Chicago White Sox: Offseason Update (November 12, 2019)

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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.

Thank you for reading. Peace.

The Chicago White Sox 2019-20 Offseason: Preferences vs. Probabilities

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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.

STARTING PITCHING

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.

RELIEF PITCHING

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.

CATCHING

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.

INFIELD

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.

OUTFIELD

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.

DESIGNATED HITTER

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.

Peace.

2019 Chicago White Sox Wrap Up and Offseason Primer

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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.

Thank you for reading. And GO SOX!

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!

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

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Those that have known me for any appreciable length of time know that I have been a fan of the works of Alfred Hitchcock for nearly 30 years. I was first introduced to him via Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes in the fall of 1991, when my mom invited me to watch an episode and I was instantly hooked. In the years since, I have acquired nearly never episode of that program plus all of his surviving feature films.

I actually began taping Alfred Hitchcock Presents the year I discovered it, on VHS tapes, as they aired on Nick At Nite. In 1998, I re-recorded every episode that was shown on TV Land. Finally, when the program was released on DVD, I was quick to purchase every season that’s been released. I am still waiting for the release of the final season. I’m not sure why every other season was rushed to release except that one.

As for his feature films, AMC ran a marathon in 1999, the 100th anniversary of Hitchcock’s birth, and I filled as many VHS tapes as I could with those films. The ones that weren’t shown, I would try to find at my local movie and music stores.

Then, in 2010, I purchased three studio-release boxed sets, as well as a $5 Walmart boxed set that featured mostly silent films from the 1920s. The few films that were not included in any of these sets, I purchased on individual DVDs.

I have 54 feature films and 229 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in my collection. I plan to watch ALL of them over the next five months or so. While I have, more than likely, watched every episode of the TV program over the years, there are still 10 or 12 feature films I have not seen, even though they have been in my collection for a number of years. This has been a dream of mine for some time. Now it will happen.

In addition to watching, I also am planning to rate each film and TV episode through my IMDb account. I have done this previously with the 1950s TV series State Trooper and with the first two seasons of the original Star Trek series. I think it will be fun to look back on that as the years go by and especially when I watch a film over again.

This little project has literally been something I have been desirous of doing since at least 2005. I knew it would be a winter project, since my summer nights are taken by Chicago White Sox baseball games. I also knew it needed to be done at a time when I would have absolutely no outside distractions on a nightly basis.

My current thought process says I would like to watch three films per week, which will take 18 weeks if all goes as planned. I would also like to watch roughly 10 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents per week, which would take roughly five months, and I would finish up right in time for MLB Spring Training in 2019. I do worry about burnout, though a few years ago I watched every episode of The Lone Ranger during the winter months, 221 complete, and never suffered burnout. And could have watched more.

I have printed out the title of all 54 feature films and will be cutting them out and putting them in an old cigar box and will draw a film out and watch, that way I’m leaving which films I’ll be watching completely to chance. I don’t want to just jump in watching my favorites (i.e. The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca and Psycho) all at once.

Oddly enough, the oldest surviving Hitchcock film, titled The Pleasure Garden, is one of the few I have not seen before. It was not included in any of the boxed sets. Released in 1925, I was able to secure a DVD copy from Amazon at a reasonable price. Apparently, it is now out of print because it is no longer available on Amazon or eBay.

I am looking forward to this project. It is many years in the making.

Below is my collection.

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