The Cleveland Nine have too rich a history of developing players from obscurity to set aside. Their top prospects list on FanGraphs ran 46 deep before they traded Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets on Thursday, and two more will be added to the field. They have at least 17 prospects tagged with a 45 future value, whereas the White Sox have five. It wouldn’t surprise me in if Cleveland regrouped into another formidable roster two or three years from now.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if Cleveland takes its time getting its act together. Their pitching pipeline is tremendous, but attempts to develop young position players to supplement Lindor and José Ramírez have largely scuffled, and outside acquisitions didn’t take quick root, either.
However it turns out, the trade itself is a gift to the White Sox for immediate goals, which is all the Sox should be concerned about. Trading Lindor and Carrasco might end up paying dividends down the line, but Cleveland’s system was deep enough that its ownership could have justified taking one more swing now, then shuffling the roster afterward. The Dolans didn’t have to choose between Lindor and a barren farm. They just didn’t want to pay.
And while the White Sox aren’t yet weathered enough as October players to completely disregard a Cleveland pitching staff that can make life miserable for series at a time, this helps. If you asked Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams what would make their mission easier, “Cleveland dealing Lindor and Carrasco for no immediate equivalents” would have to be up there.
The White Sox actually contained Lindor fairly well for his Cleveland career. His line reflects damage (.272/.344/.450), but below his career averages (.285/.346/.488). Those columns would all be a little lower if normally good-glove center fielders could’ve made a couple of key plays in Septembers.
Carrasco, who had pitched in 30 games and 163 innings against the White Sox in a career that started way back in 2009, morphed into a Grade-A Sox killer over the last three full seasons:
Carrasco’s dominance of the White Sox was to the extent that a 2.40 ERA seemed high, but there’s a reason. His last three appearances against the White Sox in 2019 were all rough, but they were all adjacent to his battle with chronic myeloid leukemia. He went on the injured list after giving up six runs over 6⅓ innings to the Sox on May 30, and then the Sox torched him over a pair of unsuccessful relief outings after he returned in September.
In two starts against the Sox earlier that May, Carrasco threw 12 shutout innings, including a rain-shortened five-inning two-hitter. The Sox found him just about unhittable over a two-plus-year stretch.
No matter how you carve up their pasts, with the White Sox matching up against the NL Central in interleague play next year, they’ll get at least a one-year respite from both. The question is whether Cleveland has any immediate plans to redistribute the $30 million or so owed to Lindor and Carrasco, or whether the front office is going to hope that a whole bunch of unproven talent proves itself in 2021. The last couple years have shown that Cleveland’s rotation can carry even a subpar offense into October, but when assessing all the changes, does the Cleveland lineup even rise to that level?
|October 2020||Position||Right now|
|Roberto Perez||C||Roberto Perez|
|Carlos Santana||1B||Bobby Bradley?|
|Cease Hernandez||2B||Andrés Giménez|
|José Ramírez||3B||José Ramírez|
|Francisco Lindor||SS||Amed Rosario|
|Josh Naylor||LF||Josh Naylor|
|Delino DeShields Jr.||CF||Oscar Mercado?|
|Tyler Naquin||RF||Daniel Johnson?|
|Franmil Reyes||DH||Franmil Reyes|
You can look at the lineup on the right and see a few places where everything could click next year. The problem is that outcome merely puts them in the same position they were last year. Given that they’re carrying a payroll below $40 million at the moment, it’d seem like Chris Antonetti would have leeway to solve one or two of these positions without prayer. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t. With the pandemic making leaguewide finances unclear and the Indians facing an impressive 40-man roster crunch over the next few seasons, they might use this year to evaluate who’s staying and who can go, even if the lineup features rolling blackouts before and after Ramírez’s spot.
So what do the White Sox do with Cleveland’s intentions? A team truly gunning for a World Series would add, and then add again. Maybe Cleveland is bowing out and making it a two-team affair, but that actually mitigates the risk from adding payroll, because you’re more likely to have something to show for aggression, even if performances don’t perfectly align with salaries. Rick Hahn prefaced this offseason by saying marginal wins matter, and gunning for those marginal wins is usually rewarded in postseason revenue.
Alas, we’re still unclear how many teams are making it into the postseason, and if October presents another bloated bracket for a revenue grab, then finishing second is really the only thing a team needs to do. Outside of a handful of teams, the bulk of the league seems to set the bar at the lowest respectable height, without a whole lot of ambition to clear it convincingly. We can’t quite scream at the White Sox for failing to add when they’re outpacing the rest of the league, but it’d sure be nice to see more action that aims to make afterthoughts of the Central’s non-Minnesota teams.
(Photo by Keith Allison)
Good news for the White Sox.
Another interesting aspect of this is the George Springer sweepstakes. The general consensus seemed to be that the Mets and the Blue Jays were the two favorites and some have speculated with Lindor’s salary they will stop pursuing Springer.
If the market for Springer is essentially the Blue Jays. it truly is a shame we aren’t in on him.
Jerry is essentially being offered another offseason where big dollar players aren’t going after a 5/war player
Interesting Athletic article this morning regarding Katz working with the WS young pitchers. If the subtle innuendos prove accurate during the 2021 season, WS may add several wins from the specific improvement of Cease and Lopez,
An open question to any of you:
Has there ever been a period in your Sox fandom where you thought they were blatantly not trying to win? For me, the white flag trade of ’97 comes close, but even that can be argued to be a trade made with a view of improving chances of winning in the near future. Didn’t quite pass my “blatant” threshold. I’m sure some will disagree. I was in high school at the time, and while I was a huge fan, I knew pretty much nothing about team operations at the front office level back then and I didn’t care to.
During the Reinsdorf era, three distinct periods spring to mind:
1) After the 1986 implosion, Larry Himes was hired with a brief to tear down and rebuild. The 1988 and (first half) 1989 teams were deliberately dismal, but astute drafting built the team that would content in the early 90s.
2) The roster decisions leading up to and during the 1995 season seemed like a tantrum about actually having to field a team. The single most dispiriting season in the past half century.
3) Tearing down the mired team in 2016 was deliberate. It’s gotten high-end talent, though not the depth that could allow Cleveland to weather its extreme cheapness.
Before Reinsdorf’s time, baseball was a different industry. The current owner is worth over a billion dollars, even if he doesn’t chose to spend it. The Allyns and Bill Veeck were actually strapped for cash at times, and Veeck’s post-1977 attempt to hang on in the free agent era was remarkable in his ability to identify prospects who would form the backbone of the 1983 division championship. Watching the Sox in 1979 and 1980 offered few illusions that the team was going to win, but did offer glimpses of young talent with potential.
Hah, it wasn’t 1997 for a stupider, 14 year old, me. I vividly remember still being excited that my dad had tickets for a late September game. I was mad at Reinsdorf, specifically about the statement he made about about someone being crazy for thinking they could catch the Indians. When that comment came out, I told my dad an idea about going to that September game and holding up a sign with the standings, with the Sox in first of course, and a line that said, “I guess I’m crazy.” I will never forget the look my dad gave, the look of a parent when their kid says the dumbest thing, yet they don’t want to discourage the kid: just a blank, half-smile, with some throwaway, “uh huh, sure.” … He sold those tickets, almost immediately, and I don’t think he bought us tickets to another game until at least 2000. Also, I kind of liked one of the players that came over in the trade.
I think there’s been exactly one season where I felt they truly went for it, otherwise they’ve been happy to be middling and hope to run into one every ten decades or so.
The offseason moves so far by the Sox’s 2021 opponents in the AL/NL Central have probably given them several “marginal wins”:
CLE: traded away Lindor & Carrasco; declined options on Hand & Santana
MIN: non-tendered Rosario; lost Trevor May in free agency (and will probably lose Odorizzi); haven’t yet re-signed Cruz
CHC: traded away Darvish & Caratini; non-tendered Schwarber
CIN: losing/lost Bauer & Desclafini; non-tendered Bradley & Casali; traded Iglesias
STL: non-tendered Wong; haven’t re-signed Molina, Wainwright, or Miller
MIL: declined option on Braun; traded Knebel
PIT: traded away Bell; declined option on Archer; will probably trade Musgrove
Detroit looks to be about at about the same level as last year, with the potential for steps forward from several prospects, especially pitchers.
KC is the only opponent in the Central that appears to have improved for 2021, with the signings of Minor, Santana, Holland, and Taylor.
Its so sad to see all these teams league wide basically throwing in the towel on trying to win.
The Sox cheat sheet to me doesn’t exactly overwhelm.
Out Colome, McCann, Encarnacion, Rodon, Gonzalez, Mazara, Dunning (x6 years)
In Eaton, Lynn….
I mean …… still got what 6 or 7 weeks before ST but really need to see how this plays out.
Tommy Lasorda has died
at least 2020 didn’t get him.
Just reading up on him: Do you think anyone will ever manage the same organization for 20 straight years again?
Bob Melvin’s halfway there.
LaRussa only needs to manage until he’s 96 …
One of my biggest fears of this latest rebuild is that the same FO is responsible for identifying and developing talent that led us into a no win situation in the first place. Teams like Cleveland, Minnesota, and TB have proven so good at it that I thought bringing in new leadership to copy would be the first step. These teams prove that there is a way to go cheap and have continued success, but you better be a master of maximizing talent. The fact that we can’t seem to develop the pipeline of talent despite high picks is concerning and a never ending frustration.
Cleveland will be back, just like Minnesota was after their lull 5-6 years ago. Hell, they may not even fall off all that much. And we’ll all be on here during the next wave of losing nit picking Hahn for not spending his way to success rather than making the changes he needs to develop real, home grown talent. Makes me want to bang my head against the wall.
In order to be successful using the Tampa or Cleveland model, you need to be completely un-sentimental and transactional about your baseball talent.
I have more faith in Jerry just spending than the White Sox ever adopting that model under his ownership. When this team finds a useful player, they hold on for dear life until that player is long-past their expiration date. “Loyalty to a fault” doesn’t just apply to the front office personnel.
Also, just saying “be like Tampa” is not that simple. There are a dozen teams trying to be Tampa, few are succeeding. There is only one Tampa, and their model wouldn’t work if there were even 3 or 4 other teams who do what they do as well as them.
I never said “be like Tampa” as I understand it’s not that simple. My point is the organization decided to pivot in 2016 and wanted to restart and commit to bringing in and developing young talent, which is something the Sox have never been particularly good at, especially Ken Williams and to a lesser extend Hahn. They’ve been drafting in the top half of the draft for 10 years and have very little homegrown, developed talent. It’s concerning. I don’t know, try something or someone new.
The Cubs did it when they brought inEpstein, who understood it takes a complete commitment from the top down to overhaul an organization to begin developing players the instant they become part of an organization. While the long term impact hasn’t been as successful or long term as in Boston, I can’t argue with the approach.
Simply put the Sox should win the AL central
I’m sure this will be used for the opposite reason, because sox fandom is pain.
Schwarber to the Nationals
Looks like 1 year, $10mil. Ok, fine, I’d rather have Rosario as the lefty/DH/can-pretend-to-play-corner-OF-sometimes signing they need, but it does remove an option. Get moving, Rick.
I’m somewhat worried they are going to sign a closer and backup catcher and call it a day
After losing McCann and Encarnacion, they need to sign someone. I can’t imagine they would just stick Vaughn out there
I think, at bare minimum, they are still planning on signing a closer (since they’ve been linked to the top of the market there) and a veteran starting pitcher (around the Quintana tier). I’m unsure about the lefty, DH bat, but I’m hopeful there. I actually have the least confidence about them signing a backup catcher, even though I think they should. I just have this feeling they are already set to roll out Collins as the primary backup.
If they fill every other need and decide to roll dice with Collins / Zavala at back up to start the year I’d probably be okay with that. Collins has underwhelmed to say the least, but he hasn’t really been given a lot of an opportunity. If they want to really see if anything’s there before moving on after a month or two, I think they’ll survive. They can always acquire a serviceable backup from someone during the season if they need to.
This is pretty much exactly my take at this point. They’ll sign a closer — hopefully one of Hendriks, Rosenthal, Hand, or Colome. And they’ll sign a back-end starter — likely one of Quintana, Richards, Porcello, or Shoemaker (or maybe Wainwright).
I suspect they will only sign a DH if they can get someone on a one-year deal, which limits their market. The alternative will be to start the year giving DH at bats to Mercedes (and maybe some to Collins), then bringing up Vaughn in May, and if they are not working out, they will look for a mid-season fix. This plan could change depending on how Mercedes and Vaughn look in Spring Training. (For no good reason, I’ve also started thinking they might sign Adam Duvall. He’s a righty, but he can provide some pop as a DH, plays reasonable outfield defense, and would give them the chance to field an all-Adam outfield.)
I also agree that they are prepared to start the season with Collins as the primary back-up catcher. There are not a lot of great free agent options available, and Collins has never really been given a sustained chance in the bigs to see if he can come close to his minor league numbers offensively. I just hope he’s been working on becoming a better catcher.
I’d like a veteran C on a one-year deal, even if it’s the defensively-challenged Wilson Ramos. Hell, Ramos should be cheap and wouldn’t be the worst idea for occasional DH at-bats if someone’s injured. I don’t want Collins or Yermin to be the primary option for two weeks if Grandal gets hurt, and the idea of Zavala racking up 60 plate appearances in a month is just depressing to contemplate.
The Sox are not deep. They really need one more player capable of playing outfield a couple times a week for when Eloy and Eaton get hurt. Ideally, that player could also handle DH duties until Vaughn is ready. Even though Schwarber is now taken, there’s still several of those guys out there who I’d much rather see than 2021 Nicky Delmonico starting in LF in Games 20-34 during Eloy’s next DH stint (as Engel replaces an injured Eaton at the same time). I suggested Na in my offseason plan, and while I’m not surprised Springer and Ozuna remain unsigned, I wonder what the market will be for guys like Adam Duvall.
The Sox should just embrace the Cuban connection, sign Yoenis and keep him away from boars. He’d be a fun DH and occasional corner OF who isn’t going to block Vaughn when he’s ready.
Speaking of the Cuban connection, I was wondering if agent Rachel Luba’s recent tweet @ the White Sox was as much about Puig as Bauer. Depending on your definition of “fun”, Puig would be a similar fit to Yoenis Cespedes.
I think you hit the nail on the head here on one point in particular. If someone could magically guarantee that Grandal would stay healthy all year, I’d be absolutely fine with Collins as the backup catcher all year. However, that plan really falls apart hard if Grandal gets hurt.