How the other most compelling White Sox-adjacent players fared

Back before the season started in July — a clause that continues to be strange to write — I listed a dozen players who didn’t end up on the White Sox to open the season, but whose performances held my attention because they represented paths Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t take.

In the comments, Sox Machinist gusguyman asked

Are you planning follow-up articles on this group at mid-season or after the season ends? I hope so, I’d be looking forward to the analysis!

I said yes, in one form or another. One of those forms came in the decision reviews for starting pitchers and corner outfielders, which covered six of the players on my list.

But that still leaves a half dozen guys who wouldn’t be addressed if I didn’t make a concerted effort to do it. So here’s me, making a concerted effort to do it.

Bryce Harper/Manny Machado

I touched on Harper a little bit in the outfield review, but he improved across the board in his second season with the Phillies:

  • 2019: .260/.372/.510, 126 OPS+, 14.5% BB, 26.1% K
  • 2020: .268/.420/.542, 157 OPS+, 20.1% BB, 17.6% K

He was on pace to finish in the same neighborhood of the WARs, mainly because both DRS and UZR said his defense dropped off from well above-average in 2019 to slightly below in 2020. Leading the league in walks offsets that. The buzz around Harper’s improvement was muted by the Phillies’ misfortunes, but it’s hard to chalk up the bullpen problems to their right fielder.

Machado’s an example of what happens when player improvement meets team improvement. His second year in San Diego looks like a truncated career year:

  • 2019: .256/.334/.462, 110 OPS+, 9.8% BB, 19.4% K
  • 2020: .304/.370/.580, 158 OPS+, 10.2% BB, 14.6% K

Despite playing in nearly 100 fewer games, Machado had already surpassed his 2019 bWAR, 2.8 to 2.6, as his defense merited Gold Glove consideration after a little bit of a step back in his San Diego debut. While he didn’t win that ward, he’s still in the running for National League Most Valuable Player. The Padres aren’t yet regretting giving him the $300 million he sought.

Josh Donaldson

When Donaldson couldn’t get Atlanta to offer a deal to his liking, he settled for four years and $84 million with the Twins. It seemed like a move that could cement the division, partially because Donaldson upgraded Minnesota’s most vulnerable position defensively, and he gave the Twins additional power and patience that the White Sox lacked. I would’ve supported the White Sox signing a similar deal, provided that he was up for DHing and rotating at corner infield spots.

The Twins indeed won the AL Central, but Donaldson didn’t quite make the difference. A strained right calf limited him to 28 games and removed him from the postseason roster, and when he did play, he hit a career-low .222, although the other numbers were fine (.373 OBP, .467 SLG). He also failed to light up White Sox pitching for the first time in seven years. He posted a mediocre line of .185/.371/.333, and while one of the hits left the yard, so did Donaldson.

A healthy Donaldson still appears to be a force, but considering he’s missed significant time in two of the last three seasons to the calf injury, it’s hard to pencil him in for 130-plus games as he enters his age-35 season. It’s hard to rule him out, but it wasn’t the kind of first year they’d hoped for.

Dylan Covey

When the Tampa Bay Rays signed Covey during the winter, I wondered if they had a way to maximize his strengths. When the Red Sox acquired him from the Rays shortly before the season, I’d guessed that Boston was just that desperate. Sure enough, Covey posted a 7.07 ERA over eight games, seven of which were in low leverage. Half his outings were scoreless, but he allowed multiple runs in each of the other four. The Red Sox designated him for assignment after the season to remove him from the 40-man roster, but he remains in the organization. At least we know that it doesn’t look much different when a team only uses him in relief.

Nate Jones

His 2020 season was a triumph, in that he managed to stay healthy for the whole season, as limited as it was. Only Raisel Iglesias appeared in more games out of Cincinnati’s bullpen than Jones, who made 21 appearances. That total topped two of his last three years with the White Sox despite the shortened season.

The results, on the other hand, were lacking. Jones posted a 6.27 ERA, giving up a .325/.384/.571 line to the league. His fastball got rocked, and shifting to a career-high in sliders didn’t really seem to help. His hometown Reds released him in the final week of the regular season, and given that he’ll be 35 next spring, he might find it harder to convert a minor-league contract into major-league work.

Yolmer Sánchez

He went from being “White Sox-adjacent” to “White Sox” without playing a game for the Giants.

(Photo by Rob Grabowski/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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andyfaust

”and while one of the hits left the yard, so did Donaldson.“ Very nice!
With the first of four guaranteed years behind him, it would surprise me if they got enough production from him in the next three years to make that contract look really smart in hindsight. Although, at least no one can say they weren’t going for it. He will be 35 next month.

As Jim mentioned, it will hinge on him staying healthy. To me, he represents the closest thing to a bad contract on the books in MN, and it’s not even that bad.

jorgefabregas

Jose, Tim, and Eloy won Silver Sluggers

GrinnellSteve

If my calculations are right, it’s the first time they’ve ever landed 3 in one season. Perhaps they can get to 6 or 7 next year!