Schrödinger’s winter meetings have or haven’t arrived, but they’re probably PRESENTED BY CAMPING WORLD either way.
Like most other organizations, Major League Baseball canceled its major Dallas plans in favor of a virtual affair which I assume will be a series of Zoom conferences with league officials, team officials and Scott Boras, concluded by the Rule 5 draft. Like every other virtual conference, it’s guaranteed to resemble every other online meeting too much to feel like an event.
The winter meetings these days are a bigger deal for reporters and their audiences, who are conditioned to getting blasts of baseball news in early December, whether rock-solid (daily interviews, Rule 5 draft, occasional transaction) or speculative (rumor overload). The next time the league puts fans in front of finances will be the first, so it’s natural to wonder whether the winter meetings will happen again, at least in their former glory. They just might not be necessary for the people running it.
Anyway, Jeff Passan tried to step up and fill the news gap with a summary of activity, and his initial note isn’t heartening:
1. As much as Chicago White Sox fans are frothing for George Springer to round out their dynamic lineup, he is extraordinarily unlikely to sign with Chicago for a number of reasons, sources told ESPN. Springer’s market isn’t lacking — not even with him valuing himself at center-field prices. The White Sox don’t need a center fielder, though, with the dynamic Luis Robert holding down the position; and paying center-field prices for a corner outfielder isn’t the White Sox’s style. Actually, paying nine figures for anyone isn’t how team owner Jerry Reinsdorf operates. And with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets among a large group interested in Springer, Chicago is likelier to seek a left-handed bat — someone like Springer’s old Astros teammate Michael Brantley.
There are two failed pursuits from previous winters through which you might assess this particular rumor.
The Zack Wheeler prism: If last winter’s pursuit indeed unfolded in the generally accepted manner, the White Sox may have the stomach for a nine-figure contract, but they might lack the je ne sais quoi to close the deal. Wheeler said he wanted to stay by his wife’s family in New Jersey, and so he turned down the White Sox’s slightly higher offer and accepted the already surprisingly lucrative deal offered by the Phillies. Maybe the White Sox could and should have tried offering more, but if it’s way more than they anticipated, more than the other high bid, and still not enough to get the deal done, I can’t blame them for taking hints.
The Bryce Harper prism: When Harper hit free agency, the White Sox met with him at the United Center in November. They said nice things about each other immediately afterward, inspired reports of mutual admiration during the winter meetings, and then nothing happened until Harper signed with Philadelphia in late February for 13 years and $330 million.
Since the White Sox soft-played Harper, they’re looking for their third different right fielder in three years, having already wasted time and money on Jon Jay and Nomar Mazara, and Daniel Palka’s face-plant still leaving a dent. The poor man always pays twice, and here come the White Sox shopping for a left-handed outfielder for a third time.
It’s one thing to balk at a $330 million contract, because even if the White Sox might’ve made such an investment possible with their clear-cutting of their payroll, a minority of teams swim in that end of the pool, and a couple of ’em just haven’t been cut out for it.
But if you bypass a Harper contract for the superstar premium, figuring you can get a player who’s 90 percent as good for 70 percent of the commitment, this would seem to be where Springer comes in. And if the White Sox show no meaningful interest in Springer, it further undermines the purpose of the White Sox tanking as hard as they did. There’s no point in resetting the payroll, avoiding free agency at all meaningful levels and manipulating service time of prospects in order to lock them in to team-friendly deals, only to cut corners on outside help the way the team proved it couldn’t successfully spend in free agency before (with Edwin Encarnación and Steve Cishek being the latest reminders that they’re still bad at it).
If Springer wants to play center field and the Mets pay him above and beyond expectations to do so in Queens, then there’s a level where the White Sox stop making sense. But if the Sox are never in on a guy who gets paid only half of Harper’s commitment, it’s fair to question the big picture…
* * * * * * * * *
… unless Wheeler and Harper somehow become available?
There are mixed messages coming out of Philadelphia. Buster Olney reported that executives from other teams heard the Phillies were open to offers on Wheeler, who is coming off a great initial season as their prized free agent from the previous winter. Olney then got an angry call from Phillies managing general partner John Middleton, who probably protested too much in his denial:
“If they offered me Babe Ruth, I wouldn’t trade him,” John Middleton said angrily in a phone conversation, adding Ted Williams and Mike Schmidt to Ruth’s name for good measure. “I have authorized no one to have a conversation about trading him.”
Ken Rosenthal says the confusion probably stems more from a void in the Phillies’ decision-making ranks. The team demoted its general manager and hasn’t yet replaced him, leaving the interim GM and team president to discuss theoretical situations with other teams. If cost-cutting has been front of mind — and the Phillies laid off 80 front-office employees to save about $8 million — it makes sense to discuss everything.
The vehemence of Middleton’s denial is a hard one to walk back, so I’d assume that both Wheeler and Harper are staying put. If the latter were somehow to shake loose, here’s where I’ll point out that he’s left-handed, three years younger than Springer, and has no business playing center field. Might the White Sox be interested in an 11-year, $274 million deal?
Probably not. That’s why Josh scoped out the left-handed right fielders who might be available if and when Springer signs elsewhere.
(Photo by KeithAllisonPhoto.com)
My hope that Jerry turns into Mike Ilitch at some point grows fainter by the year. If not now, I don’t ever see it happening.
I mean, that’s true if you assume their goal is to win baseball games. But if the goal is to maximize profit for Jerry without giving a shit whether they win or not …
Platooning Pederson and Engel while spending some money on 1 or 2 decent starters and a LH DH seems more likely.
Although, since they are paying their center fielder corner prices, why can’t they pay their right fielder center field wages?
The problem with that is this isn’t a deep starting pitching market. After Bauer this market seems to have a lot of question marks.
Sure, there are fewer really good options in the SP market than for RF, but the need is so much higher there. A Pederson/Engel platoon could probably get them ~60-70% of the production that they’d get out of Springer. OTOH, the Sox have two reliable starters atm and a ton of question marks:
I’d be okay with relying on these four to fill one rotation spot (or two if they filled their third spot with a really great starter like Bauer), but it clearly needs to be their focus.
I am not sure I am following your point. Are you advocating for going hard after Bauer instead of Springer?
Honestly if Jerry is thinking he doesn’t want to spend money on Springer because he wants to spend money on Bauer I am fine with that. My fear is he doesn’t intend to spend on any elite free agents and Hahn will be dumpster diving. We of course all know how good Hahn is at dumpster diving.
I see this framed as Bauer vs. Springer a lot, but isn’t that a result of all of us having been conditioned that the Sox can only make one make significant move at a time, if we’re lucky? Realistically it’s a false choice and nothing should be stopping them from legitimately pursuing both.
That’s the tweet to publicize this cogent analysis.
Someone smarter than me should write Jerry a nice ROI investment paper by trading for Harper. Ticket sales + merch + concessions + reoccuring fans from success etc.
But seriously, if we had a competent owner, Harper would be on the Sox in a heartbeat if the Phillies really wanted to move him.
Due to the length of his contract, prospect return would be minimal. $26M a year isn’t that crazy right now and probably wont be looked at the way in a few years.
Jim should email Cigar Afcionado to see if he can write a guest column.
“Partagás is Singular.”
We have talked about why LaRussa is a poor hire for the White Sox but one thing we haven’t talked is why this is a bad job for LaRussa to take. He is 76 years old and decided to come out of retirement to work for an owner that puts profitability before winning. The question becomes why does LaRussa want to deal with that at 76.
I genuinely respect Jeff Passan as a reporter but he’s reacted so negatively to the LaRussa hire that I don’t know that I can trust his assessment of the “White Sox style” in this case. Only one team will sign Springer and I’d bet that, as with Wheeler, money will prove not to be the determining factor in where he ends up. If hw wants to continue in center or has east coast ties, I wouldn’t expect Hahn to attempt to toss enough money at him to get him to ignore those concerns. I do tend to think that one of the positive indications stemming from the LaRussa hire is that JR is signaling that he’s truly all in on winning a Championship this coming season. I don’t see LaRussa, given his age and past success, coming out of retirement to lead a talented team to early playoff exits because of obvious holes. I’m inclined to believe that part of what Hahn meant when he said “It is believed that TLR gives us the best chance to win” is that with LaRussa on board, JR will spend.
Until we see a report that money ISN’T the determining factor for a FA, it seems safe to assume that it is (or is at least VERY high on their list of reasons for picking a team).
Money is almost always te deciding factor. That’s the purpose the Free Agency was created.
I beg to differ. Marvin Miller is one of my heroes and he frequently pointed out that the fight against the reserve clause was more about player freedom than it was about generating astronomical salaries. Obviously, agreeing to meet a player’s expected market value is necessary to get a seat at the table. But top tier free agents will have several teams seated at the table: all offering comparable pay. At that point, very few players will sign base solely on who offers the most bucks. I’d say the Wheeler (taking less money for personal reasons) case is far more common that the Harper case (wanting the largest contract in the history of sports and that’s all that matters.)
It sounds like you’re assuming the Sox will offer comparable money. That seems like a dangerous assumption.
Also, your last sentence would be refuted by pretty much everyone in the industry. Money talks.
My last sentence can be confirmed by countless free agent signings including that of Grandal. It’s also common sense: if two employers are both offering financial packages that will leave me and my family economically secure for life; then non-monetary factors are much more likely to determine my choice than which employer offers me a few dollars more. And, yes I’m assuming the Sox will offer comparable money up to a point. I would expect Hahn to offer something close to the deal Machado turned down. If Springer (or more likely Springer’s agent) wants the highest AAV ever guaranteed for a decade or near then the Sox will leave the table.
Yeah, this is just incorrect. The Wheeler case is notable exactly because it was the exception to the rule and even then, there’s no reason to believe the offers weren’t very close. Players go with the money 99% of the time.
I don’t get why this point is so hard to accept. The Wheeler case was exceptional because the Sox made it known that Wheeler declined the highest offer. Usually, when a player takes less money to play where he’s most comfortable, the team that offered the most money but lost out doesn’t announce it. According to Hahn, Grandal had a offer from another club. Rather than provoke a bidding war, Yasmani, in effect, told Hahn I’d rather play for you guys, match their offer and I’ll sign. I am absolutely certain that most signings follow a path more similar to Grandal’s than one where the player has no concern other than who’ll be paying the most.
It being “hard to accept” may have something to do with historical trends, lack of evidence, and common sense, but sure, go on believing that being the highest bidder is not the far and away most important element in these proceedings.
Fans tend to think players take the highest offer. But these negotiations are not an auction. When a player gets the money he wants from the team he wants, that can end things. For instance, we typically don’t hear about all the possible higher offers that don’t materialize because the player has made up his mind. And I suspect there may be an element of wanting to make it appear the highest offer was the one taken
NPB officially posted Sugano today, I’d put him right up with Tanaka and Stroman as somewhere between the 2nd and 4th best SP on the market right now.
RIP-His MVP season is one of the reasons I’ll always be a White Sox fan. The SI cover of his smoking a cigarette while juggling baseballs in the dugout hung on my wall for years.
I am glad he got to hear how much he was loved in his final years, even if the Hall calls too late. The Phillies are getting mocked this week, but all credit to John Middleton and the team for retiring Dick Allen’s number last September.
I hope the cigarettes are delicious and Dick’s horse wins every time where he’s gone.
I loved Dick Allen. Until A.J. came along, he was the smartest baseball player I ever saw. You give him an opening, and he’d exploit it. 1972 was magical.
In April of that year I skipped school, and my brother and I went to see the Sox close out the first home stand of the year. The Sox opened the season by losing 3 straight in KC. They came home and won the first 6 games of the home stand. They were playing the Indians. It was all Cleveland, 4-0, until the 7th. Mike Andrews came up with the bases loaded. I told my brother he was going to tie it up. Of course, that’s what he did. The Sox took the lead in the 8th but gave it back in the 9th. In the bottom of the 10th, Big Dick came up with 1 on. He proceeded to splinter a seat in the upper deck, a mammoth home run. Sox won 7-5 and moved into first place. I’ve been a Dick Allen fan ever since.
I remember watching a game in Minnesota on TV that summer. Allen hit a liner to right center. Bobby Darwin dove for it and missed. Allen scampered around the bases for an inside-the-park homer. Later in the game he hit another liner to the same spot. Darwin again dove and missed. Allen had his second inside-the-parker.
I think someone else has since hit 2 in a game, but Allen didn’t fit the profile of a player who could do that. He was a slugger. He led the league in homers that year.
I think people too young to remember healthy Dick Allen playing for the Sox can’t imagine the impact he had. He wasn’t just the best player in baseball for a time. He was the biggest personality in Chicago (not just in sports) in a way no other Sox player has been in my lifetime. His pinch-hit walk-off home run to win the second game of the bat day double header when the Sox swept the Yankees in 1972 was unbelievable. The crowd was huge and people were sitting on steps in the aisles. When Allen hit the homer, the stranger sitting next to my dad hugged my dad and my dad let him! That’s how much joy filled the old park after that home run. People not alive for the dark days a few years before of the team playing games in Milwaukee and having radio broadcasts on a high school station can’t imagine how big an impact Dick Allen had. (He had help. In 1972, Wood’s 10.3 bwar was higher than Allen’s 8.6 but Wood was never going to get his own tv talk show.)
Sad news, indeed. Only three years with the Sox, but man were those three years important. Many people, including myself, believe the White Sox are in Chicago today because of him.
One of the few guys I ever saw who could look fearsome striking out. And maybe only Sheffield ever hit the ball harder.
RIP Big Guy-I hope heaven is full of Marlboros and The Daily Racing Form
This news about Springer is exceedingly frustrating. I know the team probably didn’t make as much money as normal this year (or even god forbid lost some), but if now is not the time to spend on a major FA addition (right square in their competitive window), then when? I think we all know the answer is probably “never” (at least as long as this owner is here). Jerry only seems interested in keeping the team just competitive enough to keep the fans interested and the dollars rolling in. And the quote about not wanting to pay CF prices for a corner guy? What does that even mean? He’s probably something like a 4 win player, who cares what position he plays? And if they’re concerned about having to pay market rate, where the hell were those concerns when they were bidding against themselves for Abreu last offseason? Stuff like this is why I was exceedingly confused why many in the media were assuming early in the fall that the Sox were going to be big spenders this offseason. They have no history of being that aggressive, regardless of their position on the win curve.
After all the LaRussa crap, if they really cheap out this offseason, I feel like I’m getting really close to slipping into complete apathy with this team. I’m not going to stop watching baseball, but maybe I’ll just become more of a general baseball fan without a specific team connection. It’s getting really hard to muster enough enthusiasm to invest time, resources and emotions into this team when it’s clear that they really don’t care about that much about winning. It’s really hard to make myself care when it’s clear that they don’t.
The thing is, I have a really hard time even calling that “news”. Anonymous sources means nothing and George Springer appears to be just as likely to sign here at this point in time as anywhere else. I’m inclined to believe we will cheap out because that’s the Sox way but literally nothing of import has happened to prove me right yet.
That’s true, “news” was probably the wrong term. But like you said, do we really have any reason to doubt this “rumor” (or whatever you want to call it)? I don’t know that I’d say he’s just as likely to sign here as anywhere else. We’re seeing other teams making moves (though of the more minor variety) and getting reports from industry sources that they’re inquiring about the big names and planning to be aggressive. We’ve heard nothing of the sort about the Sox and now we get this report or rumor or whatever. Certainly it’s still possible, but it doesn’t seem very likely.
We rarely hear about the Sox pursuits in advance of course. My question is how do they do that seemingly better than anyone? Are they signing NDA’s with everyone they talk to?
Too early to complain that the budget is too small, plenty of time for that later. However, I’m glad to hear they aren’t hot on Springer. He’s a darn good player but I’d be ok with a Dahl or Joc platoon and spend the extra cash on pitching.
I would not be okay with a Dahl platoon, but I’d be happy with Joc, Schwarber or Rosario.
Ditto. The last thing we need are big question mark players and for a GM to play a “what-if” game. We already have a good team. One of the best offense in baseball and it will get batter with the current players. Hahn should aim for reliability, and that’s Rosario’s name. Dahl can get hurt, miss 50% of the season and that will screw things up. I wouldn’t be unhappy with Pederson, but Rosario is the guy to get.
I agree that Rosario makes a lot of sense. His numbers where down for the covid shortened season but that’s true for several hitters and still he garnered an MVP vote. At times, a couple of years ago, when Sano, Buxton and Kepler were all injured, Rosario carried the Twins. There are weaknesses in his game but he has put up a +4 bWAR season. Rosario’s got a decent arm for right and we’ve got Engel for late inning defense. Rosario and Michael Brantley can probably both be signed for about half of what Springer will cost. Acquiring these two, I think, would plug offensive holes with two proven left-handed bats and leave money to pursue experienced starting pitching.
What pitching are you spending on other than Bauer? There’s not a whole lot else out there. The smart move would be to go after both Bauer and Springer and hope you get one.
Yup, if we aren’t going after Springer we are likely done with tier 1 free agents this year. The odds of Jerry giving out a 100 million dollar contract to a pitcher is almost zero so that eliminates Bauer. We can sprinkle money around to multiple tier 2 pitchers but we know that doesn’t tend to work out well.
So I know of 3 pitchers the Sox were tied to in the last 2 years. They signed Keuchel and Gio and were rebuffed by Wheeler. So by my math, the odds of a $100M+ contract for a pitcher are about 3-1.
Bauer is notable for pursuing short term deals. He prefers 1 year deals over multiple years locked contracts. I think he could sign a short term deal which Jerry loves.
So this all depends on cost but I’d be in on Paxton and Kluber for the #3 slot in the rotation and I’m talking to Taijuan Walker for the 4/5 role. We aren’t going to win the bidding for Bauer so we find wins on the margins. Gamble on health for Kluber/Paxton because if it fails, we still have Dunning/Kopech available (barring a trade). You’d be looking at Gio/Dallas/Paxber/Walker/Cease as your opening day 5. You can have Lopez in there instead, whoever does best in ST. Build up some organizational depth in the rotation and if Paxber gets hurt, we aren’t reaching for the Flores’s of the world to piece a starter together.
I would be fine with that on the SP front if they made a big addition elsewhere (i.e. Springer). Doing that and then going with Joc and a bargain bin vet DH? I’m not happy with that. As a backup plan after going hard after Bauer and Springer and missing? Ok. As plan A? They need to aim higher.
I’m applying the headline to the entire off-season, and have lowered expectations across the board. Rumors around past their prime, one tool players is who I’ll be tracking
Springer was never a good fit for the current White Sox team’s needs. You don’t spend top dollar on a square peg for a round hole.
Find an affordable platoon lefty for RF. Then go into free agency or the trade market and pay top dollar for an elite starting pitcher.
Performances against right-handed pitching over the last three years:
Player A: .256/.335/.543
Player B: .277/.361/.521
Player C: .247/.332/.446
Player D: .267/.333/.439
Player E: .240/.346/.514
Player F: .279/.315/.520
Can you identify which one is Springer, against Rosario, Pederson, Schwarber, Bradley and Mazara?
All right, without looking I’ll say:
Swap C&D and you got it.
If that last slash line is Rosario’s he looks pretty good to me presuming Menechino can get him to “take his walks” and Boston can shore up his fielding a bit.
A few days with Boston’s whistle and he’ll be a gold glover.
Clearly, Springer is the best option. But a Joc/Engel platoon should be pretty strong. I’m a little leery about making Rosario or Schwarber the strong side platoon in right field. The defense would clearly suffer greatly. I wouldn’t mind seeing Schwarber or Rosario as the DH/left field sharer with Eloy.
I live in Minneapolis and I’ve watched Rosario play right-field. He’s not the fielder that Kepler is but IMHO he’s got the arm and athleticism to play the position acceptably. He’s made statements indicating that he views himself as a capable fielder at any of the three outfield positions; so, he’s not lacking confidence. The Twins have actually stuck him in center 50 or so times. My sense is that he has roughly average range and most of his misplays come from trying to do more than he’s capable of rather than from a lack of ability (he’s not Palka) . With Engel available for late inning defense, I’m not sure Rosario in right would be a disaster. I wouldn’t hate a Joc/Engel platoon but Rosario seems the more versatile hitter and he looks to be had for a bargain rate.
Square peg? Hes a really good player who plays a position they have a black hole at and he does essentially everything well. This idea that the right fielder they get has to be a lefty is almost as bad as the fans crowing years back that they had to add a righthanded starter because they had too many lefties in the rotation. Yeah let’s go get a markedly worse player simply because hes lefthanded. Oh and it will save jerry some money that he can not spend on a starter!
This is pretty disappointing, and I hope it is not true. I would be fine with a patch player for a year or two if the Sox had any semblance of outfield talent in the minors. But Micker Adolfo and Blake Rutherford are just lottery ticket prospects now. Springer makes so much sense given the fit and rest of the organization.
Report is it’s Lynn for Dunning plus an additional (yet unnamed) pitching prospect. Sounds like a great deal to me. Dunning was about the highest rated prospect that wasn’t essential to the “core.”