Three loosely connected thoughts about today’s Rule 5 deadline

No. 1: Today marks the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, and the White Sox don’t have much of a crunch on their hands, especially relative to most years. Tyler Johnson seems like a “definitely,” Gavin Sheets a “probably,” and Jake Burger a “probably not.” He hasn’t played a competitive pro game in three seasons, and as we’ve seen with Dylan Covey and Adrian Nieto, a year as a Rule 5 pick would probably only lead to a fourth lost year.

Sheets would very much be worth protecting if MLB teams knew whether the DH would be universal for 2021, because even though he’s a capable first baseman who is attempting to learn some outfield, 15 teams gaining an extra lineup spot makes it easier to carry/hide a bat like his. But hey, Nelson Cruz is also waiting to sign until he fully understands his market, so it’s a mess in many regards.

I suppose that would also apply to Burger, who, to his credit, looks good.

But Burger had also shed weight before the first of his two Achilles ruptures, so one can’t project much off these alone. They’re more worth appreciating for the work ethic involved, because the guy has seen some dark days.

No. 2: I’m open to being surprised, because last year’s Rule 5 deadline caught me off guard by two players. I expected the White Sox to protect Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert, Zack Burdi, Bernardo Flores Jr. and Blake Rutherford. I did not see them adding Matt Foster and Yermín Mercedes to the roster. Neither had earned September call-ups, and given that a late-season audition for both players would have been easily justified, I took it as the Sox not seeing a pressing path forward for either.

They were better for it, at least as it pertains to Foster. He fought his way through a glut of right-handed relievers to win a bullpen spot, and he ended up tying Dallas Keuchel for the team lead in wins by going 6-1. The record might’ve been fluky, but the success wasn’t. He posted a 2.20 ERA thanks to team’s third-highest differential between his strikeout and walk rates (20.2 percent), trailing only Evan Marshall (24.7) and Lucas Giolito (24.0).

As far as Mercedes, the White Sox still didn’t really know what to do with him. Even with Edwin Encarnación flatlining for most of the season, Mercedes only received one plate appearance. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in a game against the Royals on Aug. 2 and grounded out to second. The White Sox never really seemed to consider him a viable option, and the White Sox fans who fell in love with him during his four-homer spring training clamored more for Andrew Vaughn during the summer.

No. 3: Even though Luis Basabe is now with the Giants, I’m keeping an eye on his production to whether the White Sox missed out on anything by protecting Basabe a year too early. They added him to the 40-man roster in November 2017 before he’d even seen a Double-A pitch, because the Padres had been very aggressive on the Rule 5 front the previous winter, and one of the several other tanking teams could’ve followed suit that December.

The timing worked against the Sox, especially once the pandemic cancelled the 2020 minor league season. That was Basabe’s last option year, and instead of attempting to make the most of the situation in Schaumburg and cross that bridge in spring of 2021, they cut him loose and prioritized Luis González instead. (González, drafted behind Burger and Sheets, would’ve had to have been protected this winter.)

Basabe ended up getting a little bit of run with the Giants over the second month of the abbreviated season, enough to cross off some firsts. He went 2-for-14 with five strikeouts at the plate, but he also drew four walks, stole two bases and scored five runs.

It didn’t do a ton for his stock, but it might be enough to avoid reliance on the fortunes of minor league baseball in 2021. Melissa Lockard of The Athletic ranked Basabe as the Giants’ 30th-best prospect, but said that he didn’t look overmatched and might get a shot as the team’s fourth outfielder.

If the Sox knew how the next few seasons would unfold individually and globally, they would’ve left him unprotected. Maybe the Padres or a Padres-like team would’ve nabbed him, but the success rate on San Diego’s pirating suggests that we would’ve forgotten about Basabe by now if they lost him back then.

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Burger’s hands look great, I love the load, speed, and the looks of serious torque on that swing. Really pulling for that guy to make it one day.

Little surprised by the fact no one thinks much of Tyler Johnson, closer background, mid to high 90s fastball, good k rates, doesnt give up homers, semi funky motion which gives him added deception…. A LOT of teams can keep him on a 26 man roster as a middle relief arm with the upside of a setup man. I think he definitely needs to be protected.


maybe ive been a little higher on him then most and still am, but I felt equally high about foster and heuer when both those guys faced similar skepticism, I think it will be moot as the sox have room and can create more if need be, but I still view Johnson as a possible high leverage reliever and at a minimum a middle guy.


HOW is it possible they haven’t come out with some clarification regarding the DH in the NL yet?


It’s MLB. This is what they do.

I think they changed the playoff format the day the season started.


I really want Burger to make it. The kid has worked so hard and has had such terrible luck.

John SF

How different do you think the White Sox season would have been if Yermin Mercedes hit a homerun in that one pinch hit at bat?

Talk about alternate timelines.

They would have given him more chances, and there is a possibility — according to outside scouts not just me — that he could be a very valuable DH slugger in the bigs. With his limited but still real defensive abilities at 1B/C, that would have made him a more valuable version of exactly who we were hoping for from EE.

I was super excited for the EE signing in January. Good teams have depth at positions, and as much as I wanted to see a Mercedes / Collins platoon, I was happy for a more established guy. But the whole point of depth is that if someone doesn’t work out you replace them. Having no minor leagues and a 60 game season really F’ed that up.

If we had the dreamed-on version of Mercedes DHing during that final stretch of games we would have won the division. From there things get too different to try to predict, but you’ve got to give us respectable odds in any of those playoff matchups.


Not to mention the possibility of him proving to be valuable trade bait to an NL team that may/may not be in desperate need of a DH in the coming months.


And here are the roster decisions, with a new addition to the organization:

The White Sox announced Friday that they’ve claimed righty Emilio Vargas off waivers from the D-backs and selected the contracts of infielder Jake Burger, right-hander Tyler Johnson and infielder Gavin Sheets. The moves leave the ChiSox with a full 40-man roster.

Eagle Bones

Longenhagen put together projections for non-tenders based on a whole host of factors. He has the Sox likely NTing Rodon and Mazara, lists Lopez as a “tough call” and Engel as “unlikely”. The whole article is a good read. Could be some interesting names hitting the market.


If the Brewers non-tender Omar Narváez, my offseason plan gets revised to have him as the McCann replacement. The Sox love reunions, and that would have the benefit of improved framing numbers since his last stint in Chicago.


Another LF isn’t ideal, but Rosario would be interesting as a lefty bat.