Let’s face it; 2019 is going to be another bad year. However, that does not mean the White Sox should be idle this offseason. Far from it, I think they are in a position where they need to start adding to contend, and while that might not lead to a .500 team next season, it can help springboard them to contention in 2020 and beyond. There are good free agents available who should not be out of reach that can reasonably help accomplish this goal, so here’s who I would target and other ancillary moves I’d make to get this team on the right track.
Write “tender” or “non-tender” after each player. Feel free to offer explanation afterward if necessary.
- Jose Abreu, $16M, TENDER – A clubhouse staple and, despite an off year, can still probably expect him to produce at the plate. That said, I’m looking to trade him, with an eye towards possibly signing him again for 2020.
- Avisail Garcia, $8M, TENDER – I originally wrote this as a non-tender, then realized that the White Sox have no better options internally and I only wanted to invest in one free agent outfielder, who is in center field. So fine, keep him around and hope for the upside, but I just see him being mediocre and hitting the DL a couple times anyhow, so get used to seeing a lot of Ryan Cordell and Charlie Tilson
- Yolmer Sanchez, $4.7M, TENDER – While the ship has sailed on Yolmer holding down an every day spot, he is the sort of player whose versatility and plus glove across the infield justifies his presence on a roster, and he’s one of the best backup options you’ll see in the league. At a minimum, he’s a valuable depth piece who could bring an intriguing trade return.
- Carlos Rodon, $3.7M, TENDER – When he’s healthy and in a groove, easily the best pitcher on the staff. Questions remain unanswered, but they’re affordable questions to answer.
- Matt Davidson, $2.4M, TENDER – While I’m not a huge fan of Davidson, I’m intrigued by his desire to become a hybrid relief pitcher/corner infielder/DH. This could be a useful experiment for the White Sox to dabble in.
- Leury Garcia, $1.9M, TENDER – Like Yolmer, shouldn’t be an every day player (in large part due to constant health issues), but exceeds even Yolmer’s defensive versatility and can be an excellent utility option on a winning team. Personally, I’m looking to trade him.
- Danny Farquhar, $1.4M, NON-TENDER – I’m for keeping him in the organization on a generous minor league contract while he works his way back from a debilitating brain aneurysm, but the White Sox shouldn’t be spending a million dollars or using up a roster spot for the sake of sentimentality.
Write “pick up” or “decline” after the option.
- Nate Jones, $4.65 million/$1.25M buyout, DECLINE, RE-SIGN – The buyout is large enough that I would consider just picking up the option, but I think he can be re-signed for less than that given his track record of poor health. I’m buying him out and offering him a 1-year, $2 million contract with an additional $1 million in incentives based on appearances and a vesting option for a second year.
- James Shields, $16 million/$2M buyout, BUYOUT – Let’s be honest, while it was nice to see Shields pitch 200 innings, retaining him at any cost is just settling for a high volume of mediocrity, and his 2018 season seems like the apex of what we could expect from him moving forward. And if that was peak Shields, it’s untradeable and only bound to get worse.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, or let go?
- Miguel Gonzalez (made $4.75 million in 2018), LET GO (no explanation needed)
List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract. A good example of a bad idea:
No. 1: Josh Donaldson (four years, $120 million (35/30/30/25), team option for fifth year at $20 million). I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the White Sox are not going to make a serious pitch for Manny Machado. I mean, they could offer him four times more than they’ve ever given any free agent and it would probably still be underwhelming compared to the field. As such, we’re looking elsewhere for somebody to cover the hot corner in 2019 and beyond.
Donaldson spent years as arguably the best non-Mike Trout player in the league, and he has consistently produced at an All-Star level. He’s coming off an injury plagued year and will be entering his age-33 season, but it bears mentioning that this potentially makes him the rare elite player who might actually fit the White Sox budget. If he’s more like the guy who played in only 36 games for the Blue Jays, the White Sox are getting a .757 OPS and decent defense at a position they are lacking any good options at, so still a considerable improvement from the status quo. If he’s the guy who played 16 games for the Indians (and like the 2015-17 version of him), that’s a .920 OPS and the offensive cornerstone the team desperately needs.
I’m assuming the truth lies somewhere in between, but even if he’s declining to a level where he’s posting an .800-850 OPS he’d still be probably the best hitter on the team except for maybe Abreu. I’m betting Donaldson’s age and recent history will scare away a lot of teams, else a player of his caliber would demand over $200 million in free agency. For our purposes, he holds down third base in 2019 and can shift to first base when the team signs Nolan Arenado after next season. Note the contract is slightly front loaded to accomodate the team’s budget in ensuing years.
No. 2: Dallas Keuchel (five years, $120 million (24m/year)). Keuchel’s peripherals went south this season, but he still surpassed the magical 200 innings mark, posted a 108 ERA+ (with matching FIP), and looks to be a solid add to any rotation. While he might be past his CYA prime (and for a pitcher entering his age-31 season, that’s expected), the White Sox should be willing to invest in a foundational veteran starter who is peak James Shields in the worst of times and a legitimate ace in the best of them.
No. 3: A.J. Pollock (four years, $64 million (16m/year) with additional $4 million/year in incentives based on PAs ($500k at 100/150/200/250/300/350/400/450). An exceptionally risky contract for an elite player who simply can’t stay healthy. Some of this is mitigated by incentives (which may or may not pass muster with the MLBPA; I’m not an expert at the ins and outs of this stuff), but he’d still exceed any pre-2018 White Sox free agents in total dollars. While Pollock has the same injury downside as Avi, he can cover center field still (former Gold Glove winner) and has consistently produced at the plate when healthy (unlike Avi).
While the White Sox have a deep cast of outfielders in the minors, only Eloy is on the cusp of the 25-man, and I think any decent center field options are at least two years away (Robert, Basabe). Once they’re up and contributing, Pollock can be moved to a corner or, if the kids arrive in overwhelming numbers, can be relegated to an expensive bench role (which is fine since the kids will be making peanuts while he’s still here). Regardless, I think even an optimistic timeline for our prospects still has us needing a guy like Pollock for the next three seasons, especially if we want the team to be on the upswing.
Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them. A good example of a bad idea:
No. 1: Trade Welington Castillo, Jose Abreu, and Leury Garcia to the Seattle Mariners for Evan White, Sam Carlson, and Cesar Izturis, Jr. . The Mariners are in win-now mode, and coming off an 89-win season and with several immovable salaries on the books, I can’t see them phoning it in for 2019 (even with Nelson Cruz hitting free agency). With a pretty barren farm system, they don’t exactly have a lot to offer, which is why they have to look toward upside acquisitions to improve their squad.
Giving up Abreu sucks, but it’s his walk year and I think we need to extract some value out of him while we still can. Say what you will about veteran leadership and his role as a mentor, there was little enough progress from young players on the major league roster to make me think perhaps we over-value what he provides in that role. While I don’t expect to get a top-100 prospect out of him, I have been a fan of Evan White for a while and was honestly hoping the White Sox drafted him in 2017 and not Jake Burger. Listed as a first baseman, he is an oddity for the position as he is considered to have below average power but excellent speed, range, and hands. Despite this, he hit more home runs (11) in A+ than noted powerhouse Gavin Sheets, and I believe he could easily handle an outfield position should the need arise.
While that’s not an even 1-for-1 trade by any means, some of Carlson’s value is tied into Abreu. A prep pitcher in the 2017 draft who got taken in the second round for a considerably over-slot bonus, Carlson looked to me like a potential top-100 candidate before he got quickly shelved for Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2018 season. While he’s obviously a major injury concern and has almost no professional track record to date, reports gave him three plus pitches with the control to use them effectively. And at 19 years old, time is very much still on his side, even if he has to sit for most of 2019 as well. I’d be willing to gamble on the huge upside there.
My feelings on Castillo are well known, and I’ll admit I’m trading him just to see him gone, and if the return is just as a throw-in to get the Mariners to part with two of their top prospects, fine. That said, Seattle’s production out of the catcher position was atrocious last season, and I think they’d like to get a solid bat to pair with Mike Zunino. Meanwhile, Leury is a depth piece we really don’t need, but who could be invaluable to a team like the Mariners who only really have one outfield position locked down by a plus player. Getting Izturis, a likely utility infielder who is very young and still has some upside, would be a boon on our end. But again, most of the value we’re getting here is tied up in Abreu. Writing this trade makes me sad, but life goes on, and I really would love to have Evan White in our system.
C – Omar Narvaez
1B – Matt Davidson
2B – Yoan Moncada
SS – Tim Anderson
3B – Josh Donaldson
LF – Nicky Delmonico or Charlie Tilson
CF – A.J. Pollock
RF – Avisail Garcia
DH – Daniel Palka
Analysis: Left Field is basically just biding time until Eloy gets called up, at which point this looks like a potentially dangerous lineup. Personally, I’d be looking at Narvaez at the top of the order, followed by Donaldson, Pollock, Jimenez, Palka, Garcia, Davidson, Moncada, and Anderson. Against lefty starters I’d probably bench Palka, put Davidson at DH, and shuffle infielders as needed. On days when Smith starts at catcher, move Moncada to the top of the lineup (assuming his OBP improves a bit) and slot Smith in at 8. Sorry, Tim, but much as I love the speed and your power/speed combination, a career .286 OBP belongs at the bottom of the lineup.
C – Kevan Smith
IF – Yolmer Sanchez
IF – Jose Rondon
OF – Adam Engel
Analysis: Sanchez and Rondon would be two of the best utility infielders in the league, in my opinion, with Sanchez providing a bit more glove and Rondon providing a bit more bat. Despite adding 97 points to his OPS in 2018, Engel just can’t hit enough to justify being in a starting lineup every day. That said, the glove is absolutely legit and we need good defenders in reserve.
LHP – Dallas Keuchel
RHP – Reynaldo Lopez
LHP – Carlos Rodon
RHP – Lucas Giolito
RHP – Dylan Covey/Jordan Stephens
Analysis: Covey gets the fifth starter position to start the season simply because of the potential he showed in brief stretches, but that’s not saying I’m confident he’ll lock down a rotation spot. Still, his xFIP of 4.31 wasn’t exactly catastrophic, and if he continues to have problems getting through a lineup multiple times then I thought he was pretty darn good out of the pen anyhow.
If we’re being brutally honest, Giolito is in the same boat as Covey, except instead of the pen, he’ll get chucked down to AAA if he stumbles out of the gate. I think Jordan Stephens is the next man up should either (or both) of those guys have a catastrophic April, with Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero waiting in the wings as well.
This rotation has a lot of variance in potential outcomes, but I feel pretty good about the front three. If Giolito takes a big step forward or breaks out, then that’s four spots locked down nicely, and the fifth is basically being kept warm for Dylan Cease (unless Covey wants to have a breakout of his own, which would be just fine by me).
RHP – Nate Jones
RHP – Ian Hamilton
RHP – Juan Minaya
LHP – Jace Fry
LHP – Aaron Bummer
RHP – Ryan Burr
RHP – Thyago Vieira
I didn’t spend any money on relief pitching in this plan mostly because of the incredible depth we have for it in our system. While I’m not a huge fan of Vieira, I’m of the opinion they use him just to season other options a bit more and if he doesn’t ever put it all together then it’s easy enough to move on to the next option (Burdi / Frare / Ruiz / Johnson). While I’m hesitant to name a closer, I think it’s going to be a two horse race between Fry and Hamilton, though Jones seems like a logical starting point. Also, while Renteria has historically carried eight relievers, I’m considering the possibility that Matt Davidson will wind up as the eighth man and be deployed as such when needed. Too bad I traded Leury, another position player who soaked up the odd inning out of the blue.
PAYROLL: approximately $110 million, with $75 million tied up in my three free agent acquisitions.
FORECAST: I could see preseason estimates pegging the team for about 74-76 wins, but with a bit of positive development from guys like Giolito, Moncada, and maybe even Palka, I see this team flirting with .500 and in position to make a big run at the playoffs in 2020. If Eloy and Cease are big positives in 2019, we’re looking at a burgeoning powerhouse. I’m mainly using Davidson and Palka as placeholders, but if either can improve their standing in 2019, that’ll be huge.
Note that I targeted players who I think Renisdorf could be talked into signing. A decade-long contract for a Harper or Machado just seems so far beyond what Jerry is willing to do. Guys like Keuchel and Donaldson have star power without the long commitments, and the dollars aren’t a five-fold leap into new financial territory for the team. If anything, I overpaid for both Donaldson and Keuchel, so if they can be had for less money and minus a year or so, great, but when I wrote this up I decided to err on the side which would be certain to get them signed. I’ve read too many other plans where the offer for each of them is so low I just can’t imagine another team wouldn’t happily outbid the White Sox for them.
Meh. I don’t see the love affair with aj pollock.
Now that KenWo’s chimed in against it, I feel more confident about signing Pollock.
I like him well enough, but that does seem like an overpay even before incentives. I could be wrong of course, but I’d be surprised to see someone give him 4 years at that price with his injury history.
I could be way off base, especially given how much free agent salaries fell last year. As stated above, I erred on the side of what I felt would get the deal done in a competitively bidding market. If the White Sox can shave off some money and years, awesome. I’m not saying they go into the offseason with these as their opening offers, just what I think it might end up taking to get the job done, especially considering the South Side is hardly an attractive destination for free agents right now.
I don’t think you’re far off base on Pollock. Yeah, he has trouble staying healthy, but he produces more in 3/4 of a season than most guys do with 150+ games. I have to think he’s going to get paid, but heck, maybe he gets dragged down by the QO (in which case, all the better for the Sox). I love the idea of working something in with him that’s dependent on PAs like you said. I didn’t think of that and that’s a great idea for someone with his track record of health (especially if he’s a guy who wants to bet on himself, could help them beat an offer with more guaranteed money).
Thanks for the comment! Yeah, Pollock has to get paid, but in the grand scheme of things $16 million/year is basically second tier money, but if he’s playing enough to make his full incentives, $20 million/year would be a steal for him. Also consider that if he needs some rest, they could easily slot him at DH; the guy posted a higher OPS than anybody on the White Sox in 2018.
When’s he’s not injured, there’s a lot to love
Doesn’t that kind of seem like a lot to get back for one year of Abreu (especially coming off a down year and with Castillo attached)? I like the Pollock signing and if other are right and he’s going to be cheaper than that, all the better! And this isn’t a commentary on your plan, but if Donaldson is getting that kind of contract, I’m out on him (I have in my min as well, but thought word was he might settle for a one year deal). To much injury risk there for my liking.
I didn’t think Donaldson was really an injury risk. Outside of 2018, he’s been pretty damn healthy, and he came back pretty strong. Yeah, it’s probably more money than he’ll get on the open market, but I think the years will be necessary. I just don’t see a guy with his performance history settling for a make-good deal.
As for the Abreu trade, that’s the #2 and #3 prospects from a pretty lousy farm system for three major league players, including an All-Star. Players with more control years/better value will cost more than they can afford in prospects; their options are extremely limited and they’re boxed in right now.
I haven’t been keeping close tabs on Donaldson, but I got the impression the shoulder thing could be an ongoing issues (I might be wrong here).
I see what you’re saying with the Abreu trade, but he’s coming off a lousy year and is going to get paid quite a bit in his last year of arb. I don’t see a ton of surplus value there. And Castillo is probably negative on trade value at the moment. It’s a bad farm system, but White and Carlson were both fairly high picks and still have some name value (White in particular apparently made some swing changes that resulted in more power and he could end up somewhere other than first similar to Bellinger). I’d make that trade if it was on the table, I just think the Mariners could do better offering up that package for other vets.
Well, White would be a must-have in that trade. I’d be willing to negotiate on Carlson and Izturis with other potential second and third pieces (or just chuck Izturis and Castillo from the deal…that works). I wasn’t sure how the Mariners view Carlson given he’s coming off a long layoff from TJS and has almost no professional track record to judge him from, so any value placed in him at this point is exceptionally faith-based. I’m willing to gamble on some potential upside, but it’s hard to place a ton of value in a guy with his injury history and almost total lack of any kind of professional performance thus far. Like, Alex Reyes has good value in trade right now despite TJS, but he was killing it at AAA before his surgery and had extensive scouting reports and track record.
Taking castillo out of the deal would make it substantially more fair. Or adding cash.
Well, now that Smith is gone taking Castillo out of the deal is a bit of a no-brainer.
Also, since the plan is to shift Donaldson to first base after 2019 to make room for Nolan Arenado’s signing, I’m not sweating the shoulder if it’s an ongoing concern. Besides that, most of his time on the DL was for a calf strain, and I think that can be overcome.
I’m considering Donaldson for my plan but I think that’s substantially more than he will get
Probably, I guess we’ll see. But if that’s what it takes to get him to come to the South Side, I say do it.
I like this. Lets do it.
i would like this a lot more if i didn’t think donaldson, keuchel, and pollock are due for big drop offs after one season.
if their play level lasts a few years, this is a pretty cool plan.
the carlson target is very realistic. dipoto loves to deal and the white sox were very much in on him in his draft year.