The assistant tells me they are ready, so I follow him in.The gaudy office, decorated with White Sox and Bulls memorabilia is overlooking Guaranteed Rate Field and much of the city. It’s already occupied. Three men, sitting in a triangle on a square of couches, rise to greet me. They are collectively the White Sox brain trust: Owner Jerry Reinsdorf, GM Rick Hahn, and Kenny Williams.
They’re discussing the White Sox off-season plans, and they want to know my input. After pleasantries, and gratifying me with a few fun Sox stories, Williams gets to the point: “so, you know why we’ve called you here. We want to know what you think. You’ve got $170m to play with. How should we approach this offseason?”
Restraining my impulse to yell, “spend more money, you oafs,” I take the more measured approach. I begin my pitch, “The 2021 regular season was a smashing success. The 2021 postseason was a spectacular failure.” Their stoic expressions tell me that I’m telling them something they already know.
“Simply put: this team as constructed is on the outside looking in of World Series contenders. They are probably the division favorites again, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is a World Series championship. To do that, we need to make aggressive moves to get this team over the hump.”
Nobody moves, but everybody can feels Reinsdorf squirm on the inside. Responding to that feeling, I turn to Jerry and address him directly.
“I know this team isn’t going to run a payroll $200m+ I also know you’re nervous about adding major financial commitments years in advance. But you don’t have to clog up future payrolls to push the chips in now. Give me two years of an elevated payroll, and you’ll reap the rewards at the gate with the team I’ll construct. There’s a lot of money coming off the books in the next few years, and my plans won’t commit you to anything beyond that. Just give me two years.”
Rick and Kenny now join me by staring at Jerry. He simply nods and says, “Go on.” Here’s what I lay out.
- Lucas Giolito: $7.9M — TENDER
- Reynaldo López; $2.8M — TENDER
- Evan Marshall: $2.3M — REWORK ($1M in ‘22, $2m in ‘23)
- Adam Engel: $2.2M — TENDER
- Brian Goodwin: $1.7M — NON-TENDER
- Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M — NON-TENDER
- Jace Fry: $1M — NON-TENDER
- Craig Kimbrel: $16M ($1M buyout) — PICK UP & TRADE
- César Hernández: $6M — DECLINE
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- Leury García (Made $3.5M in 2021) — RETAIN (below)
- Carlos Rodón ($3M) — RETAIN (below)
- Billy Hamilton ($1M) — OFFER MINOR LEAGUE DEAL
- Ryan Tepera ($950K) — RETAIN (below)
Sign Leury Garcia — $3m base w/ games played incentives up to $4m
I like Leury, and at $3m he’s definitely worth having around, but I do worry about Tony’s love for him. Is he going to play more than he should? At this price, he’s a steal, but at much more I’m comfortable walking away and seeking bench depth elsewhere.
Sign Carlos Rodón – 3 years, $45m (before QO)
Rodón really helped himself by showing that the 98 mph fastball was still there in October, but it’s anybody’s guess what he’ll command. I know he’s a Boras client, and maybe he could get more than this, but the Sox can dangle the QO in front of him. This locks up an enormous contract for Rodón based on only one good year. This is my stab at locking him down, and I do it in a backloaded way: 10/15/20m. I’m open to a 4th year vesting option based on IP, if he wants it: $20m if he pitches 325 innings over the course of the first three years.
Sign Jose Quintana – 1 year, $2m
It was a rough year for Q, but I’ll welcome him back in a long-reliever role. The real purpose, of course, is extra SP depth. Let’s get this man some F’ing wins.
Sign Ryan Tepera – 2 years, $4m
Because the Astros are cheaters, man.
Trade #1: Trade Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Miker Adolfo, Gavin Sheets, Yoelki Cespedes, Matthew Thompson, and Colson Montgomery to Nationals for Juan Soto and Josh Bell.
I know. The odds a trade of this magnitude is actually pulled off are minuscule. But hear me out.
Why the Nats do this trade: The Nats are beginning their rebuild. They likely won’t be competitive for a few years—maybe not until Juan Soto’s current contract is up. So, I reckon they have two choices: lock up Soto with Tatis Jr. money (and then some) or trade him. Maybe they pay him, but I’m suspecting not and approaching them with this offer.
But. Even if the Nats are interested in trading Soto, why this trade? If they are willing to trade Soto, couldn’t they get a haul of top prospects elsewhere? The problem is teams are reticent to trade top prospects (like Wander Franco or Julio Rodriguez) because they might be the next Juan Soto. This offer gives the Nats significant depth, two name brand headliners, and a strong combination of MLB ready talent and upside to dream on. With the ~$16m Soto is owed in ’22 and the ~$10m Bell is owed, they also cut ~$26m from the payroll while solving multiple positions for the future. The rebuild jumpstart also makes the competitive window moving up a possibility.
Why the Sox do this trade: it should be obvious, but you get a consensus top 5 player in MLB under team control for three more years. Josh Bell is also a heck of a way to solve DH. Better yet, as LH power and on-base bats, both of these guys address structural needs of the White Sox lineup.
The cost is high, as well it should be. I have high hopes for Vaughn, but he doesn’t have an obvious position on the Sox in ‘22. Kopech could really hurt to watch if he turns into that frontline starter, but he’s not a sure thing. I suspect a few of the prospects will also be painful to watch flourish, too. But Soto is a sure thing and he solves problems for this team for a long time.
Trade #2: Trade Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Stiever, and Jose Rodriguez for Gavin Lux.
Why the Dodgers do this trade: I’m firmly in the “Craig Kimbrel has real trade value camp.” He’s been inconsistent, but the elite closer is clearly still there. I’m convinced that, one way or another, Kimbrel winds up on the Dodgers. I’m really not sure how to evaluate his value, but nor am I sure what kind of return Gavin Lux would require. Lux has been disappointing so far, and I think the Dodgers want Seager—or one of those big name SS—to start. Like this year and the year before, Lux is a luxury for the Dodgers. Moving him for Kimbrel and Jose Rodriguez gives the Dodgers a nice combination of solving a need in 2022 (Kenley is a FA) and adding possible future value.
Why the Sox do this trade: I expect Kimbrel is getting traded one way or the other and, with Hendriks in the fold, that’s as it should be. It really hurts to lose Rodriguez and I’m not sure how reliable Lux will be. He’s a risk. He’ll be 24, is still relatively inexperienced, and has lots of talent, but the results have been lacking—even in AAA this year. Still, I’m gambling on the potential and calling this an economical way to solve 2B.
I stand up, walk over to a marker board, and begin to scribble. Here’s what I write out.
Rotation: Lynn; Giolito; Rodón; Cease; Keuchel
Bullpen: Hendriks; Bummer; Crochet; Tepera; Ruiz; Burr; Lopez; Quintana
Bench: Garcia (UTL); Engel (OF); Collins (C); Burger (2B/3B)
At the bottom, I jot a number: $186m. Jerry adjusts himself. So I give him one final pitch: “I know this is $16m more than you wanted to spend. But that $16 is going to Juan Soto. And despite the elevated payroll this year and next, I haven’t committed you to anything in 2025 or beyond. This plan says loud and clear to fans: the Sox are in it to win. Right now. And it does so without clogging up the payroll in the future. You’ll see a boost in attendance, no doubt. This will be the most exciting offense in baseball, and it goes with a strong pitching staff. This is a World Series team. ”
They continue to mull. I stand up, signaling that I’ve said what I came to say and I’m ready to leave. They stand up with me.
“This is a winning strategy, gentlemen. My trade offers and dollar amounts may need some tweaking, but I think we’re in the ballpark on them all. It’s up to you to execute. It’s up to you to get it done. When this team is playing the Astros in October, none of the three of you get to swing a bat. You can’t throw a pitch. All you can do is watch. This is your October. This is when you help this team win. Your time is now.”
Just as confidently as I strolled in, I shake their hands and stroll out. Jerry plops back down on the couch. The others follow. He stares out the window, faintly glimpsing an outline of Juan Soto standing in RF. He turns back and says, “well boys, let’s do it.”
Points for ambition!
Whether or not they follow my path, let’s hope the White Sox front office will get ambition points.
Now I want a talented screenwriter to develop a miniseries around the Sox and Nats developing this Soto deal.
The owners and managers would play roles. Scott Boras would loom large, but I think the really juicy roles would be Kenny Williams and Mike Rizzo. Kenny pleading with Reinsdorf to give Soto a $400 million extension would be amazing television.
Marco Paddy would mutter “we almost had him for five figures!”
Wild, but well written & fun!
Wait, are you signing Tepera for 2/$4 million or for $4 million per year? Because both figures sound kinda low to me; or have I vastly overestimated what he’s going to command in the offseason?
I gave him 2/$4m. I actually originally had him at 2/$8m (so, $4m/year). But then I took a closer look at his previous work and contracts. Maybe he’s made some sustainable changes, but his track record is more just “meh” than good. He got $800k last year after his best year. He’s obviously due a pay bump, but I’m not ready to commit $8-10m+ to him. If that’s what he requires, I’ll look elsewhere.
But, you may be right that 2/$4m is a little light for Tepera. If not him, I’ll offer the same to a different bullpen righty in that range. One other solution is just tender Fry and Cordero and hope one of them sticks.