Josh Nelson’s Offseason Plan: Time to get busy

JD Martinez. Detroit Tigers v. Atlanta Braves. Joker Marchant Stadium. Lakeland, Fla. March 5, 2015. Photo by Tom Hagerty.

The 2019 Chicago White Sox finished 72-89 in Year 3 of their rebuild. Even though they have seven straight losing seasons, I could see the White Sox being a popular dark horse pick by national writers and analysts to make the postseason in 2020. Why? Well compare the White Sox rebuild, and their once best farm system in baseball, to how other franchises have fared after Year 3.

  • 2015 Houston Astros won 86 games (+16 win difference from Year 3)
  • 2015 Chicago Cubs won 97 games (+24 win difference from Year 3)
  • 2018 Atlanta Braves won 90 games (+18 win difference from Year 3)

Following that line of logic, maybe the 2020 White Sox will follow the footsteps of the Cubs/Astros/Braves and be an 88 to 96 win team. I just doubt it with the roster they currently have on hand. Reinforcements are coming with Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal entering into the fold, and Michael Kopech is returning from injury. However, those three players are not enough, in my opinion, to create an additional 16 to 24 wins. Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams need to find help outside of their current 40-man roster.

I have a lot of ideas on how the White Sox can make the transition from rebuilder to contender. My strategy is to add veterans who have proven to excel at the plate and will help bolster the team’s efforts getting on-base while hitting for more power. Plus, adding to the pitching staff a starter who can help provide a consistent presence, a swing-man to soak up spot starts, and an old face to help with high leverage situations out of the bullpen.


Write “tender” or “non-tender” after each player and their projected 2020 salaries.

Alex Colomé, $10.3M – Tender
I’m not thrilled about the price tag for Colomé, but his services are needed.

Yolmer Sánchez, $6.2M – Non-Tender
Yolmer Sánchez is a good fit for the clubhouse and is a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. I just can’t justify the price for a hitter who only slugged .321 last season with the bouncy ball. 

James McCann, $4.9M – Tender

Carlos Rodon, $4.5M – Non-Tender
A controversial decision to let Carlos Rodon go early, but I find it to be justified for a couple of reasons. Rodon won’t be pitching until June at the earliest, and more than likely won’t be available to the White Sox until July. If you’re a believer in Giolito, Lopez, Cease, Kopech, and the Sox add another starting pitcher or two, where does Rodon fit in the mix? 

Of course, that assumes Rodon is fully healthy, which hasn’t been the case for most of his career with the White Sox. There is also knowing that team control for Rodon ends in 2021, and it doesn’t seem that either party has much interest in working out a long-term deal. I believe it is best for both the White Sox and Rodon to go their separate ways now. The White Sox can allocate $4.5 million elsewhere while Rodon can seek a fresh start with a new team.

If the White Sox do tender Rodon a contract, we’ll be talking about his role with the ball club quite a bit come July. It’ll be interesting to see in what ways Hahn envisions using Rodon if the starting rotation is performing and healthy.

  • Leury García, $4M – Tender
  • Evan Marshall, $1.3M – Tender
  • Josh Osich, $1M – Non-Tender
  • Ryan Goins, $900K – Non-Tender


Write “pick up” or “decline” after the option.

  • Welington Castillo: $8 million/$500,000 buyout – Buyout


Try to retain, or let go?

  • Jose Abreu (made $16M in 2019) – Retain; Two year, $30 million deal + club option ($15 million, $3 million buyout). 
  • Iván Nova (made $9,166,167 in 2019) – Let go
  • Jon Jay (made $4M in 2019) – Let go
  • Hector Santiago (made $2M in 2019 on split contract) – Let go

After arbitration and signing Jose Abreu to a new deal, I have around $64 million dollars to spend before hitting the $120 million budget. Here is how I would go about adding new players.


Sign DH/RF J.D. Martinez to a three year, $70 million deal + club option 

2020: $24 million

2021: $24 million

2022: $22 million

2023: $22 million (Club Option, $5 million buyout)

I do believe that Scott Boras will convince J.D. Martinez to opt-out of his remaining three years with the Boston Red Sox, which he’s scheduled to make $62.5 million. It would be a risky decision for a 32-year old hitter who is mostly limited to being a designated hitter, but I find Martinez to be elite. By signing Martinez, the White Sox would be adding a power bat that will hit better than .300, while walking 10% of the time, and slug better than .550. A big boost from the White Sox DH’s who combined to hit .205/.285/.356 with just 17 home runs last year. Even though he should be limited to how many games played in right field, Martinez’s bat is much needed.

Then there is the clubhouse benefit of adding Martinez to a young core of hitters. In The MVP Machine, part of the book shares Martinez’s journey in transforming himself as a hitter but also willing to share his wisdom and help his teammates, especially Mookie Betts. Boston Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers had good things to say about Martinez’s influence.

“I have to give a big credit to J.D. Martinez,” Hyers says. “ When you have a superstar, and you have a guy who’s already proven it, to come in and back what you’re saying and have those conversations one-on-one with players. . . J.D. was huge on saying, ‘Hey Mookie, you do this part.’ And they had their own private conversations that helped a ton also.”

Excerpt from The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik

Betts went on to hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and to lead the league in runs scored with 129 to beat Mike Trout for AL MVP in his first season working alongside Martinez. Can you imagine what kind of impact Martinez could have on Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada?

Sign SP Jake Odorizzi to a three year, $35 million deal

2020: $11 million

2021: $12 million

2022: $12 million

There are better starting pitching options, but I’m picking Jake Odorizzi because his contract is one that Jerry Reinsdorf would approve. Signing Gerrit Cole is a dream all baseball fans have for their favorite teams, but I can’t see Reinsdorf supporting an eight-year, $280 million deal to land him. Hell, I have a hard time finding Reinsdorf approving an agreement for Zach Wheeler that could fall between four or five years for $18 million per season. The joys of being a White Sox fan.

Odorizzi is a $10-$12 million dollar a season starting pitcher joined with others like him in Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. I decided on Odorizzi because I think he can provide consistency into a Sox starting pitching that is promising but is inconsistent outside of Giolito. Odorizzi also posted impressive numbers against AL Central opponents.

Against the AL Central in 2019:

  • Cleveland Indians: 4 GS, 1.61 ERA, 22.1 IP, 29 K 10 BB
  • Detroit Tigers: 4 GS, 1.88 ERA, 24.0 IP, 27 K to 2 BB
  • Chicago White Sox: 4 GS, 2.86 ERA, 22.0 IP, 32 K to 5 BB

Oh, and those starts against Kansas City? You don’t need to see them *shoves stats into paper shredder*.

Sign SP/RP Wade Miley to a one year, $4.5 million deal

Wade Miley was having a terrific season for the Houston Astros until September. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but Miley in five starts allowed 21 ER in just 11.1 innings. In his only postseason outing as of this writing, Miley in 2.2 innings allowed three runs to Tampa in the ALDS. Before September, Miley had a 3.06 ERA, so he still could be a capable starter. The issue with Miley is that he’s limited to five innings as he racks up high pitch counts quickly.

The role I foresee using Miley is a swingman out of the bullpen. Spot starts when other starters get injured while taking on two to three innings in relief a couple of times a week. I feel more comfortable having Miley make 10-15 starts for the 2020 White Sox than say using Dylan Covey. The contract amount is the same he made with Houston in 2019.

Sign RP Daniel Hudson to a two year, $15 million deal 

2020: $7 million

2021: $8 million

Daniel Hudson was having a good year with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Washington Nationals where he took his performance to the next level. In 24 appearances, Hudson pitched 25 innings striking out 23 with just four walks and a 1.44 ERA. In his six postseason appearances helping the Nationals win the National League pennant, Hudson didn’t allow a run.

Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer did an excellent job locking down high leverage situations for the White Sox in 2019, but I would feel more comfortable if the White Sox added bullpen depth. Signing someone like Hudson, who now throws a 96-plus mph fastball and pairs it with a slider, would be a smart investment. My fear is that if Hudson continues to be lights out during the World Series, my contract offer could be short even though it would be a career high for him.

Sign C Martin Maldonado to a one year, $2.5 million deal

Even in a small sample size, I think Zack Collins demonstrated he’s not a major league catcher. The thought of having him as the primary backup to James McCann is a bit scary, so I think it’s worthwhile to bring in a veteran backstop.

Martin Maldonado won’t add much offensively, but he’s better at pitch framing and blocking than McCann. Paring Maldonado with Reynaldo Lopez might be a good idea to help find consistency between starts.

I addressed designated hitter, pitching staff, and backup catcher through free agency. Now it’s time to add an outfielder.


Trade SP Jonathan Stiever (or Dane Dunning), OF Blake Rutherford, and C Seby Zavala to Pittsburgh for OF Starling Marte.

Everything that I have been reading out of Pittsburgh is that this offseason could go two ways for the Pirates. 

  1. They could be active in the mid-tier free agency in attempting to build a roster to compete for the NL Central. 
  2. They could be active in trading their veterans away to get younger and try to reload a roster that will be competitive in 2021. 

I’m thinking the latter option is most likely as the Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers are too strong for the Pirates to think about them winning the NL Central in 2020. Last year, the White Sox and Pirates made an Ivan Nova deal work to help Pittsburgh shed $9.5 million. 

Going back to that well, taking on Starling Marte’s remaining two years, $24 million would be an excellent addition for the White Sox. In 2019, Marte was a 3.0 WAR player according to FanGraphs hitting .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in 132 games. While he still can cover center field, in my ideal lineup Marte is switching to right field primarily. 

For Pittsburgh, they receive Jonathan Stiever, who has some helium to his name. With a 97-mph fastball and sharp breaking pitches, Stiever has the makings of a power pitcher. He hasn’t reached AA yet, so I wouldn’t worry if Pittsburgh asked for Dane Dunning to be swapped instead. If Dunning returns to form, the Pirates will be receiving a pitcher in AA with a ceiling of a back-end starter. If the Pirates prefer Stiever, there might be a #2 or #3 starter profile for him, but it’s hard to gauge as he hasn’t pitched in AA yet. Though, his stuff is someone that teams love to dream on.

Blake Rutherford, at this point, might be a fourth outfielder. The Pirates have done a good job developing outfielders, so maybe they can unlock more of Rutherford’s potential. Seby Zavala is a cheap backup catcher option Pittsburgh can plug into the 26-man roster if they wanted. 

The most significant benefit for Pittsburgh in this deal would be getting out of Marte’s contract. Excellent opportunity for the White Sox to take advantage of adding an outfielder at a reasonable amount. 


I’ve added six new players to the White Sox 26-man roster for the 2020 season with Martinez, Odorizzi, and Marte headlining the offseason. It’s not sexy like adding Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon, but if the trio repeats their 2019 performance, that’s 10+ WAR added to the roster. While Hudson, Miley, and Maldonado won’t have as big of an impact, I still think they will help in the margins to add some additional wins. 

Before the season begins, my spending wouldn’t end until I make three more moves. 


Sign Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada to six-year, $77.5 million deals + two club options

2020: $1 million

2021: $6.5 million

2022: $15 million

2023: $15 million

2024: $20 million

2025: $20 million

2026: $20 million (club option)

2027: $20 million (club option)

Sign Luis Robert to a six-year, $43 million + two club options (same deal as Eloy Jimenez)

I believe that the 2019 performances from both Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada can be repeated. Right now, both will be entering their final seasons before arbitration, in which those costs could be difficult to project or budget. 

A good reason to work out an extension with both Giolito and Moncada, To make it worthwhile for them, I would offer a contract that guarantees $77.5 million over six seasons. With two club options that could grow to $117.5 million over eight seasons. I’m optimistic those options will be worth picking up. 

I’m predicting that Luis Robert will sign a new contract before the season starts. The White Sox get an opportunity to keep their star prospect for more than six years and allows Robert to start Opening Day in center field. Each player would make $1 million in 2020. 


After all of the moves, I come in at $119,550,000 for the 26-man roster

Projected Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Starling Marte – RF
  2. Yoan Moncada – 3B
  3. Jose Abreu – 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez – DH
  5. Eloy Jimenez – LF
  6. Tim Anderson – SS
  7. Luis Robert – CF
  8. James McCann – C
  9. Leury Garcia – 2B

Bench: Zack Collins, Martin Maldonado, Adam Engel, Danny Mendick*

*Let’s talk about how I would handle second base in 2020. To start, I would have Leury Garcia keep the position warm for Nick Madrigal to evaluate his readiness in May. If the 2018 first-round pick proves he’s ready for the majors, I would promote and start Madrigal at second while having Garcia play the super-utility role. That would mean a demotion for Mendick. 

Projected Opening Day Starting Rotation:

  1. Lucas Giolito
  2. Jake Odorizzi
  3. Reynaldo Lopez
  4. Dylan Cease
  5. Michael Kopech


Swingman: Wade Miley

Closer: Alex Colome

Setup: Daniel Hudson, Aaron Bummer

Middle Relief: Evan Marshall, Jace Fry, Jimmy Cordero, and Kelvin Herrera

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smdh at the lack of SP depth, Dylan Covey gonna make 14 starts on this team…….big fan of the Marte trade.


Which is why I would keep Rodon

Greg Nix

Yeah, I don’t think you can justify dumping Rodon if the only SP additions are Odorizzi and Miley. If this is the plan, I’d rather keep Rodon and dump Maldonado or sign a cheaper reliever than Hudson. 


I would assume by halfway through the season there is a good chance at least one of Lopez, Kopech or Cease will be struggling or injured. Rodon replaces that guy for the second half.


The most optimistic I can get is to assume they could cobble together at most 2 decent SP’s worth of production out of Rodon, Cease, Lopez and Kopech.

karkovice squad

@joewho112 Pretty much this. Even though Rodon’s salary becomes guaranteed after Spring Training, he’ll still probably be the most affordable mid-season upgrade or replacement available for any need they have in the rotation or bullpen. That plus being a low-cost flyer on his 2021 season makes keeping him worthwhile.


If Lopez, Cease and Kopech are being penciled in as 3 of the starters, you definitely want someone who can replace one of them if if they suck because all 3 being good is a low probability bet.

Ideally only 2 of those guys would be in the rotation with Rodon & the odd guy out as depth


I really like your plan in that it feels very “White Sox”, almost like you’re the GM. One small mod would be to pick up Rodon’s tender. I think he could be a nice trade piece at mid-season. A very strong playoff team might give up a legitimate prospect for someone who could be a difference maker out of the pen come playoff time or stash him for 2021. I agree though it is time to move on.

As I write this he could also be used as a trade piece for Joc if the Pirates choose to compete with Marte. Anyway, I do believe he still has 4.2M of value. I just hope if we tender we move him.


Also, We do have some depth. I like an Engel as 4th OF. Wasn’t too long ago we were trotting out JB Shuck!!


Staying in the 120 mil budget constrain is a neat trick, but there is no way in an off season where we are gonna move prospects and spend a significant sum that you can open the season with a starting rotation that is 2 guys coming off career years and 3 guys who are huge question marks.

Also not allocating 4.5 to someone like Rodon is bananas, he gets one more year cause he could be an impact starter that you control for this season and next. He is a good safety net and or trade chip for the 2021 squad if he comes back healthy (big if, but certainly worth the 4.5 for a team that has horded profits the last 3 years).

I like the long term deals for the young guys, and the approach to acquiring professional hitters is excellent even though its a right hand heavy lineup.


So I loved what you did with the lineup, and trying to add a lefty bat this off season could be trying to mash a square peg into a round hole. However, in my attempt to find lefty hitters, I even looked at righties with reverse splits. Marte has reverse splits so he is a great solution for RF.

I can see kw and hahn pitching this type of plan to jerry, but for me this is a team just on the outside looking in, if Im gonna add 40 mil to payroll and then trade some young talent, why not go from 120 to 135 and add a hamels or kuechel type to really contend. Your plan plus one more good starter is a winner.


if you are resigning abreu for a 2+1 and jd for a 3+1 …vaughn could headline a big deal possibly to add a starter

lil jimmy

Rodon comes back around the time the Sox keep running out of starters. I’m guessing you cut him to stay under 120.
Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada extensions are forward thinking and I commend you.


I will not tolerate this Josh Osich slander.

The Cheat

I would pay to watch this team

Patrick Nolan

who dis


79 wins!


Not tendering Rodon makes little sense. It’s only $4.5 million. If he gets hurt again, he gets hurt again. It only cost you $4.5 million. If he doesn’t get hurt, and pitches well, he only cost you $4.5 million.

Eagle Bones

I understand you probably did it to basically to get under the payroll number for this exercise, but man that seems like a really bad sign if they do non-tender Rodon. Maybe they think his arm is toast and he’s useless going forward, but that would seem to indicate to me that $4.5 mil for him would prevent them from making other moves (which seems insane considering Rodon could probably justify that salary in like a quarter of a season, not to mention the surplus value he could provide next year if he can be even moderately healthy). Really hope they’re not that cheap / shortsighted.


I tend to favor the “Sox-ish,” plans. I love some of the big ticket signings suggestions, but I cannot view them as anything the Sox would actually construct. I do think Josh’s plan is a reasonable Sox type of plan. But, I agree with you 100%; I don’t see the Sox cutting Rodon loose.


Love what you’ve done here.

Not starting Kopech in AAA scares me because, with Dunning gone, he’s the only legitimate MLB ready SP depth the Sox have outside of the swingman you were smart to add.

Great plan all around – especially considering the budget constraints.


Seems fans are expecting an awful lot from a guy coming off TJS who has all of 14.1 major league innings under his belt. I would like to think of Lopez as 6th starter swingman, Cease as the still developing 5th starter and Kopech as minor league depth


I also lean to Kopech starting in AAA to ramp him up slowly and control his innings. Miley can take a couple of starts to begin the season.  However, the plan is still solid. Detwiler/covey/??? Can be the swing man until Kopech is called up. I think we have to be realistic here that a number of things have to break in our favor to make the playoffs! I am ever the optimist!!


I really like the Marte trade idea. This would add another good defender to the outfield. The timing of his contract (2 years left) works for the Sox too. Hopefully by that point one of the outfield prospects (Basabe, Adolfo, Walker, etc.) are ready to step in and start.


Nice plan, Josh! It’s ambitious but realistic, with very feasible White Soxian targets. I’m a big fan of the Marte trade, which appears in my as-yet-unwritten plan of my own.


Well done on the plan Josh and I appreciate the detail you put into your explanation. 

I understand the idea of the $120M limit based on White Sox history, but if the Sox only get the payroll to $120M and end up non-tendering Rodon just to save money there’s no explanation for that other than them being cheap. The Indians payroll was $121M last year. 

There’s no reason the payroll can’t be pushing 130M+ if not 140M.  That gives them room to add 2 starters and actually create depth via free agency. That way you’re good and if the prospects pan out great. Instead of topping out at average and being great if absolutely everything breaks right.


Touché. Then I’ll shift my complaint to being that a team in the 3rd largest market in the country is so poorly run they can’t support a payroll higher than the Cleveland Indians in a season where they cut payroll. ?


Thats a pretty pointed 1 year evaluation of team spending vs revenue. It does not take into the account the “war chest” stock pile the sox have accumulated over the last 3 seasons of tanking that would go side by side with the “money will be spent” comments. Not sure it even takes into account the new tv deal, or into account the likelyhood of increased interest from a good team generating ticket sales. I get that its the best option for a off season plan experiment but as a fan looking at the whole picture I would be a little underwhelmed if reasonable deals are there to be made and the sox stick to a 120 mil budget when on the cusp of contention.

Eagle Bones

This is probably an oversimplification, but don’t they stand to generate more revenue if they improve the team and win more games? Again, I really hope they’re not that shortsighted. Seems like you could easily get yourself into a chicken/egg situation with this kind of thinking.


I would think that would go towards next offseason. Go to $120M this year then if they are competitive go to $150M in 2021

lil jimmy

New TV deal, and more butts in seats indicates more revenue.


Is the new deal supposed to add a lot of revenue? I know hardly anything about that stuff.


If McCann is more second half than first half next year, catcher is going to be pretty rough on that team. Add in the very real concerns with the rotation and a non-elite bullpen and I don’t see how this team makes the playoffs.


I would guess at least 20 other teams would be lining up to trade for Carlos Rodon. No need to dump him for nothing.

Trooper Galactus

They’d be lining up to trade nothing of interest or their own damaged assets for Rodon.


Really like this offseason plan. Ozuna seems costly so the creative Marte trade is more than welcome. Martinez would be a homerun (no pun intended) and be a good headline to the offseason. I could see the Sox competing, while remaining flexible, with this plan.


I think those who have tried to build a contender, while sticking to a $120mil ceiling, have shown, if the Sox decide to play in that sandbox, they aren’t bringing enough of their own toys to win.

I’m a little shocked at how “Mets” boom or bust some of the $140mil+ OPP’s appear, due to lack of depth.


I can’t see Moncada signing the same deal as Giolito. The risk profiles are pretty far apart. Moncada is a position player who’s already had a big payday. Giolito is a pitcher who’s already had one TJS. My guess is that Giolito would take your proposal, but signing Moncada will require $100M guaranteed.

Likewise, because of the big signing bonus, I don’t think Robert settles for Eloy’s deal.


I agree. I also think Moncada has a higher WAR ceiling than Giolito even though obviously both are helpful players.


I don’t understand this offseason plan. You lost me at non-tendering Rodon. Sorry.


Let youth be served, outfield of Eloy,Robert and Rutherford or Gonzales. Infield Jose,Nick,Tim and Yoan with Mccain behind the plate. DH-1b-C, Mercedes(Collins). Garcia is your supersub along with Mendick. Line-up of Robert,Moncada,Abrue,Eloy,Anderson,Mercedes,Mccain,Rutherford and Madrigal. Pitching start by having a strong bullpin, Colome and Cordero as closer also,Bummer and Marshall, Herrera and Frye 7th and 8th inning specialist. Josh Osich and Covey long relief. Starting Giolito, Lopez, Cease, Stiever and novice. Why does it seem like eveyone wants Abreu to take a pay cut when his numbers say pay increase?

karkovice squad

Really took the goal of finishing no higher than second to heart.