Spare Parts: Frightful signings, strange hires, scary ratings

The Adam Dunn signing is the worst deal the White Sox have handed out, but is it the worst free-agent decision?

Since it’s Halloween and all, we may as well indulge the part of us that likes to be scared.

On, Will Leitch identified the biggest free agent regret for each franchise. In an appreciated welcome twist for something published on the house website, he didn’t just hammer on the worst signings, but also opened it up to the players teams wished they retained.

The White Sox typically have to hold on to every player of use*, and they struggle to connect meaningfully with acquisitions, so you can guess what side of the ledger the Sox side is going to fall on. And I guessed who Leitch picked before reading, I then thought who it should’ve been, and they were not the same person.

White Sox: Adam Dunn, four years, $56 million, 2011
Dunn hit .201 in his time with Chicago, which was low even for him, and even his 41-home-run season came with 222 strikeouts.

There’s no doubt Dunn was awful, and only some late-season sympathy from Ozzie Guillen prevented Dunn from having the worst offensive season in history by many official measures in 2011 (he came up six plate appearances short of qualifying). But he rebounded to have a couple seasons that fit within the realm of his warped expectations before serving out the remainder of his last year in Oakland.

I’d go with Adam LaRoche. Even though he only cost half the money over half the duration, he hit just as poorly as Dunn, and probably was the source of the greatest embarrassment to the White Sox since the Ligues. Moreover, modest as his contract was, the Sox were either unable or unwilling to spend past the second and final year of it, cementing the stunted first rebuild and setting the course for Tanktown. The White Sox had their last winning season with Dunn on the roster, so how bad could he have been?

And actually, Dunn wouldn’t have been necessary if the Sox handled their DH duties sensibly before he arrived. Maybe the worst free agent decision they’ve ever made was letting Jim Thome go to the Twins. Not only did the decision directly affect the AL Central standings the following year, but it created the DH failure that led to the Dunn signing, which led to the void “solved” by LaRoche. Maybe it’s weird to say that a 39-year-old DH was the biggest free agent regret the White Sox ever had, but the White Sox are a weird team.

Spare Parts

Speaking of weird, I don’t think the editor who wrote the headline took Hawk Harrelson into account. Bob Nightengale only called the Mets’ decision to hire CAA agent Brodie Van Wagenen “one of the strangest and most perplexing hires in Major League Baseball history.” He went from an agency representing seven Mets players to negotiating against them.

The Mets have a huge advantage at the negotiating table now. CAA represents seven Mets players on their 25-man roster, and Van Wagenen knows everything about his former clients. He knows whether they really want to stay in New York or not. He knows the intimate deals of their health issues. Most important, there can be no more bluffing, because he knows exactly what it’ll take for them to sign a long-term contract.

Jeff Berry is one of the CAA agents who is not leaving to take over baseball operations for a team, and he says Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has no intention to stay in Miami, and thus Berry predicts Realmuto” will definitely be wearing a different uniform” by spring training. While Realmuto has been an ambitious target in the Offseason Plan Project, MLBTR lays out the competition:

Adding Realmuto would be a transformative move for a number of hopeful contenders. The Dodgers and Phillies are set to lose Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos to free agency, while the Nationals have a clear vacancy behind the dish after a disappointing two-year deal with Matt Wieters has now reached its conclusion. The Astros, meanwhile, will bid adieu to Brian McCann, and the Rockies have had issues behind the plate for the past several seasons. Atlanta recently extended Tyler Flowers through 2019 but will see Kurt Suzuki reach free agency this weekend. The World Series champion Red Sox, meanwhile, received underwhelming production from the trio of Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and seldom-used Blake Swihart. Milwaukee could surely look to upgrade over Manny Pina and already pulled off one blockbuster with the Marlins (Christian Yelich). The Angels and Athletics have little in the way of immediately ready catching options in the organizations, and the Twins could use an upgrade behind the dish as well.

With Rocco Baldelli replacing Paul Molitor as manager of the Twins, Baldelli is now getting to pick members of his staff. Pitching coach Alston isn’t in the cards, and a number of Twins pitchers are sad to see him go.

Despite being a marquee matchup between teams with national fan bases on opposite coasts, the World Series drew lackluster ratings on par with the two Kansas City appearances. Going only five games hurt, but Craig Edwards identifies some other causes.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Any chance the Sox would kick the tires on a guy with some character issues? The Pirates made Jung Ho Kang a free agent, he’d fill the void at 3rd base. He’s only a few years removed from some really nice seasons.


Man I sure as hell hope not. A hit and run DUI, plus allegations of assault by a woman in Chicago? No thanks.


Oh man, I was aware of the DUIs and I was thinking maybe something has changed in him since then but I was not aware of the assault, no thanks then.


Wow, when you put the craptastic snowball of cause and effect that is the Thome decision -> Dunn decision -> LaRoche decision -> Tank decision so succinctly like that, it really is depressing, isn’t it?

Patrick Nolan

This probably comes as no surprise, but I’m picking Dioner Navarro as the greatest regret, because non-tendering Flowers was a direct result of that course of action. It was a five-win swing in 2016, and the 78 vs 83 win pace probably not only alters in-season strategy, but possibly the decision to rebuild as well. That’s not to mention the 6.6 WARP Flowers put up in 2017, which was his final year of control at the time. Plus I know this is all a hindsight decision and this is against the spirit of the exercise but I’m dinging the Navarro signing because of how obviously wrong it was from the start. LaRoche at least made some sense (there was a need at DH, his strikeout and walk rates were trending in the right direction, etc). Plus, the Sox were ultimately absolved of paying LaRoche half of the contract; that they chose to give those savings to James Shields is another matter.

All of that said, I think LaRoche is also a reasonable choice. His second year salary did loom over the 2015-16 offseason, as it exceeded the sum total of ALL the Sox’ free agent expenditures from that winter (though I can’t recall whether that statement includes or excludes the March signing of Austin Jackson).


Oof I totally agree. I’m still a bit flummoxed by that decision.


Obviously the Navarro/Flowers decision is the biggest regret. I just hope the Sox don’t compound the error by putting his statue in centerfield. His bronze, in a squatting/receiving position, should be located about 15 feet behind home plate – it might interfere with some game play but so be it. It should feature a string you can pull to hear him say things like “framing is cool” and “where’s second base?”

If the statue shows Flowers with a bat in his hand, there’s some room by the urinals.


I came down to the comments to say this. The justification isn’t even close to there. Dunn and LaRoche made some sense at the time.

Trooper Galactus

Absolutely. The cascade effect of what we all felt even at the time was a curious decision at best is still being felt.  Easily Hahn’s most indefensible move to date.


I don’t think everyone was immediately against it.  Hahn said they wanted more offense and many people agreed after watching flowers strike out every other at bat

Trooper Galactus

People understood the reasoning, but most people seemed to think it was solving a problem that didn’t exist and, at best, trading one type of value for another. It was a lateral move that made little sense at the time.

Ted Mulvey

LaRoche is one I hadn’t considered until put into that context. One that sprung to mind for me –purely from a “Wow, that did NOT turn out well” standpoint — was the Jeff Keppinger signing. Yes, he had that good year with Tampa, but was basically a platoon guy for four million per year. And…was released a little over a year into the contract.

Trooper Galactus

I think GOK was more a case of the White sox inflating the importance and impact of his signing. Granted, it turned out horribly, but nobody really believed he was an impact player.


Speaking of dumb free agency moves, I wonder how much Michael Brantley would cost. I’d love to see him on a 3 year deal, which I’m sure wouldn’t come back to haunt us at all in 2 years if he can no longer walk.


Thinking about World Series ratings a bit….I think the reason I didn’t watch was the combination of two of the top 3 salary teams playing for it (not very compelling), and the fact that baseball is so horrific at advertising and promoting their playoffs that it’s almost awe-inspiring. You hear essentially nothing about it unless you go looking for it, and they broadcast on TBS and FS1!? Is baseball that bad that they can’t at least get the most important games of the season on big network?

I do also think strikeouts hurt a bit, as people generally want to see offense, and I seem to also notice a general lack of baseball players not named Bryce Harper in any advertisements anywhere. Part of which I can appreciate, but I think it comes at a cost of at least younger folks buying in that baseball is something to watch and enjoy.


It’s the length of games. Even if I tune in for first pitch, I know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I can hang in there until the 9th inning. Games either have to start earlier or breaks between pitching changes need to be condensed significantly.

Patrick Nolan

The Red Sox hit .233 in the ALCS. It was the highest batting average posted by a team in a best-of-seven series this year.

Lurker Laura


Trooper Galactus

The San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons Effect.  Fans want to see offense.

As Cirensica

I did watched most of the post season, but I concede that the pace of the game is maddening. Specially for low scoring games. I would say that 50% of the time I was “watching” the game, I simply had the game tuned in as “background” noise in my living room while I was doing something else.

This might not be a popular idea but the pitching changes per game is just getting out of hand. Bullpenning might pass underrated as one of the main factors baseball rating is waning


My brain always turns Rocco Baldelli into Rocky Biddle

lil jimmy

My money says Atlanta is the new home for J.T. Realmuto.

Josh Nelson

I agree about Adam LaRoche about the biggest regret. Great thing covering the White Sox, when it comes to the topic of worst free agent signing there is plenty to choose from!

Best free agent signing I’m going with Jermaine Dye.



Josh Nelson

Also a good choice!


In recent-ish times? Possibly Fisk, but I’m too young to remember much of his time, so Dye and Iguchi definitely had a bigger impact on me. 


Pierzynski’s gotta be up there.

As Cirensica

Abreu has been worth every penny and more. A lot more.


One is an internship, which is irritating.


And one of the requirements for the internship is a degree in CS. Lol, okay, what graduate is taking an internship with a baseball team?

Lurker Laura

Plenty will be willing. People want to work in sports. A friend wanted to change careers and get into sports marketing, met with a high-up guy at a major league team who said, “you’ll have to take a big pay cut. I have 20-somethings that will do the job for less than $30,000.”

People want a start in sports so badly, they’ll do it for peanuts. The Sox, despite their woes, are no exception.

lil jimmy

My thoughts exactly, unless it’s a paid internship for 80 K a year.


I know that baseball ops for teams typically pays 40-50% of market rate for technical roles. Wanting what is essentially a senior reporting and ETL engineer to work as an intern seems even cheaper than most teams.

I’ve worked as a reporting and ETL engineer for a few years and I’m not qualified for the internship position, and not just because I work in a somewhat different stack and not just because of the baseball-specific stuff. Most of my colleagues at my employer (and there are a lot of them) would not be qualified for similar reasons.

I do keep up with these postings on Fangraphs and the last time I recall an internship with similar requirements, I think it was the Phillies about five or six years ago and they were mocked in the comments at the time. It seems like teams have gotten better about titles, at least, since then and this is a step back.

Josh Nelson

How hard can it be to take StatCast and TrackMan data, and dump it into Tableau to make pretty graphs? (joking)


How does Hahn still have a job?


Uh, because he works for Jerry

As Cirensica

He is a master of the Imperius Curse


Granted, not a free agent signing:
The extension to Teahen after the trade still gets me grumpy.


Not one of Kenny’s better moves…