Grading the White Sox 2020-21 offseason

Signing of Liam Hendriks grades out as the best move of the offseason (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

With spring training on the horizon and most consequential free agents signed, it’s time to look back on the White Sox offseason and grade their transactions. This will be my seventh annual installment of the series.

I’m going to provide an individual evaluation of every move involving major league players or major league commitments. I’m excluding minor league signings, the Rule 5 draft, and waiver claims from the individual move assessments because even though some may have a some real impact, they generally boil down to either “no risk, but with upside” or “a little extra depth can’t hurt.” The next minor league signing that deserves an “F” will be the first. However, I will take these moves into account for the final grade.

Here are broad definitions I’ll use for the various letter grades. The rationale for the scale as a whole is that most moves that major league teams make are helpful to their goals and have a good deal of logic to them.

For some orientation, I would consider a perfectly average move to be somewhere on the C+/C borderline.

Grade A – This includes moves that either are extremely significant in pushing a team toward its goals, involve “beating the market” (i.e. fleecing another team in trade, signing a key free agent at a very noticeable discount, etc.), or are otherwise brilliant for their fit or use of resources. For example, the trade of Chris Sale earned an “A” for both being the most critical trade of the rebuild and accomplishing the difficult task of attaining fair value for one of baseball’s most valuable assets to ever be on the block.

Grade B – Like an “A” move, but less superlative. “B” moves represent above-average decisions and are generally remarkable in some way. I put the signing of Dallas Keuchel in this range (though it’s worked out even better than that so far).

Grade C – This includes moves that are helpful to a team’s goals, but relative to other moves, are not notable for their scale, brilliance, fit, or cost-effectiveness. They are generally reasonable decisions and preferable over doing nothing. The trade for Ivan Nova prior to the 2019 season is a good benchmark for this range.

Grade D – While not all-out blunders, Grade “D” moves are not obvious steps in the right direction. This section of the scale includes either moves with questionable strategic fit, moves with a difficult-to-accept risk/reward ratio, moves with preferable and seemingly feasible alternatives, or total nothingburgers. The acquisition of Nomar Mazara prior to the 2020 season fell into this range due to its inadequacy to address a position needing major attention.

Grade F – “F” moves are actively harmful to a team’s goals, even if the degree of harm is small. The most prominent example of an “F” is non-tendering Tyler Flowers to sign Dioner Navarro, which would later demonstrate the cruel intersection of an awful thought process and unfortunate results.

Decisions to tender or non-tender a player along with choosing whether to pick up a team option are binary decisions, so they’ll be evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

Let us begin.

No 1: Option decisions

Straightforward.

No. 2: Hired Tony La Russa as manager

I’ll try to keep this brief as possible, since it’s been discussed at length. From La Russa’s long layoff since last managing, to his documented issues with evaluating talent, to the rumors that he’s influenced offseason moves, to the clear indications that his hiring was at odds with the general manager’s wishes, to the fact that he was hired a day after getting charged with his second DUI, to the evidence that he rubs some players in the game the wrong way, to past issues with expressive players like the ones in the White Sox dugout, there are no shortage of reasons that hiring Tony La Russa was a deeply concerning idea. There are those who like the hiring because of La Russa’s past success. However, even that contingent should acknowledge that the most desirable managerial opening in baseball should have been filled by considering several qualified candidates via a thorough hiring process rather than the owner just doing a solid for his buddy.

The 2021 White Sox would be a very good team even with a cardboard cut-out as its manager, and they’ll likely succeed despite this decision, but it’s very hard to mount a good defense for hiring Tony La Russa, especially the way that the White Sox went about it.

Decision Grade: F

No. 3: Non-tender deadline decisions

Tendered contracts to:

Non-tendered:

In recent years, this section of the offseason grades post has become rather boring. That’s a good thing.

No. 4: Acquired RHP Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers for RHP Dane Dunning and LHP Avery Weems

The biggest failure of the Jeff Samardzija trade from the 2014-15 winter wasn’t that Samardzija pitched poorly or that Marcus Semien and Chris Bassitt panned out in Oakland. Rather, it was that the White Sox gave away prospects to acquire one year of Samardzija and didn’t assemble a roster for that one season that had much of a chance. Samardzija could have won the Cy Young in 2015 and one could have still made a strong case that the move was a waste (albeit a more fun one than what we got to see).

Right off the bat, the trade for Lynn avoids this serious problem. Lynn is going to augment a contending roster rather than merely give a lackluster team a slight glimpse of hope. He also comes to Chicago after two seasons of being one of the American League’s best pitchers and gives the White Sox another arm they can be proud to throw in the postseason.

However, the move isn’t without its concerns. The White Sox entered this offseason with a thinning prospect pool and a low payroll. Rather than flexing financial muscle that they’ve supposedly been saving for years, they dealt from the prospect pool to get an impact starter on a contract they decided they could afford. The remainder of the moves made this winter cast doubt upon whether the White Sox have given themselves the best chance to capitalize on their one season with their new ace.

The apparent payroll restrictions also complicate what this move will mean for years beyond 2021. The White Sox are a significantly better team on paper this year with Lynn rather than Dunning. There’s no question about that. However, Dunning showed in his limited time with the White Sox that he could hold his own in The Show, and with raises due to the White Sox’ core players in the coming years, it’s fair to question how the Sox plan to fill Lynn’s slot in the rotation once he leaves. Even if the Sox let all of their pending free agents walk, they’ll be entering the 2021-22 offseason with a payroll right around the 2020-21 number (after accounting for arbitration raises and minimum salary players). Dunning could wind up being a cheap mid-rotation starter, and on Jerry Reinsdorf’s tight budget, that would be a tough asset to lose.

In the end, this move is a gamble that swapping out Dunning for Lynn in this one season will be a deciding factor in getting the White Sox either into a Wild Card slot, into a division crown, or through a particular postseason series. If Lynn becomes that critical difference-maker, it’ll be easy to make peace with whatever Dunning and Weems contribute beyond 2021. If not, well, Sox fans have a lot of experience in lamenting the loss of players that have moved on.

Decision Grade: C

No. 5: Signed RF Adam Eaton for one year, $8M with a club option for 2022

Right field was the single biggest hole in the White Sox lineup coming into the winter and with a top free agent on the market capable of playing right field, it seemed like a natural place for a team reaching the apex of its rebuild to make a big splurge after years of running low payrolls. Instead, the Sox let top-tier and mid-tier options pass them by, and they reunited with Eaton on the cheap.

The move was met with a good deal of vitriol from White Sox fans, largely stemming from the sour memories of L’Affaire LaRoche and the simple fact that he’s not a premium player. After getting past the disappointment, there’s a path to the move working out. Eaton’s a reasonably strong option against right-handed pitching and Adam Engel gave the Sox a reason to trust him to handle lefties. Given good health from Eaton, it could be an efficient platoon.

However, the move carries with it a fair amount of risk. For one thing, Eaton was really bad in 2020, and now that he’s 32 and not the defender he used to be, there’s a lot of pressure on the bat. For another, he’s a significant injury risk being added to an outfield that can’t absorb much more of it. Eloy Jimenez is an IL stint waiting to happen, and if he goes down, the Sox will be down to one everyday outfielder, with Eaton and Leury Garcia’s fragile bodies ready and waiting to compound the problem.

It’s now 2021, and it’s extremely important that the White Sox cash in on the opportunity after the years of hardship that got them to this point. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect them to address their biggest hole with a premium solution rather than a bargain-bin retread.

Decision Grade: D

No. 6: Signed RHP Liam Hendriks for four years, $54 million

The White Sox have been one of the best teams in the game the last two seasons at holding late-inning leads, much of that thanks to Alex Colome‘s effectiveness in the closer role. Recognizing that Colome’s pitch-to-contact ways might not yield a BABIP in the low-.200s for the third straight season, the Sox went with a more certain option to slam the door in the ninth by signing arguably the best closer in the game in Liam Hendriks. Thanks to the success of the late-inning relief of the 2019 and 2020 White Sox, Hendriks could be his usual excellent self and we wouldn’t notice much of a year-over-year upgrade in the team’s lead-preserving ability. However, with Colome’s departure, the Sox were in danger of losing this significant competitive advantage they’ve enjoyed, and Hendriks is a great bet to maintain this edge in the late innings.

Hendriks is a superb reliever, so the question is less whether he’s worth what the Sox will be paying him and more whether he was the best use of resources given the Sox’ budget constraints and roster construction. The White Sox bullpen is significantly better with Hendriks than without him, but with Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, and Matt Foster in tow, the bullpen would likely have been a strength with a lower-profile addition.

The same could not have been said about the front of the rotation, the back of the rotation, right field, and to a lesser extent, designated hitter. While Lance Lynn is a strong solution for 2021 (albeit at the expense of Dunning), the other three were “solved” with Carlos Rodon, Adam Eaton, and “no one”, respectively. That leaves much to be desired. By signing Hendriks on what was apparently a limited budget, the Sox used the lion’s share of their Reinsdorf-approved resources on a lesser area of need.

Decision Grade: C+

No. 7: Signed LHP Carlos Rodon for one year, $3 million

Dylan Cease posted the worst FIP in baseball last season, Michael Kopech hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2018, and Reynaldo Lopez’ performance was so disturbing in 2020 that he was left off the postseason roster. Regardless of how much faith one has in Ethan Katz, that’s far too much risk at the back of the rotation for a team that fashions itself a contender. Clearly, the Sox needed to add some help to this group, but their choice of bringing back Carlos Rodon just adds another pitcher with health and performance question marks. Rodon’s better than nothing, because there’s a better chance of two out of four risky pitchers being healthy and effective than two out of three. However, the market offered several more stable possibilities to fill this role without breaking the bank.

Decision Grade: D+

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

The White Sox are entering the fifth year of the process kicked off in the 2016-17 offseason, and after a fairly successful 2020, the time was ripe for the organization to try to take the next step. The Sox entered the winter with the obvious problem points of right field, the starting rotation, and position-player depth (particularly at DH). Ultimately, the strategy the White Sox chose to address these needs was flawed. Most of the monetary resources were directed towards the bullpen, an area of relative strength. Lynn, their most effective solution for the upcoming season, is set to depart after 2021, with raises to the Sox’ core players consuming the payroll space that will be vacated by departing free agents and Dunning — a potential solution to that budget crunch — now playing for Texas. As things stand, both major projection systems place the Twins ahead of the White Sox. Regardless of who you want to blame for the shortcoming, that’s disappointing for the White Sox organization.

Since the front office has been unable to push the team over the hump, it’s going to be up to the players to flip that script. The White Sox can yet realize the immense promise of their rebuild, but it’s going to require players like Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech to make good on their upside. That’s a pretty good set of players to count on, but with flimsy depth and a litany of injury-prone players, the organization has made the margin for error quite thin.

It would have not cost the team much more to invest in more stable options than the rather risky retreads it signed to address right field and starting pitching depth. Similarly, it would have not been overly expensive to add another bat to the DH pool to hedge against potential struggles from Andrew Vaughn in a year in which every win counts. Vaughn’s a very strong bat prospect, but the Sox saw a couple years ago with Eloy Jimenez that adjustment periods from even extremely promising players can lose a team games. They didn’t care back then, but they sure as heck should in 2021.

Beyond the team’s depth concerns, the Sox yet again shied away from the top of the market. Players like George Springer, Trevor Bauer, and Marcell Ozuna could have been big helps to the Sox over the next half-decade. The three year rebuild during which spending was nonexistent and payroll was significantly slashed was supposed to help the White Sox afford this type of player. Instead, the team’s spending habits seem unchanged from prior to 2017, leaving fans to wonder whether resetting the payroll during the rebuild did anything of note besides line the pockets of ownership. The White Sox did sign a legitimate star player on a bargain deal last winter in Yasmani Grandal, but the allure of the “bargain deal” part was the promise that it would enable the Sox to make another big move. It never came.

The White Sox made incremental improvements to their roster this winter, and the 2021 White Sox should be a good, competitive team. However, painful years of lean payrolls and losing were invested to get the roster to this point. As a final push to make the White Sox favorites in the AL Central, let alone the American League, this winter fell short of expectations.

Offseason Grade: C-

(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

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asinwreck

The DH position offseason activity…has no grade point average. All classes incomplete.

knoxfire30

D – I’ve gotten angrier as I keep pondering the off season and have seen the twins likely steamroll back in front of the sox as the favorites for the division with a few key moves.

It’s beyond ridiculous the pain and suffering of the rebuild was set up to poo dick a 130 mil payroll out. Overspending on a closer, to leave massive question marks in the back end of the rotation, RF, DH, and overall depth. I wouldn’t grade LaRussa as harshly I would say more of a C then an F, but that’s splitting hairs on a head scratching hire when real good options existed instead.

This team should be a world series favorite, instead its likely a slight under dog for a division title, and a team that won’t match up favorably to a few of the elite mlb teams.

Jason.Wade17

Why grade each move individually if you are going to bias them so much against the offseason as a whole?

The Lance Lynn trade and the Liam Hendriks signing should be bumped up to B and A, respectively. By your grading scale, you are equating them with an Ivan Nova trade? Discounting them because they either prohibited other improvements or should have lead to more being done, is already covered in the poor grades for Eaton, Rodon, and overall grade.

Jason.Wade17

Understood, and I appreciate your write up. It’s likely just a difference of grading scale. If the Twins or Blue Jays signed Hendriks, we’d call it an A move for them.

Oddvark

As I read this write-up, if the White Sox had signed Springer, the Hendriks signing is probably graded as a B+ and the Lynn signing becomes a B/B-. The Rodon and La Russa grades probably tick up, too. In part based on the factors stated in the write-up itself, and in part because the writer would be in a better mood about the off-season as whole.

Personally, while I really wanted the Sox to sign Springer, I wouldn’t let that failure overly influence my evaluation of other transactions on their own, though it would obviously affect the overall offseason grade.

So I’d still give the Lynn signing a solid B (because another top of the rotation starter was imperative for post-season success, and his durability/consistency is especially useful coming off the short 2020 season, balanced against the fact that it is only a one-year solution and we lost Dunning/Weems). And I’d give the Hendriks signing an A- (because although the other bullpen pieces looked good in 2020, there is a limited track record there at a historically volatile position, so the need for a good closer IMO was high, and we picked up the best one on the market and arguably one of the best in all of baseball — knock on wood, given the volatility of the position).

HallofFrank

Well done, PNoles, this all seems about right. My own grades would include only slight alterations:

-TLR hiring: D instead of F. I wonder if this is the first offseason move where a significant portion of the fanbase would call it an “F” and a significant portion would call it an “A?” Anyway, it feels more like a D, to me, because there is at least some upside here.

-Lynn trade: B instead of C. It’s probably the move they made this offseason that improves their chances at a WS title the most.

Despite my alterations bumping those grades up, I still think C- might be a little generous for the overall grade. An offseason of “incremental improvements” is C range in a vacuum, but at this point in the rebuild it’s borderline inexcusable.

mikeyb

It’s definitely clear that trading for Lynn improves their chances at a WS title this year significantly. But overall, I think it’s possible this move actually decreases their chances at a WS title over the course of Dunning’s contract. Which to me makes it more of a neutral move.

Of course, I have higher hopes for Dunning over the course of his contract than many people here.

HallofFrank

As another arm, Dunning of course increases chances to some degree, but I’m skeptical he’d move the needle much year to year. His ceiling isn’t that high, and you can normally find his kind of #3/#4 type for a reasonable price on the market.

Eagle Bones

His ceiling isn’t that high, and you can normally find his kind of #3/#4 type for a reasonable price on the market.

You’re not wrong about this (especially the second part) and this is the main reason I was good with the Lynn trade. However, how much confidence do we really have in them ponying up to sign that kind of pitcher in FA (at least without handicapping other parts of the roster)?

Kittles on a Rooftop

Bingo. And “reasonably priced” to us and “reasonably priced” to the White Sox are different things. Especially when it comes to pitchers. Especially 6 years of Dunning, which as we all know, the Sox will never sign a guy for that long.

So best case, you have two 3-year deals with “reasonably priced” 3/4 starter at ~$8-12M AAV instead of peanuts over that time. Besides, while I think on a WS contending team, Dunning is probably a 3/4 guy, but I think he is ultimately better than that. So without a Lynn extension, I am not sure how I feel about giving up Dunning and the cheap 6-year control.

patrick

And looking at this: https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/2022/ufa/starting-pitcher/

You’re going to have to pony up a lot more than $12 million AAV for a #3…

Kittles on a Rooftop

For sure. I am willing to look at this differently if Lynn gets extended, but I valued Dunning as a pretty solid piece. He also would allow you to flip a Cease or Kopech as a bigger headliner or move one to the pen if necessary. But I digress.

HallofFrank

That’s just the kind of deal the Sox are comfortable signing.

I still think Sox fans have really overrated Dunning based mostly on 3 starts (KC, PIT, and MIN in ’20). I like Dunning and I’d say his floor his higher than most prospects, but it’s still an open question of whether Dunning becomes that #3/#4. I’d be very surprised if he was ever a caliber of pitcher that could be the 3rd best starter on a WS contender.

Even if he does, he’s easily replaceable—yes, even with JR’s budget. ButI’d be shocked if JR ever OK’d signing a FA pitcher with back-to-back Top 6 Cy Young finishes.

Kittles on a Rooftop

I think the Dunning ceiling is certainly debatable. But as patrick posted just above, I don’t think that Renisdorf would pony up the money, and we would simply be approaching this from the same place as RF and DH in recent years.

The more likely scenario is that Dunning was going to be your 5th starter because two of Cease, Kopech, Lopez, Crochet, Steiver, Kelly, etc would have ended up as your 3-4 and perhaps Dunning would have even been expendable if that was the case.

But given the dearth of depth, question marks, injuries, a various maladies afflicting this team, I would rather have 6 years of a league average to potentially very above average, than 1 year of well above average.

We simply don’t know how this will pan out. We don’t know how Dunning will react differently in TX than he would have here. So even looking at this in retrospect, 6 years from now, we still won’t know what would have happened. I am just a little bummed about that because I really liked his stuff and was probably higher on him than most.

Eagle Bones

Longenhagen has several times referred to him as a pretty high certainty #4 which seems fair.

HallofFrank

Yes, that seems fair. But “pretty high certainty” in prospect talk is still a long way off from certainty. I do think he sees some big league success, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if that success was pretty variable and he was something like a journeyman #5 type/long reliever.

Eagle Bones

I would think the risk is probably more with health than performance. If he can stay healthy, there doesn’t seem like a ton of questions about him reaching that kind of modest ceiling.

HallofFrank

I actually do have confidence in the Sox signing that kind of pitcher because that’s the depth of the pool they’re comfortable swimming in.

Eagle Bones

I don’t necessarily disagree, but that’s where the “without handicapping other parts of the roster” part comes in.

LoveLittleLouie

After watching him in both good and bad outings I see him as (IF he stays healthy) a Bill Singer. Wouldn’t mind having him, but replaceable. Have not seen Lynn enough personally, but he does give us a legitimate top three in the rotation. Singer did that twice in 14 years.

patrick

I think my hesitancy with the Lynn trade is more about probabilities rather than an incremental improvement in project-ability. Winning a World Series is much more about building sustained dominance (or at least success). As we’ve seen from teams like Milwaukee and others, a one-off push rarely gets you there and can throw you back into mediocrity rather quickly. You need chances — a half-decade of division wins or wild card berths to hopefully luck/skill your way into the WS, and then win it. This is why the Twins lack of a WS astounds me. More astounding is how bad they’ve been in the playoff and the Sox have yet to really challenge their role in the AL Central…

By trading for Lynn they used long-term assets for a one year shot. increasing their potential for playoffs and a title this year (but seemingly not by much, see: other moves) but likely decreasing their sustainability over the next 5 years.

If they had a history of frequent replacement of good players with other good or better players I’d be less weary. However, they’ve lost all good will and so my assumption is that they will patchwork their way through the Moncada/Robert/Anderson years with “just a guy” ‘s until the window slams shut and another pair down happens. Given the reported quote about coming in second place as the ideal position…If someone tells you who they are, listen.

Kittles on a Rooftop

I think it depends on if Lynn ends up with an extension. The scuttlebutt directly after the trade was that an extension was in the plans, and the trade was made with that in mind. If that does not happen, then yes, I would tend to agree with you. I think we need to wait and see. Spring Training seems to be when a lot of extensions get done, so I think this is still an incomplete grade until we see how it plays out.

But I certainly agree with your overall sentiment. I wish we had the farm system and ownership to pull off some of what the Padres did with their rotation, but we don’t. So I am not a huge fan of this move unless an extension is signed, for the same reasons you stated.

HallofFrank

I largely agree with your first paragraph, I just think (a) Lynn raises their chances a little more than you seem to think and (b) losing Dunning doesn’t decease their future chances as much as you seem to think.

Plus, I don’t see your strategy of lots of chances & one-year improvement as necessarily at odds. The Dunning-for-Lynn move is the kind of the move they should make every year over the next 5 years, if they can. That is, if Dunning is equivalent to “MLB ready, high-floor, low-ceiling, easily replaceable prospect” and Lynn is equivalent to “proven player who substantially increases their chances at a WS.”

patrick

Maybe? I mean it seems like they’re still projected as a favorite for second place in the Central and maybe making a Wild Card. This is ignoring some of the nuances as described above, and if Lynn continues CyYoung quality for 180 innings this year he will help a lot and torch those projections. But the fact still stands that they didn’t do enough to fill the gaping holes they have to inspire much confidence that they can even make the playoffs. Which, with this roster is a real shame. Dunning doesn’t give them the same high leverage and bump in playoff odds I agree, but the move now seems confusing given half measures elsewhere, and I’m left wondering what the plan is beyond this.

Your second paragraph is right on. One potential issue is the lack of farm depth. They’re basically out of bullets now for the trade deadline. If they need to jump start an offense, replace an outfielder, or grab another starter it’ll be tough to pull off. Whereas spending extra money in the offseason with Dunning around for a trade chip may make more sense.

asindc

Minny has been generally bad in the playoffs in recent years because, up until recently, they have built their strategy around making fewer mistakes than the opposition. They have run into a brick wall in the playoffs because they haven’t been able to match the dynamic play of other playoff teams.

Otter

At this point the Twins issues in the playoffs is due to the randomness of rotten luck than anything else.

asinwreck

Nothing random about that curse. There should be a Twilight Zone adaptation of Damn Yankees where the Twins win the Central every year for eternity and are swept by the Yankees in the first round every time.

Jim Margalus

What grade do you give Lynn if he receives a two-year extension?

oldtimer

Very late to the party so noone may read this but I always viewed the Lynn deal as either a 2 year deal (takes the QO) or a one year deal with a PTNL via the draft when someone else signs Lynn. Solid A in my book. We’re playing for 2021 and most likely we end up with an extension or perhaps a high pick to bolster the farm. Lynn could get hurt (he’s been a horse) but so could Dunning (TJ again). Anyway that’s my 2 cents but I’m generally a glass half full kind of guy). This is as far as I’ve got in the comment string so I hope I’m not repeating someone else.

MrStealYoBase

The budget provided for the offseason: F

A passing grade would be meeting or exceeding projected spending from last year.

The moves made within that budget: C

Idk how many permutations you can come up with for spending $25M, but getting at least two impact adds within that budget is not bad. But these adds also did very little to solve depth issues.

The timing of the Hendriks article from Nightengale also has me more dour than usual on the Sox’ process. Three things you’d feel better about if you didn’t know how they were put together: laws, sausages, the White Sox active roster.

raylewis67

Probably my least favorite part about the La Russa hiring is that the claim that it was a ‘good’ hire is non-falsifiable. The negatives of the hire will not manifest themselves in ways that will make it a clearly bad hire in retrospect, like a pitcher flaming out might do. We don’t have knowledge of the alternate universe where Hinch or another is hired to compare as a baseline, and instead are bickering about whether the distractions that TLR has caused are worth the marginal gains we receive from him coming.

I agree with your assessment that the hire is damning of the process by which the FO makes linchpin decisions, and therefore would give it a D or D- myself. FWIW I have already Stockholm Syndrome’d myself into believing that it’ll be fine, which is exactly what the intent of the hire was.

Oddvark

I’ll also say that while I wasn’t thrilled with the La Russa hire, I certainly don’t think it’s an F, especially if we’re evaluating it in the context of how offseason moves will impact the team’s chances of winning in 2021 (and beyond). I don’t think managers make a huge difference anyway, and La Russa is just not going to be terrible at setting a lineup and making in-game decisions, even if he has some trouble communicating with/relating to some of the players on the team.

And to the extent that morally questionable decision making history is part of the equation, I was not super excited about the prospect of hiring AJ Hinch, given his history with the Astros and their cheating scandal, not that he was the only alternative to TLR.

Finally, if we’re considering the TLR hire as part of the offseason evaluation, other significant coaching changes should also be mentioned. I think replacing Coop with Katz was an A grade move — it was time to move on and Katz was a great choice to take over. The hiring of the “catching guru” Jerry Narron is also a positive, as is to a lesser extent the addition of an “analytics coordinator” (Shelley Duncan). I’m not sure what to think of new bench coach Miguel Cairo, but he doesn’t seem bad.

GrinnellSteve

Good point on the other coaching hires. They have the potential to add some value to this roster.

asinwreck

Katz’s hire is a very good move, in part because it is consistent with what the team is doing with minor-league pitching instruction. They’ve got a ways to go to catch up to what Cleveland has done to develop pitching the past five years, but Katz’s hire seems like a productive step in making that possible.

Kittles on a Rooftop

The decision to grade the LaRussa hire as an “F” has forced me from lurker to poster…

Let me preface this by stating that I am not wild about this move and honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar as someone to hire. So after the initial shock and derision wore off, and I reached a level of acceptance of this move, I am choosing to (lukewarmly) embrace it.

The staff that TLR has assembled is enough to bump this up solidly into the “D” category, if not higher. Which brings me to the parts about being out of the game and being out of touch with modern players. He wasn’t out of the game and there have been no indications that the players actually feel this way outside of initial trepidation. I find this narrative to be way overblown, even though it was my initial reaction as well.

The short term nature of this hire doesn’t lend me to put much value in his talent evaluation skills. This team was mostly set when he got here and it will continue to be mostly set when he eventually paves the way for Justin Jirschele. I am assuming that he is the heir apparent at manager.

And the big one, that seems to bend everyone out of shape, is the DUI. Who cares? I had a DUI in 2008, it was a stupid decision. I learned and moved on. Sure, it’s not a great look but this is a PR problem, not a baseball one. So including that as part of the grade for his job–managing the team–instead of what he did as a semi-retired baseball manager in his personally life–drinking and driving–just rings hollow to me.

You are free to not like the man or not like the hire because of that, but this should have little bearing on his grade. And if it does, should it also not be weighed that his animal rescue foundation and new relationship with Liam Hendriks, helped tip the scales for the highest graded move of the off-season?

So from an actual baseball perspective, I can’t help but think that his signing was no less than a “C-” and has the potential to be greater than that. The dude wins. He knows how to handle a bullpen. And he has apparently fully embraced analytics and technology as arrows in his quiver. Just my two cents as an avid reader who needed to become more active on this site.

I understand your grades for everything else and don’t have much to quibble about there. Although I would grade Hendriks higher, as well as Lynn (especially if they can extend him), but lower on Eaton and Rodon. Neither of them have any business being on this team IMO.

Last edited 3 years ago by Kittles on a Rooftop
Jim Margalus

There are differences:

1) You had *a* DUI. He had two.
2) You learned. He didn’t. (Probably hasn’t, based on his post-plea comments)
3) You’re probably not in your organization’s most visible and public-facing leadership position.
4) The team supposedly knew about this, but had no plan for outreach, advocacy or any other kind of public plan to mitigate the fallout.

It might not come back to bite the White Sox, but it was and continues to be spectacularly stupid.

Kittles on a Rooftop

There is no denying those things, however, what do they have to do with him being a baseball manager? DUIs are quite common and most people don’t see them as career killers. If this was any of the myriad NFL situations–physical abuse, sexual assault, dog fighting–then I would understand the vitriol completely.

So if you want to give a scathing indictment of Jerry Reinsdorf, then by all means, have at it. But I fail to see this mattering much to the players or affecting their performance on the field.

Again, if we are going to use those as negatives against TLR, then why has every, single positive been left out of this discussion as well? It seems like there is a baseline of roughly a “B” and then things can drag the grade down but nothing can boost it up. That is my biggest issue here is that the only things discussed were his negatives, not any positives.

Same for Hendrinks and his work (already) in the community. Or the fact that all of those guys have a pretty significant amount of fire, something that I think was missing a little bit last year.

Jim Margalus

The way I look at La Russa is that I can see how he might’ve emerged at the end of a thorough hiring procedure as a decent idea.

But I think going over the heads of your decision-makers and short-circuiting the search in order to hire somebody with an active criminal case against them is the worst possible process. And the White Sox tend to get rewarded for the quality of their processes when it comes to managers.

Fortunately, the decision to turn the page on the Don Cooper Era didn’t get caught up in it. That may be the more important transition of the two.

Kittles on a Rooftop

But again, that’s an indictment of Jerry Reinsdorf, not La Russa. From my understanding, Jerry had to convince him to do this, not the other way around.

I think people are making this personal because they are conflating the process and the minutia of the man instead of the manager. From my perspective, he is the manager of the White Sox. And as far as I’m concerned, he is a clear upgrade and the staff has the chance to be very, very good.

There doesn’t appear to be anything in the evaluations about how that person was acquired. It does state trades and contractual obligations are taken into consideration, but not public relations or interpersonal relationships with the owner.

I guess that’s really my gripe. This seems like a grade that’s more reflective of the frustrations of rooting for a Reinsdorf-owned team and La Russa as a human being more so than as a baseball manager.

patrick

I accept and appreciate the willingness to learn from mistakes and I have all the faith in the world you have taken that mistake to heart.

That said, “DUIs are quite common and most people don’t see them as career killers”…perhaps there is some causation between the latter and the former. And paying someone millions of dollars and making them a spokesperson for your franchise when it’s likely my dog could coach this team to 85 wins just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I don’t know what my grade for the hire is, because I have a hard time compartmentalizing his dumb comments before, during, and since this event and whatever he may or may not bring to the clubhouse.

Kittles on a Rooftop

Again, not one person, not one, has mentioned anything positive about any of these guys, not just La Russa. I don’t understand that at all. I just can’t wrap my mind around how the seemingly more intelligent parts of the Sox community is so negative about everything.

Based on what we know, there is a very real possibility that Hendriks doesn’t come here without him. And if Lynn is ultimately extended, that would be another feather in the cap. I am assuming that most everyone likes Ethan Katz? Jerry Narron? Having an actual analytics department?

Speaking of dogs, no love for his work with starting his own animal rescue?

Who cares what he says? Ozzie said dumb shit constantly and nobody cared until he started losing. Hawk said dumb shit every broadcast and nobody cared until he no longer cared. He’s a professional baseball manager, not a life coach. Not a pastor. Not your father. Not your spouse.

What he says has basically no bearing on my life in any way. So perhaps it’s easy for me to compartmentalize these things and it’s harder for others, I’m not sure. But I just don’t understand all the hand-wringing once you look past the process and the DUI. The former should have been expected, the latter just doesn’t matter as far as a baseball manager is concerned.

patrick

I mean I agree with a lot of what you said, it’s not like I’m losing sleep over this. But it’s a sports blog, so debate about some of these details is natural. I’m not sure there is one in existence where the community heaps praise for any and every move.

I thought Hawk was a buffoon, as did many here. Same with Ozzie once his mouth got toxic. We aren’t talking just about saying dumb stuff though, it’s claiming to be a “hall of famer baseball person” while standing on a curb blowing into a breathalyzer. The analogies to bad acts in other sports are warranted, but we need to look no further than the North Side to see what compromising on your ideals for the sake of winning games looks like. Sticking with Addison Russell was a nightmare, and signing Chapman took a bit of the shine away from their World Series for a lot of people. If TLR leads them to the promised land I’ll be excited, but I can’t lie and say I wished their extremely likeable roster also had an extremely likeable manager. I didn’t want hinch for the same reason.

Kittles on a Rooftop

That’s where I differ. I don’t find all of these guys to be extremely likeable. And I also don’t care if guys are unlikeable. That’s how I choose my friends and people I associate with, not my sports teams. I was born into this, like most people here. I am going to root for the team regardless.

But the cubs stuff would have absolutely given me pause. It simply boils down to morals. I can’t fault a guy for something that I have done myself. But what Russell and Chapman did were absolutely abhorrent, and I would absolutely, positively never root for this team again if that happened here.

But again, as I have stated before, the “rules” of this grading said nothing about the way the manager was hired nor his PR/personal stuff as a part of the weighted grade. As a baseball manager, this is more than a solid move and that is where I am at with it.

mikeyb

I’m going to ignore the DUI nonsense, since Jim already nailed it. I would just point out that when you say “he wasn’t out of the game,” while that may be true, his work in the Diamondbacks front office went so poorly that he was demoted within 2 years and eventually asked to resign.

Last edited 3 years ago by mikeyb
Kittles on a Rooftop

And I will counter with the fact that he is not in the front office and the only players that can even remotely be tied to him are Lynn and Hendriks, our 2 best acquisitions by any objective or subjective measure.

mikeyb

Your point was “he hasn’t been away from the game.” My point was “true, but what he’s done in the game has been so bad that he got demoted and fired.” I don’t really see it as a positive that over the past 10 years he hasn’t been a manager and has in fact been so bad at a baseball job his team asked him to leave.

Kittles on a Rooftop

Again, I don’t like this move, I literally said that at the outset of my post. But it is not an “F” by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the negativity has nothing to do with him as a manager, which I find odd, and it feels personal.

And I didn’t say it was a positive. However, he isn’t here to be in that role, he is here to be a manager. He brought a lot of success to 3 different organizations, with a lot bigger personalities than this team has.

I am also not defending the hire. But he is the manager, there is nothing that will change that now. So lets focus on what he will actually do here, not what he did in a role that he had never done before and clearly wasn’t qualified to do. And in that regard, he is absolutely an upgrade and the staff as a whole is one of the better ones in baseball (on paper).

mikeyb

Ok, what he will do here is something he hasn’t done in a decade. There are very few jobs were you can retire for a decade and still be good at it.

Kittles on a Rooftop

He’s a baseball manager. The game is a little different but the responsibilities aren’t. He’s not a surgeon. He doesn’t have to learn the new OS or email system. He isn’t a player.

There are also very few people that are consulting for virtually the entire time they were retired.

I just don’t see it being that big of a deal.

Jim Margalus

Also, welcome.

Kittles on a Rooftop

Gracias! I have been reading for a very long time, but this off-season is something else and I think it’s time to join the fray.

HallofFrank

Jim covered the DUI component, but the dude *has won* which is relevantly different from “the dude wins.” TLR is an unnecessary risk because it’s not clear how he’ll adjust to the significantly changes the game has undergone.

And it is at least baseball-adjacent that some of his quotes over the last few years (e.g. about analytics or anthem kneeling or fun in baseball) suggest he *could* clash with the clubhouse. Hopefully, all problems will be avoided—and winning can cover a multitude of sins—but, again, it just seems like an unnecessary risk.

Kittles on a Rooftop

An “F” grade is not necessary for “ifs” and “buts.”

But apparently nobody read my preface.

Let me preface this by stating that I am not wild about this move and honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar as someone to hire. So after the initial shock and derision wore off, and I reached a level of acceptance of this move, I am choosing to (lukewarmly) embrace it.

HallofFrank

I read your preface, but was defending the signing being “less than a C-” since you said it shouldn’t be “from a baseball perspective.” I’m saying that, even from only a baseball perspective, it probably should be less than C-.

As you can see above, I actually advocated bumping the TLR hire from F to D, but we still just disagree about your first sentence. In fact, it seems to me that’s when an F grade is most warranted: when you unnecessarily take on risks. You’re right that this hire could really work out, but there are just so many ways it could go wrong, too.

Kittles on a Rooftop

I see substantially more ways that this works out than it doesn’t. Define a failure for La Russa. What does that look like to you?

Because an “F” is a failure and you are saying it could work out but probably won’t, since there are “just so many ways it could go wrong.” What are those ways? I simply fail to see this.

The consensus of many here is that the manager doesn’t really matter and that any manager should win enough games to compete. So if that is your thought as well, I really need to know how this could go so wrong.

mikeyb

He could alienate his players, leading to poor performances or even trade demands. He could not use analytics, putting the team in a serious hole and stalling the development of the team’s young talent. He could drive drunk and hit somebody, putting the franchise on the front page of every paper (website?) for the wrong reasons in the middle of contention. He could misuse his pitchers. He could misunderstand just how much the game has changed since he was last a manager.

What are the odds of all of these things happening? Extremely slim. What are the odds of 1 of these things happening? In my opinion, based on what we’ve heard from him so far, extremely high.

Kittles on a Rooftop

Can you please point me in the direction of where you heard any of those things, sans the DUI, that has actual quotes from people that would suggest any of those are likely to happen? Not just conjecture from people on blogs, but real, empirical evidence that those are likely to happen?

The hiring of Katz, Duncan, and retention of Menechino pretty much debunks the analytics part.

I have seen a lot of people projecting their feelings onto Tim Anderson but I haven’t seen anything else that would signal he will alienate anything. The 2 guys we have heard a lot from, Lynn and Hendriks, both love him.

Misuse pitchers? By most accounts, he is one of the better managers of a pitching staff in recent memory.

So I am asking, can you please point me in the right direction, because I am not reading or hearing what you are.

mikeyb

1) Again, it’s 2 DUIs, not 1.
2) In regards to young black players taking a knee and speaking out about things that are important to them: “You’re not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it.”
3) On bat flipping a 3-0 Grand Slam: “It’s just not sportsmanlike”
3b) Relatedly, here is Tim Anderson on La Russa: “I wasn’t initially on board with the hire…Moving forward I’m open, I get it, our ultimate goal is to win a championship…We’re going to see what happens. I don’t know Tony. Tony doesn’t know me.” Sure doesn’t sound like a guy who is thrilled about this hire. If the face of the team and the new manager aren’t on the same page, we’ve never seen a situation like that blow up before…
4) On whether or not a team should be reliant on analytics: “It stops before the first pitch is thrown. In no way will the manager and the coaches at whatever level be given a program where this is your lineup, this is the way you run your offense, your defense. It is not possible. The game is too dynamic. Men against men. Change every day.”
5) He tried to hire Dave Duncan, not Katz. Katz was the backup plan and appears to have been forced upon him.

Kittles on a Rooftop

1) AGAIN, this has nothing to do with baseball.
2) When was this quote from? I noticed you failed to mention his more recent responses to this. https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/white-sox/white-sox-manager-tony-la-russa-addresses-past-criticism-anthem-protests
3) I agree but he has also responded more recently to this: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2020/10/29/tony-la-russa-chicago-white-sox-manager-mlb/6077072002/
3b) You are reading what you want to out of that quote. There is nothing to indicate anything that you are claiming at all. You also cherry picked a lot from that. Here is the whole thing: https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/white-sox/how-tim-andersons-stance-white-sox-hiring-tony-la-russa-has-changed
4) I fail to see how you are interpreting this as him being anti-analytics. He is stating he will use it to prepare for games but once a game takes on an identity, he will make the calls he feels are right. So he will not be reliant on them, but clearly he will use them. A man can see a pitcher laboring, a hot zone cannot…
5) Appears to have been forced upon him? I asked for proof, where is this proof? And he still hired multiple people in the analytical world, and retained Menechino. Also: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/sports/baseball/tony-la-russa-white-sox-manager.html

So you took everything that we all already knew and added your personal biases to them. Cool, that’s exactly what I thought you would do. Thanks for showing your work though, makes it easier to dismiss what you have to say in the future.

HallofFrank

So, a caveat: I’m not saying one or any of these *will* be disruptive to this team, but rather that, with TLR, it’s easier to see it becoming disruptive than it likely would have been with a different hire. And I’ll set the DUI stuff off to the side and assume for the sake of argument that it won’t impact the baseball.

In no particular order, here are four main ways the TLR could do more harm than good:

(1) Age. Older managers just do have more health related issues that can require missed time. I don’t think this will be disruptive, but it’s less difficult to imagine during a pandemic. This could go wrong if TLR (understandably) misses lots of time and/or resigns mid-season.

(2) Analytics. This one is really a shame because TLR could have been a hero of the analytics community if he’d played his cards right. But he’s said some suspect things about analytics in recent years. This could go wrong if he steers the ship away from using analytics.

(3) Politics? I put a question mark here because it isn’t exactly the right word. But in 2016 TLR said he “would not allow” players taking a knee for the anthem to play. Some of the leaders on this team have been outspoken (TA & Giolito come to mind) about racial issues. This could go wrong if TLR doesn’t allow players to express their views and it causes friction.

(4) Fun in baseball. He called Tatis’s grandslam “unsportsmanlike” last year, which isn’t exactly encouraging since the Sox are one of the more gregarious teams and regularly transgress the “unwritten rules” (see: TA’s bat flips). This could go wrong by causing friction in the clubhouse and leading to frustration among players.

Again – I’m not saying one of these will cause problems, but it’s not difficult to see how they could. To be fair to TLR, he’s said some things since the hiring that suggest they won’t be a problem, but we just don’t know what he’ll be like since he hasn’t managed in 10 years. The point: it’s just an unnecessary risk.

Kittles on a Rooftop

There is nothing that suggests TLR isn’t healthy or would need to miss time for any reason. This seems very Chicken Litte-y to me. Again, TLR wasn’t my preference, but this feels like something that is egregious as something that is the first listed concern.

Analytics is something I adressed to someone who responded to this first. Here is what I said:

The hiring of Katz, Duncan, and retention of Menechino pretty much debunks the analytics part.

Politics? I mean, TLR already addressed this, but if that causes our team to implode, then we have the wrong players. Sorry, but if they don’t have the fortitude to have a discussion with someone they disagree with, they probably don’t have what it takes to win a championship anyway.

The fun part is the only one that might give me pause. But as someone who probably shares some of the same thoughts that TLR has in the past, I’m sure the random quote from him is very different than dealing with his own players. Meaning that its good for me, but not for thee. This isn’t an uncommon practice for humans, there have been more instances of people flip-flopping on a stance like this than are possible to count.

While there is some validity to what you are saying, and again, I DID NOT want TLR as the manager. However, once you remove your personal feelings about him as a person, it is pretty easy to envision his swan song ending in Grant Park.

HallofFrank

I said “no particular order” because I actually don’t think age is first. It’s probably the 4th of 4 in terms of likelihood to be disruptive. But it’s just not true that “there is nothing that suggests TLR…would need to miss time for any reason.” Being 76 is probably reason enough, but adding a pandemic that especially affects people of his age is a reason.

I don’t buy your defense of the analytics one. For one, TLR tried to bring Dave Duncan (not Katz) along and instead hired his son as director of analytics. I do think there’s some reason for optimism, but this could still go wrong.

I don’t think the problem is “having a discussion,” but imagine a world where TLR says to TA & Giolito that they aren’t allowed to kneel. Incidentally, that scenario is super easy to imagine since that’s what TLR said he would do. What happens then? Again, there are other reasons for optimism here, but it’s still not exactly comforting.

Kittles on a Rooftop

My dad is 72 and missed about 3 days on the golf course when he got covid. Everyone is different. So there is no reason that you could make this argument for a 76 year old when I have first hand evidence of someone of a similar age being fine. And if anyone, regardless of age, gets it, they will miss 2 weeks. And might I point to Moncada as a reason for stating that age would have nothing to do with this?

Again, this sensationalism at its finest. You are free to worry about the things you cannot control, but good lord is that an awful way to live.

But he didn’t hire Duncan and he did hire Katz and younger Duncan. “This could still go wrong” is something that you are fabricating and worrying about needlessly. We had Don freaking Cooper last year and zero analytics and still were one of the better teams in baseball. I don’t buy this at all.

Well since he has, more recently, said he wouldn’t, I keep coming back to why are you worrying about this? What retired Tony La Russa spouts off in an interview or broadcast is not what he is going to do when push comes to shove. You think he wants to be remembered as a guy who alienates his best players?

You may want to look at what his former players have said about him. You probably won’t though because it doesn’t fit your narrative and it might actually mean that you have one less thing to worry about.

craigws

So there is no reason that you could make this argument for a 76 year old when I have first hand evidence of someone of a similar age being fine.

Excuse me? Get out of here with that anecdotal nonsense.

The game has changed since La Russa retired. It is perfectly reasonable to worry that it has passed him by.
Yes, most of the players won’t bother about the DUI thing, but others may look at him sideways because of it. His response to it, ie “I’m a hall of famer baseball person” is the biggest issue.

Nice to have you aboard.

Kittles on a Rooftop

The game has changed since La Russa retired. It is perfectly reasonable to worry that it has passed him by.

This wasn’t the argument though. That is a completely different argument than covid will keep him out because a statistically insignificant number of people that age contract this virus and it keeps them away while a similarly statistically insignificant number of people contract the same virus at a lesser age, which would also keep them away.

As for the “game passing him by,” that has been discussed several times in more specific detail on this thread, I invite your to read the whole thing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Kittles on a Rooftop
HallofFrank

Shew, this conversation really seems like it’s going no where. I’ll offer my last response, then you can have the final word.

You seem to think (speaking of narratives) I’m personally affected by the stress of this, but no. I’ve only pointed out that TLR comes with some unnecessary risk. I kinda think the same about Adam Eaton. Could he be great? Sure. Could he be fine? Sure. But there are a few ways he could cause problems, and there were other options out there without those risks. At the point the Sox are at, the less risk, the better.

As for the age anecdote… sure? Your point seems to be: not every old person would miss time as manager. And, clearly, yes, that’s true. My point: an old person is *more likely* to miss significant time in a pandemic. If you disagree, then, well, I guess we’re at an impasse.

As for analytics… as I’ve already said, there are reasons for optimism. So, I’m not expecting this to be a problem. But he’s said some questionable and concerning things about it. And that’s not nothing.

What narrative? I’m not pushing a narrative about TLR. I’ve only pointed to things he said and explaining situations in which that could cause on-field problems for this team. If you think it’s actually impossible that these things will cause problems, that’s cool.

Kittles on a Rooftop

And if you look at the links I have posted, he has addressed all of those things, sans the age and covid discussion.

For at least the 10th time, I did not want him, and I still would rather have someone else. But from a purely baseball perspective, which seems like its a really difficult thing to grasp on a baseball message board, he is more than adequate and surely deserving of more than an “F” grade or even a “D.”

roke1960

Welcome Kittles. Wow, you have really started a very interesting discussion. It’s good to have you aboard.

I think the LaRussa hiring should be graded as a baseball hiring. Will it give the White Sox a better chance to win? I think it will. Tony is a brilliant baseball mind who was on the cutting edge of analytics. There is no reason to think he won’t embrace it now. His hirings have been great. Katz, Narron, Duncan, retaining Menechino are all plus moves. Giolito is looking forward to playing with him, and he brings a history of success with him. As a baseball move, this is certainly not an F. As a pure baseball move, I would grade it at least a C. The non-White Sox baseball world is at least mixed on the hiring. Did Reinsdorf go about it the right way? Absolutely not. Not going through a thorough interview process is very frustrating, but he’s the boss. As a public relations move, it was not a good move either. Having a 2nd DUI made public right after the hiring is not a good look, but I don’t think it will affect the baseball side of things.

So from a pure baseball perspective, I actually like the move. Tony was one of the smartest, best-prepared managers throughout his career. I wouldn’t expect that to change significantly even though he hasn’t managed in 10 years. As a public relations move, it was not good. So the pressure is on Tony to make it work. Surrounding himself with high quality coaches will certainly help.

But as far as I’m concerned, this winter was overall no better than a D. And that is all on Jerry. Not because he didn’t sign Springer or Bauer or one of the top free agents. It’s because he didn’t supplement this roster with quality depth, which he probably could have done by spending only $20-30M more. Having a wide-open window of contention and not even spending into the top half of major league teams is unacceptable. If the White Sox don’t win this year, it will be because their depth, or lack of it, will do them in. And that is ALL on Mr. Reinsdorf.

Kittles on a Rooftop

This is pretty much my argument as well. The circumstances surrounding the hiring are on Renisdorf, not TLR. And I also don’t know why it is so difficult to divorce sports from the minutia of regular life. I, for one, watch sports to get away from that crap.

I really don’t care what people do in their spare time or in the privacy of their own homes. That is their business, not mine. What I do care about is being able to enjoy this little hobby that comes along every summer. Did the hiring of TLR lessen that enjoyment for me? Absolutely not. He is a massive upgrade from Renteria. Katz is a massive upgrade from Cooper.

If people want to be pissy that Renisdorf is a cheap bastard who refuses to allow his employees to do their jobs, then I am all for that conversation. But that is also quite different from saying that TLR, as the baseball manager for the White Sox is an abject failure, because it simply is not.

joe blow

We all have bosses tell us things that we don’t like. Anderson and Giolito should just shut up and play. Should the team poll the players and hire a manager based on whether the players are blue or red?

craigws

shut up and play

I shouldn’t need to tell you how telling that to an African American player is extremely problematic, now more than ever.

joe blow

I assumed a liberal answer would come out… Anderson does a lot for his community, it’s not just an empty gesture. I love that but unfortunate people like him are a little too rare these days. Some people kneel or have a slogan on their football helmets and think they are fixing society. The problem is obviously much deeper

patrick

So you’re saying that not only are they supposed to “shut up and play”, but also they are responsible for fixing the inherently broken system that they are subject to?

StockroomSnail

Saying “who cares?” about a DUI is callous as hell.

peanutsNcrackerjack

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son. —Dean Wermer

Willardmarshall

The Sox seem to have a chronic problem with last mile delivery….

Eagle Bones

Excellent write-up. I’m sure you’ll catch a bunch of shit on Twitter for this, but I’m sure you’re used to that by now. Very well written, hardly anything I’d change.

35Shields

Agree on the Lynn trade. A lot of people in the comments are arguing that one should be higher, but I just don’t see why.

All the projection systems are in. Averaging Steamer, ZiPS and PECOTA, Dunning projects to be worth 1.9 WAR this season for Texas. Lynn projects to be 2.9 WAR. Now there are obviously a few other ways in which Lynn is preferable beyond just pure WAR:

  • More certainty. He’s more certain both because his decade in the MLB dwarfs Dunning’s seven starts and because he’s been pretty healthy (throwing 150+ IP in all but one season since 2012) while Dunning has missed plenty of time lately
  • Floor. This is a part of more certainty, but the 20th percentile outcome for Lynn is still a league average pitcher (according to PECOTA). Dunning’s 20th percentile outcome is a pedestrian 1 WAR.
  • Innings. It’s reasonable to expect Lynn to throw 180+ innings which is helpful given that two of the rotation spots will be occupied by the Rodon-Cease-Lopez-Kopech Frankenstein monster. Dunning is expected to get ~120 IP for Texas.

BUT, the White Sox are basically paying free agent money for that extra 1 WAR and other benefits. Lynn is earning ~$9m more than Dunning this season. And then we have to consider that Lynn is gone after this season, while Texas will enjoy Dunning’s production until 2025.

Lynn is a good pitcher. He’s quite a bit better than Dunning. Having him this year instead of Dunning improves their chances of winning this year. But the only way to really square the circle for this trade is if the White Sox are heavily, heavily valuing present wins over future wins. And that would be fine if they were! But all of their other actions this offseason indicate the opposite. None of these moves reflect the kind of all-in valuation that would make the Lynn trade make much sense.

And the worst part is – everything seems to basically have gone according to their plan! They were going after Hendriks from the start. They signed sub-optimal solutions or no solutions at all (RF, DH) at other areas of need to make that happen. They were never even in on larger free agents like Bauer, Springer or Ozuna let alone not-quite-top-tier options like Brantley. They made the Lynn trade fully intending to sign one very good RP, a mediocre and injury-prone RF, a bad and injury SP and hope&prayers for DH.

Since others seem to bring this up in thread. Re: Lynn extension. Lol remember how we spent a whole season asking whether the Samardzija trade wasn’t completely idiotic because maybe we’d sign him to an extension that actually fit our window?

HallofFrank

You can add another way Lynn is preferable: ceiling. 6.7 fWAR in ’19, on pace for 4 or so in ’20. And that’s part of the rub with putting so much stock in their projections: projection systems don’t see that Lynn made what seem like sustainable changes to his spin rate, pitch mix, etc. Presumably, these systems look at Lynn and think, “here’s a guy who’s had 8 good months, but look at all this consistent data from the 6 or so years prior.” But that’s not a good way to evaluate Lynn. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but Craig Edwards outlined some of the changes at Fangraphs.

And I’ll admit I’m skeptical that Dunning reaches those projections. You really have to believe in basically three starts in 2020 (against KC, PIT, and MIN).

35Shields

I think if we’re talking about ceilings, then you need to compare Lynn’s ceiling to Dunning’s ceiling. Lynn’s ceiling is one season of a cy young candidate – that’s super valuable. Dunning’s ceiling, though, is six seasons of a solid #3 starter, which ends up being a lot more valuable.

That’s a fair argument for Lynn beating projections. Thanks for the link.

I don’t think that’s a fair argument for Dunning missing. Projection systems are looking at his body of work in the majors and minors before making that projection. Projection systems are expecting him to have a ~4.33 ERA. That’s not buying into the hype of three starts with a 2.04 ERA. It’s not even buying into the hype of his seven starts with a 3.97 ERA. It’s just saying that those things happened and when you also consider his strong minor league track record, he’s most likely to be a roughly average starter.

HallofFrank

I’m not sure about your first paragraph. You may be right, but you can’t just add up the WAR. Just as a counter example: one year of Mike Trout (~8 WAR) is a lot more valuable than 8 years of Yolmer Sanchez (~8 WAR). Trout-Yolmer is, of course, a much more extreme example of Lynn-Dunning, but the same principle applies. I’m open to you being right about this, but I’m really not sure if I’d rather have 6 years of Dunning’s ceiling (~roughly #3 starter) or one year of Lynn’s (~Cy Young ish).

And, yes, sorry – I didn’t mean to suggest that Dunning’s projections are only because of 2020. But I don’t think Dunning gets that projection without his 2020. Look, for instance, at Kopech’s projections, which are much lower than Dunning’s despite his being more advanced in ’18 than Dunning.

Eagle Bones

I’m confused where you’re getting tripped up on Dunning. Yes, his projections would be different without 2020 included (as would every other players). Unless I’m missing something, project systems are taking the sample sizes of 2020 into account. They’re handling the lower innings totals the same way they would have in a past season if a player had been injured (i.e. they’re weighting it less because it’s a smaller sample).

The Kopech comparison is an odd one. I’m not sure why anyone would expect Kopech to have some outstanding projections at this point. He’s missed two full seasons and he was always a scouting / projection over raw numbers guy. I’m not sure what you mean when you say Kopech was “more advanced” than Dunning in ’18? Projections are going to ding Kopech for his walks and reward Dunning for his control, so him being ahead of Kopech in projections isn’t really something that should be surprising.

HallofFrank

So, context: I said above I’m skeptical Dunning will hit those projections. My original comment was “you really have to believe in basically three starts in 2020 (against KC, PIT, and MIN).”

35Shields rightly pointed out that projection systems take into account minor league work. I agreed that my original comment incorrectly suggested it didn’t, but clarified: the difference in Dunning’s projection being good and meh is the 7 2020 starts. I used Kopech as an example to show how important Dunning’s 2020 starts are to his projection. By “more advanced,” I only meant Kopech was in AAA / MLB in 2018 and Dunning was in AA.

So, what separates Dunning from Kopech? The 2020 starts. And since really only 3 of the 7 starts were encouraging and the rest weren’t, this brings us back to my original comment: “you really have to believe in basically three starts in 2020 (against KC, PIT, and MIN).”

I guess to put the cherry on top, I’d prefer Kopech to Dunning in 2021 despite the projections.

Eagle Bones

I don’t disagree with wanting Kopech over Dunning. Kopech, no question. Go look at Dunning’s MiLB numbers though (and compare them against Kopech’s). The guy was a K/BB monster at pretty much every level. That’s why the projections like him better compared to Kopech who had varying degrees of control issues at pretty much every stop.

HallofFrank

I understand why projections like Dunning better and I have no qualms with that. I only made the comparison in service of my main point: to think Dunning will reach his projections (2+ WAR) you have to really believe in those 3 starts.

Eagle Bones

I guess I dont really understand what you mean? It seems like you’re saying those three starts are the only reason anyone likes him (projections included), but again, look at his milb performance. And its not like his mlb performance this year was smoke and mirrors, he was quite good when you look at the component stats.

HallofFrank

No, again: I’m not saying the 3 starts are the only reason people like Dunning, just that those 3 starts seem to be looming larger in people’s minds than 3 starts generally should and causing Sox fans to overvalue him.

You’re right: he was good in 2020 & it wasn’t smoke and mirrors. But he also did face almost exclusively poor offenses. Here’s where the teams he faced finished in terms of Runs scored in 2020: 18th, 20th, 23rd, T-24th, T-24th (twice), 30th. To be fair, the Twins were probably a better offense than that (18th) and that was maybe his best outing.

So I guess here’s what I mean summed up in a nutshell: I really do like Dunning (I kept him on my fantasy team, for whatever that’s worth?), but I just think there’s still more unknown surrounding what Dunning will be than Sox fans seem to think and it was a super reasonable price for Lynn.

mikeyb

If Dunning’s 7 2020 Starts were 3 good and 4 bad, wouldn’t those HURT his 2021 projections? Or does the fact that he pitched at the major league level at all give him a boost in the projection systems?

35Shields

No because overall his stats over those seven starts were good: ERA-/FIP-/DRA- of 91/88/88.

His projections did improve from 2020 to 2021… and they should have. We got new data, albeit not very much, and that new data showed Dunning doing better than expected. So projections updated their beliefs about how good he was.

35Shields

Sure, but we’re not talking about 8 WAR in one year vs 8 WAR in 8 years. The 8 WAR in one year would be more valuable because 1) most teams (especially teams in the White Sox current situation) value present wins more than future wins and 2) the value of WAR isn’t linear.

But in our hypothetical, we’re talking about ~6 WAR in one year vs ~18 WAR in 6 years. Non-linearity of $/WAR isn’t enough to get 6 WAR > 18 WAR. So, we end up back where we started: #1 – the White Sox must be putting a pretty heavy discount in future wins.

HallofFrank

18 WAR over 6 years is a… generous upside for Dunning. That’s better than Cardinals version of Lynn. I guess it’s possible? But I’m thinking more like 4-5 WAR from Lynn and, optimistically, 8-10 WAR from Dunning. If that’s the trade off, I’ll take it.

35Shields

We were talking about ceilings, no? That’s what being a #3 starter would be (~3 WAR/year).

Let’s make this all a little more concrete. PECOTA puts Lynn’s 90th percentile outcome for this season at 3.7 WARP. Dunning’s is 2.3 WARP. (Unfortunately, Steamer and ZiPS don’t have percentile data that I can find so things don’t quite match up to the projections mentioned above). Over six years, that’s 13.8 WARP – and that’s not even considering aging or an increase in IP from BPs projection of 115 IP, both of which would boost Dunning’s number.

Now, fine, let’s say that PECOTA is totally underestimating Lynn’s ceiling and it should really be 6 WARP (To be honest, I really don’t get how PECOTA gets percentiles so narrow – Lynn’s been worth 4.9 WARP/200 IP since 2019). Well that’s still less than half of Dunning’s (underestimated) total.

HallofFrank

Sure, but again: this all started with my skepticism about these specific projections. I guess to be a bit more transparent to how I’m thinking about their upside (while not ignoring either’s projections):

Percentile: Lynn (’21 WAR); Dunning (6 years of WAR)
50th percentile: Lynn (~3-4); Dunning (~6-8)
80th percentile: Lynn (~5+); Dunning (~8-10)
90th percentile: Lynn (~6+); Dunning (~12+)

Of course: I get that my off-the-top-of-my-head projections aren’t going to be as reliable as sophisticated projection systems, but these also aren’t just gut feelings.

Based on those projections, I prefer Lynn. That’s just where I am, but I certainly could be wrong.

asindc

will enjoy Dunning’s production until 2025”

Maybe.

As Cirensica

Fantastic job PNoles. I almost agree with you 100%. The tricky rating of TLR hiring as an F, well, I understand it. As a manager, I wouldn’t given that hiring an F. Again, as a manager hiring. TLR is a smart manager and sometimes I get tired of seeing our previous managers being outsmarted by more experienced managers. I am hoping that won’t happen. I see the hiring of TLR as as “get me a playoff manager” approach . I guess Hahn/Jerry are assuming this team will make it that far. I am not so sure about that.

Regarding knowing he was caught on a 2nd DUI before making him the manager is straight dumbetry. Those who dismiss DUIs charges, even when it is just one, really understand little about it. It takes one drunk driving to kill people. That’s it…I draw the line right here. I am not gonna pretend to be a saint. I love to drink, and I do drink, and sometimes too much. I have zero DUIs in my 50 years of life. I have zero drunk related accidents. I just don’t drive if I know I am gonna drink. TLR does not seem to understand that, and for that reason, I give this hiring an F too. I am one that believes that if you have two DUIs, there were dozens (hundreds?) others that weren’t registered (he didn’t get caught).

Let’s just hope it works.

AdamH

Reinsdorf gets an obvious F for the financial constraints on the team and for whatever involvement he had with LaRussa. You hoarded cash for years tanking and now you don’t spend? fuck off, no “pandemic worries” can justify that bullshit. His ultimate goal is clearly not to win another world series, it’s that simple and there’s no reasonable argument suggesting otherwise.

Hahn I give a C- or D.. if I had a high paying dream job but the boss was a cheap skate, I’d probably just keep my mouth shut and go with it too. So I’m less willing to shit on him for that part of things.

That being said.. Hendricks + Eaton vs Ozuna / Colome (or whatever other RP) or Springer / Crochet.. basically all a financial wash. So constraints or not, he didn’t maximize the money he did have available to him from my cheap seat view.

This is the year you live for if you’re a GM.. you have young talent, you have just a few clear, obvious holes that have solutions available on the market and you whiff. Hard to see much positive in it, Lance Lynn or not.

It’s hard for me to fail a guy who built a team that could compete for a world series, but still a pretty damn miserable effort.

dongutteridge

Good job on this. I enjoyed the analysis although I think that the overall grade is too generous. How could they have done worse?

If they don’t re-sign Lance Lynn then they deserve an F.

Minnesota could have traded for Lynn and the Sox would have tried to sell Odorizzi or someone like that as the big rotation upgrade.

Otter

Considering where the White Sox are on the win curve, they did not do nearly enough, and where they did spend their money, it was spent unwisely. They didn’t really need an elite bullpen arm and they needed to sign a much better player for right field. At the same time, they hired a manager that no one wanted but the owner.

A huge issue is the opportunity cost of the 2018 offseason (the Machado fail) where they did not improve the team in 2019 and beyond because they wasted the winter chasing Machado even though they were never going to pay him.

I’m tempted to give the offseason an F… but I like the Lynn trade. I’m more at the D level. Yet another half-measure off season from Rich Hahn and the White Sox FO.

Now they’re going to have to spend more than necessary for a corner bat all because they didn’t want to spend a $1 today… they’d rather spend $2 in a few months. Just absolute idiots in ownership and the FO right now.

WilliamKin04

Here’s what you meant to say, Reinsdorf gets a F or a D- if we’re being generous. Hahn gets a B+.

MarketMaker

i’m really disappointed with the offseason. again. for me, it’s ultimately two things:

  1. reinsdorf refuses to commit capital even when the potential ROI increases dramatically. the difference between the sox making and not making the playoffs will have a multi-million dollar impact on revenue, yet the sox are sitting by most projections right at the border of postseason play. buying 2-3 more wins has a huge effect on the season’s outlook.
  2. hahn is just so horrible at capital allocation. for years now, we’ve seen him misuse the modest budget he has been given. they refuse to spend $20M per for a player, yet he neither signs multiple high upside bounceback candidates nor does he nail the mid-priced FAs. so we’re left hoping new additions can perform to the exact worth of their contracts and rarely do we even get that.

more than anything, i have ‘fool me twice’ fatigue. they lie to us. they’re cheap. they’re mediocre bordering on incompetent. this is supposed to be the best window of white sox baseball of my lifetime and it looks like they want luck to play a far larger role than it needs to. we could have marcell ozuna and his breakout from an above average floor, but we’re left hoping that injured and annoying adam eaton can have a major bounce back just so the sox don’t have to pay $9M more this season? come on.

GrabSomeBench

Main takeaway from this article? I’m glad that Patrick Nolan was not my Chemistry teacher in High School. What a tough grader and all of it done before a single pitch is thrown in 2021. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “Let’s get real”.

Going into the offseason we needed a new RF, a new DH, a third starter, a Closer, a new pitching coach and a new manager.

Tony La Russa is both a great winning manager and a very bad driver. Luckily, the relievers walk in from the bullpen and don’t have to be driven by Tony. Here are some additional pluses about the current winningest manager in baseball and third in history:

  1. Hendriks said he wanted to play for Tony (Hendriks is an upgrade)
  2. Lynn played for Tony and wanted to play for him again
  3. Comments from TA, Abreu and Giolito have been positive
  4. He’s a major upgrade over Ricky
  5. The coaching staff looks improved.

If we had Lance Lynn last year, we win the A’s series and may go to the Series. (Lynn is an upgrade)
Eaton isn’t my favorite but he’s better than Mazara. (can we say upgrade?)
Collins will DH. If he fails, Vaughn will be playing by June (Upgrade over Encarnacion)
La Russa is an upgrade over Renteria.
Katz is an upgrade over Coop.

Everyone would like Springer in RF, Bauer as the starter, Hendriks as the closer, and Michael Brantley as DH. We’d like all of these guys to sign for Jerry prices.

patrick

“Tony La Russa is both a great winning manager and a very bad driver”

Yea….I don’t think that’s it

Eagle Bones

Pointing to upgrades from awful players to below average or even bad players as some kind victory has to be one of my favorite lines I’m continually hearing during this apparent “window”.

craigws

Dr. Phil, like La Russa, is somebody who demonstrably doesn’t care about other people.
It’s also getting lost in the weeds, a wee bit, focusing on La Russa and ignoring that the White Sox hired him knowing what he had done and did absolutely nothing to attempt to mitigate it.
We don’t have to accept that. We can move on and carry it with our fandom, but it’s not okay.

seven11

For all those who fear the game has passed TLR by; Ricky was trailing it from the start.
They replaced Dunning with Lynn.
They replaced Mazara with Eaton.
Whoever is the DH this year will be better than EE.
They replaced Colome with Hendricks.

Of course they could have done more. So could every team. The bottom line is this team should be better than last year’s team.

StockroomSnail

The white Sox are kings at doing just enough to be competitive if EVERYTHING goes right….but there’s waaaaay too many dominoes that can be spaced incorrectly and stop everything.

They don’t even swing hard in case they run into one. They hope for bunt after bunt to get the winning run in.