pnoles’ Offseason Plan

PREAMBLE

The White Sox are ready to take a big step forward towards competing. For purposes of this plan, I’m going to stick to three additional constraints.

  1. The Sox are not going to get Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon. That sucks, but after last offseason I have little choice but to treat those two guys as impossibilities, and there’s no one to blame but Jerry Reinsdorf.
  2. The Sox are going to sign Jose Abreu. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s going to happen, so it’s going to be baked into the plan.
  3. I’m limiting myself to two upper-tier free agents. There’s enough payroll space to accommodate more, but I view it as highly difficult for any team to emerge as the top bidder for the services of three of the best players on the market. It’s hard enough for a team to get two. So, when you read the plan and ask, “Well, why didn’t you just sign J.D. Martinez?”, it’s because of constraint number three.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

If Alex Colome didn’t have a .215 BABIP-against in 2019, a ridiculously lucky mark that was very out-of-line with the rest of his career, you wouldn’t want to pay him eight figures either. FIP, xFIP, xwOBA, and (very slightly) DRA all had 2019 as the worst season of Colome’s career as a relief pitcher. He’s a good reliever (in the “seventh/eighth inning guy” sense), and in real life the Sox should probably keep him because I doubt they’ll do anything better with the money, but in this plan, I need the budget space.

CLUB OPTIONS

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

  • Jose Abreu (made $16M in 2019) – Retain (see below)
  • Iván Nova (made $9,166,167 in 2019) – Bye.
  • Jon Jay (made $4M in 2019) – LOLbye.
  • Hector Santiago (made $2M in 2019 on split contract) – Bye.

FREE AGENTS

No. 1: RHP Zack Wheeler (five years, $110M).

Wheeler’s pitched like a bona-fide all-star ever since ditching his sinker (sound familiar?) prior to the 2018 season. I see him as the single biggest upgrade that the White Sox could realistically bring in. Injury is going to be a concern, but the upside of a healthy Wheeler is too good to ignore.

No. 2: C Yasmani Grandal (five years, $82M).

Last year, Grandal said that he settled for a one-year deal because he didn’t want to lower the bar for the contract given to the market’s top free agent catcher, citing Russell Martin’s deal. So let’s just give him the Russell Martin deal. Grandal is one of the game’s best pitch-framers, which gives him a lot of value in excess of the very good hitting numbers. He’s a lefty bat that the team needs, and with some due respect to James McCann, he’s probably the biggest realistic position-player upgrade the Sox can nab. McCann can become the backup and serve as a DH against some lefties, whom he tattooed in 2019.

No. 3: 1B Jose Abreu (two years, $24M). 

Contract estimates for Abreu are all over the map. I don’t think it will take a huge commitment to keep him given his desire to return. The above feels like a good combination of avoiding an overpay while not insulting Abreu. I could see it taking less to keep him.

No 4. RF Kole Calhoun (two years, $24M).

Since Marcell Ozuna is off-limits per my third constraint, I’ve been pondering the options for right field a lot and just keep coming back to Calhoun. I’m thinking that the Angels will decline his option in light of Jo Adell‘s imminent ascension but if they don’t, I’d be happy trading them a lotto ticket prospect for the 1 year / $14M. If not, I’d offer him the above contract. Calhoun is another left-handed bat for the lineup and unlike most of the free agent alternatives, can handle right field defensively without issues.

No 5. RHP Collin McHugh (one year, $6M).

When healthy, McHugh is an effective swingman. His numbers are excellent out of the pen and he can slide into the rotation in a pinch. He can serve as the second “starter” that the Sox sign who’s essentially destined for the bullpen once Kopech is ready. The risk is that he’s had shoulder and elbow troubles in recent seasons and finished the season on the IL, which is also why he probably won’t command a multi-year deal (and the $6M estimate above might even be high). Between Giolito, Wheeler, Cease, Lopez, Kopech, McHugh, Rodon, and whatever materializes from the minors in the second half, the hope is that the rotation will have enough arms.

TRADES

No. 1: Trade RHP Dane Dunning and DH/1B/C Zack Collins for “OF” Charlie Blackmon* and $25M**.

Blackmon is a good hitter that can’t provide a lick of defensive value. He’s owed $21M each of the next two years, followed by a $21M player option for 2022, and a $10M player option for 2023. Those two player options have the potential to become a liability, particularly for the small-market Rockies, so there’s some incentive to move on from him. Given that it’s doubtful that Blackmon could fetch his current contract (a front-loaded 4/$73M with two player options) on the free agent market, his contract should be considered underwater and the Rockies will have to kick in cash to get anything in return.

From the Rockies’ perspective, they get to shed some salary while getting an interesting pitcher in Dunning. Collins gives them someone to fill in at catcher and try out at first base as they likely phase out Daniel Murphy.

From the White Sox’ perspective, they add another good bat to the lineup at manageable cost without needing to win a third bidding war on the free agent market. Dunning is a rough loss, but between Grandal, McCann, Abreu, and Blackmon, there’s virtually no place for Collins on this team anymore. Blackmon’s bad defense saps a lot of his value, but there’s a simple solution for that: make him the primary DH.

Notes:

  • *Blackmon can block trades to 15 teams; I’m assuming for purposes of this exercise that he’d be happy enough with the chance to join a team that has an arrow pointing up (heh) to waive that, in the event the Sox are one of the 15 teams.
  • **The $25M is distributed proportionally over the life of the deal assuming that Blackmon “opts in” through the end, making the White Sox’ portion of Blackmon’s salary $13.81M each of the next three years, and $6.58M in 2023. The Rockies’ payments of $7.19M for 2022 and $3.42M for 2023 are conditional on Blackmon opting in for those seasons.

SUMMARY

I believe this plan adequately addresses all of the holes on the roster while staying within the budget constraints (without offering any back-loaded deals). In addition to the thump added to the lineup, there are massive defensive upgrades at catcher and in right field. The rotation has the extra firepower it needs. Potential concerns are that there’s a fair amount riding on one or more of Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez taking significant steps forward at the back of the rotation and that the bullpen could be an issue that needs addressing at the trade deadline.

Lineup (just look at this lefty-righty balance, it’s a manager’s dream!)

  1. Luis Robert, CF ($0.55M)
  2. Yoan Moncada, 3B ($0.55M)
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B ($12.00M)
  4. Charlie Blackmon, DH ($13.81M)
  5. Eloy Jimenez, LF ($2,33M)
  6. Yasmani Grandal, C ($16.40M)
  7. Tim Anderson, SS ($4.00M)
  8. Kole Calhoun, RF ($12.00M)
  9. Nick Madrigal, 2B ($0.55M)

Bench:

Rotation:

  1. Lucas Giolito, RHP ($0.55M)
  2. Zack Wheeler, RHP ($22.00M)
  3. Michael Kopech, RHP ($0.55M)
  4. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP ($0.55M)
  5. Dylan Cease, RHP ($0.55M)

Bullpen

60-Day IL

  • Carlos Rodon, LHP ($4.50M)

Total Payroll: $119,441,552

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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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MadManx

Bullpen is rough, but I like Wheeler and Grandal signings. Did you consider signing another SP and pushing one of Kopech, Lopez or Cease into the bullpen? It might be about time for Lopez…

cpwbaseball402

Blackmon is bad in the OF, but he can’t be worse than Eloy right? Stick Blackmon in LF and Eloy at DH, other than that love the offensive upgrades. Cool plan

Eagle Bones

You could rotate them a bit. As I mentioned in my plan, I do like the idea of having a DH who can capably play some LF. Probably good to give Eloy a chance to improve in the OF (i.e. I don’t like the idea of making him a FT DH yet), but it would be good to get him off his feet a couple days a week to try to keep him healthy.

lil jimmy

So let’s just give him the Russell Martin deal. ” That’s a thoughtful idea.
I’m kinda tepid on the Blackmon part. Better off using those dollars on the bullpen.
the rest is quite nice.

burning-phoneix

Put some respec on my man Osich’s name.

Right Size Wrong Shape

The pitching staff as a whole is a little scary, but you can only do so much in one off-season. You can always address pitching needs at the trade deadline, and by then you’ll have a better idea about all of the the young pitchers. I like this plan.

HallofFrank

I’d be happy with this. I had McHugh (and at one year, $6m) too. He could fit the swing man role well, but also potentially be a good reliever when he (hopefully) transitions to that role full time.

texag10

So it more than likely puts you over budget, but did you give any thought to trying to get Gray from the Rockies in addition to Blackmon? Baseballtradevalues has Blackmon underwater from a value perspective so without being able to account for the money kicked in, Blackmon/Gray for Collins/Dunning is a fair offer. Would adding a 45FV prospect like a Basabe (those Rockies love outfielders) be enough to swing that trade with the cash kicked in?

Eagle Bones

Thank you for breaking down the Blackmon deal to that level, it made my head hurt until I read the end where you broke down the salaries by year haha! Obviously I like a lot of what you did (similar players to my plan).

Only two things I’d quibble with: (1) I’m not sure about taking on that Blackmon contract (even with the money coming over) and (2) that pen is mighty thin. Trying to think if there is a way to go another way at DH and add another decent arm to the pen? I had proposed something in my plan with the Rangers where they’d trade for Choo and include Herrera to offset the salaries. Maybe something like that and then use the extra on another arm? Just thinking out loud, great job!

texag10

Given the state of the team, I think the most realistic option for DH this year is internal. I think we end up with a DHydra but this time with competent hitters. Between Eloy, Abreu, Collins, McCann, and hopefully Grandal, we can manage workload and matchups with the DH position without having to spend big on it.

MrStealYoBase

Wheeler and Grandal. Wheeler and Grandal. Wheeler and Grandal.

Hopefully if we all say it enough it will come to fruition!

Neat_on_the_rocks

I would be absolutely thrilled if we got Wheeler and Grandal.

I’m trying to prepare myself for Odirizzi and Calhoun to be are “big” gets…

johnnynewguy

I would be happy if the Sox got Grandal, Odorizzi, and Calhoun.

knoxfire30

Completely on board with Wheeler and McHugh but I couldnt be more opposed to blackman.

Negatives:

You are guaranteed to pay him a lot for his age 34 and 35 seasons… while giving him the leverage to walk if he is good, but stick around for his age 36 and 37 seasons if he is bad….

He has a career 250 ops drop away from coors field.

He is moving from the NL to the AL

He is going to be a first time full time DH.

You are relinquishing a top pitching prospect and potential ok dh bat.

Positives:

Sox play 2 games in Colorado this year, so he will dominate those.

knoxfire30

ok, there is a big risk in his numbers equaling out, i also mentioned his age, his lack of any experience as a dh, and the prospects we would lose to acquire him, and the risky financial commitment that favors the player here…

its flat not worth it for a 2 WAR player, if I am giving up dunning, collins, and about what 50 mil give or take I think I can find a much more reliable dh or outfielder who can produce higher then a 2 war

Eagle Bones

I wasn’t arguing for acquiring him (my comment to pnoles also stated that I wasn’t sure about that move), just pointing out that there has been research done that seems to point to the fear of Rockies hitter cratering once they leave Colorado probably being offbase.

knoxfire30

Its a good article, and maybe im over blowing the effect, but his gap is especially concerning, and his offense wouldnt have to crater it would only have to dip to make him a pretty poor value given where his defense and base running are at right now.

Eagle Bones

I’m not arguing anything you’re saying except that you probably shouldn’t be worried about his offense falling off because of leaving Coors. His offense could fall off for any number of reasons, but that’s probably not one of them.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Completely with you here. every time I kick the tires on a Blackmon idea, it just doesn’t make sense at all if we have to give up prospect capital.

Aging Right Fielders who have spend their careers in the NL and moving to the whitesox to full time DH? That has worked out so well for us in the past! And we’re committing FOUR years to him and losing Dunning AND Collins.

I just cant feel good about it. If you could be guarenteed an .850+ OPS Blackmon than you feel decent about it but all the recipe for failure is there. Just give me Dickerson at like 2/20 (tops). Way less money, no prospect loss, 2 years younger, and a similar .900 OPS last year.

oldtimer

Like it alot except for Blackmon. Can’t shake the belief that his success is a direct result of Coors Field. Lot’s of stats to that effect. Love to get Grandall but I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t sign a multi year deal with Milw. He seems to love it in Milw and the feeling seems mutual between the fans and management. I feel a overpay will be required to pry him loose.

lil jimmy

Milwaukee is a shit hole. The Brewers don’t deserve him.

NateDPT12

False. Milwaukee is a very underrated city.

Josh Nelson

Milwaukee has come a long way the last 5 years.

lil jimmy

Such a homer, Wisconsin boy!

Josh Nelson

I did not like Milwaukee 15 years ago, but they’ve made a lot of efforts to make Downtown fun.

egib52

Especially around the Bucks’ new arena.

texag10

I went there once a few years ago for a Brewers-Nationals game. Can confirm it is definitely a city with a baseball team.

oldtimer

Smart owner, smart manager and a team that wins on a low budget payroll. 2.9M in attendance. Your scorn is misplaced.

asinwreck

The Rockies’ unusual approach to fiscal management means there are many possibilities to buy talent from them this winter.

metasox

If the Rockies want to shed salary to try to get some flexibility to compete this season, there may be a trade opportunity that is a little more one-sided.

Eagle Bones

They’re also one of the only teams that can rival the Sox in terms of ownership and FO stupidity. Excellent opportunity indeed.

metasox

That was Martin’s deal, but was he considered worth it in his 30s? Given how teams look at player aging now, am not sure that is Grandal’s best argument.

Eagle Bones

Worth over 13 wins during the course of the deal according to BPro and that’s with his role being reduced over the last couple years. Easily worth the money.

metasox

I know he pleyed less at the end but I wonder if teams are going 5 yrs on a catcher when the return may be pretty front-loaded

Eagle Bones

Most FA contracts end up being front-loaded from a production perspective, regardless of position.

metasox

I realize that has historically been the case. Front offices seem at least a little more cautious now when starting with players over 30. I really don’t have a sense of how they will approach Grandal, especially given last offseaon

Eagle Bones

Yeah they kind of seem cautious with everyone at this point. It will definitely be interesting to see how guys like Grandal and Keuchel do this year after there seemed to be so little interest last year. Maybe teams will have changed their thought process or some teams will now have more a payroll flexibility, but yeah I’m kind of wondering if many teams simply weren’t interested.

Otter

That lineup is pretty good. The pitching is leaving a lot for development. But the Sox probably have four average to above average starters in that rotation assuming some development and health.

I think that might be an overpay for Blackmon? He’s 33 with basically four years left on his deal. I’m not against it, but I wonder if you can get him for less.

Josh Nelson

Thoughts:

– If Collin McHugh is healthy (Big IF), I really like that move.

– They Charlie Blackmon trade is crazy only because the reaction from both ballclub’s fans would be so damn interesting to watch. Not even a year ago, it appeared the Rockies were planning to contend signing Nolan Arenado to a 8-year, $260 million deal, and in your plan they plan on trading away one of their core pieces. It’ll be a fascinating offseason for sure in Denver.

– If this was the actual plan, I think there will be some time spent in late June/July to rebuild this bullpen on the fly via trades. To me, this is the weakest part of your roster, but hey, Washington rebuilt their bullpen mid-season and they are sitting pretty at the moment.

texag10

All we have to do is find the next Matt Thornton and trade for him. Easy.

tdogg

Not crazy about the Blackmon cash but I like this plan! Everyone is trading Dunning (which I’m ok with) but will Hahn actually do it?

Right Size Wrong Shape

I wonder if he even has any value right now.

texag10

He’s still a FV45 prospect and ZiPS still projects him for about 7 WAR over his controllable time, even if it was at about 10 prior to the injury.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I still think a team would want to see him throw a pitch in anger before giving up anything of value for him.

Neat_on_the_rocks

This is a nit pick but if we’re getting rid of Colome AND our second “starting” pitcher add is Collin McHugh – you gotta bring back Osich at 1M and keep him on the team over Frare. A lefty who can actually get righties out out of the pen and give you just a bit more in the innings department, is a much better use of that bullpen spot than Frare.

metasox

Wonder about committing to 4 yrs of a DH in Blackmon especially when the Sox are loaded with DH types. For example, maybe Encarnacion will be available as a shorter commitment alternative and one who has already served an an AL DH.

joewho112

For the me the most frustrating realization from the Off season Plan project is that you can’t buy a good team even with $60m+ to spend. Even with a former top 20 pitching prospect coming back and 2 position prospect players getting promoted, there are just too many holes and not enough depth in the system to fill them.

espnjunkie

We will lean heavy on internal development of players like Robert/Madrigal/Cease/Lopez/Kopech to step up. We cannot expect to plug every hole in one offseason.

NDSox12

Which is why it would have been nice to have gotten a start at plugging those holes last winter. Alas, here we are.

joewho112

This

joewho112

Wasn’t expecting to fill every hole. I was expecting they’d be better than .500 after spending $60M and adding 3 top prospects to the roster

Josh Nelson

That’s pretty much my takeaway, too.

If you want to have even more fun, try filling out a 25-man roster for the Charlotte Knights. That’ll help paint a picture on the current depth situation the White Sox have (or don’t have).

texag10

Well you start with Chris Volstad

Eagle Bones

Then add Brad Penny… bamalam.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Well, theres enough depth to fill them if you’re willing to trade all of Vaughn, Dunning, Stiever, Walker, and some fill ins. But then theres no depth at all and They’re definitely not at the balls deep portion of the rebuild yet.

espnjunkie

Solid plan that is grounded in reality for the Sox.

I like the creativity, but I do not think Blackmon would be wise given the player options on the back end that can get ugly. An aging 2 WAR player can quickly turn into a major liability for a club that can’t afford bad contracts while looking to contend. I feel like we could find a less expensive DH option.

McHugh is a solid roll of the dice on a one year deal. If healthy he could really help, but health is a concern.

Wheeler is getting at least $100 million over 5 years, and Grandal is getting at least $70 million over 4.

Calhoun/Puig could be the short term fit for us in RF. DH I’m still not sure yet, but we might have to go with an inexpensive stopgap.

BeefLoaf108

Honest question, why are you comfortable giving Grandal such a long-term deal, but want to nab Abreu to a much shorter one. I understand Andrew Vaughn exists, but still.

BeefLoaf108

Fair enough, buying catchers for that long at that age just peaks my curiousity, especially the ease with which lots of plans are giving him many $$$ and many years to Grandal. I know you don’t love bWAR for catchers, but I’ve run a few queries on the Play Index and catchers don’t seem to age that gracefully.

Josh Nelson

I’m with BeefLoaf on this one.

Eagle Bones

Could always sign Castro and spend that money elsewhere (rotation, pen, OF, etc.)

egib52

Realistically, they are going to have to overpay at least one player to get this moving. Especially, for the production they would get the first two years.

Josh Nelson

That’s true, .

karkovice squad

Almost no players age gracefully. But teams aren’t paying players what they’re worth at the start of their careers either, so here we are.

Trooper Galactus

I could be misremembering here, but it is potentially noteworthy, but I believe the player option years on Blackmon’s contract have escalator clauses based on number of games played or plate appearances, not sure which. Those last two seasons could turn out to be no cheaper than the ones preceding them, because I think he’s already well on his way to achieving the benchmarks.

Reindeer Games

I mean it’s pretty good except for not overpaying Eric Thames…

yinkadoubledare

If the asking price is too high on Blackmon (money or prospects) I’d kick the tires on Dom Smith, who’s completely blocked with the Mets by Pete Alonso, bats lefty, 5 years of team control.

BeefLoaf108

I’d love Dom Smith on this roster!!

mvrock

Your budgeting is excellent.
The bullpen is abysmal.
Away from Coors field Blackmon is a .250 hitter, sub .300 obp and middling slugger. No thanks.

Eagle Bones

How’d Matt Holliday hit on the road when he was a Rockie? I’ll give you a hint, not nearly as well as he hit at home. How’d that work out for the Cardinals?

mvrock

You are correct, but you make my point.  In the three years prior to joining Stl Halliday hit between 280 and 312 on the road, a much lower number than at home. In his 8 years as a Cardinal he hit 293, or pretty much what he hit on the road as a Rockie.  If Blackmon hits like he has on the road as a Rockie, I reaffirm my “pass”

Jim Margalus

First four non-rookie seasons with the Rockies: 4.5 WAR/season
First four seasons after leaving Colorado: 4.8 WAR/season.

Looks like Holliday handled the adjustment just fine.

mvrock

Hmm, those four seasons in Stl were Holliday’s age 29-32 seasons, or his prime. Blackmon would be coming to the Sox for age 33-37 seasons. Blackmon’s WAR for the last two years was 0.8 and 2.3 – and that’s with the benefit of hitting .379 at home (vs .256 on the road) in ’19 and .334 at home (vs .249 on the road) in ’18.

I like him…in Colorado. If he becomes his road stats (at best) in his mid thirties then for slash lines of 256/299/432 and 249/329/439 I think they can find better value for those dollars.

Eagle Bones

No one is arguing to acquire Blackmon. The point is hes not going to suck just because hes no longer playing in Colorado. Read the article further up the thread. There is a reason rox hitters struggle so much away from home.

lil jimmy

Just like anyone the Sox pick up, if he’s on my team, I will cheer him on.

Eagle Bones

I thought this was obvious but as jim is stating it worked out really well for the cardinals. Check wrc+. He was maybe even better after leaving Colorado (as a hitter at least).

mvrock

Again, Holliday having success after leaving Colorado had nothing to do with Blackmon. With Colorado Holliday was a .290 road hitter. His ave with St. Louis was .293. Makes sense, right? And, he went to Stl in his prime at age 29.

Blackmon is barely a .250 hitter away from Coors the last two years and will be coming for his age 33 and beyond seasons. I just don’t get the “love” for him based on Holliday, completely different road slashes and ages.

karkovice squad

Lemahieu had big home/road splits. They evened out when he left Coors. Which is what the data says is the most likely outcome.

So, again, the Coors Effect still isn’t the reason to be skeptical of acquiring Blackmon. The rest of his already declining performance provides the cause for concern.

As Cirensica

I like the plan. I also didn’t tender Colome. I think he is a high risk/cost player. Having said that, I thought you could have constructed a better pen. Looks a bit weak with no depth.
I was studying the Blackmon trade possibility, but decided against it. I think Dickerson offers equal value at a fraction of the cost.

karkovice squad

Yet more proof that we should reject the underlying premises of the exercise.