Free agent pitching market gains Cy Young winner, loses Marcus Stroman

ATLANTA, GA Ð SEPTEMBER 30: Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (27) throws a pitch during the National League Wild Card Series game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves on September 30th, 2020 at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

Wednesday was a big day for pitchers. Shane Bieber unanimously won the American League Cy Young Award, while Trevor Bauer ran away with a National Cy Young Award that seemed to be a closer call than the votes ultimately showed. Bauer won 27 of 30 first-place votes, with runner-up Yu Darvish taking the other three.

The White Sox can claim a certain amount of success, because Dallas Keuchel finished only five points off the podium in the American League, with Lucas Giolito a more distant seventh:

  1. Shane Bieber, 210 points
  2. Kenta Maeda, 92
  3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 51
  4. Gerrit Cole, 50
  5. Dallas Keuchel, 46
  6. Lance Lynn, 22
  7. Lucas Giolito, 18
  8. Chris Bassitt, 10

The biggest surprise on that list is Bassitt, because he managed to post a 2.29 ERA over 11 regular-season starts without getting the chance to muzzle his former team even once. Of course, he capitalized on his postseason opportunity, which probably counts more.

Keuchel didn’t have the postseason he wanted, but just about everything else was gravy. He posted a 1.99 ERA over his 11 starts and 63⅓ innings, and while history will note that 2020 wasn’t a standard season and the abbreviation minimized complications from Keuchel’s back spasms, the White Sox can claim they got a top-five Cy Young finish from one of their two marquee free agents. Offseason signings during the Rick Hahn era tend to be as bad as they looked, so I won’t fault anybody for enjoying a free agent performance that’s maybe a little too good to be true.

(Also, if Giolito is at a point where a seventh-place finish in Cy Young voting feels disappointing, everybody involved is in a great place.)

* * * * * * * * *

As for future free agent pursuits, the pitching market narrowed considerably on Wednesday, because both Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman accepted the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer. Gausman wasn’t a surprise, if only because of his sketchy track record and rumors that the Giants had an interest in locking him up for longer.

Stroman was reportedly leaning toward rejecting the qualifying offer, and his tweeted rejection of the White Sox’s hiring of Tony La Russa suggested he had an eye on the open market. Perhaps he likes what new Mets owner Steve Cohen might have in mind.

Stroman’s decision registers as a blow to a number of White Sox fans, at least if the Offseason Plan Project is any indication. Stroman wasn’t just the most popular free agent pitcher in the O.P.P. — he was the most popular free agent period. His name showed up in a whopping 48 of 109 offseason plans, or 11 more than the next-most in-demand player. That’s Jose Quintana, whom most of our GMs had the idea of acquiring for a much lower rate.

Gausman appeared in only seven plans, which struck me as a little low for a guy who resembled a real-deal third behind Giolito and Keuchel, at least in last year’s form. Then again, the valuations were all over the place, so perhaps people didn’t feel comfortable assigning a significant number on such an erratic track record.

The market is considerably thinner now, especially with the high-variance Robbie Ray heading back to Toronto on a one-year deal. Here’s how they rank in terms of Offseason Plan Project popularity:

  1. Marcus Stroman (48)
  2. José Quintana (37)
  3. Trevor Bauer (25)
  4. Taijuan Walker (9)
  5. Kevin Gausman (7)
  6. Masahiro Tanaka (4)
  7. Mike Minor (4)
  8. James Paxton (4)
  9. Corey Kluber (3)
  10. Adam Wainright (3)
  11. Brett Anderson, Anthony DeSclafani (2)

Also receiving support: Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Ross Detwiler, Mike Fiers, Mike Leake, Collin McHugh, Jimmy Nelson, Jake Odorizzi, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tomoyuki Sugano, Drew Smyly.

Options remain, but the White Sox now have to spend top-of-market money to get a free agent who stands a good chance at making Keuchel the third starter instead of the second. That’s the goal, because as we saw in the reviews of last year’s front-line starting pitchers and starter depth, teams generally got what they paid for. With Bauer now having a Cy Young to his name, his price tag won’t be coming down any. At least he’s not preemptively crossing the White Sox off his list.

(Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

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Root Cause

With LaRussa enjoying honeymoon #2, does he get whatever he wants to add to his ring collection, or does Reinsdorf think that a HOF coach is the upgrade for 2021?


While everybody is curious about how quickly the TLR/Tim Anderson relationship is going to blow up, I was much more interested in seeing how Stroman and Anderson got along. After their on-field/on-Twitter beef last year, I kind of just assumed they would never be teammates. I hate the TLR hiring, I think it’s an embarrassment, and I think it’s an awful look for the team; but I don’t think it actually ended up having any impact on Stroman not ending up on the South Side. I just don’t see a world where Stroman was ever going to be on a team where Anderson was the face of the franchise after their very public dust-up(s).


i have to disagree that you can’t suspend someone for language.


Stroman was a guy I wanted in my off season plan pretty badly. This stinks. The odds the sox can outbid the heavy weights in their pursuit of Bauer is slim to none. Their best bet is loading up the offense by getting in on one of the free agent outfielders and then filling the rotation out with 1 or 2 of the bounce back, off injury, or lower end starters that are available, while hoping Kopech ascends to the number 2 spot. There is always a trade deadline and next offseason as well.


Public communications from the team this morning.

The last time you heard them on ESPN 1000, they became World Series Champs.

The next time you’ll hear them on ESPN 1000 will be the return of baseball.

ESPN 1000 is now Chicago’s Home of the @whitesox!

— ESPN 1000 (@ESPN1000) November 12, 2020

Statement from #WhiteSox:

“As Tony La Russa’s attorney said in his statement, Tony deserves all the assumptions and protections granted to everyone in a court of law, especially while this is a pending matter.

— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) November 12, 2020

“Once his case reaches resolution in the courts, we will have more to say. The White Sox understand the seriousness of these charges.”

— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) November 12, 2020

Links provided in part if you’d like to see the reaction to these statements in the replies.

Also on Twitter is a rumor that Ethan Katz is going to be the new pitching coach.


Ethan Katz. I’ve never heard of him. So I googled him. And look, he actually has a LinkedIn Profile. I didn’t think baseball people did LinkedIn.


Actually, if you want to build a network of baseball analytics, instruction, and scouting professionals, tons of them are on LinkedIn.

Katz was my pick for pitching coach. He’s currently with the Giants and used to be Lucas Giolito’s HS pitching coach. Giolito’s HS baseball team was a bit better than the average team. Here’s an Athletic (sub required) story on Katz and some of his prize pupils.

A job interview requires references, and so one day last offseason Giants manager Gabe Kapler asked if he could contact three of Ethan Katz’s former pupils. Kapler was interested in bringing Katz, who had been San Francisco’s assistant minor-league pitching coordinator in 2019, onto the big-league staff. Katz, 37, had started his coaching career at a high school in Studio City, Calif. His tenure overlapped with a trio of future first-round picks: Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty.

Katz had a hand in Giolito turning his career around in 2019.
He’s the kind of hire that is consistent with the criteria Hahn expressed for the managerial search way back in mid-October.


Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale are confirming Katz, “which should be announced next week,” according to Nightengale. No word on if that will be a press conference with questions.


What I’m now curious about, which we’ll probably never know, is if this coaching hire happens without the blowback to La Russa. I doubt La Russa would choose a guy like Katz. So, was it always the plan to let Hahn/the organization select the pitching coach (seems odd not to let the manager select), or is this Hahn getting back some power after the La Russa decision has backfired? I guess a third possibility would be that this was part of the compromise in Hahn accepting La Russa, arguing that they have to pair him with a pitching coach with a modern approach.


Indeed. Related, Katz doesn’t tweet much, but of his last seven tweets or re-tweets, one celebrated Giolito’s no-hitter and two expressed support for Black Lives Matter.


On the other hand, his Twitter bio notes he is a “LONG time Clippers fan,” so he’s got experience of having to deal with Donald Sterling owning a team he likes.


Between all the reasons this hire is dumb one thing people do forget or gloss over is that he was a pretty progressive manager for his time in terms of that stuff. And its not like hes been sitting in a old man home knitting socks for 10 years. Its still a dumb hire for many reasons. But its not like hes completely out of the ring when it comes to how modern teams do things.


If the judge sentences LaRussa to jail time it is going to be a site to behold. The White Sox will likely be in a situation where their manager is walking into jail while being filmed similar to Blago. Scott Reifert trying to spin that will something else. I suspect Jerry hasn’t even processed how ugly this will get.


Good guys wear orange.


The courts may require a presumption of innocence but I can still think he’s a giant pile of excrement and fuck anyone who tries to say I can’t.


A single DUI can mean it was a terrible lapse in judgement. Two DUIs point to a problem. While Passan’s article points to the likely outcome, there’s certainly a chance that the banter and the out of state DUI may cause a judge to go a little more deeper into this. Also, continuing employment without treatment seems like an exceptionally poor decision by the Sox, not that this wasn’t caused by a series of bad decisions.

Michael Kenny

Congrats to the four people who had Ethan Katz in their offseason plans.


Great hire! Now I hope Tony resigns after his case is heard, then they go to their 2nd choice, Bruce Bochy.

Eagle Bones

With the top of the SP market so thin now, they’ve gotta get out there and grab one of the non-Bauer guys early (Paxton, Kluber, Odorizzi, Quintana, etc.), then continue pursuing Bauer (I’m assuming he’ll prob wait until later in the offseason to sign to try to max out his deal). They can’t wait until late in the offseason to figure out that Bauer is going elsewhere and then be stuck with zero rotation depth again.


With a DUI on his record he won’t be allowed in to Canada. Going to have to find someone else to manage against the Blue Jays.