Five Changes I Would Make Immediately As General Manager Of The Chicago White Sox

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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.

Thank you for reading, and GO SOX!

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More Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s get it done. Go Sox!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

Updated Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox Rebuild

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I could have probably found a happier time to jump into this than during a losing streak but that’s where we are. I guess it’s better just to get it out of the way.

Let’s begin by remembering what we were told during the offseason, and I don’t mean the mistruths about how the Sox were going to be a big-time player in free agency. Admittedly, not all of that was the fault of the White Sox organization, as free agency has completely changed and the rug may have been pulled out from under the Sox.

I can’t count the number of times I heard Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and even talking heads like Chuck Garfien have reminded us, the fans, that 2018 was rock bottom. It was all uphill from there. That was the worst of the worst. A 100 loss season, it would get better from there. There would be real improvement during the 2019 season.

Well, here we are. Ten games in, the White Sox have the worst ERA in Major League Baseball. The starting rotation is worse now than at any point last season, and the bullpen is already overworked only 90 innings into the season. Ouch.

Amazingly, the offense ranks 15th in batting average, right in the middle. In spite of the horrible starts by Welington Castillo and Yolmer Sanchez and the ungodly bad opening to the season by Daniel Palka. That’s 1/3 of the starting nine. Of course, if you take the incredible numbers that Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada have put up out of the equation, suddenly the Sox drop to near the bottom of the league in offense.

And, of course, we can’t overlook the coaching staff. Rick Renteria is in completely over his head, Don Cooper lost his “magic touch” a decade ago and Todd Steverson never had one to begin with. But, as we know, there’s little accountability on this team. Never has been. The last manager to actually be “fired” was Jerry Manuel, in 2003.

Coop has been in the organization since 1988, for some reason. But, even if the White Sox were to end the season with the worst ERA in baseball, it doesn’t matter. We learned that last year when the White Sox set a record for strikeouts in a season by hitters and looked lost at the plate most of the time, unable to make adjustments or do anything to help themselves at the plate. Doesn’t matter, Steverson is still there.

Since the day he was hired, I have wondered how much actual due diligence the White Sox did before hiring Rick Renteria. I still think this was a move made to “get one over” on the Cubs, figuring how cool it would seem when the White Sox rebuild was complete and they won four straight World Series titles with a manger they filched from the Cubs. Except they didn’t, because the Cubs didn’t want him, they hired a better manager.

From where I’m sitting, Renteria has a credibility problem. He’s out here trying to lead a team of youngsters, but he’s pushing 60 and has no body of work to earn the respect of these players. If I were running a rebuild, I would either hire a manager who is closer in age to these kids, or find an older manager who has had some on-field success and let him use that to impress these players. Renteria fits neither of these prerequisites.

Renteria built a reputation as being a “good teacher” and, while he may be, I have seen no proof of that and what does that have to do with being a good field manager?

I’m also tired of the old “he’s never had any talent on the team’s he’s managed” nonsense. How much actual “talent” was on the 2005 Chicago White Sox? Yeah, there were 4 All Stars on that team but none of them are Hall Of Fame players and Scott Podsednik was a fan vote selection. Even Barack Obama, as a state senator from Illinois, recognized the club on the senate floor while announcing there were no “superstars” on the team.

Yet they won the World Series without a team full of great players. Great players do not a great team make. A good team can beat a great team if they outplay them strategically and are lead by a manager who knows what he is doing, at least sometimes.

The 2019 Chicago White Sox will be lucky to win a series this year against anyone. When the bullpen has been completely overworked ten games into the season with a number of built-in off days, it makes you wonder what’s going to happen when the team plays seven weeks straight with two built-in off days. I think it may get even uglier.

A large part of my apprehension with the rebuild is the fact that I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates “rebuild” from 1993 to sometime around 2007. Back then, it wasn’t referred to as a straight “rebuild” but as a “five-year plan to contend.” So the Pirates cleaned house and started rebuilding with youngsters. After three years some of those youngsters reached the Major League level and produced, and were promptly traded for prospects and the “five-year plan” was rebooted and started over. And again, prospects came up, produced and were traded and the plan was reset. This went on for years. I lived it.

Can that happen in this day and age? Yes, absolutely. Because we, as fans, have been conditioned to accept five years of losing for the hope of three years of contending before it has to be blown up and rebuilt again. The White Sox are not the Yankees or Dodgers or teams that can just contend for 25 years at a time before having to reload.

Suppose next offseason Rick Hahn, KW and the brain-trust decides that the team is short of Minor League talent and maybe it would be a good time to trade Tim Anderson while his value is high for three or four prospects. Then, maybe Yoan Moncada. “Yeah, we’ll push our window back a few years but we’ll score six or eight prospects and only lose two players in the process.” The Pirates pulled that for an entire generation.

There is also the fact that there is no accountability with this franchise.

Robin Ventura managed out his contract in spite of the fact that he was completely in over his head and had no managerial ability whatsoever. Rick Renteria has never had a winning season anywhere other than the minor leagues a decade ago but he’s still managing at the Major League level. Todd Steverson’s career achievement is the single-season strikeout record, but he’s still there. The pitching staff is awful, but Coop’s still employed. So what does it take to actually get fired? Maybe the White Sox would consider relieving Renteria of his duties if they could sign Joe Maddon and get one over on the Cubs again?

It’s legitimately tough being a White Sox fan, especially at times like these.

Then there’s the possibility of a work stoppage and the ever-present danger of the club moving after Jerry Reinsdorf either passes away or sells the team.

At that point, I would be out. I’m not following the team if they move to Portland or Las Vegas or Montreal. I would probably just quit watching baseball altogether and go back to watching college football and basketball and forget about baseball. Of course, there’s a good chance that may happen anyway if there’s a work stoppage in 2021.

Do I still have faith in the rebuild? Yes. I trust the process and I think it was well done. But it was well done under the idea that we would sprinkle in some free agents at the spots that the prospects didn’t develop, and that’s looking increasingly unlikely with the large number of stars who are signing contract extensions. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn like to remind us that we have the option of trading prospects for established players, but where do you dig that hole in order to fill in another one? Team’s don’t want to trade for bust prospects or guys who haven’t reached the MLB level and they’re pushing 30.

As I have said, this rebuild was conceived on a razors edge, unless 80% of the prospects pan out, there are going to be holes on the roster that could sink the team going forward. And this comes two years after Rick Hahn said he expected “25%” of the Sox prospects to become full-time MLB contributors. The Sox can’t afford that. They don’t have the ability to fill in all those holes, and they don’t have the talent to reset the rebuild.

So, we’ll spend the next five months seeing what happens. I’m not changing my preseason prediction, I think this team will finish 72-90 and ahead of the Tigers and Royals in the AL Central. While that may not seem like much, it’s an improvement of ten games over the 2018 “rock bottom” season. Of course, it’s not out of the question this team could lose 115 games and what the end result of that would be, I don’t know.

Hopefully the team will go into New York on Friday evening and look better than they did in Chicago against the Rays. But I don’t think I’m gonna hold my breath.

We’ll see.

Peace.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part II

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Let me preface this piece by saying this has to be one of the most boring offseasons in history. I can remember around 25 years ago when things would really pop at the Winter Meetings, days of trades and signings, surprise moves and lots to talk about. I spent more time yawning than talking about the Winter Meetings in 2018.

It’s January 2 as of this writing and the Chicago White Sox offseason moves are as follows:

– Signed pitcher Evan Marshall to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invitation.

– Traded for pitcher Manny Banuelos from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

– Traded catcher Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Alex Colome.

– Non-tendered IF Matt Davidson and OF Avisail Garcia.

– Traded for pitcher Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

– Traded for 1B Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians.

– Signed catcher James McCann, who was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers

That is the sum total of the White Sox offseason so far. Now, I know a lot of people legitimately believe the Sox are going to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, that they are going to put a ten-year, $350 million – $400 million offer on the table and one of the two of them will accept, and then we’re set at third base or right field for the next ten years. I have a multitude of issues with that on several levels.

First is the obvious, this team doesn’t spend that kind of money. Ever. After all, the White Sox could have had Babe Ruth but elected to lowball the Red Sox and he ended up with the New York Yankees, so this isn’t an organization known for liberal spending. And, as has been brought up numerous times in the media, the largest contract the team has ever handed out was six years and $68 million to Jose Abreu prior to the 2014 season.

Second, we have two guys here who have never won. Both have played on solid teams in the past, but neither has won a ring, and in fact in their combined 14 years at the MLB level, they have made one World Series appearance, Machado last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So they have not known a lot of success.

Yes, I know the most important thing to them is their wallet, but does anyone really believe that (a) the White Sox of all teams will have the largest contract offer, either overall or AAV, or (b) that the White Sox window of opportunity for winning will last any longer than, say, 2026? This is when several of the prospects will be hitting free agency, so there’s a pretty solid chance that in 2027 the team will begin to rebuild again.

More importantly, neither Harper or Machado is a pitcher, and the White Sox have a black hole in the bullpen and at least one opening in the starting rotation. If the season began today, the rotation would consist of Carlos Rodon, Ivan Nova, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Covey. While Giolito and Covey will more than likely have ERA’s over 5.00 by the end of 2019, Rodon is a good bet to have at least one trip to the disabled list. That leaves two pitchers that we should be absolutely able to count on in the rotation. And this is assuming the White Sox don’t offer James Shields a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training, which I said months ago I expected without question.

The bullpen looks worse. While there may be a legitimate closer for the first time in a long time (and I don’t consider David Robinson a “great” closer, by any stretch) in Alex Colome, getting a lead to him may be a problem with that rotation and a bullpen that lacks arms, beyond a guaranteed-to-get-hurt Nate Jones and a solid Jace Fry.

The White Sox will play their yearly game of picking up scraps from the garbage dump and plugging them into the bullpen in the hopes one will pitch to some level of decency and he can be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline.

One of the main problems I see with this franchise is that someone in the front office, or maybe everyone, thinks that putting together an offer for Harper or Machado is somehow a “win.” Like somehow you get a consolation prize when Machado goes to the New York Yankees and Harper goes back to the Washington Nationals.

No one cares who finished second in these free agent chases. I direct your attention to 2016, when the White Sox were the “clear favorites” to sign OF Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent. Of course, he resigned with the New York Mets for $110 million over four years and the White Sox were blown out of the water. This time is no different.

As much fun as it may be to sit and hope that either Harper or Machado will decide that they’re willing to play for half what they think they’re worth and they’re willing to play on losing teams for five years out of a ten-year deal, assuming all the prospects the Sox have collected pan out and they can contend from 2022 to 2026, I prefer to take a more intelligent approach and wonder what happens when they DON’T sign with the White Sox, because there has to be a plan B on the table in Rick Hahn’s office.

Or Kenny Williams’ office, you know, whoever is running this team, for real.

Do you feel comfortable heading into 2019 with the rotation mentioned above? Do you not worry about the bullpen arms evaporating and going elsewhere before you have a chance to sign them, or do you just bring up fringe prospects from Charlotte to fill out the bullpen until you find an arm to plug in? An outfield of Leury Garcia, Adam Engel and Daniel Palka, with Nicky Delmonico filling in as needed? The only upgrades this team has made will make no difference once they start contending, as Nova is a huge upgrade over James Shields (I guarantee that Ivan Nova’s 2019 season will exceed James Shields’ 2018 season in every measurable category so long as he stays injury-free this season) and Yonder Alonso is a huge upgrade over Matt Davidson. But neither will be here in 2022.

And I still think Alonso was acquired as an enticement to Machado.

So, we wait. Eventually Machado will sign with the Yankees and Harper will return to the Nationals or may sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the White Sox will announce that they made “significant” offers to both. No one will care, the lack of bullpen arms will remain, the lackluster rotation will remain, the lack of offense from the outfield will remain and another 100 loss season will be in the cards.

And then the press will begin (actually, have already begun) to tout the 2019 free agent class, and how much better it will be for the White Sox than Harper or Machado. The three names I see most often are Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and our old buddy, Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale.

Next offseason will be just like this one, as the White Sox are on the outside looking in as those three and many others sign (or resign) elsewhere. Hopefully, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease will join the Sox at some point in 2019 and make a smooth transition to the big leagues and become solid contributors, which will help the lack of free agent signings and take some of the sting out of that situation.

The bottom line is this team isn’t very good, and even if everything breaks right, they’re not going to be good for a couple or three years, and once they are good, they’re only going to be good for about a five year window, before these youngsters hit salary arbitration and, eventually, free agency. That’s the problem with a rebuild and bringing in a large number of prospects, it’s guaranteed to fizzle out after five to seven years.

So if I were Machado or Harper (or Arenado or Cole or Sale) I would want to go to (or stay with) a team that has had consistent success over a long period of time. If we look at the White Sox from 2012 to, say, 2029, which would be the third year of a potential second rebuild, and we’ll say they’ll be a juggernaut from 2022 to 2026, that would leave them with 12 losing seasons out of 18. I wouldn’t call that sustained success.

I don’t think the White Sox will be looked at as a front runner in free agency until 2023, once the prospects are called up and they have had at least one season of legitimate, on-field success, along with replacing manager Rick Renteria, who is not the second coming of Tony La Russa no mater how you slice it. Renteria’s star was rising a decade ago, and he’s done nothing since to enhance it or show he’s at all capable.

As we’re now down to the final six weeks of the offseason before Spring Training, maybe the White Sox will bring Shields back on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and a $3 million MLB salary, or maybe a Francisco Liriano or a Marco Estrada on a one-year deal to hold a spot for Michael Kopech, and maybe a John Axford or a Brad Boxberger or a Brandon Maurer for the bullpen with hopes of flipping a formerly successful pitcher into a minor leaguer at the trading deadline. That’s about the best we can expect.

I honestly wonder if the Machado/Harper “chase” is just a way of laying off free agency until most of the big money players are off the table (like Adam Ottovino, who would be a great addition but I’m sure the three years and $30 million are more than the Sox want to pay for a 7th or 8th inning guy) and then the Sox can sign whatever is left over at bargain prices and blame their lack of spending on Harper and Machado.

Now, I’m not saying I want them to spend without reason, I don’t want to see Dallas Keuchel in Chicago under any circumstances. But there’s no reason the White Sox couldn’t have taken Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp off the Dodgers hands instead of the Reds. Kemp could have filled in at DH this year (he’s a free agent after the season) and Puig could have been a fixture in right field for the next five years, or even through the entire contending process. And probably at 1/5 the price of signing Bryce Harper. Or pretending to try.

In closing, I’d like to say the White Sox can surprise me and make a really great move this offseason and next and build a team that can be competitive immediately, but as a fan of this sport for more than 30 years, I’ve seen enough to know how this movie ends.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I’ll probably post a final piece about the offseason the second week of February, prior to teams reporting for Spring Training. We should have a much better picture of what we’re dealing with by that point, and I doubt it’s going to be a whole lot different than what we’re dealing with right now.

I hope I’m wrong. But I rarely am.

God bless.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part I

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With news of the Chicago White Sox decision to extend the contract of manager Ricky Renteria yesterday (November 6), I decided I would do a two, or three-part series of blogs on my thoughts about the 2019 offseason.

Naturally, I am disturbed by the first major decision and question it.

Someone, somewhere, once thought Rick Renteria was a good manager. I’m not sure how they came about that opinion, because his record as a manger (264-384, a .407 winning percentage) would get him fired from any other job in the league, let alone his inability to handle a bullpen (who else wears their bullpen out in the first game of a series?) and write out a sensible lineup every day?

The White Sox front office is still living under the delusion that they pulled something over on the Chicago Cubs when they hired Ricky after he had been fired by the Cubs to make room for Joe Maddon, who is clearly superior to Ricky in every phase of managing a baseball club. That’s not even debatable.

So, the Sox extend their clueless manager. That’s the first step to guaranteeing that the better free agents are not going to want to sign with you. That’s not the kind of move a winning organization makes. And regardless of who wants to fight about it, nothing this team has done yet in this rebuild has actually paid off.

Yoan Moncada was supposed to be a superstar. Some of the preseason baseball literature actually had him winning Rookie Of The Year in 2017 and being an All Star in 2018. Instead, he’s carrying around a .234 career batting average and striking out once every three at-bats, while looking disinterested in the field.

Then there’s Michael Kopech, who looked outstanding overall in four starts despite a 5.02 ERA. In 14 innings, he struck out 15 and walked two. But all that is meaningless because Tommy John surgery has put him on the shelf until 2020.

None of the other prospects, whether it be Dylan Cease or Eloy Jimenez or Micker Adolfo or our 2018 #1 Draft Pick Nick Madrigal has done anything at the MLB level. And with Moncada looking like an overrated bust, who is to say any of the other youngsters won’t turn out the same way in the long run?

No rebuild is guaranteed. Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, now the White Sox are blowing smoke about being in the running for major free agents. Sometimes I fall in and think anything is possible. Then I remember how this team operates. The largest contract ever given out was a six-year, $68 million deal to Jose Abreu, who has been worth every penny, no doubt.

In my mind, I see free agent targets Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signing ten or 12-year deals for over $350 million elsewhere as Rick Hahn announces that the White Sox made a “very competitive bid” but won’t elaborate.

Behind closed doors, those offers were in the six-year, $75 million range.

Then, to prove that the team isn’t tanking in free agent negotiations, Hahn offers someone like pitcher Dallas Keuchel a monster deal (three years, $60 million) and badly overpays just to show that the Sox will spend money.

While Hahn acts like a schoolboy trying to impress the girls, most of the baseball press has already figured this team out, and I have read on a number of sights that the best bet for a White Sox free agent signee is pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez had a career revival last year with the Atlanta Braves, compiling a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings with 135 strikeouts and 42 walks, he certainly isn’t the franchise-defining free agent signing that Hahn is trying to fool us into believing is just around the corner. Sanchez will be 35 in 2019, and no part of a contending team, assuming the Sox are able to actually put together a contending team.

If I were running the White Sox, my first move would be to trade for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom I sincerely believe is the Carlton Fisk of this generation. His 2018 season (.274, 21 home runs, 74 RBI, All Star) dwarfs anything any White Sox catcher has done since A.J. Pierzynski. And there is no question that catcher is the most important position on the field. At least, there shouldn’t be.  I would give the Marlins whatever they want, short of Jimenez, in terms of a three or four-player deal and then sign Realmuto to a long-term contract.  Not a second thought.

But, the Sox are happy to get by with Omar Narvaez, who is a solid hitter but lacks any kind of real defensive prowess behind the plate, along with journeyman cheater Welington Castillo, while waiting for top catching “prospect” Zack Collins (who has a .232 career minor league batting average while only working his way up to the AA level) to develop into a guy that can actually hit in spite of his subpar defense.

I would sign Jose Abreu to a contract extension. He’s the only guy on this team over the past several years who has produced any kind of quality numbers. Yes, 2018 was an injury-plagued season, but his injuries certainly were not typical “wear and tear” injuries that guys suffer, and he still hit .265 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI.

As for free agency, there are clearly some holes on this team, starting with third base. I like Yolmer Sanchez as much as the next guy, but .242 with eight home runs and 55 RBI isn’t going to cut it at the hot corner. That’s always been one of the traditional power spots, unless you had a once-in-a-generation hitter like Wade Boggs. Yolmer is no Wade Boggs. He’s a good little utility player. Nothing more.

As free agency goes, Mike Moustakas is clearly the best third baseman available, coming off a season of 28 home runs and 95 RBI split between Kansas City and Milwaukee. Here is a guy with four 20+ home run seasons in the past six years and is not even a blip on the White Sox radar. Why? Because Jake Burger is the answer?

The outfield is also a sore spot, but I don’t see a lot being done there, with the expected promotion of uber-prospect Jimenez likely in April and the eventual promotion of Luis Robert to play CF. More than likely, a utility OF who can handle all three spots will be about as far as the White Sox go. They may want you to think that Bryce Harper is on the radar, but take my word for it, he isn’t going to sign for six years and $75 million when someone else will offer him four times that.

The pitching staff is where I expect most of the “action” to take place, much like last year and the year before. Several down-on-their-luck relief pitchers will sign and the Sox will try to flip them at the deadline for some borderline talent.

I sincerely doubt that one move the team makes this offseason will have any impact whatsoever on the roster once the team is competitive. I suspect Hahn will sign stopgap players again just to get through to 2020 when Kopech returns, and hope that Cease develops into a reliable starter and then the team can consider trying to fill holes with players who are a little more Bryce Harper than Melky Cabrera.

Which brings me to next offseason. If this offseason plays out as I think it will (i.e. exactly like last offseason) then there will be a drumbeat to sign third baseman Nolan Arenado. That’s assuming he even reaches free agency, as the Rockies are already rumored to be trying to sign him before he reaches the market.

As of tonight (November 7) the big name flying as a potential White Sox free agent target is pitcher J.A. Happ. Happ is coming off a 17-win season split between the Yankees and Blue Jays, and I’m not quite sure why anyone sees him signing with the White Sox. He should be able to turn that solid season into a nice payday with a contending team. But I’ll leave that for the “experts” to explain.

The more I look at the list of free agents, the more I realize the White Sox are in a state of purgatory. Even pretending to pay top dollar for a player on the wrong side of 30 makes no sense because this team isn’t going to be contending for at least a couple of more years. I think a run at a Wild Card spot in 2021 is their best bet.

But attempting to sign a young player like Harper or Machado makes little sense, as players of that caliber have been adding opt-outs to their contracts which lets them get out of a long-term deal after three years if they so desire. The upshot of that is if the Sox sign them before 2019, they can hit the market again after 2021.

Having said all of this, I’m willing to set back and let Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf prove me wrong. I sincerely hope they do. But coming out to the press and announcing a “competitive offer” isn’t going to fool anyone. If you want to impress me, make Machado a 10-year, $350 million deal and make it public knowledge. Then, if he declines, the fan base can say “they tried.”

But make those kinds of offers to the players who really deserve it, don’t overpay an over-the-hill pitcher twice what’s he is worth just to show that you are willing to spend money. And that is what I am most afraid is going to happen.

I’ll write another entry on this subject after the MLB Winter Meetings are held in Las Vegas, December 9 through December 13. I don’t expect any major happenings between now and then, but, who knows. In the meantime, this is how I see it playing out and if something unforeseen happens, I’ll address it.

Thank you for reading and GO SOX!

What Is And Is Not Going To Happen In Chicago White Sox Baseball In 2019… And Beyond

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After much online discussion and reading a multitude of stories from a multitude of different sports websites, I have come up with a list of things I believe will and will not happen within the Chicago White Sox franchise this offseason and into next year. While these are somewhat open to interpretation and subject to change barring unforeseen circumstances (i.e. catastrophic injuries, etc.) I am relatively certain each of these happenings will come to pass.

  1. Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper will not be signing with the Chicago White Sox. This is the closest thing I can come up with to a no-brainer. Both of these guys are going to get extensive, long-term deals (probably in the 10-year range) with exorbitant salaries (I would say between $30 and $40 million per year) with an opt out after three seasons. This makes no sense for the White Sox on a number of levels and makes no sense for Machado and Harper. The White Sox will not be competitive until 2021, at the earliest. Which would mean one of these free agents could hit the market again just as the White Sox enter their three-to-five year window of contention. That would be counterproductive to producing a winning team, to lose your franchise free agent-signee just as you are about to begin competing. And why would anyone want to sign with a team that’s pretty much guaranteed to be tanking for a couple of more years? Money aside, players want to win, that’s why they play the game.

  2. James Shields will be back in 2019. “Big Lame” James has a $16 million team option for 2019 that will definitely be declined. I don’t think there’s even a second thought about that. However, due to the fact that there will be absolutely no demand for his services, and the fact that the White Sox are enamored of his ability to throw 200+ innings (in spite of his 7-16 record, 4.53 ERA, 1.4 WAR and 1.309 WHIP) regardless of the results. So a $2 million buyout and a one-year, $5 million deal will go down this offseason. That will leave one open rotation spot for the White Sox to fill…

  3. Dylan Covey will not be in the 2019 White Sox rotation. This will be the year that Dylan Covey lays claim to the long relief/spot starter role in the White Sox bullpen. This job should have belonged to Carson Fulmer, but he can’t pitch his way out of AAA so it will fall to Covey. Covey’s numbers overall were putrid in 2017 (5-14, 5.18 ERA, -0.2 WAR and 1.488 WHIP) but he has the stuff to make a move to the bullpen successfully. Facing batters for only one inning (or less, depending on the continued overuse of the bullpen by Rick Renteria) will make him much more effective.

  4. The White Sox major acquisition prior to contending will be a catcher, because no one in the farm system is going to develop into a franchise catcher. Zack Collins is the Sox top prospect at the position and he is coming off a 2018 season in which he hit .234 and made nine errors in only 74 games behind the plate (out of 122 games played overall). Seby Zavala was the “surprise” of the 2017, but his numbers regressed significantly in 2018 (from 21 home runs to 13, from 74 RBI to 51 and a .282 batting average to .258) in roughly the same number of games (107 in 2017, 104 in 2018).

  5. Carson Fulmer will never see the MLB level with the White Sox again. After a horrible performance early in the 2018 season with the Sox (2-4, 8.07 ERA, -1.0 WAR and 1.887 WHIP) his numbers were not any better with the AAA Charlotte Knights (5-6, 5.32 ERA, 1.64 WHIP). His numbers are poor as both a starter and a reliever, and another reason I don’t trust the White Sox brass when it comes to the MLB Draft.

  6. Avi Garcia will be shopped heavily during the offseason and if not traded, may be non-tendered. Garcia has nearly 2,500 career plate appearances over parts of seven seasons with the Tigers and White Sox and still has yet to hit 20+ home runs in a single season. Given his lack of speed he is pretty much a one-dimensional player. The time has now come to start slowly introducing the outfielders of the future and that will begin this year with Eloy Jimenez. Garcia’s 2017 salary of $6.7 million is bound to rise due to his career high in home runs in a very limited season (93 games) and he’ll be the odd man out in the outfield once Jimenez is recalled in mid-April.

  7. This will be the final season in Chicago for Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia, Nate Jones and Kevan Smith. These four are just placeholders and nothing is going to change. Davidson will hit in the .220s with 20 home runs and hit pitching exploits will get more coverage than anything he does with the bat, much like 2018. Smith is a solid defensive catcher with no hitting prowess to speak of, and Garcia is a versatile player who can’t stay healthy enough to contribute much. Jones has a triple-digit fastball that he throws straight as an arrow and his inability to stay healthy has cost him. Of the four, I see Davidson getting a minor league deal for 2020 somewhere other than Chicago due to his power bat, but the rest will just sort of disappear.

  8. Ricky Renteria will not be retained following the 2019 season after the White Sox finish the season with 90+ losses again and very little to show in the way of progress. Renteria is supposedly a great teacher, and that’s what earned him the managerial job with the Cubs and the White Sox. I haven’t seen it yet. I have watched a guy who doesn’t know how to handle a bullpen any better than I know how to do needlework. Instead of letting these kids work their way out of trouble and learn what they should and should not do, he can make three or four pitching changes per inning like he’s managing the 9th inning of Game Seven of the World Series. Which he’ll never see. Renteria was a reflex-reaction hire because the White Sox thought they were getting one over on the Cubs by hiring their former manager. I say if Ricky were that good, the Cubs would have kept him, regardless of who became available. They had no faith in Ricky. Neither do I. Ricky’s contract, which he signed prior to the 2017 season, expires after 2019.

  9. Jose Abreu will sign a contract extension before the end of the 2019 season. Jose is the heart and soul of the franchise and the White Sox have little in the minor leagues to replace him with. He has carried the team at times when no one else in the lineup was producing anything. His defense has improved immensely. He’ll be handling first base and occasional DH duties when the team begins competing in 2021.

  10. Omar Vizquel will lead the White Sox to the playoffs, and to a World Series title as the team’s manager. Vizquel’s success, along with his familiarity with the young players who will be getting to Chicago over the next few years, make him the perfect candidate. I sometimes wonder if this was the plan all along, or if maybe I’m giving the White Sox too much credit. Vizquel lead the Winston-Salem Dash to an 84-54 record in 2018 and the Carolina League Southern Division title. By 2023 he will be leading the Chicago White Sox to the American League Central Division title.