The 2020/21 winter will prove to be an interesting one on the Southside as the Sox officially move from the “rebuilding phase” to the “contention phase” of the organizational reset. The excitement will be at an all time high but unfortunately so will the uncertainty with the upcoming season. The below plan fills our most pressing needs, builds depth, and retains all prospects while staying near $135M (unlike most other plans) and is realistic (if I see Reynaldo Lopez as the headliner of another blockbuster trade…). Let’s get started by making the necessary in-house decisions:
- Manager: AJ Hinch
- Pitching Coach: Whoever he wants
This was the biggest move of the offseason. Ricky was just not cut out for the job. AJ Hinch is a proven winner and once Spring Training hits, the sign stealing saga will be an afterthought. And while I loved Coop, it was time to go. I’m not going to pretend to know who the right person is, but it will be interesting to see what he can do with the young talent. Also, does A.J want to be a bench coach? Would love it.
- 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 – Non-tender
- Edwin Encarnación: $12M – Decline
- Gio González: $7M ($500K buyout) – Decline
- Leury García: $3.5M ($250K buyout) – Accept
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
Pretty straight forward I think, but some thoughts
- I’m not giving up on Lopez. He can be a AAAA/swing man/long inning/spot start guy and want to see if a new Pitching Coach can help him.
- I would look to bring Yolmer back on a Minor League deal and have him, along with Mendick, waiting in the wings in case of injury.
- Leury has a ton of value with his versatility and will be a valuable contributor from the bench.
- If Jerry is fine opening up the check book, I am all for signing Colome to a say 2 yr/$24M type deal. I just don’t have that money in the budget. Maybe our billionaire owner does. There are internal options that can fill his void.
Starting Pitching: Starting pitching quality and depth are by far the 2 biggest needs of the 2021 White Sox. After Giolito and Keuchel we have a lot of promise but to many question marks. So adding at least one proven vet and a depth piece is a must:
Marcus Stroman (4 years, $72 million)
- Signing Stroman is imperative. If Jerry really wants to get crazy, change this to Bauer, but reality is Stroman fits nicely in the 2 or 3 spot of our rotation and budget. He’s the 2nd best pitcher on the market, he’s still young, and won’t cost an arm and a leg. Another ground ball pitcher for our homer happy ballpark, who can eat up innings, and has a nasty slider, sign me up. His Barrel % and Hard Hit % have improved year after year and he should be full steam ahead after sitting out with the calf injury.
Collin McHugh (1 year, $650K, incentive laden)
- McHugh is a good depth play for the White Sox. He opted out of 2020 and can reunite with Hinch. He provides a swing/mid relief/opener/spot start/bullpen arm and could be valuable come playoff time. Not a big signing, but another option.
That leaves us with 3 TOR/MOR pitchers, Giolito, Kecuhel and Stroman. 2 of Kopech, Dunning, and Cease will need to step into the 4th and 5th spot. Behind them we have SP depth in the organization of the odd man out for the 4th/5th spots along with Lopez, McHugh, Steiver, and Flores.
Bullpen: The bullpen was great last year but Colome’s impending departure leaves a hole. With the budget tight, we are going to have to use internal options fill it. I’m putting Bummer at closer. The guys a stud. He get’s righties out as well as lefties. We signed him long term, it’s time to hand him the keys. Then Heuer and Crochet are the high leverage guys. I would like Crochet to be stretched out to an Andrew Miller type/3 inning save role for next year to then be a starter in 2021. There is plenty of depth behind those 3 with the previously mentioned Lopez and McHugh along with Fry, Cordero, Foster, Marshall, Lambert, Burdi, and Ruiz to fill out 5 spots.
Offense: The offense was awesome last year. We ranked top 3 in the AL in pretty much every metric, and that was with black holes in RF and DH. What’s also exciting is the “expected improvement” players (Moncada, Robert, full year Madrigal) probably fully offset the “regression risk” players (TA, MVPito, maybe Grandal with age). But there are a few holes that we will need to patch up, and for me, RF is not one of them. That’s right, Adam Engel should be our opening day starting RF. He had an OPS+ of 121 last year, was better vs. RHP than LHP, which is a huge plus with our lineup, and plays elite defense. Even if his bat regresses, he still has plus value with his defense and base running and is an improvement over last year. But we are going to beef up this offense with 2 other big additions. One is by bringing up Vaughn, once he…ehhh…“works on his defense” in AAA for a couple months and the other is:
Michael Brantley (2 years, $34 million)
Michael Brantley of the last 2 years is EXACTLY what the White Sox offense need. The top areas the White Sox need to improve their offense are vs:
- Right handed pitchers, especially OBP
- Power pitchers
- Ground ball pitchers
Mr. Smooth kills RHP to the tune of 147 OPS+ over the last 3 years. He’s better vs. power pitchers than finesse pitchers and better vs ground ball than fly ball pitchers. Pre Vaughn coming up, I envision Brantley and Eloy as full time LF/DH. After that, Brantley can rest/PH vs. most lefties, cover LF when Eloy inevitably hits the 15 day DL a few times, sprinkle in a bit of RF, and split DH with Vaughn. My bigger question is, will the Michael Brantley of the last 2 years be the Brantley of the next 2 years. He’s 33 years old but his numbers are interestingly trending up. Also has some recent injury woes. But ultimately these are risks I can take on a 2 year contract.
Bench: Leury will be Mr. Utility and once Vaughn is up, someone good is getting a day off every day. We need to sign a 2nd catcher. I’m not going to pretend to know who the right fit is, but some journeyman vet who can play defense. Not even going to name names but I’ll allocate $2.5M to them. For the last bench spot I’m eyeing:
Shin-Soo Choo (1 year, $3.5 million)
He’s a lefty. He can still get on base a bit. But he’s old, and kind of might suck. But he can fill the role of bat off the bench and spot start till Vaughn reaches the majors and some lineup insurance.
Champs are Here:
Starters: Giolito, Keuchel, Stroman, Kopech, Dunning (Cease, Steiver, Flores is AAA)
Bullpen: Bummer, Heuer, Crochet, Marshall, Foster, Fry, McHugh and one of (Lopez, Corderro, Burdi, Diaz, and Lambert). The rest waiting in the wings.
Lineup: TA, Grandal, Abreu, Brantley, Jimenez, Moncada, Robert, Engel, Madrigal…omg pray for the league.
Bench: Leury, Choo, Vaughn, Catcher #2 (Mendick (maybe Yolmer), Rutherford, Gonzalez, Collins, Delmonico, Burger in AAA)
That’s $137M give or take depending on arbitration and free agent numbers. It fills our most pressing holes, only takes on 1 3+ year contract, and doesn’t mortgage our future. Still think the pitching staff may be short 1 TOR arm for the playoffs but there’s enough depth to cover the season. If Kopech/Dunning/Cease do not step up, we can target an arm at the deadline. If Jerry wants to increase payroll we can flip out Stroman for Bauer, Choo for Joc, and/or Quintana for McHugh. But overall this team as constructed is insanely talented, deep, balanced, and ready to win a World Series. Sit back, relax, and strap it down folks…