Armchair’s Offseason Plan

PREAMBLE – Long Read Warning…

After missing the first wave last year, I thought I’d get right into it. My 2020-2021 goals for the White Sox offseason are: 1) improve depth; and 2) improve offense against right-handed pitching.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

Using 2nd calculation method.  (for both the $135M and $150M budgets)

  • Nomar Mazara: $5.6M | $5.9M | $5.7M – non-tender
  • Carlos Rodón: $4.5M | $4.5M | $4.5M – non-tender
  • Lucas Giolito: $2.5M | $5.3M | $2.5M – tender
  • Reynaldo López: $1.7M | $2.2M | $1.7M – tender
  • Evan Marshall: $1.3M | $1.9M | $1.4M – tender
  • Adam Engel: $1M | $1.4M | $1M –  tender
  • Jace Fry: $800K | $1M | $800K – tender
  • Yolmer Sánchez: Uncertain – let’s call it $1.5M and tender

Yolmer will technically costs $2M when you factor in Gatorade-related dry-cleaning expenses.

Mazara and Rodon are dropped like 3rd period French.

Relievers and Engel get retained. Giolito is an extension candidate (he’ll say no, but let him know we’re thinking about it and go from there). I’m trading Lopez.

CLUB OPTIONS

  • Edwin Encarnación: $12M – decline
  • Gio González: $7M ($500K buyout) – decline
  • Leury García: $3.5M ($250K buyout) – pick up in the $135M budget only

Maybe we should have gotten Encarnacion a real parrot. 2020 was the year we finally opened the Pandora’s box that was Gio Gonzalez, and like all other regrets, we’ll learn from it and leave it in the past.

$3.5M is cheaper than the other bat-first utility guys (Jurickson Profar, Brad Miller), so we’ve got Leury for another year. Maybe the new coach will teach him how to properly button a shirt.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

  • Alex Colomé (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) –  let go
  • James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) –  let go
  • Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) –  let go

Given that Josh & Jim set the floor on McCann at $30M/3 yrs, I can’t retain him (though I would have gone to $25.5/3 yrs and made him the 6th highest paid catcher). Thanks for everything James, good luck in the National League.

I’m a Colome fan (even if my anxiety isn’t), but the recent market has shown that paying relievers not named Aroldis Chapman is a bad idea.

COACHING STAFF

Here’s a first: Pick your manager and pitching coach, with any elaboration.

  • Manager: Any of Dave Roberts, Matt Quatraro, AJ Hinch/Alex Cora, Bruce Bochy, and Sam Fuld (in that order) is my preference.
  • Pitching coach: It will be up to the manager to select a pitching coach unless the organization insists on a Matt Zaleski promotion. Trooper Galactus made a James Shields suggestion. Since I’m stubborn and really want to find a way to consider the Tatis trade as something other than a total loss, I’m all aboard that train. An outside the box name to throw out there for pitching coach is Craig Breslow.

I would like a new training/medical staff that’s better at prevention and recovery. Maybe I’m spoiled by the Herm Schneider era where the only injuries were retro jerseys losing their sleeves and Adam Eaton concussing himself to the point of voting Drake LaRoche for the all-star team, but I would love it if the team got back to “least amount of time on the IL by a landslide” status.

FREE AGENTS

No. 1: Jose Quintana (Three Years, $34.5 million).  (both budgets)

No. 2: Michael Brantley (One Year, $14 million).  (both budgets)

No. 3: Austin Romine (Two Years, $3 million). (both budgets)

No. 4: Jonathan Villar (One Year, $4.5 million) ($150M budget only)

The Sox have some open rotation spots, and keeping your fingers crossed for Dylan Cease to exponentially improve his command or Michael Kopech to show zero rust in his 2+ years away from competitive baseball is only a good idea if your goal is high blood pressure.

A team needs 8 or 9 starting pitchers in a 162 game + playoff season and having question marks at the 3-5 is not what a contending team does. Bauer would be fun, but we don’t have the cash. We know Q pretty well, most of us like him, and his FIP (4.43, 3.80, 2.99 in his last 3 Cubs years) is still pretty darn good. If he spends some of his signing bonus on a dishwasher, he’s probably good for at least 170 solid innings this year.

It’s safe to assume that Andrew Vaughn, who spent 2019 posting a 760 OPS in A-ball and 2020 failing to knock the parrot from Aladdin off the roster, probably isn’t ready to be Sharpie’d in at DH to start the 2021 season. So I’m signing Michael Brantley.

Brantley as a hitter doesn’t strike out a lot, takes a pretty good number of walks, and absolutely mauls right-handed pitching. This is the exact offensive profile that brings balance to the White Sox lineup. Here’s some splits!

2020 vs RHP:  331/402/525/927 – 150 OPS+; Career vs RHP: 307/365/470/835 – 110 OPS+

I want either of those!

I have to replace McCann, so we’re going to the Tiger well again with Romine. We’ll structure this as $1M this year with a $2M player option and 500K buyout for accounting purposes.

In the $150M plan, I’m making a pretty aggressive trade that will result in a vacancy at second base. I’m tabbing Villar on a buy-low for that spot. He’s coming off a terrible 2020 where he posted a 64 OPS+ and negative WAR, but he’s only a year removed from a 109 OPS+ and offers switch-hitting, speed, and occasional pop. I think we can take a chance here should a vacancy open up.

International Free Agents (for both the $135M and $150M budgets)

No. 1: Norge Vera ($1.5 million). 

No. 2: Yoelqui Cespedes (the rest of the pool – and trade a fringe player for bonus $ if you have to). 

Norge Vera was reported to the Sox a while ago. He should slot in around Jared Kelly and Matt Thompson in terms of FV level and give the prospect nerds another arm to salivate over.

Yoelqui Cespedes is the younger half-brother of Yoenis and is MLB’s #1 ranked international prospect. He was a speed guy in Serie Nacional who has bulked up and hits for power now (why didn’t Madrigal do this?) From a tool perspective, think Luis Robert but sitting quietly and doodling in the back of the class. The Sox can give him cash, a clubhouse filled with Serie Nacional alums, a break from his half-brother, and a legitimate shot at competing for the starting right field job.

TRADES

No. 1: Trade Gavin Sheets to the Rays for Jose Alvarado. (for both budgets)

Alvarado is a high velocity, high strikeout, high walk southpaw entering his first year of arbitration off of two not so memorable seasons. Since he currently plays for the Rays, that means they’re going to trade him and somehow win that trade. Alvarado was awesome in 2018, and his 2019/2020 ERAs make him look worse than he actually was (stuff looks nasty on video, game logs shows inflation because of a handful of outings), I think the Sox should try to pounce here.

Gavin Sheets looks like the Juggernaut, hits a lot of doubles, and won’t make the 40-man roster because the Sox have a ton of 1B options. The Rays have Nate Lowe, who they like but don’t love. They traded Jose Martinez and Ji-Man Choi is hitting arbitration. Sheets is a player they could use.

No. 2: Trade Reynaldo Lopez, Yermin Mercedes, and Konnor Pilkington to the Rockies for Sam Hilliard and Jon Gray (for the $135M budget only)

Sam Hilliard’s my under-the-radar breakout candidate. He’s 6’5 and 235 lbs. He bats and throws left-handed and was the Rockies #9 prospect in 2019. MLB rates his tool breakdown as Hit: 45 Power: 55 Run: 60 Arm: 60 Field: 55. This breakdown looks accurate on video. He’s still a little raw with a really high K rate. In a small sample size, Hilliard’s #s against righties over the last ~2 seasons are 243/313/566/880 – 109 OPS+. He plays all 3 outfield spots, but I would slot him in right, having him compete with Yoelqui Cespedes to be the front end of an Engel platoon.

Jon Gray is coming off a disappointing season (and a shoulder injury) and is going into his final year of arbitration. His job is to hold down a back end of the rotation spot while Cease learns whatever yoga pose is good for commanding a secondary pitch and Kopech spends some time on a mound instead of an actress. I’m also curious if a switch from Coors Light to Modelo will help Gray’s numbers.

If that’s too boring for you, try this one!

No. 2: Trade Nick Madrigal, Reynaldo Lopez, Andrew Dalquist, Yermin Mercedes, Benyamin Bailey, and Konnor Pilkington to the Mets for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard (for the $150M budget only)

*cue wide eye emoji

While Hilliard has a profile you can dream on, Conforto has a bat that can turn Shane Bieber into Justin Bieber. Here’s some splits!

2020 vs. RHP: 344/429/531/960 – 160 OPS+; Career vs. RHP: 269/375/512/887 – 111 OPS+

That kind of bat solves our right field hole (where he’s roughly an average defender). Syndergaard had TJ at the end of March and will act as a midseason acquisition for the White Sox. Both are under control for only one season, and that’s why the new Mets ownership will be listening to offers.
SUMMARY

($135M limit); payroll: ~$131.4M

Catching: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Romine

Infield: Jose Abreu (1B), Nick Madrigal (2B), Tim Anderson (SS), Yoan Moncada (3B), Leury Garcia (INF), Yolmer Sanchez (INF)

Outfield: Eloy Jimenez (LF), Michael Brantley (LF/DH) Luis Robert (CF), Sam Hilliard (OF), Adam Engel (OF)

Starting Rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana, Jon Gray, One of: Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and Michael Kopech.

Bullpen: Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, Jace Fry, Garrett Crochet, Jose Alvarado, Matt Foster, Jimmy Cordero, Evan Marshall

Collins will be in the minors after apprenticing under glove on chair this offseason. Zavala is still around, too.

Hopefully the MVPito sequel is better than the original. Nick Madrigal will come in more slap happy than ever after spending the offseason in a sling. TA7 comes in pissed that he didn’t win the batting title. I heard from a reliable source that if Yoan Moncada takes the bleach from his hair and injects it into his veins, he’ll get over the COVID after-effects, but I’d rather just freeze him in carbonite for the offseason. Yolmer is the defensive backup, Leury is the INF/OF backup. Vaughn and Mendick will contribute at some point. Jake Burger and maybe Yolbert Sanchez could show up if they annihilate the minors or we’re in injury hell.

Luis Robert is back in center field after spending the offseason working on his pitch recognition. Hilliard beats out Cespedes and will platoon with Engel in right. Either of them can enter the game as a late inning left field replacement. Luis Robert and Tim Anderson are playing left field, while Eloy’s got from his spot to the foul pole. Michael Brantley is going to be the primary DH but can play left field on days after Eloy gets stuck in the net. Yoelqui Cespedes, Luis Gonzalez, Blake Rutherford, and Micker Adolfo are waiting in the minors.

The starting rotation boasts an established front 3 and a more reliable back end. The drama here is that Cease and Kopech don’t make the opening day rotation. This is just me predicting that Dunning beats them out in an open competition for the 5 spot. With Cease coming off a really inefficient season and Kopech not having played competitive ball in 2 years, it’s probably better that they both iron out their respective flaws in Charlotte or wherever minor league games are held. We’re going to need both of them at their best this year. After those 7, Bernardo Flores, Jon Stiever, and maybe Taylor Varnell and Kyle Kubat are probably the next men up. More is better when it comes to starting pitching.

Bummer gets promoted to closer while Alvarado takes his old spot. Heuer’s the other set up guy. Marshall, Fry, and Foster are middle relievers in this pen. Cordero’s a low leverage guy (and since he’s going to be suspended to open the season, Zack Burdi is probably on the opening day roster). Unlike Crispin Glover in Hot Tub Time Machine, Garrett Crochet’s not gonna lose that arm. He’ll be putting his nuclear engineering major to good use by throwing bombs into Yasmani’s glove while deciding whether he’d rather do a career impression of Chris Sale, Josh Hader, or Andrew Miller. The minor leaguers who could see game action probably are: Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson, Kodi Medeiros, Bennett Sousa, Andrew Perez, Connor Sadzeck, Will Kincanon, a healthy Jimmy Lambert, Ryan Burr, and Hunter Shryver, and maybe the resting pitch face himself, Alec Hansen.

($150M limit) – payroll: ~$148.7M

Catching: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Romine

Infield: Jose Abreu (1B), Jonathan Villar (2B), Tim Anderson (SS), Yoan Moncada (3B), Yolmer Sanchez (INF), Danny Mendick (INF)

Outfield: Eloy Jimenez (LF), Michael Brantley (LF/DH) Luis Robert (CF), Michael Conforto (RF), Adam Engel (OF)

Starting Rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana, Two of: Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and Michael Kopech. [Noah Syndergaard post-All Star break]

Bullpen – Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, Jace Fry, Garrett Crochet, Jose Alvarado, Matt Foster, Jimmy Cordero, Evan Marshall

Similar scouting report to the $135M plan, except now the Hilliard/Engel platoon is upgraded to Michael Conforto and you have Noah Syndergaard in the playoff rotation. Two of Cease, Dunning, and Kopech need to swim for at least half the season. But the offense and bullpen should be able to cover their ass until Thor’s hammer is ready to smash.

Conclusion

The parrot died and a phoenix named Michael Brantley rose from the ashes.

On a more serious note, the hope here is that by solidifying the DH spot, giving Moncada an offseason to recover, and having all the under-30 talent work on their craft for another offseason that even with natural Abreu regression, this will still be a lethal offense. I did not want to sacrifice prospect depth for major league improvements, and I feel like I managed to do that. I even added a pretty good outfield prospect.

I believe in Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech, but not enough to chuck them in a river without some more swimming lessons. In the cheap option, I added some depth to the pitching staff to protect against injury and false hope. In the expensive option, I added a lethal bat and an Avenger to protect the younger pitchers. I actually prefer the cheaper plan – if Hilliard has a breakout year, I get to brag about it.

Either option leads to a playoff team on paper. After Cleveland trades Lindor to Philadelphia or L.A., they probably won’t compete with us. Our pitching is way better than Minnesota’s so we should jump them as well. I am a little worried about the Twins’ position player prospects, but not so much this year. Detroit and Kansas City are probably a year or two away from having pitching staffs that annoy the hell out of us, so let’s dunk their heads in the toilet while we still can.

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GrinnellSteve

I like these plans!