The White Sox have one more day game in Cleveland today, the home opener on Thursday and an off day on Friday before the season actually hits its stride, which is when we can start taking their catastrophic defensive struggles in earnest, rather than merely an omen.
As Daryl Van Schouwen framed it:
In the three games against the Royals, the Sox were charged with four errors (two throwing by shortstop Tim Anderson), and all nine players were involved in at least one of the following: throwing error, fielding error, bad throw, bobbled ground ball, miscommunication on a fly ball or pop-up.
But until we get daily exposure to this ugliness, let’s continue pulling at some threads from the last month of the offseason.
More contract extensions
*Ronald Acuña Jr. became the latest pre-arb player to sign an extension, and his might be a bigger source of labor irritation than others. Coming off a season in which he hit .293/.366/.552 with 26 homers and 16 steals as a 21-year-old, he signed an eight-year, $100 contract with the Braves.
It illustrates better than any other deal the tension between life-changing money and maxing out value. Acuña signed for only $100,000 and made the league minimum last year, so this contract will go a long way. That said, as a Super Two-eligible player, the Braves will come out way ahead if Acuña is merely good. Factor in the buyout at the end of his deal, and Acuña signed for eight years and $90 million. Over the same period, Eloy Jiménez could make $77 million without a single plate appearance in the minors.
*German Marquez will get his own extension from the Rockies, agreeing to five years and $43 million. Blake Snell had recently set the standard for such players by signing for $50 million over five years. Marquez didn’t win a Cy Young, but he did strike out 230 batters over 196 innings while posting a 3.77 ERA at Coors Field last year.
Chris Sale’s velocity
Sale also signed an extension to remove himself from any potential free-agent discussion, but given the shoulder issues that cost him 50ish innings in 2018, I didn’t think he could do a whole lot better on the open market than his $145 million. If Bryce Harper and Manny Machado couldn’t get more than two or three genuinely interested teams — especially Machado at the height of his powers — I thought Sale’s free agent reception could be even more hostile.
The way he’s opening the season has invited more questions. He struck out just one batter over his six innings against Oakland on Tuesday, with a fastball that struggled to stay above 90.
The velocity never jumped up Tuesday, and Sale almost ditched the fastball altogether. He finished with just 25 four-seamers averaging 89.1 mph, the lowest velocity of any of his 289 career major league appearances. Not once did he generate a swing-and-miss on his fastball. Catcher Christian Vazquez started calling a heavy dose of off-speed pitches instead.
That said, he gave up one run over those six innings. We’ve seen Sale be effective with far from his best stuff, but we’ve also seen him go on the DL after those velocity drops. Nobody on the Red Sox’ side is expressing concern.
Star players doing cool things
Now that free agency is busted for teams seeking outside help for the foreseeable future, one can only stare from the outside at things like Harper locking horns with his former team at Nationals Park on Tuesday.
It’s a reminder to White Sox fans that baseball can be theater, and not just pathos.
Don’t know what effect this current wave of extensions for star players will have on landscape of roster building. My initial reaction is that GMs going forward will be using Free Agency mostly for roster fillers and role players. (Like W Sox do now). I’m hoping it will take baseball back where trades are actually trades. For example, my #2 starting pitcher for your starting CF or your starting 3B and MAYBE a minor league throw-in. Major league assets for major league assets. (think: Tommy John for Dick Allen). I do enjoy the fodder that all these “prospect watch lists” provide, but I’ve never liked the trading of a team’s best all-star player for four players who at best are 2 or 3 years away or maybe even never.
I have said it before, but Hahn seems to be a step behind most of his counterparts. When he zigs…other GMs are already zagging. I am waiting for that Abreu’s extension which as lovely as it can be (I like Abreu) might ended up hurting the team in future years as we try to start paying the players that haven’t gotten paid yet and are yet to play or whatever it was KW said.
Defense problems was one of the main reasons I wanted the Sox to sign Machado. In some of my comments and my off season plan, I mentioned the White Sox would benefit tremendously by having an elite glove in the field which makes other players look better.
Honestly, I don’t care if the White Sox overpay Abreu at this point. Overpaying is only an issue if your FO would otherwise have spent the money acquiring talent at the market rate. Given that ours won’t, either because they’re unwilling to spend it or unable to properly scout players to spend it on, who cares?
Your words are sadly true….sigh!
I think Abreu is resigned before the trade deadline to subtract that question from the season, but I don’t want the Sox to be able to get away with Jerry Angelo’s old maxim of “Free agency starts at home”. It does if your players are good and in their prime, and you can draft well. Not if they sign for 4 years after coming off an injury. Sadly, Kenny seems to have adopted that mentality already…
Right, Cirensica…..W Sox don’t seem to factor in defense when building a roster. For example, trading away Eaton, who was among leaders in assists & other fielding stats, was OK but then replacing him with DH Avi G didn’t help the pitchers. The 2005 champs had 3 CFs in outfield -Pods, Rowand, & Dye. 2019 Opening Day of Eloy, Leury, and Palka has 2 DHS and a 25th man util IF converted to OF. Ouch. Seems like W Sox always seem to have 4 or 5 players on roster who’s best position is DH. Engel has to play CF everyday until L Robert is ready. Other hitters will have to compensate for his anemic bat.
I like Abreu also, but if Sox draft Vaughn, extension may not happen. If Sox draft Abrams or Witt, Timmy A can move to CF (?)
Garcia was actually an above average defense RF in 2017.
Calling 2005 Jermaine Dye a CF is… Generous.
I remember him as being very effective where he was, but he needed to be where he was, and nowhere else.
That is the direct by-product of “loyalty” or as I prefer to call it “organizational incest”. If you only promote from within and never bring in people from other organizations, you will always be behind the competition.
I think you’re mostly right by saying that the Sox FO seem behind the times, but to be fair: their extensions wit Sale, Eaton, and Q seem to be ahead the curve, if anything. I even wondered if they aren’t partially (even if a small part!) in starting this movement.
The Sox were just on trend but did execute well with those 3.
Rick Hahn addressed this on the score With Laurence Holmes yesterday.
He basically brushed it off and said he expects people to simply be more active via trades instead.
Really agitated me. It was a very typical Hahn Lawyer speak answer. And to me the essential non answer means he understands they’re screwed.
It takes prospect depth to make trades.
Very true Paulie, but depth doesn’t just mean having the most prospects on the Top 100 list. It also factors in the skills of each player (defense should be one of them), the position the prospect plays (right now, W Sox top prospects are heavy in OF and RH pitchers…would like to see some up-the-middle gloves/bats get stockpiled – Madrigal is a start) and I think to be successful, any organization needs to have more ‘hits’ at the top of the draft than ‘misses’. These ‘hits’ then can be added to supplement core stars instead of having to trade core stars away.
The front office’s explanations are getting increasingly contorted. Their spin increasingly reveals that either they don’t think very highly of their audience or they’re not as smart as they think they are.
Take for example Rick’s constant refrain about the rebuild not coming down to 1 guy. That’s a fine attitude in 2017 when they’re at the start of the process. But now they’ve accumulated significant attrition in injured and underperforming prospects. They’ve eroded most of their margin for error and cast away their best opportunity at recovery when they whiffed on Machado.
The wave of extensions just make that more obvious.
Now, they’re dependent on maximal outcomes from this upcoming draft and at least a couple of Adolfo, Basabe, Gonzalez, Rutherford, and Steele. That’s not a luxury anymore. And it also presumes there aren’t many more bad surprises to come.
“Naturally, there’s always going to be shifts in the landscape of the league, both leagues, especially. The critical acquisition remains identifying talent, as it’s always been. Time will tell, but we’re excited about our position, vis-a-vis where we are contra the rest of the league, and while a possible sea change in the way player compensation is effectuated is, for a certainty, but might also not, given the unavoidable fact that we’re talking about thirty different teams pulling on their own ropes.”
« It’s a reminder to White Sox fans that baseball can be theater, and not just pathos »
Perfectly stated Jim. I was actually at the Sale game last night and noticed it too. Was excited to see Sale but saw only a couple of pitches above 90. His offspeed stuff is still wicked.
I had a Boston fan sitting next to me who said that this was almost like spring training for Sale because he pitched so little in the spring.
Anyways it was great to watch baseball played well. Very good game.
And oh, This guy is good friends with Jason Bere too. I’ll do a fan post later with pictures.