Last year, I finally remembered to round up all the players I thought would be worthy, parallel-universe fits for what the White Sox were trying to do. The list was 12 players deep, and it ended up being a mixed bag.
Because the White Sox had been in the market for a franchise-altering contract, several of those names remain relevant to the White Sox. Along with those incumbents, I’ve identified 16 other players I’ll be loosely tracking over the 2021 season, along with a couple of non-players. Some of them represent the cost of doing business, others represent different courses of action, and a few players I just find personally compelling.
Last year’s holdovers
None of these players are even halfway through their contracts, so they should still be expected to provide upper-level production to their respective teams, especially since the White Sox rebuild is just hitting its stride. Donaldson is the only one who hasn’t delivered on expectations thus far, unless you hold the Phillies’ larger failures against Harper.
Former White Sox
McCann heads to New York on a four-year, $40 million contract that stood out for its size and swiftness. If he sustains what he showed with the White Sox, I’ll be curious how he stacks up against Yasmani Grandal. There may be limitations to such comparisons, though, because would McCann have made the effort to improve his receiving had the Grandal signing revealed how much it’d been holding him back?
Colomé and Dunning were worse bets to contribute what the White Sox are expecting from the guys who replaced them (Liam Hendriks and Lance Lynn), but Dunning has six years of control to offset a lesser immediate contribution, while Colomé is a different way to address a niche task.
There will be no regrets if Fulmer or Mazara suddenly figure it out with the Reds and Tigers. I’m more just curious whether Fulmer will ever show his Vanderbilt power with anybody, and if Mazara’s year with the White Sox was derailed more by bad luck (strep throat, 60-game season) than evaporating talent.
Outfielders who aren’t Adam Eaton
Springer gets a separate treatment because he’s such a stellar representation of the White Sox’s unwillingness to explore the real top of the free agent market. Were Machado, Harper and Gerrit Cole too expensive? Probably. So here comes a free agent who addresses some chief White Sox weaknesses (OBP, corner defense) for more digestible demands of six years and a max of $150 million. He’s older? Sure, but that’s why his price is lower. Something’s gotta give. Unfortunately, that “something” is always “the White Sox’s appetite for nine-figure commitments.” Springer could start the season on the IL with an oblique strain, so we’ll see if that’s an omen.
Pederson was my favorite of the short-term commitments, mostly because I thought he was one of those players who was suffocated by the Dodgers’ sheer depth, similar to Kenta Maeda or Alex Verdugo. That he’s hitting .372/.429/1.000 with eight homers this spring isn’t helping.
Rosario’s winter journey — the Twins cutting him loose, the Indians signing him for one year and $8 million — is fascinating for a guy who produced 30 homers and 100 RBIs (or its 60-game equivalent) the last two seasons. Maybe Minnesota’s lineup makes him look better than he is. Maybe he’s undervalued like José Abreu because he sustains production despite a skill set that usually isn’t the most sustainable. Benintendi is too big a gamble for what the White Sox are trying to do, but he’s a nice fit for Kansas City’s present state and ambitions. Good for them.
DH options who aren’t Andrew Vaughn
With Eloy Jiménez out for most of the year, Brantley might loom as a big point of contention, at least among White Sox fans who first-guessed him into their plans during the winter because a DH with mediocre left field skills could be of service to this roster. Schwarber is the lesser version of that argument, signing for a lower contract (one year, $10 million). Cruz is a DH only, but he’s quite a DH. The White Sox were tied to him during the winter, probably by Cruz’s representation more than anything for leverage purposes. He’s back with the Twins at age 40, hoping it goes just as swimmingly as 39 did.
Pitchers who aren’t Carlos Rodón
On opposite sides of the spectrum of reliability and availability, at least until Quintana lost a battle with a wine glass (usually it’s the bottle that does it). I liked Richards more than other oft-injured arms like James Paxton or Corey Kluber, mostly because it seemed like his struggles to stay active largely dealt with the same injury, and Tommy John surgery finally resolved it. Perhaps Rodón already gives the White Sox their inspiring comeback story Richards would have provided.
Guys who don’t fit any of the above
- Curt Casali
- Ha-Seong Kim
- A.J. Hinch
- Chris Fetter
Casali was my favorite of a large contingent of backup catchers based on price ($1.5 million) and upside, but credit Zack Collins for making himself look new enough to ward off immediate regrets for letting the Jason Castro-class of catchers pass the team by. Kim signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres. He wasn’t connected to the White Sox, but I’m always interested in how high-profile KBO and NPB signings fare, and Kim’s will be higher than those of his recent peers.
Hinch and Fetter are the managing/pitching coach combination the White Sox likely bypassed in their process that resulted in Tony La Russa and Ethan Katz. The Detroit Tigers’ lower expectations might obscure the results for a while, and Fetter might be out of action to start the season after a positive COVID-19 test.
Who’s on your list?
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
I’m interested in following Colomé if for no reason other than to see if his peripherals finally catch up with him or if he will just continue to outperform them for another couple of years. I’m also interested in seeing how Dunning fares. For whatever reason, I’ve had a soft spot for him, so I hope he does well in Texas.
I think this is the year Colome implodes.
It would be nice if Nelson finally started to look his age this year as well.
His habit of napping before gametime makes him a hero of all of us wishing to sleep during office hours.
Definitely Colome, as he seemed worth it at that price and would allowed the FO some more flexibility in addressing the RF.
If the Cubs are really giving Joc ABs against left-handers, I’m going to be interested in what the results looks like.
oh, and Brad Miller since he would have been the perfect bench piece. Should have been a slam dunk signing for Hahn.
Excellent username and photo!
I just finished a rewatch last night, so it was fresh in my mind when I signed up.
“What we have to do is create a powerful sense of dread.” basically describes this organization.
FanGraphs projects Dunning for 2.0 WAR this year. I’m worried that trade is going to start looking bad pretty quickly.
When that trade occurred, I mentioned that it didn’t address any of the team’s gaping needs other than having the pitching staff for a short series such as a play off. Hahn filled in a pitching spot by emptying another. So that was a wash off.
There is no doubts that in terms of WAR production only, Hahn will lose this trade. The only key for this trade to work resides on the White Sox making the post season this year and getting far (world series) while riding in solid starting pitcher performance akin to 2005.
Right, it was a win-now move. It made sense at the time, but it doesn’t make much sense as the only win-now move of the offseason.
Total WAR accumulation isn’t a good way to evaluate a trade. Even if Dunning does churn out 2 win seasons (far from a guarantee), the Sox should have no problem replacing that. Of course, whether they will or not is another question.
I just don’t get the hand wringing over losing Dunning for Lynn. In a vacuum, sure, Dunning is a useful part of any team. He’s just not anything make or break. He had a decent run last year but he also had the benefit of facing some absolutely dreadful offenses. How is going to fair going against better teams than the Tigers, Royals, and Pirates? We’ll find out this season.
I agree. Your system shouldn’t have any problem turning out Dane Dunnings. Lance Lynns are harder to come by.
The trade is not a bad one. I just wished the Sox would spend money to cover the hole instead of trading seemingly useful players. That was my issue only issue. Lynn is certainly better than Dunning
It’s really simple. Dunning has value beyond 2021. Lynn doesn’t.
If the White Sox had followed up the Lynn move with more aggressive win-now moves, no one would be complaining. Instead, the White Sox gave up all that value in 2022 and beyond for a team that most sites now put at a less than 50% of making the playoffs this year.
I think you are overvaluing Dunning. Even if he is a 2 WAR player, so was Lopez. Does that mean that Lopez was good? No, we’ve been hoping for improvement and barring that, improvement for a few years now.
You’re absolutely right. The Lynn trade is totally defensible – as long as the White Sox have a very high weight on 2021 wins vs 2022-2026 wins. But the rest of their offseason showed absolutely no such urgency.
What White Sox team have you been watching? Since 2010, the Sox have only had 12 pitchers who logged a season above 2 WAR. Putting up 2 WAR/year for six years would have made you a top 50 pitcher in baseball in the six years between 2014-2019. Average players don’t grow on trees – it’s why they’re still worth ~12m+ on the open market.
If 2 win seasons are so easy to replace, then why didn’t the White Sox (who the Lynn trade demonstrated should have a very high value on 2021 wins) manage to do it this season?
I agree with your 2nd point, but the Sox aren’t replacing a 2 win pitcher. Dunning was one of a group of 4-6 pitchers who might pop. He started 8 major league games. 3 were ‘good’ starts.
He had 3 good starts, 2 average starts, and his last two starts of the regular season were 2020 Carlos Rodon levels of bad. He also did a phenomenal job of limiting hard contact in two of the games and then started to get hit real hard towards the end of the year. I’m sure Dunning is going to be a positive player throughout his career but everything in his profile screams “guy you’re always looking to replace”, assuming he stays healthy throughout his team control years.
I mean basically every projection system expects him to be a 2 win player.
Here are his 2021 projections scaled to 150 IP:
Is there more uncertainty around him given his short major league track record? Absolutely, but the expected outcome is that he’s basically a league average player.
For comparison, here are the other pitchers projections (PECOTA/ZiPS/Steamer):
Scaling to 150 IP is probably a fair way to compare Dunning, Cease, Kopech and Rodon. None of them have actually thrown more than that in any recent seasons and (other than Rodon) I don’t think there’s much more reason to be skeptical that any of the other three are more or less likely to be able to do it than the others.
For Lopez, he could be reasonably expected to go 180-190 IP, but it doesn’t really matter much – his projections would still be bad.
For Lynn, this definitely undersells his value. Given that he only threw fewer than 175 IP in once between 2012-2019. If you upscaled him to 180 IP (his average from 2017-2019), he’d be 2.6/3.1/2.9. And even then, there’s an argument to be made that projection systems are putting too much weight on past seasons for Lynn given how much he’s changed his approach lately: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/some-renewed-appreciation-for-lance-lynn/
Those projections seem entirely too bullish to me. ZiPS is basically saying Dane’s a borderline top 30 pitcher in all of baseball if he can just manage to get to about 175-185 innings pitched.
The Sox have traded away some really good pitchers over the years, so this would be nothing new.
I really like Dunning. Interested to see how he fares.
Glad Yermin made the team – saw him crank a massive home run last year at spring training. Saw him again this year against the As. Struck out slammed his bat and got ejected.
Yolmer! Not sure why Jake Lamb was the signing when we could use somebody who can back up all of the infield positions in the short term.
I see your point, but Lamb might do well off the bench on a contending team. I’m also very curious if they’ll try him in left.
I’d be interested to see Jim imagine the FO discussions that led to signing someone who seems such an odd fit….
That one has La Russa’s fingerprints all over it. Kind of surprised Shelby Miller didn’t get an invite to spring training.
ugh…thanks for reminding me how perfect Brantley was for our roster and how ideally he would cover our current situation.
Of course, the front office had no way of knowing that Jimenez would miss time…no way at all…
Interested to watch Dunning. I like the trade for Lynn for this season, obviously. Dunning went 5+ in 3 of 8 starts for the Sox. He had that great game against the Twins, but otherwise, I dunno. Still, giving up all that control for a year of Lynn is a gamble, but it’s the type of gamble you gotta make to win it all.
Brantley is the other one for reasons already stated.
I felt Mazara may have been shafted by 2020. He had strep. Then he was reworking his swing. In the playoffs his at-bats looked competitive, and I wondered if he had finally turned the corner just as time expired on an abbreviated season.
So I just looked at his spring stats for the Tigers. 34 PA, .548 OPS. Maybe I was wrong about him.
I had no issues with the Lynn trade. The idea of handing the ball to a guy like Lynn for a game 3 of a playoff series is exciting, especially after Renteria’s fiasco to end the season last year.
I hated losing Dunning, but you have to give up value to get something back. Plus we have some real good youngsters who could potentially fill in Dunning’s value of a young, cost controlled arm.
The Rodon v. Quintana scenario is worth watching. Looks like Carlos has found something, and he’s younger and 5 mil cheaper, but I’m skeptical.
Even with the impressive spring, I’d take Quintana over 162 and more.
I thought Marcus Stroman was a great fit for the Sox’s needs pre-Lynn trade. Obviously he never actually hit the market, but I’ll be watching to see how he bounces back after opting out last season.
I’ll definitely keep up with Marcell Ozuna the same way as the other corner OF and DH options.
I like following Ryu and Bumgarner too, the other pitchers in the tier that we selected Keuchel from
Would add Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes in a separate catergory: FAs that should have been signed to cover Eloy after his injury