The timing was slightly off, but the White Sox ultimately confirmed the addition of Jake Lamb on a major-league contract this afternoon.
Lamb appeared on today’s lineup card for the Sox’s Cactus League finale against the Colorado Rockies…
… which was the first way of finding out that the White Sox indeed verified Monday’s reports. The second was the press release that came about 80 minutes later.
There’s a high likelihood that Sox fans forget this move was ever made, because while Lamb’s left-handed, he’s hit righties worse than lefties over the last three years, and neither creates a path for him:
- vs. RHP: .205/.308/.339 over 461 PA
- vs. LHP: .207/.314/.402 over 102 PA
Then again, he’s replacing another guy who didn’t have much of a path in Nik Turley. Basically, circumstantial evidence says the White Sox swapped an Ethan Katz favorite (Turley went to Harvard-Westlake) with a Tony La Russa favorite (they overlapped with the Diamondbacks last decade), and Lamb’s ability to play third offers a more useful form of depth, even if it’s hard to see playing time opportunities now.
With Lamb replacing Turley, the White Sox basically have to free up one roster spot to get Andrew Vaughn and Billy Hamilton aboard, should the previous rumblings be true. Eloy Jiménez will create an opening when the Sox shift him to the 60-day injured list. My other thought was José Ruiz, but Daryl Van Schouwen says he’s hearing that the White Sox will carry the out-of-options Ruiz on the Opening Day roster.
Jace Fry would be an option for the 60-day injured list if the White Sox don’t anticipate his return until June, but he was supposed to recover from his back surgery by the start of May.
PERTINENT: Jonathan Lucroy out, Jake Lamb on White Sox roster
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Speaking of Jiménez, his forecast has improved slightly since the initial timetable, when it was reported that he would miss five to six months due to his ruptured pectoral tendon. Eloy Jiménez. Instead, that window has been narrowed by a month:
(Jon Heyman confirmed this report, in case you don’t believe foodstuffs.)
It’s one thing for Jiménez to return. It’s another thing for him to resemble his old form in-season, but at least there should be a minor-league season to provide him a full rehab stint.
PERTINENT: White Sox need to reconsider left field with or without Eloy Jiménez
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Depending on the strength of Jiménez’s return, it puts the White Sox a little bit behind the curve when it comes to his contract extension paying for itself. He’s making $1.5 million this season and $3.5 million in 2021, and if he can’t contribute much this year, his arbitration path could be lowered.
This doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. It just came to mind when reading about the Phillies demoting Scott Kingery, and the Rangers designating Rouged Odor for assignment. Kingery signed a pre-majors contract for six years and $24 million, only to post two sub-replacement-level showings in three years. Odor signed for six years and $49.5 million, but he’ll be let go with $24 million owed to him over the final two years of the deal.
Kingery dealt with a rough bout of COVID-19 last season, but his problems finding his footing date back to his rookie season. The Philadelphia Inquirer traced it back to three issues:
First mistake: The Phillies gave Kingery a six-year, $24 million contract, even though he hadn’t played a single major league inning. This made him so important that he would not speak with the press on the day he got paid.
Second mistake: The Phillies moved Kingery from second base, where he’d played breathtakingly well in the minor leagues. Of his 265 big-league starts, Kingery made 113 at shortstop, 74 in the outfield (mostly center), 45 at third base, but just 33 at second base — or, 13%. He’d started 299 of 306 minor-league games at second base — or, 98%. It was madness.
The third mistake was reworking his swing for more homers when that wasn’t his game. That one doesn’t seem like it’s an issue with the White Sox, but the unprecedented defensive responsibilities came to mind when Vaughn, whom the White Sox appear destined to promote to the Opening Day roster even without an extension. I don’t think the left field experiment is something that will ruin Vaughn, but it’ll be something people can point to if he stumbles out of the gate, similar to how Gordon Beckham stopped hitting after moving from third base to second.
The solace is that there’s nowhere else for Vaughn to get meaningful plate appearances out of the gate, and a demotion is always an option if the majors prove to be a little too much for him right now. It’s easier to take such a step back when the player isn’t earning major league salaries for the next six-plus years.
PERTINENT: Extension or not, Andrew Vaughn allegedly set for Opening Day roster
I don’t really see how they can demote Vaughn even if he struggles, because they have so little upside from the replacement options. Would you rather hope a struggling Vaughn finds his way, or that some combination of Engel/Garcia/Collins/Lamb credibly mans TWO positions every day?
I think it depends on what shape Vaughn’s theoretical struggles would take. If he’s hitting .220/.300/.375, probably worth sticking with him. If he’s hitting .175/.250/.300 with a 30-percent K rate, that might be too much failure for a guy that inexperienced.
Aren’t we worried as how he would play in LF? I am!
He has practically zero experience playing LF where more balls get hit to. Wouldn’t make more sense to play Eaton in left? I read that Vaughn has a good arm, perfect for right field.
In the past, we discussed how the heap of terrible catchers gave away strikes forcing pitchers to work harder. With Vaughn, we are not talking about extra strikes, but extra hitters.
I don’t know, maybe it will work. I know Eloy is terrible in left field, but he wasn’t that bad. I just don’t know how Vaughn will be.
If Eloy wasn’t that bad, then no one was ever that bad.
Palka and Viciedo were way worse than Eloy. Eloy does the routine plays competently. He is like Melky Cabrera in my opinion. Eloy’s problem is his decision making process while chasing flyballs needs improving.
I think when you factor in his noodle arm, propensity for getting stuck in things, and inability to keep from hurting himself, Eloy’s an all-timer.
Anyway, my concern is not with Eloy. Nothing we can do there. My concern is with Vaughn.
Actually, the routine plays were the ones most troublesome for him. He tended to get bad reads on balls hit right at him and moved himself out of position for what would otherwise have been a pretty simple play. On the other hand, he had enough speed underway and time to gauge the flight of the ball to make plays at the periphery of his range. I think Jim wrote previously on this odd phenomenon.
I don’t have high hopes for Vaughn, but he apparently got looks there last summer. Anecdotally, he looks decent so far. He’s made routine plays, taken good routes to balls, etc. So, it’s not out of the question that he’ll be as good or better than Eloy. We’re just not in a great position to make the call at this point. The good news (I guess?) is: the people in the best position to make the call are making this call.
I think we’ll need at least a month to get an idea of what Vaughn really is out there. Sure, he can make routine plays. Great. Part of the issue, potentially, is that his lack of speed/range makes very little qualify as “routine” for him. I’m also concerned that he will, at least initially, lack some of the savvy to hit the cutoff man or throw to the right base in a given situation.
I agree. Based on what we’ve seen so far and the fact that he got looks there last summer/this week (in practice, too, I’m sure) and the Sox still felt good enough to put him there gives me confidence that he won’t be an utter and absolute disaster. But, that’s a low bar to jump over and there’s a HUGE spectrum between that a good.
While there have been instances of infielders turning into pretty good outfielders, in most cases they’ve had a much higher degree of speed and athleticism than Vaughn possesses (Bryant, Soriano, Gallo, Desmond, Leury, etc.). The White Sox have a recent history of trying this with relatively ill-equipped individuals to pretty horrifying results (Viciedo and Delmonico immediately come to mind). It’s really hard for me to be optimistic about what Vaughn can do in left field, and I think a reasonable hope is that he will be bad but not a total catastrophe. One way or another, I think the expectation is that the bat will have to carry a lot of baggage for the glove.
There’s a reason left field is at the left end of the defensive spectrum. Lonnie Smith was a regular left fielder for 15 years. Yogi Berra was a regular left fielder for a World Series winner when he was 36. With fast men in center and right Vaughn doesn’t need to be a good fielder — just a decent hitter.
Lamb on a Major League deal just seems like an objectively bad one. Todd Frazier just restructured his minor league deal with the Pirates. Frazier was solid in ’18 & ’19. He had a down 2020, but it was still a better offensive season than anything Lamb has done in the last three years.
I like the idea, but the execution seems bad. Maybe I’m missing something.
The only thing I can see is maybe they think he’s been extremely unlucky the past few years? His 2019 numbers seem especially unlucky. Just looking at Fangraphs (and not at all watching any video of him), it would seem like his 2019 numbers should have been better than his 2017 All-Star season. But still, I don’t like this move.
Good point. Looking closer now and I’m surprised to see his BB%, EV, and hard hit % were all up in 2019 from 2017.
Honestly, this reeks of TLR favortism.
Just checked Baseball Savant as well….something’s weird. His xSLG, xBA and xWOBA are all much higher than his actual stats in 2019 and 2020. He’s even increased his flyball rate and decreased his groundball rate. My guess is that he’s trying to lift the ball too much. His Pop Up%, Launch Angle went up as his barrels went down.
I guess this is a sign.
Hope it wasn’t a Monty Burns kinda thing, lol.
Didn’t Keuchel have to trim his beard before he joined the Sox?
Dylan Cease’s final tuneup is against the Rockies. It’s going pretty well: 5 IP (so far), ER, 6 H, 11 K, 0 BB. The run was off a solo HR by CJ Cron.
And Lamb is justifying his major-league contract with 2 strikeouts in 2 trips.
Yep! According to baseball savant he got 20 whiffs and had more spin on each of his pitches than his average last year.
Woke up to the box score. WOW!! that was fun to see! great tune-up. I think he’ll be a rollercoaster this year, but hopefully more good than bad.
Time to drink the Kool Aid. Picked up Cease as a FA on my fantasy team.
Is Vaughan more nervous about screwing up in LF or eager about escaping DH?
Looks like Vaughn will indeed make the team.
Anxious to see the opening day lineup and how Tony uses this bench. I really don’t see any value Lamb brings, and although I don’t like Hamilton playing either it does remind me of the Earl Weaver philosophy of having players that do something well — which put another way implies that one elite tool can be more useful than just an average all-around player. Go Sox!
Let me spin a wild scenario here. Suppose Vaughn looks decent or even good in LF. By good I mean: makes the routine plays, hits his cutoff man, and generally doesn’t cost the Sox runs out there. In 2022… Vaughn in RF & Eloy in LF?
I suspect most Sox fans are all too excited to keep Eloy at DH and, if Vaughn is good, I suspect that’s where we are heading. But, if somehow we could get both of those guys on the field and maybe even run a kind of troop of corner OF (Vaughn, Eloy, and Colas/Cespedes) that could be fun?
Vaughn being a passable LF would be a great development for the Sox. IMO, I think Eloy should take on a Michael Brantley type role next year and in the future (LF/DH). It’s clear that he should be limited in his OF exposure due to injury concerns. I’d let him play around 100 games in the OF and the rest of the games at DH. As good as Robert is, Eloy in LF and Vaughn in RF would be a nightmare defensively. Maybe you can pull out that arrangement with a groundball heavy guy like Keuchel on the mound.
The problem becomes when Grandal needs to rest from catching, you can’t DH him because that means Vaughn, Eloy or Abreu will more than likely be out of the lineup.
Sidenote: It will be interesting to compare the careers of Andrew Vaughn and JJ Bleday. Bleday was picked one pick after Vaughn. He’s a LH hitting RF with above average hit and power tools. I was a fan of Bleday coming out of the draft, and now that Vaughn is attempting to play OF, the comparing of the two will only grow.
If Vaughn is a passable LF? Make Eloy the heir to Abroo at 1B/DH and leave Englel at RF. Keep Eloy out of the Outfield.
I was reading Keith Law’s article on 2021 predictions, and he has the Twins winning the division with 92 wins, while the White Sox ends in 2nd place with 86 wins which is not enough to grab a playoff spot. He gives the wild cards to the Bluejays and Tampa. Good article. I hope he is wrong.