. You find the best player available, either by free agency or trade, at the position you have a need. So as great as Rendon is, you just say “I don’t need a third baseman” and you move on to where you do have a need. It’s simple.
The Sox have three major needs: Starting pitching, right field and designated hitter.
In my perfect world, the names you fill in are Zack Wheeler, Yasiel Puig and Edwin Encarnacion. You’re getting a good strikeout pitcher with outstanding control (195 K’s versus 50 walks in 2019) who will be a perfect fit in the ballpark and the rotation, a right fielder who you can pretty much pencil in for 20+ home runs (maybe 30 playing 81 games a year at Sox Park) and 15 steals per season and a DH who has hit 32+ home runs 8 years in a row.
Yes, each has their negatives, Wheeler has had Tommy John Surgery twice (but worked 195 innings last year and has less than 900 innings on his arm), Puig can be an attitude problem (which I think would be remedied by the strong Cuban culture within the organization) and Encarnacion will turn 37 in January, so he’s not a long term solution, but I think he can help a guy like Jose Abreu adjust to being an everyday DH and that’s a win/win situation.
As starting pitching goes, I just don’t see the White Sox going $250 million (or more) for Gerrit Cole or $150 million (or more) for Stephen Strasburg. Not only is that not something they have done in the past, but I don’t see the Sox spending that kind of money (more on that later). The next group of starters includes Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Wheeler, guys who you could get for under $100 million. While I am a big fan of Bumgarner, I see him staying in the National League and the 1,800+ innings on his arm is a concern. Keuchel is a guy who probably slots as a #4 within the White Sox rotation and I don’t see what’s to be accomplished paying $60 million over three years for a number four who pitches to contact in a hitter’s park and who has never been much of a strikeout guy.
Right field is a conundrum because the Sox have been linked since the offseason began to Nicholas Castellanos. While I am a big fan of his bat (.289/.337/.525 with 27 home runs and 58 doubles in 2019) his defense is well below-average and he’s only been slotted at DH 40 times in 839 career games. So you’re giving up something with him either way, you’re guaranteeing yourself two below-average gloves in the outfield (along with left fielder Eloy Jimenez) or you are giving yourself the unknown of what he can produce at DH.
The DH position is a bit of a monkey in it’s own right, due to the lack of productive ones (Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and Mark Trumbo look to be the only full-time DH options outside of Encarnacion. Morales hit .194 with two home runs in 53 games, Smoak hit .208 with 22 home runs and Trumbo hit .172 with no home runs in 31 plate appearances.
I’ll pass on all three. And that leaves Encarnacion and guys like Avi Garcia.
There is also the possibility of rotating the DH (which has been about as productive as the past few full time DH options the White Sox have signed) and letting Zack Collins, Jose Abreu and the right fielder (Castellanos or Kole Calhoun or Corey Dickerson) to split time at the position. Not something I am a big fan of, but I like to have a set lineup every day.
As I have been writing this and doing my research prior to, one guy who keeps catching my attention is the aforementioned Corey Dickerson. While he is a left fielder, not a right fielder which the Sox need (and he has only six games of experience in his career in right field) I realized he has 128 games of experience at DH, mostly during his two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. In addition to his left-handed bat, he also carries a .286 career batting average. He’ll turn 31 in May and maybe could be a good option as an everyday DH.
I hate feeling negative about the team, especially this offseason because the position player that is considered the #1 free agent plays a position they don’t need and if they don’t pursue him fans will take that negatively and I don’t think that’s fair. I wasn’t big on last year’s pursuit of Manny Machado (and was active about pushing that fact in my blog) because he didn’t fill a need; I knew they planned to play him at third base but that wasn’t his preferred position. I don’t want to see the Sox spend money just for the sake of saying “look, we signed Anthony Rendon, now we have to change our infield around to fit him in because we signed a guy at a position we didn’t need to fill, let’s hope Moncada is OK with another position switch.”
That doesn’t work. Spend the money, but spend it responsibly. Spend it on need. But don’t sign the cheapest player available and hope he’s a bounce-back candidate. Don’t sign an outfielder because he had a good season six years ago. Don’t sign a pitcher because he won a Cy Young award five years ago and he’s been awful since then. That doesn’t work.
I am 100% convinced this team can, with the right additions, contend for a Wild Card spot in 2020 and then for a division title in 2021. But there are holes that need to be filled and they need to be filled properly, with players who play the position and have been successful, recently. Winning teams have winning players. Let’s go out and find some.
It’s that time of year again, as the World Series is scheduled to begin next week and we can start looking ahead to the offseason happenings. Of course, as a Chicago White Sox fan, I’m usually thinking about the offseason possibilities long before the actual season ends, as the playoffs are usually 15+ games out of reach by the end of August.
This little exercise is going to be a look at what I would like to see the White Sox accomplish this offseason (and what I’m likely to do with my roster on MLB The Show) versus what I think the White Sox will actually do; and I’m going to keep it realistic, as much as possible, basing my forecast on what I have heard in the media and the team itself.
So, let’s begin.
Preference: Naturally, my preference here would be signing Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros to a long-term deal with every cent of the Manny Machado money from last offseason. However, I know that’s a pipe dream because of how this team (general manager Rick Hahn, in particular) likes to contradict himself, as one minute the team “has a lot of flexibility” in terms of “cash to spend,” while at the same time having to be “careful” what they spend.
So, my preference for starting pitching would be to sign New York Mets RHP Zack Wheeler. This is one of those moves that I consider a no-brainer. He won’t turn 30 until May, which makes him younger than Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel and he has FAR less wear and tear on his arm (749 career Major League innings for Wheeler as opposed to 1,302 for Keuchel and 1,846 for Bumgarner) than the other possibilities most linked to the White Sox. In addition, his 11 wins in 2019 were more than either Bumgarner or Keuchel.
For depth, I would not be opposed to resigning Ivan Nova, who lead the American League in starts in 2019 (34) and was durable and reasonably successful given the circumstances. I definitely don’t want to see him leading the staff, but as a depth piece instead.
Probability: While I don’t see the team springing big money for Wheeler, I don’t see them springing big money for Bumgarner or Keuchel either. The name I hear most regularly is Cole Hamels, most recently of the Chicago Cubs, as the big acquisition for the rotation. This makes no sense to me whatsoever, as the Sox would be bringing in a soon-to-be 36-year old pitcher with almost 2,700 innings on his arm, in spite of not reaching 200 innings in a season since 2016. If this move does happen, it reeks of “putting one over on the Cubs.”
For depth I do not see them resigning Nova, who will be able to score a bigger payday with one of the other rebuilding franchises (the Marlins, Orioles, Royals or Tigers) so I picture the White Sox big depth piece being a non-tendered-and-resigned Dylan Covey. I have also wondered if Kenny Williams would pitch the idea of being on a contender to Felix Hernandez.
Preference: I don’t make a big deal over relief pitching but I would like to see Jimmy Cordero back, due to his outstanding 2.75 ERA over 36 innings in 2019. Most relievers are interchangeable but I think a back end of Alex Colome closing with Aaron Bummer and a rejuvenated Kelvin Herrera setting him up, that’s pretty solid and I’ll take it.
Probability: As the White Sox don’t really make a big deal over middle relief and the set-up and closer roles are defined and filled, most anything can happen here. Cordero and Evan Marshall could come back just as easily as they could be replaced. The name I hear mentioned in the press is Dellin Betances, but that doesn’t make sense in a number of ways, not the least of which is his health (2/3 of an inning of work in 2019) as well as the fact that he really wouldn’t have a traditional role, since the back end of the bullpen is set.
I also think he is a little more expensive than the Sox tend to spend on middle relief.
Preference: This is easy for me. Sign James McCann long-term since he can be a free agent following the 2020 season, because even if his offensive numbers regress, and they will, he was a boon to the pitching staff. Zack Collins can serve as the backup and catch two or three times a week. Keep Yermin Mercedes at AAA Charlotte for a time when needed, or bring him up to fill the 26th man spot on the roster, as he certainly seems to be ready for The Show (.317/23 home runs/80 RBI in 2019). No big acquisitions are needed behind the plate.
Probability: The name I keep hearing here is Yasmani Grandal. In addition to the fact that he’ll be 31 when the season starts and hit .246 last year (while establishing career-highs in home runs, RBI and walks, to be fair), he turned down a multi-year contract offer from the White Sox last year in order to take a one-year deal with the Brewers. It doesn’t make much sense to offer more money this time around when he is a year older, with more wear and tear.
… and I see no circumstances whatsoever that Welington Castillo comes back in 2020.
Preference: This is easy. Resign Jose Abreu to a two year deal with a club option for a third and non-tender Yolmer Sanchez. Let Danny Mendick hold down second base until Nick Madrigal is ready and you’re set. Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Tim Anderson at short and Yoan Moncada at third, with Mendick covering second, short and third and Zack Collins handling first when needed. This should produce the easiest decisions on the roster.
Probability: I’m worried that Sanchez will be tendered at over $6 million to keep a seat warm for Madrigal, then kept on as a utility player in spite of the fact that his bat is worthless and this isn’t the National League where you see a lot of defensive replacements late in games. At one time, I was worried that the Sox would fall over themselves offering Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon a contract, but after he turned down a seven year, $215 million deal from the Nats, I’m not worried about that at all. The White Sox lucked out last year by not spending $250 million for Manny Machado, they won’t repeat the mistake this year and make a garish contract offer to the top offensive player available.
Preference: The White Sox are set in LF (Eloy Jimenez) and CF (Luis Robert) but RF is a bottomless pit. In my world, the Sox would sign Yasiel Puig to a four-year deal and park his 20+ home runs and 15+ stolen bases beside Jimenez and Robert in what could be described as a “dream outfield.” Hang onto Adam Engel as a pinch hitter and pinch runner and rare defensive replacement when needed, as well as Leury Garcia, who was solid in 2019.
Probability: This is where I get annoyed, as Kole Calhoun is apparently the overwhelming favorite due to the fact that he hits left-handed and he hit 33 home runs in 2019. It should be noted that (a) Calhoun is almost five years older than Puig, and (b) Calhoun’s 33 home runs in 2019 are not really comparable to his home runs totals in 2018 and 2017 (19) or 2016 (18). Calhoun clearly benefited from the juiced ball in 2019 and if that is remedied in 2020, those home run totals will drop. And that ugly .232 batting average and .325 OBP doesn’t help.
I do hear Corey Dickerson mentioned but I have a feeling the Sox are absolutely set on Kole Calhoun, but I’m not sure he’s going to get more than a one-year contract. I also hear Joc Pederson mentioned a lot but it would require a trade to get him and I’m not sure what the White Sox have of value that the Los Angeles Dodgers would want, maybe Mercedes and a pitcher but it would have to be one of the lower level/lower production pitchers.
Preference: J.D. Martinez. No question. Now, this is assuming he opts out of his current deal with the Detroit Tigers, of course. Offer him a four year deal for $100 million with an opt-out after two years, he’ll blow town after two years and the club would only be on the hook for $50 million, or $7 million more than they spent on Melky Cabrera in 2015. If Martinez is unavailable or too pricey, skip DH and rotate it between Abreu and Collins.
Probability: This is one area where I can see the Sox making the move and spending the money and it paying off. It’s a win/win for everybody. Martinez gets more money than he would have had he stayed with the Red Sox (and there’s has to be a reason to opt out and taking a pay cut would be out of the question), the White Sox shore up the offense and should get 40+ home runs from Martinez the next couple of seasons and don’t have to spend an ungodly amount of money to do so. It all makes too much sense not to do it.
I do worry that, if this option doesn’t work out, they’re going to try going over the top to sign Grandal and work him between catcher, first base and DH, and I don’t like anything about that idea. I’d rather let Collins develop into whatever he is going to be going forward.
So, all in all, it should be a fun offseason regardless of the direction the White Sox go. There is a good talent base on this team and it only needs to be filled in, but with the right pieces. The Sox don’t need a starting catcher, or a third baseman. The needs are obvious, a right fielder, a starting pitcher and a DH, and Puig, Wheeler and Martinez are the guys I want to see on the roster when we get to Spring Training next February. Will it happen? Most likely not. And not a whole lot of the “Machado Money” will be spent this offseason, regardless.
I’ll blog again after the Winter Meetings and hopefully we’ll have a better understanding of where we stand, assuming free agency moves at a better pace than it did last year.
Well, here we are again, at the end of another losing season. The seventh in a row. But for the first time, I legitimately have a good feeling about the upcoming season. Now, clearly it’s too early to make any definitive predictions, since the postseason hasn’t even begun and no transactions will be made until after the World Series (and maybe even after the winter meetings, if last year is any indication of the future), but I’m going to do my best to gaze into the future based on what I hear and read from team sources and the Chicago press, as well as my own guesses culled from 30 years of following this franchise.
A lot of what I’m going to touch on will be taken directly from the end-of-season press conference with White Sox GM Rick Hahn, who, I assume, knows more about what’s going on within his own team than the fans who watch, so I will take his word about things that he is being, shall we say, “forceful” about. Because he is the man in charge.
Beginning with the coaching staff. I am not expecting much, if any, turnover. However, Hahn did make two statements that caught me off guard. First, he refused to say that the staff would remain intact. Second, he made a point of saying that this staff was built to foster player development. Which I found interesting considering that Don Cooper has been the pitching coach for 17 years and hitting coach Todd Steverson has been in his position since 2014. First base coach Daryl Boston has also been at his spot since 2013. So why these “player development” coaches were in place in 2016, for instance, I don’t know. I do, however, think that is giving Hahn some leeway to make some changes.
I do NOT, however, think that any of the previously mentioned coaches will be going anywhere. I had thought that, conceivably, third base coach Nick Capra could be moved elsewhere (he won’t be fired considering he’s been in the organization for well over 20 years as a coach and manager) to allow Birmingham Barons manager Omar Vizquel to have a spot on the MLB staff and, eventually, replace Rick Renteria. I now realize I was totally off on that because the Sox seem hellbent on allowing Renteria to manage as long as he wants to and Vizquel’s name has already been mentioned for the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates managerial openings. It’s hard to keep a good manager secret.
So, if there is a move, I don’t know where it would be. I can’t imagine the Sox getting rid of Joe McEwing, who I believe has a future as a manager somewhere. Curt Hasler in the bullpen? I mean, the Sox let Bobby Thigpen go and no reason was given.
Now, on to the 2019 roster. There was some amazing growth, with Tim Anderson winning the American League batting title (.335 average) out of nowhere (after hitting a lackluster .240 last season) and Yoan Moncada (.315, 25 home runs, 79 RBI) and rookie Eloy Jimenez (.267, 31 home runs, 79 RBI) showing what they’re capable of doing in a full season.
Joe Abreu (.284, 33 home runs, an American League-leading 123 RBI) had an outstanding season, as did James McCann (.273, 18 home runs, 60 RBI), the two most-veteran players offensively. Both of whom I feel should be locked up with long-term contracts, as McCann will be a free agent following the 2020 season and Abreu will be in a month.
But there were also holes. Second base and right field and designated hitter. Second base seems to already have a superior replacement, with Nick Madrigal (.311, 4 home runs, 55 RBI, 35 stolen bases across three minor league levels) replacing all-glove, no bat Yolmer Sanchez (.252, 2 home runs, 43 RBI), especially with Yolmer about to hit around $6 million in salary for the 2020 season and better players (like Danny Mendick, who hit .282 overall with 19 home runs, 68 RBI and 19 stolen bases across AAA and at the MLB level) available to hold down second base until Madrigal is “ready” to take over in mid-April.
Right field was beyond awful, being manned by Daniel Palka (.107, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), Jon Jay (.267, 0 home runs, 9 RBI), Charlie Tilson (.229, 1 home run, 12 RBI) and Ryan Cordell (.221, 7 home runs, 24 RBI) during the season. An upgrade is badly needed.
Now we start to get into what’s available and what’s likely. Clearly, the biggest available name will be Mookie Betts, even though he’s not a free agent, he is expected to be traded and spend his final season before free agency somewhere other than Boston. That “somewhere” will definitely not be with the White Sox, as the cost in players wouldn’t be worth one season before he would invariably leave as a free agent for a $250 million deal elsewhere. Among free agents, there’s not much available in terms of guys who would “fit” the rebuild, though my choice (Yasiel Puig), does on every level. He hasn’t yet turned 29, he will not be cost-prohibitive, and his numbers (.267, 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 19 stolen bases) dwarf the combined numbers of 2019 Sox right fielders. Adding to that, he made $9.7 million in 2019, so even with a pay bump, he should fit right in. The fact that he would be on a team with a number of other Cuban players will help as well.
Then there are the right fielders I’m not fond of hearing about, including Kole Calhoun (.232, 33 home runs, 74 RBI), whom I believe benefited greatly from the juiced ball, as his previous three season totals in home runs were 19, 19 and 18, respectively, and he’s just about to turn 32. Also rumored regularly are Nick Castellanos (.289, 27 home runs, 73 RBI), Gerardo Parra (.234, 9 home runs, 48 RBI, about to turn 33) and our old buddy Avisail Garcia (.282, 20 home runs, 72 RBI) coming off a one-year deal with the Rays. Another good option in right is Corey Dickerson (.304, 12 home runs, 59 RBI) who played only 78 games in 2019 due to injury but won’t turn 31 until may and has a .286 career batting average.
I keep hearing and reading that potentially the Sox can trade for a right fielder, but this brings up two questions. First, who would they acquire and second, what would they send back in this hypothetical deal? Two things we know about the White Sox minor league system is that it is top heavy (outstanding top prospects and little depth) and injury-prone. And with the lack of depth on the MLB roster, the Sox can’t afford to be sending prospect packages out in trades because this rebuild has been razor thin from the start.
So, in a perfect world, the first move I make (outside of contract extensions for Jose Abreu and James McCann) is a four-year deal for Yasiel Puig to handle right field.
That leaves us with a pretty solid group in the field, with McCann behind the plate, an infield of Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third, and an outfield of Jimenez in left, Luis Robert (.328, 32 home runs, 92 RBI, 36 stolen bases and 108 runs scored across three minor league levels) in center and Puig in right. That is a group with power, speed and sufficient defensive ability assuming there is some improvement from Anderson and Jimenez and Robert is as advertised.
It’s here I want to bring up Anthony Rendon, who is mentioned pretty regularly as a possible target and it literally makes me angry to hear it. This would be signing a guy just to sign a guy, he doesn’t fit an area of need and there’s no logic to it. And I’m glad I waited until today to write this piece, because just a couple of hours ago I found out that the Washington Nationals had offered Rendon a seven-year contract for $215 million which instantly removes him from consideration because the word in the media is 100% unified that the Chicago White Sox won’t spend $200 million on a player. There may have been an offer to Manny Machado last year that in some way was in the ballpark of over $200 million and conceivably close to $250 million, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime offer. Machado was considered a legitimate franchise player, which Rendon is not. And the fact that signing Rendon would probably lead to Moncada moving back to second base, where he is not as comfortable and removing Madrigal from the equation entirely, makes absolutely no sense in any way. So I’m glad we know that offer is on the table from the Nats.
There is one offensive spot that I haven’t talked about yet, and that’s the DH spot, which was horrible last season, as White Sox designated hitters combined to hit .205 with 17 home runs. As everyone knows, the name that keeps coming up is J.D. Martinez (.304, 36 home runs, 105 RBI), who may opt out of his five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox.
At first, I was completely against this idea. But it’s starting to grow on me. The main reason I held my nose at the idea in the first place was Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche and Yonder Alonso, all of whom were signed to be the full-time DH and promptly fell flat on their faces. But now I’m figuring lighting can only strike in the same spot so many times, right? And Martinez is a better hitter than any of the three previous mistakes.
My big issue here is money. I heard on a recent White Sox Talk podcast that the White Sox should just offer him his current deal. OK, I’m not a genius, but even I know that there’s no point in opting out of a contract just to sign an identical deal. His only reason for opting out would be to improve on the deal he already has. So you can scratch five years at $110 million off and consider that below the going rate. Would the White Sox be willing to go five years and, say, $130 million for a designated hitter? Time will tell. Most people (fans especially) seem to think it’s a done deal, J.D. Martinez will be the White Sox DH on Opening Day. I’m warming up to it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
The other options among guys who are regular DH’s isn’t exactly anything to get excited over, with Edwin Encarnacion (.244, 34 home runs, 86 RBI and about to turn 37) and Nelson Cruz (.311, 41 home runs, 108 RBI and about to turn 40) as the best of the rest.
While Cruz is an incredible slugger, his age clearly doesn’t fit in with the Sox timetable.
So, my choice here is spend the money, see if J.D. Martinez will sign for five years and $130 million and if not, the Sox may be stuck with a revolving door at DH again, with Abreu and Zack Collins and alternating between the spot, with Collins filling in at first base. I think if this turns out to be the plan, the Sox will need to acquire another catcher or hope that Yermin Mercedes or Seby Zavala can somehow hold down the fort for the season.
With Martinez, the Sox have an incredible lineup, assuming Robert and Madrigal play up to their potential and Moncada and Jimenez continue to improve. I’ll take that lineup against most any in baseball. Without Martinez, they still should score some runs.
But no matter how many runs you score, you still have to give up fewer, which brings us to the pitching staff. And before I even begin, Rick Hahn has said as much (and the press has clearly stated) forget Gerrit Cole, the Sox aren’t signing anyone to a $200 million contract and Scott Boras has already said that $200 million will be the opening bid. So the idea of the White Sox signing the best of the best at any position is a pipe dream.
That does not mean there are not some damn good starting pitchers available. My pick would be Zack Wheeler (11-8, 3.96 ERA, 195 K’s in 195 innings), who won’t turn 30 until May, and due to losing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to injury, he has less wear and tear on his arm (749 career innings) than most pitchers at his age. Other reasonable options include Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51 ERA, 178 K’s in 159 innings) and Alex Wood, who is coming off an injury-plagued season of only seven starts but is only 28 years old and was a 16-game winner (and an All Star) as recently as 2017. Any of the three would be a rotation upgrade over Dylan Covey (6-29 career record, 6.54 career ERA) and the other losers who filled in the rotation last season outside of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Ivan Nova and Reynaldo Lopez.
With Michael Kopech coming back in 2020, we can basically fill in a rotation spot with him, but Nova (11-12, 4.72 ERA, 114 K’s in 187 innings and lead the American League allowing 225 hits) is a free agent, so his spot will need filling, even if he resigns with the Sox.
I think a rotation of Wheeler, Giolito, Kopech, Lopez and Cease is solid and while it’s not at the level of the offense, I think in a couple of years that it could be outstanding.
As starting pitching goes, the name I hear consistently is Dallas Keuchel, and I didn’t like it last year and I don’t like it this year. He’s basically a .500 pitcher now, as he finished 8-8 with the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves and finished 12-11 with the playoff-bound Houston Astros in 2018. He’ll be 32 in January and he’s definitely not a top-of-the-rotation ace anymore, he’s more along the lines of a third or fourth starter, and definitely not worth three years and $60 million. Look how paying that kind of money worked out for the Philadelphia Phillies with Jake Arrieta, who cashed in with a three-year deal for $75 million and has since gone 18-19 with the Phillies, and he’s only a year older than Keuchel.
There’s not much to say about the bullpen, we know Alex Colome will be back in the closer role with Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Bummer representing the best of the rest. I’m hopeful Jimmy Cordero comes back, he was outstanding in 2019 and definitely deserves a spot, along with Evan Marshall. I hope we’ve seen the last of Covey, Ross Detwiler, Jace Fry and Carson Fulmer, as none of them are legit pieces of a playoff team’s pitching staff.
I have heard multiple times that one reliever the White Sox will be in on is Dellin Betances, in spite of the fact that he pitched in a total of one game in 2019 (pitching 2/3 of an inning with 2 K’s) but I’m not sure that’s the smartest move the Sox could make there.
Most of the available free agent relievers are in their mid-30s and probably won’t be around for any kind of long-term run. They’ll be signed and flipped if the Sox fall out of the playoff race in 2020, or replaced from within once the season ends next year.
So, the team I want to see is clear, as I mentioned above. But I am legitimately worried that one of two things could happen that will ruin the offseason, the first being that the Sox, desperate to show they “belong at the big boy table,” will blow their whole wad on Anthony Rendon, who doesn’t fill a need and just upsets the team at two positions and makes a former first-round pick (Madrigal) seem a waste (which rebuilding teams can’t afford to do a lot of) or they are going to play it cozy and we’ll hear “year four” all season and they’ll sign the likes of Drew Smyly for the rotation (4-7, 6.24 ERA, 120 K’s in 114 innings) and Lonnie Chisenhall (didn’t play a single MLB game in 2019) for right field. As a Sox fan, I am conditioned to expect that the team will lowball and try to find players who won’t make much money and probably won’t make much impact and hope to catch lighting in a bottle, as my good friend Paul Scarpelli says. But that rarely works.
So as of now, with the roster in the shape it’s in at this moment, I see a team that should finish 82-80 and probably eight to ten games out of the Wild Card chase. Bring in Wheeler and J.D. Martinez and Yasiel Puig and I think you have a team capable of 88 to 90 wins and a definitive Wild Card contender. This is, of course, barring injuries to any of the main contributors, because the Sox just don’t have the depth to cover a major injury. The fact that Dylan Covey has made 45 starts and made 60 appearances in three years shows just how bad the depth is in this organization. The Yankees can plug and play because they have outstanding talent and outstanding depth, the Sox lack that depth.
I’m excited about the 2020 season and beyond, because even though the White Sox will never compete for top free agents or ever draft exceptionally well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a player like Luis Robert or Eloy Jimenez or even Yoan Moncada could be an MVP one day, and Giolito, Cease and Kopech could easily develop into consistent contenders for the Cy Young Award. The talent is here, it just needs to be supplemented with quality players who play positions of need. And they need to stay healthy.
I’ll blog again about this around the Winter Meetings, though I do worry that last year’s lack of activity may be an omen of things to come this year, especially with the possibility of a work stoppage looming in 2021, which would be the ultimate slap in the face to any Chicago White Sox fan after what happened during the last work stoppage in 1994. But we’ll worry about that when the time comes, for now, let’s look forward to the 2019-20 offseason.
It’s been a while since I’ve given my blog the attention it deserves from a baseball standpoint because I’ve been too busy beating my own head against the wall. That will change from this point forward as I would like to put 100% into my blog and keep my life’s focus on the things that are important to me and forget the nonsense.
As I write this entry, the Chicago White Sox are mired in a seven-game losing streak, and not against what you would call “top flight” competition; a three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s (at 55-41 a good bet to make a Wild Card run but nowhere close to being able to compete with teams like the Twins, Yankees and Astros), followed by a four-game sweep at the hands of the 36-62 Kansas City Royals, one of the three worst teams in baseball and the first time the Sox lost four in a row to KC in 25 years.
Since the All Star Break, the White Sox are 0-7 and have lost nine of their last ten overall.
A lot of things have been said about this team since January, some of which have been hushed up and replaced with different statements, and all of them bother me.
For example, early in the offseason, general manager Rick Hahn announced that this year we expected to see “results.” I assumed that meant in terms of the team’s record or in terms of the team’s play. Either/or. In spite of this current losing streak, the team is still ahead of it’s 2018 pace, but that pace was so horrible (62-100 record to end the season) that anything would be an improvement. There has been obvious improvement by a number of players (Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito were both all stars and had equaled their output, in terms of home runs and wins, respectively, by mid-season).
But the team remains directionless due to their shortcomings in the manager’s chair.
This team is bound and determined to sink (or swim) with Ricky Renteria managing the team. I think his concept of “managing” is making up a different lineup every day regardless of what works and what doesn’t, and making as many pitching changes as possible. That is all that managing a baseball team requires, and he must be the best at it because the very idea of finding a better manager is spat upon by the front office.
Speaking of the front office, they have a bad habit of dishonesty, which I have touched on before. Friends of mine have argued with me that the rebuild had no timetable and I was quite certain there was a timetable for the White Sox rebuild, and announcer Steve Stone spilled the beans on a recent broadcast (and doubled down this afternoon) about the rebuild being a “five-year plan.” Since it started following the 2016 season, that means the rebuild will last until 2021 and the team is expected to be a World Series contender by 2022. OK, fair enough. They should have just said so in the beginning.
Instead, they put on a show about trying to acquire free agent infielder/superstar Manny Machado, down to trying to acquire him via trade from the Baltimore Orioles before he hit free agency. They traded for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signed one of his best friends, Jon Jay, as a free agent. It turns out this was all a smokescreen. I don’t think they ever had any intention of making a legit offer to Machado. Let me explain.
Over the course of the winter, it was announced at one point the Sox had made Machado an offer of eight years, $175 million. This was quickly hushed up and it was announced that the offer was actually for eight years and $225 million. Either way it fell well short of the deal he signed with the Padres, both in years (10) and total compensation ($300 million). The White Sox weren’t even in the same ballpark with their ridiculous offer.
They tried to save face later on and explained that the deal “could have been” worth $350 million over ten years but that they could not afford $300 million over ten years.
Yes, I don’t get that either, other than the fact that the offer was more than likely eight years at $225 million (after he, no doubt, laughed in their face at the $175 million offer) and there may have been two option years valued at $125 million to make it seem that there was a “real” $350 million offer, but simply declining the “option” years would have left it at what it was at face value, far below the market price for a guy in Machado’s position.
So that was all a farce. They never had any intention of seriously pushing to acquire Machado. I’m not saying they didn’t want him, but they wanted him at their massive discount price, not at the price he ended up getting. And as for his brother-in-law (who has since been released), that was an $8 million mistake that I should have seen coming a mile away, because the White Sox declined to tender a $2 million contract to infielder/DH/pitcher Matt Davidson, and had made a point of not discussing his opportunities to pitch in 2019 because they knew all along he wouldn’t be back.
The next lie the front office laid out was they would not be acquiring anyone who didn’t fit into their vision of the future, yet they signed a 34-year old outfielder who can neither hit home runs or steal bases and is a bit of a liability in the outfield. Jon Jay.
Let’s stop being fanboys for a second and think about what this rebuild has meant to the bottom dollar for ownership. According to recent news, the White Sox are second in MLB in rising attendance, which means more money coming into the franchise. And the MLB roster is loaded down with guys making the minimum or there-about, with the exception of Jose Abreu who is the highest-paid player on the team by far.
The Pittsburgh Pirates taught me about that end of a rebuild, the more young players you have making the minimum, the less payroll you’re spending. Ownership likes that, especially if those young players pan out and more people want to go to the ballpark to watch them play. Then you trade them for other young players, making the minimum, when the players in question hit their salary arbitration years and are scheduled to make more money. In other words, acquire the best talent you can that is young enough to not be making much money. And you can do it in perpetuity and call it a “rebuild.”
After the Machado “chase” fell through, the fanboys started thinking who they could acquire with all that cash the team is suddenly flush with and the first name to come up was Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, which made zero sense as he plays third base which is where Yoan Moncada is now set and he is supposed to be one of the pillars of the rebuild. I guess you could DH Arenado but he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball so that wouldn’t exactly make any sense, but it was a moot point because he signed a $260 million extension with the Rockies the White Sox couldn’t have even begun to afford, and I’m sure the Rockies got a hometown discount on him anyway.
Then Sox fanboys started dreaming of Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon, the guy who will be at the top of the 2019-20 free agent listings. Who also plays third base and presents the same problems as Arenado, as he is negotiating a long-term deal with the Nats, plays third base and is defensively outstanding, as well as being far out of the White Sox contract comfort zone. So, another senseless waste of time.
The fact is, the White Sox fanboys aren’t interested in needs, they simply want a “Jon Lester acquisition.” This is in reference to Jon Lester being the star player the Chicago Cubs signed that put them over the top of their rebuild and lead them to a World Series title. What Sox fanboys fail to mention here is that (a) Lester was a need, as the Cubs starting rotation wasn’t top-notch without him and (b) he had a history with Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, which made his acquisition a lot less surprising.
If the White Sox are taking this rebuild seriously, they know their “Jon Lester acquisition” also needs to be a starting pitcher. The White Sox could have a killer lineup, but their pitching is suspect, to say the least. Both in the rotation and the bullpen. There are a ton of “what if’s” and very little actual production. The lineup is showing actual production, from James McCann and Jose Abreu to Yoan Moncada to Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez (when they’re healthy) and some of the legit hole-pluggers in the minors (Luis Robert in center field and Nick Madrigal at second base) could be legit superstars.
The lineup is not the problem. The pitching staff in total is the problem.
The only starting pitcher in this organization to win more than 15 games at the MLB level is Ivan Nova, who is a one-season stopgap and who won 16 games for the New York Yankees back in 2011. He hasn’t won more than 12 games in a season since.
Adding to the lack of production is the insane number of injuries White Sox organizational pitchers have endured in the past couple of years. Those injuries not only can ruin a career, but they’re losing valuable time and experience. And that will hurt.
I am all for this rebuild and I got really tired of the 70 to 78 win seasons, year in and year out with no hope for the future. Now there is hope for the future, even if that future is guaranteed to end by 2027 because all the young prospects will be hitting salary arbitration or free agency in that general time frame and at that point, it’s gonna get ugly again. And this is all assuming there’s no work stoppage in 2021.
I would like to see the team stay the course but begin by upgrading the coaching staff. The only guy on this staff that doesn’t annoy me is Daryl Boston, the first base coach. Everyone else should be replaced by more competent coaches who can teach these kids how to play instead of “here is our 150th different lineup in 150 games… Go up and try to hit a home run every at-bat… I think I’ll burn through the bullpen tonight and worry about the ramifications of it later” kind of bullshit. Because clearly, that ain’t working.
I would like to see all of the top prospects called up within the next year, not to be optioned back down in a week, but to learn at the MLB level and see if the talent matches the forecast. This will not only help in talent evaluation for the players themselves, but also to see where the holes are that will require future free agent signings or trades.
Jon Jay should follow Yonder Alonso out of town and a young player should be getting evaluated in his place. Is Jon Jay going to be with the White Sox in 2022? For that matter, I would guess he’ll be retired by 2022. His spot on the roster is being taken by a guy who has no future with this team. Send him packing and call up a youngster and see if he, in fact, has a future with this team. And I know fanboys will cry about service time and the fact that the team can’t manipulate it if they call the kids up too early.
Too bad. This isn’t a typical situation like most of the other teams are dealing with. And the White Sox have been smart in locking up their young players with long-term, “cheap” contracts that eliminate the worry about things like service time.
Back in the 1990s and 2000s I can remember Jerry Reinsdorf talking about managers or general managers who could take the team from point A, to point, B to point C, with point C being a championship. I wish he would go back and think about that, because there is no doubt in my mind at all that Ricky Renteria is not gonna take this team to point C.
As I said earlier, this may ultimately come to nothing, if there’s a 2021 work stoppage it may cripple this franchise like it did in 1994, though the current franchise has a lot more depth in the minor leagues than the franchise did in 1994, it still took six years for them to redevelop into a contender (2000 AL Central champions) and 11 years to redevelop into a championship team (2005 World Series champions). I don’t think any of us want to sit through a five-year rebuild and have to wait for 2030 for a championship win.
Right now this team should be talented enough to avoid a four-game sweep by one of the worst teams in baseball but that’s clearly not the case. With a series against a really solid Tampa Bay Rays team coming up this weekend, things don’t look good for the streak being broken any time soon. They say this kind of thing builds character, but how much character does a young team need at this point in it’s development? They need to learn to WIN.
I stick by my projection I made seven months ago, this team will finish the year 72-90. That will mean a long and difficult second half, but it will also mean a ten-game improvement from 2018 and that’s nothing to snicker at. Next season, if Michael Kopech delivers and Dylan Cease develops and Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert turn out to be all they are advertised this will be a .500 team and that would be another ten-game improvement. Then if Carlos Rodon comes back fully in 2021 and Nick Madrigal locks down second base and the Sox get their “Jon Lester acquisition,” another ten-win improvement and you have a team with 90+ wins and probably another AL Central Division championship.
It’s there for the taking, but everything has to work out and a managerial change is absolutely necessary. I have no doubt about that. But it’s gonna take some work besides. Yes, I’m annoyed at the current state of affairs, anyone who is a fan would be annoyed at a seven-game losing streak that is not against the best of the best, but it is hopefully just a blip on the radar and nothing more, and things will continue to improve on a year-by-year basis. The foundation is in place, it just needs to work out all the way down the line.
I’m going to begin this piece by admitting that there’s a chance I could have been wrong in my preseason prediction that the Chicago White Sox would finish the season with a 72-90 record. Now, granted, it’s not even June yet, but the team is still showing signs of being more than competent at this point in the rebuild, as of today (May 30), the team is 26-29, in third place in the American League Central and two games behind the second-place Cleveland Indians, though 11.5 games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins. Three games under .500, at this point, would have been a dream scenario.
At the time I made my prediction, I didn’t think 72-90 was out of line at all. That’s a ten-game improvement from 2018. That’s nothing to snicker at. That’s 76-win territory and 76 wins is just five games below .500. I could foresee a consistent ten-game improvement over this and the next couple of years. A 72-90 record in 2019 would be an 82-80 record in 2020 and you’ve got a ballclub over .500. Another ten game improvement in 2021 and you have a 90-72 record and, more than likely, an AL Central Division title.
If the 2019 team is currently on a pace to finish five games under .500, it would seem that this rebuild could be sped up a bit, and there are a few ways to do that.
Here is my five step plan to improving this team right now to finish .500:
Yonder Alonso should be designated for assignment immediately and Jon Jay should as soon as he is healthy. We know there was only one reason these two were signed in the first place, and that was to placate Manny Machado. Well, Manny didn’t sign. As of May 30, Alonso is hitting .172 with six home runs as the regular cleanup hitter for the Sox, while Jay hasn’t seen the field due to injury. The Sox passed on resigning Matt Davidson for less than $3 million to acquire Alonso and his $7 million salary. These two have brought nothing to the table this year and won’t be around next. Let’s expedite the process and send them packing now, which leads to my second point…
Call up Matt Skole or Daniel Palka from AAA Charlotte to replace Alonso. Both players have double digits in home runs and batting averages in the .260 to .270 range, 100 points higher than Alonso. They are both several years younger than Alonso and both left-handed hitters. And Palka can play a laughable outfield while Skole can also double at first or third base. Neither will be an MVP, but either would be an upgrade.
Call up Zack Collins and designate Welington Castillo for assignment. We have a legit All Star catcher in James McCann who should be getting the bulk of the work behind the plate. Castillo is a has-been whose best days are behind him. This is the time that Collins, the Sox catcher of the future, should be in Chicago, learning as a backup and getting two or three starts per week, while learning the intricacies of the position from one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and one of the best handlers of pitchers as well. These are things a kid like Collins could be learning up close right now.
Call up Carson Fulmer and Dylan Cease from AAA Charlotte. Fulmer needs to be a long reliever and spot starter at the Major League level. That’s his future, if he remains in the organization, so he should be doing it NOW. Cease has breezed through the minors and needs to be working at the MLB level. The whole point of the rebuild was to acquire the young players to compete, so those young players should be learning at the highest level. What you do in AAA doesn’t make any difference in the long run.
Replace the coaching staff. While it may seem strange to make a change like that when the team is trending upward, it also happens with every rebuild. Two recent examples being the Houston Astros (in 2014 they fired Bo Porter after a 72-90 season and replaced him with A.J. Hinch, who lead them to an 86-76 record in 2015 and a World Series title in 2017 with a 101-61 record) and the Chicago Cubs (who fired Rick Renteria after a 73-89 season and replaced him with Joe Maddon, who lead them to a 97-65 record in 2015 and a World Series title in 2016 with a 103-58 record). Now would be a good time to allow Omar Vizquel to take over as manager and hire his own staff.
A lot of these moves are no-brainers. This would allow the youngsters to learn at the highest level, under a manager who was also learning. Do you want to wait until you’re on the cusp of contending to make these moves? Or do you want to allow everyone to learn while they are in a position to make mistakes and learn from them?
There is a lot of talent on this team. James McCann, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez make a solid foundation to build upon. Add Skole and Palka and Collins and Fulmer and Cease to that group and it gets a lot better. What’s to be accomplished by keeping placeholders in the lineup?
I want to see this rebuild work and I want this team to win. I think this is the best way to achieve that at this point in the rebuild. And none of my ideas are completely ridiculous, like signing major free agents to contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These are legitimate, common-sense changes that could make a huge difference.