Last year, the White Sox tried to add their own version of Nelson Cruz by signing Edwin Encarnación, a 37-year-old slugger who averaged 37 homers over the previous eight seasons. Homers weren’t the problem for Encarnación, who hit 10 of them over 44 games. He just produced nine other hits total, good for a line of .157/.250/.377. Only the shortened season keeps him from being a true member of Rick Hahn’s Hall of Duds.
The White Sox could have added their own version of Nelson Cruz this winter by signing Nelson Cruz himself. He lingered on the market into February thanks to the uncertainty about universal DH and Cruz’s more advanced age (if he were both one day earlier, this would be his age-41 season).
Instead, the Twins have reportedly retained Cruz for just about the same amount the Sox signed Encarnación for in 2020.
- Encarnación: One year, $12 million
- Cruz: One year, $13 million
There are concerns about Cruz, in the sense that he would limit the White Sox’s roster flexibility and require Eloy Jiménez to wrestle left field to a draw. Also, as Lucas Giolito’s work through Codify suggests, Cruz isn’t exactly the hardest guy to game-plan for. There’s a sizable chance that aging hits him hard, whenever it decides to stop pulling punches.
On the other side, Cruz has hit .308/.394/.626 with 57 homers over his two years in Minnesota, a 54-homer pace over 162 games. He also saves his most severe punishment for the Sox, clubbing them at a .408/.491/.837 clip since the start of the 2019 season. He might look bad for a game at a time, but compared to Encarnación at the time the White Sox came calling, any signs of a slowing bat are weaker.
The Twins’ dillydallying reminded me of 2010, when the White Sox decided they couldn’t use Jim Thome’s .864 OPS. Minnesota swooped in and signed Thome for $1.5 million just mostly so Thome couldn’t hurt them. Thome appeared to be crowded out, but he eventually found regular action after Justin Morneau’s concussion woes started, and his 1.039 OPS over 108 games probably decided the division.
Cruz isn’t the financial no-brainer Thome represented, but the divisional stakes remain the same. With Cruz returning to Minnesota, the Sox have to hope Father Time finally comes off the inactive list, or that other pitchers are able to implement and execute on heat maps as well as Giolito. I’m not sure which one is more likely.
* * * * * * * * *
A couple other Minnesota notes:
No. 1: Cruz’s contract means the Twins have responded to the White Sox’s challenge in terms of additional spending on the 2021 roster.
|Lance Lynn||$8M||JA Happ||$8M|
|Adam Eaton||$7M||Andrelton Simmons||$10.5M|
|Liam Hendriks||$11M||Nelson Cruz||$13M|
|Carlos Rodón||$3M||Hansel Robles||$2M|
The White Sox still lead the Twins in Opening Day payroll, something like $128M to $120M according to Cot’s.
No. 2: Old friend Dan Hayes says Cruz is supposedly recruiting Alex Colomé to join the Twins, which is a move that doesn’t scare me. It’s not because I think Colomé’s peripherals are going to start suddenly catching up with him, as I wouldn’t have made such an argument if the Sox re-signed the closer that did wonderful work for them the past two seasons.
It’s more that Colome’s cutter-heavy arsenal makes him more effective against lefties than righties. The splits from his time with the White Sox have a 100-point OPS gap:
- LHB: .163/.237/.277
- RHB: .201/.283/.346
That Minnesota had a left-handed closer in Taylor Rogers played a big part in the White Sox splitting the season series. Rogers appeared in only two of the 10 games against the Sox and took the loss in both of them. Rogers’ splits are more severe than Colomé’s, and it should be a net positive for the games involving teams besides the Sox, but just like their signing of Happ, other solutions would pose more of a direct threat.
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)
Perhaps this is the year of Nelson’s re-Encarnacion.
Oh that’s a good groaner.
Well Jerry you can prove David Samson wrong with another move.
Those still having nightmares about Delmonico batting second can now sleep peacefully.
Very well done, Jim- as usual! I’m not disappointed that the Sox didn’t get Cruz. That would have forced Eloy to permanent left field. The big disappointment is that they wouldn’t spend $8M to get a solid left-handed bat/part-time left fielder in Eddie Rosario.
Rosario was my pick for right-field. But I don’t see that money was a factor in the Sox going with Eaton instead. Rosario has problems defensively in spite of his strong throwing arm and has a really undisciplined approach at the plate. I would have still signed him over Eaton for a 1 year deal. Yet, I can see baseball reasons for preferring Eaton as a better fit for 2021. Also, I’m guessing that Rosario would not sign, for less than a huge over-pay, with a team that planned on using him primarily as a DH. The Sox look to need a left-handed power bat at DH to strengthen the line-up against especially tough right-handers. I just don’t see any of the remaining free agents who really fit that bill.
I would prefer Rosario to Eaton just based on his ability to actually play 130+ games a season reliably. For whatever production Eaton may or may not provide, he’s just not bound to be there enough for it to matter, and with our outfield depth as thin as it is (Sheets’ transition there notwithstanding), durability matters a lot.
I agree with Rosario being my pick for RF. Eaton has averaged missing half a season the past 4 years, and has never put up power numbers like Rosario in 2019/20. Rosario drove in 109 in 2019. Eaton has never driven in 60 I don’t think. Rosario is a run producer, Eaton is not. I don’t think there are any legit baseball reasons for preferring Eaton. I would take a defensively challenged right fielder with no injury history and a very big bat over a light hitter with a better glove like Eaton, especially since Eaton is a good bet to miss 60-90 games. Rosario would produce enormously more runs than Eaton will, and that difference will not show up in runs allowed because he is a worse fielder. Eaton was healthy in 2019, and would be fine if he had that kind of season. And I would still take Rosario even in that case. We’re going to see 80 games out of Engel I think.
Now that Colorado is rebuilding, and doing it stupidly, the Sox should be able to get Charlie Blackmon from them , and have Colorado throw in some money to offset the cost. Or have them throw in Marquez to get the Sox to take Blackmon off their hands. That is, if Jerry is willing to spend at least a little more money to improve this year’s team. It’s just disgraceful that the Twins have a higher payroll than the Sox right now.
Marquez is not a throw-in. Throwing in Blackmon is the only way they could get Marquez without giving up Vaughn and Kopech.
I agree completely, I just worded it wrong. To get Marquez, the Sox would have to take Blackmon off their hands. That would solve lf/DH and really improve their starting pitching.
The White Sox have a higher payroll than the Twins. The Twins have just added more money this winter.
if the twins keep spending on their pen or rotation that may not be the case to start 2021…. just to hard to compete with the big dollars of Minneapolis
Thanks for correcting me Jim. I read it wrong. I thought the Sox were $120M and the Twins $128M.
Don’t worry, it’s still an embarrassing situation given the stage of competition the White Sox are supposed to be in.
Wishful thinking. Sox would never take on a big contract, for the same reason they won’t sign anybody. Reinsdorf wants to win a World Series with a lower payroll (14th/15th) than any team that has won a World Series in the past 10 years. Very unlikely because they did nothing to address most of their weaknesses in a meaningful way, and frankly they do not have smart people making most of their player choices. And people need to forget about the Twins, who have lost 18 straight playoff games. They are not a great team and are very overrated in my opinion (as were the Sox last year), and are not the Sox competition if a World Series rather than playoff appearance is the goal. I’m not sure that a 14th ranked payroll can even be called trying, with Reinsdorf listed as the 10th richest owner.
So about this heatmap thing. I thought it was a thing with all teams, like the heatmaps have been around for a couple of years no? We see them on tv I think. So you study hitters heat maps, see where they are weak, but then cross that with what your pitcher does well, and decide a game plan. For example, just because a hitter is weak on up and away pitches, if your pitcher can’t get it there, you don’t plan necessarily to attack that. But you mix the hitter weaknesses with the pitchers strengths and game plan accordingly.
And if *I’m* typing this into a blog, it is surely not revolutionary. So what am I missing with this? What is so new about it?
I think you’re right that the new language/analysis is confirming the old narrative/breakdown. It’s just done more astutely and in finer detail than ever before. And the understanding of things like spin rate and tunneling have raised the bar and helped the throwers.
I commented before about the heat-map analysis of Giolito vs. Cruz – get him to swing at close pitches low and outside and put him away with a heater high and out of the zone. DJ and Stoney have been preaching this for years. That’s a great approach for more than half the league at this point. Not revolutionary, but common sense is not always common practice.
Very surprised it wasn’t north of $15M. And for that price at just the one year, Sox should have been in just to keep from facing him. Not the no brainer Thome was, but it seems like it could have been an extremely good use of not that much money especially after you highlight the Sox spending $12M on EE last year before the window was even supposedly open. I’d much prefer a LH DH but Cruz’s splits don’t show a huge difference.
The White Sox probably would have had to offer a two-year deal (probably around $25 million total) to get him to come to Chicago over Minnesota.
Two years ago, the Sox spent more and added more players to a 100-loss team than they did this year to a team that they consider a “world series contender”.
Yes that’s been exactly my point these last few weeks. Sox actions are completely contradicting Hahn’s own words from about six weeks ago. Also contradicting common sense about competing in a division like this one. Also contradicting the “Money will be spent” statement from a few years ago.
Here is my take which is probably going to be very unpopular:
I was as happy as anyone to see Abreu have the season he did last year and take home the well deserved AL MVP. It doesn’t change that fact that they shouldn’t have signed him to the three year $50M contract. I’m convinced he could have been had for a significantly smaller commitment in both years and dollars. Not to mention it blocks Vaughn, which is an issue that may become much more apparent this season.
One must acknowledge that his contract was pre covid and that things have changed so much since then in terms of Front Office risk management . But I remember being very vocal in these comments at the time that I thought it was a huge overpay and worried that it could prevent future spending in other areas. For example, if Abreu was in his second year of a 2year $25-30M contract, Sox front office would be in a WAY better position to pry Cruz away from MIN or sign Bauer or whatever. It looks like my worries have come true, in part due to covid admittedly, but the FO looked irresponsible at the time to me even before the pandemic.
I believe my comment at the time was something to the effect of “if you’re going to be willing to spend past this type of deal to make other additions, then go for it”. I would stand by that now (especially with the hindsight now available to us of how he performed last year). His deal isn’t really the problem, it’s that they’re letting it (and other deals already on their books) keep them from continuing to add.
Well, that or they’re stupid enough to believe that they don’t need to make any other additions.
There also exist the possibility that no top tier (or near top tier) free agent this season was both inclined to sign with the Sox and fit Hahn and companies vision of the team’s need. Joc seriously misread his market value (or preferred to stay in the NL); Brantley stayed in Houston despite strong pursuit from Toronto that surely at least equaled anything the Sox would have offered; Springer sought and Ozuna appears to be seeking more guaranteed years than the Sox would likely agree to given the youth of their core. Perhaps I’m naive but given the pursuit of Machado (however poorly handled), and Wheeler plus the signing of Grandal, Keuchel and Hendricks and even EE during this off-season and last year’s, I continue to believe Hahn can get JR to pony up the cash if the team’s brain trust believes that a free agent will be the “difference maker”.
You must be exhausted from all of the water you’ve been carrying lately.
One thing for sure, JR isn’t paying me to carry it. Really, I just find it more interesting to attempt to evaluate the baseball reasons (that might be) behind a move or non-move rather than cite Reinsdorf’s cheapness every time a free agent signs with a team other than the White Sox.
Hahn basically came out and said they aren’t adding anyone else unless it’s an extreme value. This isn’t free agents choosing to go elsewhere at this point, they’ve chosen not to pursue them. There are multiple open holes on what is apparently intended to be a World Series caliber roster. Feel free to spin this however you wish, but I don’t see how else we’re supposed to look at the current situation. Like I said, they’re either done spending (for whatever reason you want to come up with) or they’re dumb enough to think this is a completed roster. What am I missing here?
Keep the faith, denman. I agree with you 100%
Amen, quickly0and2. I also agree that there are other points of view and that JRs cheapness isnt the answer every single time. Sometimes it feels like its a giant echo chamber on this site.
Citing Reinsdorfs cheapness comes from the fact that he is listed as the 10th richest owner, and they have the 14th ranked payroll in a season they are suppoedly “all in”. I don’t see how a 14th ranked payroll can even be considered trying, unless people want to view Reinsdorf with undeserved charity, and ignore that no team with a payroll lower than 12th has won a title in the past decade. This team won’t be any different, until they spend – wisely – on weaknesses that most intelligent posters on here acknowledge and have smarter suggestions to address than the half-ass moves they keep making. Because fans are enormously more interested in winning than this inept and cheap ownership.
“Springer sought…more guaranteed years than the Sox would likely agree to given the youth of their core.“
I just don’t understand this. Having a young core is a reason to guarantee those years, not a deterrent. And it sounds like he was practically begging other teams to get involved. This would have *unequivocally* improved the team and solved RF for a long time.
What “baseball reason” justifies sitting out on Springer? Frankly, “Reinsdorf’s cheapness” is the most charitable interpretation. It’s certainly better than the alternative.
Watching people twist themselves into pretzels trying to make this stuff make sense is mind numbing.
I’m sure the real reason the Sox aren’t adding anyone for the DH slot is that Jerry is cheap, but here’s the baseball reason Chris Getz gave today:
“Based on what we’ve seen with Andrew Vaughn since he’s been part of the organization — and I anticipate he’s going to carry that same approach that has made him successful not only as an amateur but throughout his time here — I would imagine with the amount of success that he’s had and he probably will in spring training, that he’ll be in position to be that DH or be on the major league club,” White Sox assistant general manager Chris Getz said Wednesday. “He’s ready to help this team.
Let’s just hope he’s right. I think that is a dangerous risk they are taking, but maybe Vaughn has shown them something we don’t know.
I mean, that sounds like a decent justification for pursuing a lower level solution that can bump to a backup role (or bump Eaton to a backup role) once Vaughn is up and producing. I don’t see how they think it makes sense to literally have nothing at DH until they bring Vaughn up (we know they won’t do it before the Super Two date at least unless he signs an extension). And have no backup plan in the somewhat likely event that he doesn’t hit the ground running in the majors…
I wonder if they’ll add someone like Shin Soo Choo or Brad Miller for very cheap just in case Vaughn isn’t ready right away.
Brad Miller is the guy I’m hoping for, as he can start at DH and also adds to positional depth at a couple other spots. There were several better options available when this offseason started, but here we are.
Look at the Dodgers, Rick! Great teams have more good players than they have openings.
Brad Miller is a lefty, too. I wouldn’t mind if they signed him. I’m not that excited about Choo. But I’m one of the few who wouldn’t hate a low-price deal with Puig.
Don’t disagree with you at all, but it is incredibly sad that we’re sitting here pining for Brad Miller. Talk about a low bar to clear.
When you a fan of a team owned by Jerry, the low bars are the only ones you have a chance to clear.
This isn’t directed at you specifically, just the DH conversation in general. Why are people ignoring Mercedes and assuming he isn’t good enough? If Vaughn had his AAA numbers from 2019, people would be ecstatic. Mercedes numbers in 2019 were spectacular, not just good. 17 homers, 60 rbi’s in 50 or so games, .310 vs righties and lefties alike. His numbers were the best in their entire minor league system, including Luis Robert, at the highest level no less. Why would they waste giving someone like him a chance, in favor of some scrub like Miller who might wind up the re-encarnacion of Encarnacion? (not my original pun!) I look at his career numbers, there is no reason Mercedes can’t do way better than Miller.
It’s not impossible for Mercedes to be a capable hitter, but that’s something they should have determined in the last two seasons, not in 2021. As for his numbers, there are concerns with his approach and pitch selection at the plate that point to the possibility he’s a AAAA player, concerns that do not exist for Vaughn (though his professional sample size isn’t exactly something to hang your hat on either).
I don’t disagree that Vaughn is the long term solution. But for 2021, they need to let the spring determine who is the best DH now. I doubt Vaughn is the better hitter right now, personally, simply because of a lack of experience.
The other side of that is they should not rush Vaughn. Mercedes has proven that he is a very good hitter at AAA, and should hopefully be more than adequate while waiting for Vaughn to mature, hopefully soon. If Vaughn has an amazing spring and looks like the better hitter, that’s the only condition that he should be given the DH job. They shouldn’t force the issue. Mercedes looked very good last spring, and would have been better than Encarnacion from day 1. Yermin should be a solid improvement over their 2020 DH output, if he gets the job.
And I totally agree they should have determined whether Yermin could hit last year, probably with like 6 weeks left in the season when it was obvious Encarnacion wasn’t capable of a thing. Same thing with Engel in right field, who might be better than people are considering. Another monument to the ineptitude that this organization shows time and again.
I’ll keep suggesting (and I’m sure you’ll keep ignoring) the possibility of Mercedes at DH until they bring up Vaughn. Whether you are optimistic about him or not, despite his AAA numbers, he is not “nothing”, literally.
I’m not ignoring Mercedes (or Collins), I just don’t consider them any kind of solution. They’re depth at best. When I use the word “nothing”, I obviously don’t think that they will literally leave the DH line blank on the lineup card, I mean they don’t have any kind of solution currently on the roster that stands a good chance of producing at a level you would expect from a starting position player on a World Series roster.
If they are going to start Vaughn in the minors for a month then I think having Mercedes be the DH for a month is good, assuming he has a solid ST.
I heard Frank Meneccino on MLB radio a few weeks ago, and he, too, was raving about Vaughn. Of course, he is going to be somewhat biased when representing the team in that context, but he comes across as a pretty straight shooter, and they way he talked about Vaughn was more than just saying he looked like a good hitter. IIRC, he talked about Vaughn’s ability to adjust, not just from game to game, but from pitch to pitch, with a great understanding and control over his body and his swing mechanics.
Chris Getz agreeing with basically every scout’s assessment of Vaughn isn’t exactly news. Now, if Getz’s belief that Rutherford is on the cusp of breaking through in spite of industry opinion on him comes to fruition, that would be much more noteworthy.
I’m actually sympathetic with this. I’ve been stumbling for Vaughn to just start the season in Chicago. If he sinks, you can adjust. But at this point unless you’re going to go out and get Ozuna (and effectively block Vaughn), anybody is a risk. At least Vaughn has considerable upside.
I would feel exactly as you do were we talking about Mookie Betts but I was never as high on Springer being an ideal fit for the Sox as others are. So that may influence my thinking. Still, with Abreu, Grandal, Kuechel, and now Hendriks and Lynn (presuming an extention) all under multi-year contracts, I’d pause at handing a top dollar multi-year contract to another player 1/2 decade older than the core talent acquired during the rebuild. Moreover, I don’t know that money would have been the only roadblock to acquiring Springer.
30 year olds are kind of what you’re going to get in FA. With the occasional exception of Harper, Machado, etc., but of course they were too expensive for the same people that are complaining about Springer being too expensive. This is how we end talking ourselves into Brad Miller at DH.
Yep, spot on.
I’d prefer Betts, too, but how long do we put up with mediocrity (or much worse) waiting for the right guy to come along? Springer may not be the ideal candidate to solve RF, but he’s surely preferable to the rotating cast of Mazara, Eaton and the like.
Springer is just the latest in a series of multiple chances they’ve had to address right field with a long-term solution that they’ve passed on. It’s not just about Springer, it’s about their horrendous attempts at a cheap patchwork job that keeps blowing up in their face.
While I completely agree, its selling him short to frame it like this with names like mazara and eaton (lots of guys are better than them). FG Depth charts has him as the 8th best outfielder in baseball next year. Hes an elite player.
Completely agree. My point was: what “baseball reasons” could they possibly have for preferring Mazara/Eaton to Springer?
I don’t agree about the young core being a reason not to sign Springer. And I think the Sox should have signed Springer or at least made a real effort to do so.
But a lot of people think a 6/$150M contract was too much for the 31-year-old Springer. And there is no guarantee that the Sox would have been able to sign him for that amount if they had entered the bidding, which may have caused prices to go up even further.
That argument doesn’t have anything to do with making the Sox a better team in 2021, but is based on worries for future spending and the ability to trade him down the line, if necessary. Maybe that shouldn’t be a concern. And maybe the Sox should just be willing to spend more so it wouldn’t be a concern anyway. But it seems to be a real concern based on the reality we know now. And it was apparently a legitimate concern for every other team that decided not to match/outbid the Blue Jays.
I had no idea what the market was going to do this year, and my original idea of what it would take to sign him was slightly low, but I would have gone 6/150 in a competitive market. I might have even added a vesting option for a seventh year.
I said the young core is a reason *to* sign someone like Springer.
Sure, you may eat it on the backend, but welcome to Free Agency. As Trooper pointed out on some previous post, Springer’s 6th year projection is something like 1.5 WAR and that represents, sadly, an enormous upgrade to what the Sox have been running out there.
@HallofFrank — I meant that I was disagreeing with Denman about the young core being a reason not to sign Springer (and so agreeing with you). Sorry if that wasn’t clear.
Exactly. Someone who wants to win a World Series signed Springer for 25 per. Why not the Sox? It’s why the Jays will likely be a more formidable obstacle to a World Series appearance for the Sox than the Twins, in time. It sounds like the Jays might have another significant move or two coming, and they were pretty good last year as well.
A simple signing of Jake Odorizzi to a 3 year deal would fix a lot for the Sox and hurt Minny.
The $3 mil for Rodon was a total waste.
Here’s an otherworldly scenario for the Sox; what if they did sign another starting pitcher and at the trade deadline all of their starters were healthy including Cease, Kopech, Lopez and Rodon then the Sox might be able to TRADE a pitcher for some other help.
I will bet anything you like that neither Lopez nor Rodon will be both productive and healthy, and that the chances of the Sox having surplus starting pitching that other teams would want is zero point zero. If their top 3 are healthy and Cease and Kopech are adequate, it will be a minor miracle (but certainly possible). That’s the only chance the Sox have of avoiding massive back end of the rotation problems, and an overused bullpen because of that. Rodon and Lopez will give them nothing. They have no starting pitching depth whatsoever, and could have had an adequate starter who might actually pitch for most of 2021 instead of Rodon for a few million more.
i wasn’t hoping for the sox to sign cruz, but i was hoping for someone besides the twins to do it.
I really hope you are also hoping the Twins win the division.
I’m sure – like 100% sure – that if the Sox signed Cruz, he’d perform just as badly as Encarnacion did last year.
This team has really messed with my ability to think rationally.
The White Sox have earned the skepticism towards everything they say and do three times over.
In that case, the only practical solution to avoid skepticism is to do nothing. Not that I think they do anything with that in mind (nor should they, of course).
Oh, I agree. The problem is that I am now skeptical of the decisions they make and the decisions they don’t make, which results in logical conundrums. They should sign Cruz, but won’t because…reasons; but if they did sign Cruz, their track record with pro scouting is bad enough that he’d probably fall off a cliff.
Maybe Cruz will test positive for juicing. It can’t be known for sure, but he is the poster child of guys who look like they are probably doing something along those lines, especially with him being able to perform at such a high level at his age. I hope his performance drops off a bit in either case!
I hardly think it would be a surprise considering he’s been suspended for PEDs previously. He pops hot again and it’s 100 games, isn’t it?