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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Alex Colomé, $10.3M – Non-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 – Non-tender
- Ryan Goins, $900K – Non-tender
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.
- Welington Castillo: $8 million/$500,000 buyout – Bye.
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.
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.
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.
- *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.
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!)
- Luis Robert, CF ($0.55M)
- Yoan Moncada, 3B ($0.55M)
- Jose Abreu, 1B ($12.00M)
- Charlie Blackmon, DH ($13.81M)
- Eloy Jimenez, LF ($2,33M)
- Yasmani Grandal, C ($16.40M)
- Tim Anderson, SS ($4.00M)
- Kole Calhoun, RF ($12.00M)
- Nick Madrigal, 2B ($0.55M)
- Leury Garcia, UTIL ($4.00M)
- Adam Engel, OF ($0.55M)
- Danny Mendick, INF ($0.55M)
- James McCann, C/DH ($4.90M)
- Lucas Giolito, RHP ($0.55M)
- Zack Wheeler, RHP ($22.00M)
- Michael Kopech, RHP ($0.55M)
- Reynaldo Lopez, RHP ($0.55M)
- Dylan Cease, RHP ($0.55M)
- CL: Aaron Bummer, LHP ($0.55M)
- RP1: Collin McHugh, RHP ($6.00M)
- RP2: Jimmy Cordero, RHP ($0.55M)
- RP3: Kelvin Herrera, RHP ($8.50M)
- RP4: Evan Marshall, RHP ($1.30M)
- RP5: Jace Fry, LHP ($0.55M)
- RP6: Tyler Johnson, RHP ($0.55M)
- RP7: Caleb Frare, LHP (0.55M)
- Carlos Rodon, LHP ($4.50M)
Total Payroll: $119,441,552