Coming off a successful 2020 season, the White Sox enter 2021 trying to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. It’s a real bummer –but also kinda White Sox– that two of the holes the front office attempted to fix last offseason (OF, DH) are again holes this year. On the other hand, I couldn’t be happier with how Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal worked out. Yet, the success in 2021 will likely hinge upon multiple hits in free agency while at the same time making strides with what they have or known commodities hitting the open market. This plan attempts to show what I think could be a likely path for the team, not what I’d like them to do (sign ALL the good players!).
- Nomar Mazara: Non-tender.
- Carlos Rodón: Non-tender.
- Lucas Giolito: Tender: $5.3M
- Reynaldo López: Tender: $2.2M
- Evan Marshall: Tender: $1.9M
- Adam Engel: Tender: $1.4M
- Jace Fry: Tender: $1M
- Yolmer Sánchez: Non-tender. Bring back on minor-league deal.
I really hope that Rodón can figure it out. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be with the White Sox, however, especially at $4.5 million: a sum I cannot see him receiving on the open market. Reynaldo López is cheap enough that I don’t mind bringing him aboard for one more year to see if there’s anything left to be unlocked.
- Edwin Encarnación: Decline.
- Gio González: Decline, for the $500K buyout.
- Leury García: Decline, for the $250K buyout.
Leury, obviously, is the tough call here. He does offer positional versatility, but I feel that in-house options (Mendick, Engel), used judiciously, are adequate. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t be surprised in real-life if he came back to the Sox on a cheaper deal.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- Alex Colomé: re-sign, 2 years, $22 million. I expect I’ll take some heat for this in the comments, but no matter how you slice it, Colomé has gotten the job done as closer. It’s entirely possible that an in-house option such as Heuer or Bummer (or Crochet, if they indeed go the Chris Sale route in 2021) can slip into the ninth-inning role and be equally as effective, but you never know until it’s go-time. 11 million per year is only a slight raise from what he and the Sox agreed to last offseason, but it also comes with the certainty that he’s guaranteed through his age-33 season. If Chairman Jerry is willing to open the pocketbook a touch further, I’ll tack on a million and another year for 3 years, $36 million total to sweeten the deal.
- James McCann: Let go. Much as the Grandal/McCann pairing was a delight to behold in 2020, McCann has earned his right to the open market and a starter position. If I’m the Sox, I keep the lines open with his agent just in case, but I’d imagine he’ll get a nice deal from a team that doesn’t already have a quality starter penciled into the lineup.
- Jarrod Dyson: Let go. He served the role he was brought in for during the latter half of 2020.
- Manager: Sandy Alomar, Jr. It’s surprising that Alomar doesn’t yet have a managerial position given the interview rounds he has made over the years, including with the White Sox. He seemed to acquit himself well as acting manager this season, and has been part of a good organization in Cleveland since 2012.
- Pitching coach: Matt Zaleski. Zaleski and Everett Teaford are probably both reasonable choices for this role, as they’ve worked extensively with the younger members of the Sox pitching staff. I believe James Fegan on The Athletic’s podcast mentioned several pitchers who credited Zaleski with their success with pitch and approach development. Pitch and approach development? Seems like it might be useful to apply to a couple of different pitchers currently in the majors. Sign me up!
No. 1: Marcus Stroman (4 years, $75 million). Stroman has been a consistent innings-eater since 2016, giving the Blue Jays/Mets between 180-200 innings per season (2018 notwithstanding). His ERA and FIP are in general agreement with one another, he doesn’t give up a lot of dingers and he’s 30, to boot. It seems like he’d slot in nicely mid-rotation.
No. 2: Jackie Bradley, Jr. (3 years, $24 million). Before we get to the Bradley: I could very well see the White Sox actually signing Joc Pederson for the outfield. They’ve targeted him for a few years, he’d make a good platoon partner with Adam Engel and, aside from 2020, brought good power numbers. All that said, I like Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the role. Defensively, he’s an upgrade from Mazara or Pederson and he’s coming off a nice 2020 season. The rub lies in some of his Statcast metrics that highlight concerning trends. Where you feel he goes from here probably informs whether you like or hate this move. I think he can be had for $8 million per year, a bit down from his 2020 salary.
No. 3: Nelson Cruz (1 year, $8 million). I know, I know. Where have we heard this before? “White Sox sign aging slugger to DH contract that doesn’t work out.” And it’s true! Cruz will be entering his age-40 season (he turns 41 on July 1, 2021) and seems like a likely candidate to regress. But the thing is, he continues to defy time: evidently powered by naps, Cruz *only* hit 16 home runs with a .992 OPS in 53 games with the Twins. I’ll take that from the DH position! Should he absolutely fall off a cliff –something that seems to happen to Sox DHs not named Thomas or Thome—my guess is that it will still have been enough time for Andrew Vaughn to show he’s ready for the majors, something the organization continues to tout. Vaughn likely timeshares with Abreu at first/DH.
No. 4: Tyler Flowers (1 year, $3 million). On a human level, I really hope McCann cleans up in free agency, which leaves the White Sox without a viable backup. At 35, Flowers is no longer an every day starter (and hasn’t been with the Braves, either), and with Grandal getting the bulk of the starts, he doesn’t need to be.
To be frank, I had difficulty coming up with many reasonable-sounding trades this year. Outside of Jonathan Stiever and Garrett Crochet, the organization doesn’t seem to have much in the way of impact talent that could bring back an exciting name. While Kopech is exciting, the Sox would be trading him at the nadir of his value. Perhaps had there been an even partial minor league season, some of the younger guys like Dalquist or Thompson could have been added, but alas, no team has seen anything. The Sox seem keen on keeping Crochet, and not giving up on Cease. Stiever by himself (or Stiever plus Some Guys) seems like it’d be hard to swing. That said, I think if Stiever can return to form in whatever the minor leagues look like next season, he’d easily be the centerpiece in a trade, hopefully augmented by promising performances from other players.
In sum, here’s the 26-man roster for the 2021 championship season:
SS Tim Anderson
LF Eloy Jimenez
1B Jose Abreu
DH Nelson Cruz
C Yasmani Grandal
3B Yoan Moncada
CF Luis Robert
RF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
2B Nick Madrigal
C Tyler Flowers
IF Danny Mendick
IF Yolmer Sanchez
OF Adam Engel
Dylan Cease/Reynaldo Lopez
If, as the British say, my maths are correct, this payroll comes in at $139.1 million. If it’s more than that, hopefully the Chairman forgot his calculator at home.
Again, I tried to approach this plan in mind with what the White Sox might do. One big contract (to a pitcher, no less; they did try with Wheeler last offseason, though), and multiple smaller-ish signings that hopefully plug the obvious holes. Two starting pitchers absent from the last rotation spot: Michael Kopech and Jimmy Lambert. At the very least I’d expect Kopech to contribute at some point during the season once he’s ramped back up, and the same (hopefully) goes for Lambert. They’d likely fill into that fifth/sixth starter spot currently occupied by Cease and Lopez. I’d imagine injury and ineffectiveness will rear its ugly head at some point during the season. As mentioned above, Andrew Vaughn likely contributes in some capacity, as well.
Go out and win that AL Central, fellas.
I would not be surprised if this roster is the one we see on Opening Day.
If the Sox only add one SP in FA/trade, I don’t mind bringing Rodon back. As bad as he was in 2020 (albeit in only 7 IP), he was his best in 2019. He was the opposite of 2020 Dylan Cease: the ERA was brutal, but the peripherals were there. In 34 IP, he had 46 K to 17 BB with a 3.62 FIP. That’s the kind of pitcher the Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him. I’m not sure he can stay healthy, but I like his chances at being better than Reynaldo Lopez.
Here’s something that surprised me: Rodon has only 5 more career starts than Lopez.
This is the 48th offseason plan, but the first one to involve Nelson Cruz.
There were rumblings of the Sox going after him during the 2018-19 offseason if I remember correctly. He’s a great addition because adding him simultaneously means the Twins get worse.
Hey Jim, you have a target date for closing the offseason plan project? Would like to drag my feet until contract estimates come out from FG and MLBTR.
My one gripe is the lack of a decent pinch hitter on the bench. On the other hand, there aren’t too many guys you’d want to pinch hit for so not a huge issue
Yup. If the rosters were in their 2020 28-man format, I’d probably go out and add another guy with pop that could be used as a pinch hitter, perhaps. As is, I kind of valued the defensive flexibility over the offense.
I like JBJ, but he doesn’t seem like a Rick Hahn solution. It’s a little too creative, and his defense makes him high-floor but his offense makes him low-ceiling — basically the polar opposite of Nomar Mazara.
Yes, I think it’s more likely they’d go with someone like Pederson over JBJ. But who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise everybody and sign George Springer!
I like JBJ for the high floor. Love the defensive depth he adds.
Really realistic plan here. Good job. I just have a few points of discussion.
1. I let Colome go in my plan but I can see the case for trying to resign him. You can’t take an effective bullpen for granted and he’s been effective despite not being the prettiest to watch.
2. I had signing Cruz in my plan originally but decided against it because I thought he wasn’t worth the money it was going to take to sign him when that cash could have gone to longer-term upgrades. He played for $26M/2 years for 2019-2020 in Minnesota. I don’t know if you can get him for $8M, especially since Minnesota is probably really motivated to keep him. Their lineup is so much better with him. But the idea of having Cruz Abreu Eloy in the middle of the lineup is a really tempting one and probably represents a 5 win swing between the Sox and Twins.
Agreed on the cash it’ll likely take to sign Cruz. I kept it a bit low so I could still fit him in, but realistically I think you’re correct that it’s going to be more than $8M.
If we enter 2021 with Dane Dunning as the #4 starter, I think that’s a real problem. Between him, Cease, and Lopez, I think that’s three guys on the fringe who should be duking it out over one rotation spot, not being handed two. The only guys we have right now behind them are Stiever and Flores, and I’m not sure either is ready, nor do I know how quickly Kelley will advance through the system.
Kopech has to be in the mix also
His last real games were 14.1 IP at the major league level in 2018. And those weren’t even especially good. Best to temper expectations on how many innings he can pitch and how effective they will be
Yes, I agree. I was surprised at how many plans added only 1 legit SP. I toyed with leaving two spots open for Dunning/Cease/Lopez/Kopech with the intention of finding the best option and making a big move at the deadline, but decided against it—it’s just too easy to see an early injury to the rotation derailing the season. It feels like a recipe for seeing more of Ross Detwiler than we care to.