Podcast: Lack of clarity

Guest: Dan Szymborski, Fangraphs

The Rundown:

  • Our best friend of the podcast, Dan Szymborski, joins the show to share his thoughts about the 2018 White Sox season. How players like Giolito and Moncada are not providing enough clarity with their play, why it might be best for the White Sox to stand pat this off-season, and how the Sox may have already lost the Chris Sale trade.
  • We recap the Orioles series where we see Reynaldo Lopez continue his quality pitching in his last five starts. Daniel Palka keeps smashing home runs, but is he evolving as a hitter? Is 2018 finally the year that Avisail Garcia hits 20 homers in a season?
  • Finally, we tackle your questions in P.O. Sox:

Bill Wiggins

I imagine that Nick Madrigal will be the Sox 2nd baseball in early 2020 so wouldn’t spring training be a good time to move Moncada to 3rd and Sanchez could play 2nd until Madrigal arrives or Yoan could attempt to learn centerfield.

Jim Kane

Do you think G-Rate could ever allow for/encourage a rowdy fan section similar to those seen in soccer stadiums? Songs, chants, drums, etc.? I believe Miami has designated a section for similar purposes. The 108 guys seem to do a good job bringing the party attitude to the games, even in lost seasons. Think Sox fans would ever be able to take a step further and inject more life into a stadium that has long been criticized for lack of fans/character? Would it even be a good idea or rather an off-putting distraction like the wave?

For our Patreon supporters only:

Andrew Segall

What do the September absences of Fulmer and Jordan Stephens say about their roles in the ‘19 team and beyond?

David Imbordino

The Sox continue to look like little leaguers with their defensive play on many occasions, like Sunday’s game against Baltimore. Ricky Renteria is supposedly a manager great at player development, but I’m not seeing much of a trend line upward in that respect. What gives, and what needs to change?

Mark Hope

As far as position players go who currently on the 40 man is least likely to be on the 40 man for opening day 2019?

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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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Anybody who says the White Sox may have already lost the Chris Sale trade is clueless. We won’t know for 5 years. Moncada and Kopech could both be superstars and Chris Sale has won ZERO playoff games for the Red Sox.


Yes, they are clueless. I’m more than willing to say that Moncada has not done what he was expected to do yet. And Kopech will not pitch until 2020. And Chris Sale has been lights out in two years as a starter. But in two postseason starts he has give up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs in 9 2/3 innings. You can fWar and bWar all you want, but the Red Sox did not get Chris Sale so that he could SUCK in the playoffs. I agree completely that it hasn’t started out well for the Sox, but any sane person would say you need 5 years to determine who won a trade. If Moncada continues to struggle and Kopech doesn’t come back, then yes, the Red Sox will win this trade big time. But let’s give it some time before we make that statement. He said the White Sox may have already lost the Chris Sale trade. THAT is a clueless statement.


On the whole, I think Roke1960 is correct. It is far too early to tell about any of these trades.

Step back and look at the Sale trade. The White Sox traded a star pitcher in his prime in exchange for four prospects, at the time aged 21, 20, 20 and 22. Only one of those guys had any MLB experience, in the form of 20 plate appearances.

Yet somehow, we have people ready to declare this trade a “loss”…based on nothing more concrete than WAR performance so far, with Sale still in his prime, and the other guys just getting started. That is comparing apples to oranges.

When we look at WAR, we are looking at a number derived from past performance as a predictor of the future. So in the case of Chris Sale, we have had many more seasons of data to develop a predictor, and obviously Sale predicts to be a star with vary little variability around that mean.

On the other hand, we have small sample sizes from Moncada and Kopech. There will be too much potential variability in the current calculation for Moncada and Kopech to make it reliable just now as a predictor of future performance. (To say nothing of the other two guys.)

Further, what exactly does the injury to Kopech have to do with judging the trade a “success” or “failure”? Every player is at risk to be injured. In fact, many people who have watched Chris Sale over the course of his career are amazed that he has avoided serious arm injury…so far. If, instead of Kopech, Sale were the one to blow out his elbow in a start and not pitch again until 2020, would that make the White Sox a winner? There is simply no way to know.

Certainly, Moncada has issues as a player, but he’s only 23. He definitely needs to cut-back on his strikeouts, but unlike a lot of guys, it’s clear that he has the athletic ability to do that. If he does, and manages to keep growing as a player, the WAR will take care of itself.

We also saw what Michael Kopech can be. It sucks that he will lose a season, but he can be a lot more than just a thrower and he will only be 24 when he is ready to return.


I’m not sure what it means to really “win” the trade. Are you saying that if Sale ends up with more WAR than Moncada/Kopech/Basabe (MKB) that it was a bad trade? Because that’s not necessarily true assuming MKB produce their WAR more efficiently, i.e. when the White Sox are competitive. Even with the bleak early results, surely MKB are still the better bet for higher WAR on a competitive Sox team than Sale running out his contract.

Given the chance to make the same trade again, surely the Sox still take it, even knowing what they know today. Keeping Sale might be a “win” in terms of higher WAR, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory at best.


I agree. I don’t think the team that gets the highest WAR “wins” the trade. And knowing what we know now, I would still make that trade. The only regret I have about Sale is that he never got to pitch in Chicago under a competent manager.

lil jimmy

Here’s the thing, Sale was getting traded. Not maybe, but traded. As sure as God made little green applies. This was the very best deal available.
The only way to trade a superstar like Sale and win is if he gets hurt. I loved the Condor and would never wish for that.
Trying to rewrite the past is no way to win the future.


And so it all comes back to why did they have to trade Sale, Quintana and Eaton? Who was in charge back then? Oh yeah, the same guys who are in charge now! Doesn’t bode well for the future.

lil jimmy

Not really. Failure teaches you more than success. This team is being built from the ground up. I like our chances.
I used to be like you but,

“I used to walk in the shade with them blues on parade
Now I’m not afraid… This rover has crossed over”

karkovice squad

Here’s the thing: that was a choice not a necessity. It was fair to question the rationale then. It’s still fair to question it. It’ll continue to be fair unless the Sox manage to deliver an unprecedented (for the Sox) run of success. Expecting unprecedented success is only fair given the lack of precedent for giving up on 3 players of that quality with contracts that were that favorable with that amount of time left on them.

Trooper Galactus

Our Rookie, A-, and A+ ball clubs making the postseason is at least a bit of a portent for a future run of success. That said, it’s hard to look at the current returns from the Sale trade and not be exceptionally disappointed.


There is no need to even have this discussion until about 2023. The reason I started it was that Symborski said they may have already lost the trade. Again, that is clueless.


Not to Red Sox fans.


I shouldn’t have said playoff wins- he got rocked in two playoff appearances. If he doesn’t pitch well in the playoffs, the Red Sox fans will consider it a loss. They have much higher expectations than us.


I’m on your side on this. Right now, it doesn’t look good for the Sox. I just think Moncada and Kopech will both be all-stars in the future. I think the Sox need a hitting instructor who can bring out the obvious talent Moncada has. Which is why one of the first things in my offseason plan is a new hitting coach. Steverson was brought in to improve their OBP. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I’ve never heard anyone say he had really helped them. He’s got to go. Which then leads back to the two Ricks. That’s why I’m leery about this rebuild being successful.

Trooper Galactus

I’m all for getting a new hitting coach, but this OBP shit-show starts with the scouts and continues throughout their system. The last couple years has seen an improvement, but it hasn’t filtered up to the major league club yet.


I mean that they produce that WAR for a competitive Sox team. Knowing what you know now, would you keep Sale instead of trading him? 

My point is that Sale’s contract is done after 2019. Keeping him may have given the White Sox more total WAR, but for what? Maybe get 70 wins? 

Even if they produce half the WAR, MKB would be doing it for teams that *could be* competitive, and therefore their WAR would be more efficient for the Sox. That is, it would be more efficient toward accomplishing their main goal, say, making the playoffs. 

karkovice squad

I’d add:
1a) They’ve got a lead in more than just raw production.
1b)Sale has produced 13-14 WAR across 2 seasons where the Red Sox have/will have made the postseason. With next year looking good as well.
1c) The wins they acquired are more valuable as a result of where they were on the win curve, regardless of how he pitched in the postseason.
2) Moncada and Kopech are going to be judged across 12+ player-seasons. Which provides more reason why their overall production should have to exceed Sale’s to judge the trade a win.
3) Chicago tearing it down means that Moncada and Kopech (as well as Giolito, Lopez, and Jimenez) are providing less valuable wins from the 60s to maybe the low 80s, rather than marginal wins that materially improve playoff odds. So that puts their raw production further in a hole value-wise.
4) Not only isn’t Kopech throwing another inning until 2020, he’ll accumulate a year of service time in the interim. Moncada’s already used a year of service time in a lost cause and, depending on whether 2019 proceeds as expected, is likely to use another. Which isn’t to say that they should still be in the minors but rather to highlight another challenge for generating enough value to consider the trade a win.

As ridiculous as it sounds, 40 WAR out of the pair might not even be enough.

Trooper Galactus

40 WAR out of the two of them would mean, over five (Moncada) and four (Kopech) player seasons respectively, they average about 4 WAR per player season starting in 2019 (this taking into account what little value has already been accrued). That would be a pretty big win in my opinion.

Now if we’re talking they collectively produce 20 WAR, well, it depends. If Kopech comes back and has four 4 WAR seasons and Moncada is generally a bust (or vice-versa), yeah, it’s bad, but at least you got very good performance out of one roster spot, even if he doesn’t wind up being as good as Chris Sale. But if they both wind up just producing a bunch of meh 1.5-2 WAR seasons which add up to 20, yeah, that is gonna be pretty bad. They need one of these guys to be decidedly above average at a minimum.

karkovice squad

You’re welcome to make that assertion. It doesn’t address any of the reasons why 40 WAR from the pair of them still might fall short of the value from 20 WAR by Sale over 3 years, however.


Very interesting questions. In some ways, the rebuild has gone well, in others not so well. But I’m just worried that we have the wrong leadership moving forward. I really don’t trust the two Ricks to lead us to a championship.

Patrick Nolan

Other than “appeared to get fair value for major pieces at the time of trade”, I have a hard time thinking of ways in which the rebuild has gone well. It’s been pretty rough out here.


Yeah, there aren’t a lot of ways it’s gone well. Cease and Kopech appear to be potential front of the rotation starters, and Eloy looks to be a beast. As far as actual major league progress, though, not much is working. I still think we need to try to get Machado. Even if we’re not ready to win in 2019, he’ll be there for the next 10 years, and there aren’t many others guys out there with his ability.

Trooper Galactus

The current “Omar Narvaez, but younger and strikes out way more” profile is not particularly encouraging.

karkovice squad

They…might have an effective, inexpensive bullpen?

Trooper Galactus

The Sale one is the only one that feels like an outright disaster right now. Eaton netted two pitchers who look like they’re going to stick in the rotation and still flash lots of upside, as well as an excellent depth piece in Dunning. The Quintana trade may have netted us a franchise hitter and a top-of-the-rotation starter. The trades which netted pieces further out have been doing pretty well overall. Injuries have been a major factor in the disappointment this season, which isn’t on Hahn. Still, he’s provided zero reasons to have faith in his ability to put together a winner, and until that mega-free agent signing happens, it’s hard to have faith Renisdorf will open up the checkbook wide when the time comes.