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Another offseason is here, which means another year that the White Sox will probably not do anything I want them to. Good thing we have the Offseason Plan Project! (Seriously, I’ve already very much enjoyed reading everyone’s ideas.)
So what’s MY imaginary plan this imaginary winter? It’s pretty simple: spend on elite talent. Rick Hahn has consistently shopped in the middle to lower tier of the free agent market, even when the Sox were trying to contend. It’s generally worked out very poorly. The Sox organization doesn’t have the scouting acumen to scrounge for reclamation projects, and their coaching hasn’t been able to counteract any decline in mid-tier players who don’t have multiple above-average skills. So they need to pony up.
This team can contend in the near future, especially given the advantage of playing in the AL Central. With a strong winter they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance at the postseason.
- Alex Colomé, $10.3M – TENDER
- Yolmer Sánchez, $6.2M – NON-TENDER
- James McCann, $4.9M – TENDER
- Carlos Rodon, $4.5M – TENDER
- Leury García, $4M – TENDER
- Evan Marshall, $1.3M – TENDER
- Josh Osich, $1M – TENDER
- Ryan Goins, $900K – NON-TENDER
It’ll be sad to see Yolmer go, but there’s just no scenario in which he’s worth $6 million to this team next season. Osich is the only other guy that I gave serious consideration to non-tendering, but he’s fairly cheap and I’ll need some bullpen depth when all is said and done.
- Welington Castillo: $8 million/$500,000 buyout – DECLINE
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- Jose Abreu – RE-SIGN FOR 2 YRS/$25 MILLION
- Iván Nova – LET GO
- Jon Jay – LET GO
- Hector Santiago – LET GO
I don’t think much needs to be said here. Abreu is a pretty clear bet to stay, and there aren’t many better options out there even if the Sox were inclined to move on. I don’t want to give him more than two years, though, and he’ll have to take a slight pay cut ($10 mil in 2019, $15 mil in 2020). But that still seems like a generous offer relative to what the corner bat market has been offering lately.
No. 1: Sign Gerrit Cole (8 yrs/$240 million)
IMO Cole is the best free agent this year – just a hair better than Anthony Rendon, and a better fit for the Sox. He’s been absolutely dominant the past two years and has generally been extremely healthy throughout his career. I love the idea of slotting him in ahead of Lucas Giolito, while taking the pressure off guys like Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease to immediately develop into top-end starters.
This is obviously a big contract, but the Sox have room for it – especially since we’re going to borrow the structure from our old pal Mike Rizzo, and defer $80 million to be paid out from 2028 to 2037. That $8 million per year will be Michael Reinsdorf’s problem!
No. 2: Sign J.D. Martinez (3 yrs/$75 million)
Like I said, the Sox need elite talent. Martinez is a caliber of hitter they haven’t had since prime Paul Konerko. Even with Martinez entering his decline phase, he should age gently thanks to a fanatical devotion to swing analytics and a well-rounded skill set at the plate (contact, power, eye). This guy is not Adam Dunn.
No. 3: Sign Yasmani Grandal (3 yrs/$51 million)
More elite talent! There’s a solid argument that Grandal has been the best catcher in the bigs over the last three years, and it’s still shocking that the Brewers got him on a one-year deal last offseason. I doubt that’ll happen again.
No. 4: Sign Will Harris (3 yrs/$15 million)
Harris has been consistently very good for the Astros over the last five years, compiling 2.99 FIP and 315 strikeouts in 297 innings. However, he’s been mostly a middle reliever and is entering his age-35 season, which should combine to keep his price reasonable. If he signs with my Sox, he gets the added perk of opening 2019 as the closer.
No. 5: Sign Alex Wood (1 yr/$6 million)
Wood gets my swingman slot, thanks to a lefty arm with upside. He was bad and injured in 2019, but generally misses bats and gets grounders, which means he has can throw 150 decent innings in the rotation or become a solid 7th/8th inning arm if he eventually works out of the pen. Michael Wacha and Collin McHugh are my other targets here if Wood gets a bigger offer.
No. 1: Trade Alex Colome and Jace Fry to Los Angeles for Joc Pederson
Despite his solid 2019, Colome profiles better as a setup man than a closer and I don’t want to pay $10 million bucks for that. Meanwhile, Pederson’s brand of power and defense is an excellent fit for the Sox right field vacancy. He can also play center in a pinch should Luis Robert struggle, and he’s redundant on a Dodgers squad with Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Alex Verdugo, A.J. Pollock, Kike Hernandez, and Matt Beaty (must be nice). The Dodgers’ bullpen has been a critical part of their postseason failures over the last three years, so they add a solid back-end arm in Colome plus a controllable lefty with upside in Fry as a sweetener.
No. 2: Trade Kelvin Herrera, Luis Basabe, and Gavin Sheets to the Tigers for Joe Jimenez
This Herrera contract was dumb from jump, and it stinks I have to move some prospect depth to get off of it. However, if I want to keep the payroll around $120 million there’s no way to justify Herrera’s $8.5 million salary. So I’ll let the Tigers eat it, and hope he turns into a flippable asset at the deadline. Since they have virtually no interesting position players in the organization, they have more to gain than most by taking a chance on Basabe’s remaining upside and Sheets’s nearly major league ready bat. And I’ll push for Jimenez as the return — he’s a bat-missing bullpen arm who has yet to put together an above average major league season.
Here’s my imaginary 26-man roster around mid-April, when I stop suppressing imaginary service time:
RHP Gerrit Cole
RHP Lucas Giolito
RHP Reynaldo Lopez
RHP Dylan Cease
RHP Michael Kopech
Payroll: $120 million
My conservative back-of-napkin estimate puts this team around 88-90 wins. That’s enough to push Minnesota and Cleveland for the AL Central title, or have an outside shot at the Wild Card if Oakland or Tampa Bay regress. At the very least, they’ll be a lot more fun to watch with the addition of Cole’s power arm and Martinez’s power bat (not to mention Robert and Madrigal… eventually).
Regardless of how close they come to my plan (probably not close at all), the Sox have a TON of flexibility right now, and it would be a real shame if they don’t use it to build on their homegrown talent with equally exciting players from outside the org.