Ivan Nova helps White Sox, even if Bryce Harper would help more

Rotation needed a starter, especially one who can throw strikes

At some point this offseason, the White Sox were going to need to find a pitcher like Ivan Nova.

Nova fits that bill, and at an acceptable cost. He’ll make $9.25 million in the third and final year of a contract he signed with Pittsburgh, and the cost of acquisition was Yordi Rosario and $500,000 of international bonus money the Sox couldn’t use. Rosario made a successful jump from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona Rookie League, but it’ll take years for him to fill out his profile.

Nova basically takes the James Shields role, both in terms of veteran status and pay. Nova comes in as the most experienced starter on the staff, and he supposedly can provide mentorship value, although I’ll consider it another turning point in the rebuild when that’s not something the Sox have to import.

Nova has outpitched Shields the last three years:


And when it comes to the salary, that spot on the roster effectively gets a small cut in pay:

  • Shields in 2018: $10 million
  • Nova in 2019: $9.25 million

The question is whether the Sox settled for Shields’ brand of scraping by with Nova, or whether Nova can separate himself from the back of the rotation. Picture Miguel Gonzalez before the shoulder problems.

In his address to reporters, Rick Hahn left the door open to an extended stay after the season should Nova be a good fit, and said the Sox had an interest in him years ago during his ascent with the Yankees.

There doesn’t seem to be a ton of upside in Nova’s contact-oriented profile, with the exception that the Sox staff walked everybody last year, and Nova doesn’t walk anybody. He’s previously dabbled with a cutter/slider with the Yankees, but Francisco Cervelli, Nova’s catcher with both organizations, hated it. Instead, he’s settled for a changeup as his third pitch, as he’s had some success with it as a setup offering.

Don Cooper has a history of helping guys find their cutters or sliders. I’m guessing adding Nova’s strike-throwing competence is the primary objective, but he’ll probably need another wrinkle to distinguish himself as somebody who adds value, rather than simply doesn’t suck.

* * * * * * * * *

While Bryce Harper and Manny Machado continue to move deliberately, we’ve seen both the White Sox and Phillies start filling holes while keeping their Plan A’s intact. Nova joins Alex Colome in the “modest upgrade” department, with Nova giving the rotation what Colome gives the bullpen.

The Phillies are closer to contention, and fittingly have set their sights higher. They traded for Jean Segura earlier in the winter to restore order to their infield defense, and they made their next move on Tuesday by signing Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract on Tuesday. The Phillies needed to improve both outfield corners, and signing McCutchen prevents them from falling behind the market should Harper sign elsewhere.

Harper is supposedly meeting with teams in Las Vegas, and Machado has meetings set up with six clubs. The White Sox are among the teams that are known …

… although I’d tell Machado and agent Dan Lozano that while one mystery team is acceptable, three mystery teams just simply isn’t done.

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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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Unfortunately, we might have to start preparing for the fact that Machado or Harper just may not want to play for the Sox. It seems like Machado favors the Yankees, and with the Dodgers actively trying to trade several outfielders, I would imagine they will push hard for Harper. I think Jerry and Rick will do everything they can to try to get one of these two, but the longer it drags on, the more likely the two are playing the market to drive the price up for the Yankees and Dodgers. It could very well be that the Sox and Phillies are left out in the cold, even though they are both actively pursuing both players and will likely offer very lucrative contracts to both. That just sucks. I really hope I’m wrong, but I’m starting to get worried that that is what will happen.


For me it’s not so much worry, but it’s the emotional roller coaster ride. On one hand, it’s over-the-top exciting that Sox may acquire one (or both) FAs that are young, exciting all-star (possibly MVP) caliber that could/should lead team back to relevancy. On the other hand, we’re talking about a dollar amount and number of years that could hamstring the organization for a decade without providing any championships. If Harper/Machado are plan A1 and A2…..I’d like to hear what plan B is in the event they acquire neither of the two. That same money could be spread around to fill most of their needs….but I’m still trying to identify who those targeted acquisitions may be.


The irony is a deal to help the Dodgers unload payroll is one the Sox might have had an interest in


I was just toying with that very idea in my head. Was wondering if the Sox could pry away a legit prospect from LAD by taking on Kemps final contract year (somewhere around $20M). Then I realized that would bolster LA’s ability to acquire Harper rather than the Sox. No thanks, unless perhaps if the legit prospect was Verdugo, then maybe I guess.


Yeah, the only way I’d help LA get Harper is if they included Verdugo. An outfield of Verdugo, Eloy and Robert would look pretty good in a few years.

lil jimmy

Help them clear room in the outfield. Get Andrew Toles and Yasiel Puig cheap. They sign Harper. Oh well.
Eloy, Toles and Puig….. Hmm, I like it, and KenWu would love it.


Sign Machado, acquire Verdugo from the Dodgers in return for taking Kemp’s salary so they can sign Harper, plug Verdugo into CF for the contention window, Kemp barfs a fart in right field for 2019, then he’s gone, replaced by Robert or Adolfo in 2020. The Aristocrats!


seems we are thinking alike this morning. But I doubt LAD would give away Verdugo to make Kemp’s final year go away.


It’s not unreasonable. Fangraphs gives Verdugo a 50 FV and NPV of $30m.

Steamer gives Kemp a 0.2 WAR projection, so his NPV is ~$-19m. It doesn’t totally line up, but it’s not crazy either.


okay i’m in. You want to call Rick or should I? i seem to have misplaced Ricks number. Oh, nevermind I had it saved as Rick Someone.


“Unfortunately, we might have to start preparing for the fact that Machado or Harper just may not want to play for the Sox.”

Why? And how the hell would any of us know? Again, I know we are fatalistic as Sox fans but it just gets old. These guys have gotten pitches, but it’s nowhere near gut check time. Boras last 200+ mil deal (Scherzer) was signed Jan 18. Before that it was Jan 25 (Prince). There is a pretty clear manner in which he now handles these situations. Harper in specific will probably be one of the last guys who matters to sign. Here’s what he wants:

-Machado to sign so he can beat the terms, and whoever was runner up offering hundreds of millions to have a chance to bid while fresh off that disappointment

-Teams like the Dodgers to have time to clear room so there are more parties bidding

-All other significant FA’s to sign, so only the bargain bin remains, and winter “losers” have only Harper as redemption. Teams who lose out now would move forward with contingency plans. If he waits, those teams other options will be dried up. He wants to call Philly and say, “wow, this whole offseason really didn’t work the way you guys expected. All that talk exciting the fan base about who was coming, and at the end of the day all you ended up with is an outfielder in decline? Luckily, there’s a singular move you can make that completely changes all of that.”

Boras didn’t get to where he is by miscalculating these things.


It will be interesting to see if the Sox have plans to do something different with Nova. But Searage in Pittsburgh is one of the best at getting guys turned around.


A different pitch mix might be fine to experiment with. I just hope Nova maintains whatever positives he picked up


To me it all comes down to their offer.

I can wake up and feel good moving forward if the sox make harper and or machado the highest or tied for highest offer on the market and it boils down to where they want to play.

If the sox get outbid by the dodgers and or yankees teams that already have a 100-150 MILLION MORE DOLLARS committed to their payrolls, then its time to for ownership to sell cause they will have proven again they simply dont want to win anywhere near bad enough.


If your not first you are last when it comes to free agent signings. I hate the PR victory of the white sox getting to say that they would spend money, but never actually having to do so.


You win the bid if you are the high offer about 9 out of 10 times maybe more. You cant force a player to sign but you can make it hard for them to look elsewhere.

I am in no way letting the sox organization off the hook as I have been very vocal about their lack of payroll committment forever.

2019 isnt quite as top heavy a class as 2018 but sale, bumgarner, rendon, arenado, make for some compelling names as well


From all indications, it looks like their offer will be competitive. Reading between the lines, it seems to have been their plan since the start of the rebuild to spend big money when the right players were available. Even though this may be a year early, you don’t get a chance to sign young franchise players very often. Like denbum said, I will be very interested in what plan B is if they don’t get Machado/Harper. It may end up being a blessing in disguise that they will be able to fill more needs without having to break the bank on one guy. That being said, I still hope they win the bidding for one of them.


Would Grandal for 3 years, Brantley for 3, Moustakas for 1 year and Greinke be a decent plan B? It fills many of the holes they currently have, and still allow them to pursue Arenado and Rendon next year if they are available. Plus no long term commitments to block the young guys moving forward. That would cost about $60-65 million in 2019.


no reason exists that they cant sign 1 of the big 2, and still get brantley or moose, grandal, a bullpen arm, and a move for a starting pitcher

Be a real team with a real payroll


I agree. I just don’t see that happening. Hopefully, 82 year-old Jerry realizes that’s what he probably needs to do to see a championship in his lifetime.


He’s already seen many championships in his lifetime. You weren’t suggesting otherwise, were you? It sounded as though you thought he’d never won as an owner.


Yes, he’s won seven, but he’s said he really wants another White Sox championship.


And as for those other 6, I think he needs to call in a favor to Michael Jordan to talk to Harper about what being an iconic athlete in the city of Chicago can do for him.


JR needs to realize his legacy is down to Jordan fell in your lap and the stars aligned right one time in what 38 years for the sox….

The bulls have been the laughingstock of the league lately and have gotten to the east finals just 1 time post jordan in a series they were trounced in let alone the nba finals or winning a title

You dont have consecutive playoff appearances from the sox ever….

I mean the resume needs a 2nd whitesox title for the sake of his legacy


You are so right. Apart from Michael Jordan, he really doesn’t have much of a legacy as an owner. Only under Jerry can the same management team (Gar/Pax) fire five coaches and still have their jobs.


yes, i’m sure he does. we all do. Doesn’t look like he really gives a shit about the Bulls lately, but neither do I.

I just don’t see JR pulling an Ilitch and spending stupidly right now. That would be a disservice to the club. Detroit’s own rebuild is in a much wider orbit thanks largely to his spending from 2015 onward.


Signing 4 guys over 30 seems like the worst plan. Greinke is the only one in that list with a reasonable expectation of 4 WAR.


By WARp (which attempts to incorporate pitch framing) Grandal has been worth 5.3 WAR per year for the past 4 years. There are few scenarios where acquiring Grandal isn’t a cost-effective, positive move.

Patrick Nolan

I think you could build a pretty good team out of that, yeah. Grandal, if his value holds steady, is a 5-win upgrade. Brantley seems to be firmly above-average (health pending), and Greinke obviously gives the team the ace they need.

The only thing I wouldn’t do is sign Moustakas. He’s better than Yolmer, but not so much so that I’d pay for him.


From what I hear, Moose is a great clubhouse guy and has been on several contenders in the last few years. On a 1-year deal, his lefthanded power would provide more value than Yolmer, and he would almost certainly provide a winning attitude. Then 3rd base would be open again next year.

karkovice squad

3 years of Brantley is still a lot more risk than I’d want to take on for the money. Pay him a stupid amount of money for 1 year, maybe with an option+buyout.


That would be ok too.

lil jimmy

Brantley has a Left field arm, and we would want him to play Right. Years of weak throws might age me beyond me years.

karkovice squad

They wouldn’t really be paying him for his defense. They can put an outfield shift on to set up Engel or whoever for the Flea Flicker with lefties at bat.


“competitive” isnt what im advocating, I need to know they won one of those bids


But if they want to play for the Yanks and Dodgers, I wouldn’t want the Sox to spend $400 million for one of them.


I do realize that everybody’s “Off-season Plans” offer up many Plan B options and I also realize Hahn has to operate under the radar, so we’re not going to get Plan B options publicized. But if Sox just acquire “band-aids”, they’d be going backwards. For me, it’s a catcher, a third baseman, an outfielder, and one starting pitcher. Really need to “hit” on 2 or 3 of these.

As Cirensica

Although I understand the need to add pitching in 2019, I am struggling to understand how this 1 year patch fits in the overall contending window Hahn operates. I guess we need a lot more to happen so we can foresee it. Right now, to me, Colome and Nova looks more like players the White Sox would hopefully trade at the 2019 deadline for prospects.


Somebody has to throw the ball. Neither the salary nor the cost is meaningful.


Well it looks like somebody named JA Happ will be throwing the ball for NYY.

karkovice squad

The Sox had 3 guys who could be considered ready to start the season in the rotation*. You need 5-10+ to cover a season. Call it the ante or cost of doing business, regardless of postseason intentions. Now they have 4* with maybe 4 more in the minors who might look the part later in the year.

There’s value in acquiring the minimum amount of depth to play the game without sacrificing future flexibility at this point. We can be concerned later if all of their additions just look like treading water.

*Depending on if your definition of ready includes Giolito.


I wouldn’t mind flipping Nova (hopefully when Cease is ready), but I’d expect them to hold onto to Colome. 

I do think the Sox will want more pitching depth in 2020 and beyond, but I also think starting pitching will take the biggest internal jump (relative to other positions) from 2019 to 2020. We’ll will likely add Cease and Kopech, and possibly add Dunning or (much less likely) Hansen. Not to mention any others that may emerge.

I’m not opposed to signing a SP to a long-term deal if the price is right, but I also don’t mind short-term solutions at SP this year and re-evaluating after 2019 (and there’s currently quite an impressive list of FA SP after 2019).

Patrick Nolan

I up-vote literally every comment with a “-1” unless the person is trolling or being unreasonably negative.

There’s no reason to hang a “-1” on someone for simple discussion or having an idea you’re not a fan of. It discourages commenting.

As Cirensica

I up-voted this!


Well said.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I agree, but the correct play would have been for everyone to down-vote this comment.

Patrick Nolan

Some people did.


Looks like the Yanks have signed JA Happ. Another pitcher gone…

lil jimmy

” three mystery teams ”
One for each of the mystery days of Christmas!


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lil jimmy

You take off!

Lurker Laura

One year for Christmas, I gave my dad all the gifts in the GWN version of 12 Days of Christmas.