This is my second offseason plan: the first is frankly quite conservative, which is to say, boring. Some of it will be repeated here, but mostly the marginal things. Conservatism is almost a requirement when the budget limit of $170M is just $2.5M above what the 2022 White Sox payroll would be if they signed no one and picked up Kimbrel and Hernandez’ options. Therefore, I will be increasing my own budget to $180M, a paltry $10M more, to allow for a little more flexibility. Still, creativity is required, and you can be a lot more creative with trades than FA signings.
This new plan revolves in large part around one particular free agent, who I’ve had my eye on for years now, and is reportedly going to finally be available– a very recent report– after he secures his second NPB MVP. I don’t like any of the options for right field among the MLB veteran UFAs very much this year; therefore, that’s not where I’m looking.
- Lucas Giolito: $7.9M Tender. Obviously. I won’t pretend to extend him, since he’s said he’s determined to go to UFA on pro-union principles.
- Reynaldo López: $2.8M Tender. Swingman/6th SP role will be his again, I don’t see an either better or cheaper option for that.
- Evan Marshall: $2.3M Nontender. Not paying arb3 for TJS rehab year.
- Adam Engel: $2.2M Tender, much like his hamstrings.
- Brian Goodwin: $1.7M Nontender, spring training invite.
- Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M Tender, assuming TJS rehab is going well.
- Jace Fry: $1M Tender. He’d have been pitching in Chicago if the bullpen wasn’t so deep last year.
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Craig Kimbrel: $16M ($1M buyout) Pick up. He’ll still be packing his bags, though.
- César Hernández: $6M Pick up. He was disappointing here, it’s true, but overall there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a 2-WAR 2B next year again, and $6M is a very reasonable sum for those services.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, extend qualifying offer, or let go?
- Leury García (Made $3.5M in 2021): Re-sign for 3 years/$13.5M ($4.5M AAV) Depth, flexibility, etc. is a requirement not a luxury for a division title. He better keep walking, though.
- Carlos Rodón ($3M): Extend him the $18.6M qualifying offer, which I would expect him to sign– if he declines, then they can also re-sign him to a 1-year “pillow” contract that’s a couple million more. Rodon and his agent (Boras ofc) understand that he likely stands to make much, much more money if he has another mostly successful and healthy year in ‘22 and tries the market again. Other teams that offer him a pillow contract would have to pay the draft pick penalty. As for the White Sox: there is not another SP of this caliber to be had for this little money. I understand the risk, but it makes a lot of sense for both sides to run it back for ‘22.
- Billy Hamilton ($1M): Let go, but offer a ST invite. He’s fun, but I hope to build a roster that doesn’t need him.
- Ryan Tepera ($950K): 2 year/$8M extension. He’s 33, but he depends on the slider and its command, not fastball velo.
No. 1, 2, and 3: Seiya Suzuki, 27 y/o RF, 5 years/$80M + 1y/$20M team option.
I have been dreaming about Seiya for years now, who is currently hitting .319/.435/.634 with 38 homers for the Hiroshima Carp of the NPB’s Central League, very likely to win his second NPB MVP award. The Carp are reportedly filing the necessary paperwork to post him, finally, right in his prime. I understand that there may be some skepticism over Suzuki, given that some other recent NPB to MLB hitters have disappointed– Yoshi Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama come to mind. Suzuki is simply cut from a different cloth. His right-handed swing is brutally efficient and lightning-quick; velocity has never been an issue for him, unlike Japanese hitters who have struggled with the regularity that they see 95+ MPH in MLB. His plate discipline stats are far beyond those two, as well; he walks about as much as he strikes out in NPB, about 16% for each.
The MLB translation of his current line is .281/.350/.469, approximately equivalent to Randy Arozarena’s 2021 line of .271/.356/.459, a 128 wRC+. Arozarena’s WAR mark is hurt by his butcherwork in left field, so that line over 604 PA only netted him 3.3 fWAR. They’re R/R outfielders with similar projected triple-slashes, but the comparisons stop there. Suzuki is not a lead-footed slugger; his 5’11”/215lb frame reportedly has the speed to play a fringe CF, but his cannon arm makes him an archetypal RF. Per DeltaGraphs, he’s currently 7th in all of NPB in UZR, and has three Gold Gloves to his name to back that up; a 4th is likely coming.
Seiya is probably not going to be like Ichiro or Ohtani, truly special players. However, he looks like a very good player, a complete baseball player. I would aggressively project him to be a dependable bet to accumulate 3-5 WAR a year in MLB. There aren’t ever free agents of that quality at age 27 over here, and the previous failures of NPB imports that are simply inferior players means Seiya can be had at a significant discount. He is the perfect right field answer for the White Sox.
Also: A hitting coach who does not scorn the home run. Menechino deserves credit for what he did– several guys improved their plate discipline very noticeably, even drastically, and that’s no small feat. That said, this is a power-filled lineup with a short-fenced Midwestern home field. The ball should be leaving the yard early and often. Walk rates will improve when pitchers fear throwing the ball in the zone. Hopefully the strikeout rates can stay down too once he leaves.
Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.
No. 1: Trade CL Craig Kimbrel and LHRP Jace Fry to the Toronto Blue Jays for C Reese McGuire.
Toronto missed the playoffs because its bullpen was outright bad. A future Hall of Fame closer is a good way to fix that. Fry has had success at the major league level before, and will be perfectly usable if he throws strikes. The same cannot be said of many of the bums the Blue Jays trotted out there in 2021.
The Jays are in the enviable position of having three viable young catchers on their roster. Elmhurst native Danny Jansen is the starter, while McGuire and the rotund Alejandro Kirk are competing to back him up. McGuire is a 26 y/o classic glove-first backup catcher, except he hits lefty; his framing numbers were superb in a third of a season of starts this year. Kirk is cast in the mold, so to speak, of Yermin Mercedes, but is more apt with the tools of ignorance than Yermin, and therefore more viable as a backup catcher. The Jays get a high-ceiling bullpen pair they sorely need, and the Sox get a cheap long-term backup catcher. I believe it’s fair and both needs are met.
No. 2: 3-team trade: Chicago White Sox send 1B/OF Andrew Vaughn to the Milwaukee Brewers, who send 2B Keston Hiura, LHSP prospect Ethan Small, and OF prospect Joe Gray Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who send 2B/OF Ketel Marte to Chicago.
I see a lot of trades that ship out Eloy for Marte, but that doesn’t make much sense to me besides recency bias. Defensively, Eloy improved significantly in left this year– stifle your snickers, you can look it up– and Vaughn was literally the worst outfielder in the league by Statcast’s OAA. He never had the chance to make the comedic gaffes Eloy did in LF because he wasn’t ever close enough to the ball to do so! In short: Vaughn should be a first baseman. Unfortunately, there are at least two other guys in Chicago (Abreu, Sheets) who should be first basemen too. With Suzuki locking down RF, that’s one less corner spot to shove a lumbering slugger.
Meanwhile, enter Ketel Marte, who is a bit like Leury Garcia. If Leury Garcia was 6’1” with 30-homer pop and a better strikeout rate. He’s 28, really really good, on a team-friendly deal, and positionally very flexible to boot. The perfect 2B solution for the White Sox. I don’t think I need to say much more about him.
The Brewers are in dire, dire need of offense, as the NLDS showed. Vaughn will provide a lot of offense for them for a long time, and they don’t exactly have 1B locked down. They’re contending and shouldn’t deal away current contributors, but Hiura is not currently contributing. He was a pretty good prospect before he started struggling badly upon promotion to the bigs last year, so Arizona is getting something of a post-hype guy here, but not without value. Small and Gray Jr. would be the Brewers dealing a pair of their backend top-10 org prospects from positions (LHSP and OF) that they have a lot of. Small is a low-variance high-probability starter, approximately comparable to Dane Dunning in value that way, but a lefty. Gray is a toolsy, athletic high-ceiling outfielder with strikeout questions. Arizona gets an interesting trio of prospects back for its star. I only worry that this isn’t enough, but another prospect Guy or two from either Milwaukee or Chicago to Arizona should settle the difference.
No. 3: Trade well-done LHSP Dallas Keuchel, 3B Jake Burger, OF/DH Micker Adolfo, and “C”/1B Zack Collins to the Washington Nationals for PTBNL, i.e. salary relief.
This is a classic salary dump with a prospect we can’t play trade. Dallas looks mostly cooked. Maybe Washington fixes him or he gets batted ball luck that lets him be traded at the deadline for something, but worst case scenario for them, he spends a year eating innings for a 5.40 ERA for a lot of money, and then he’s gone.
Burger, rather miraculously, looks like he’s probably a major league ready 2-3 WAR 3B, and would presumably last a lot longer than Dallas Keuchel. He looks at least playable on both ends. Adolfo is a good candidate for a rebuilding team that suddenly has a need for a DH, and he’s Rule V eligible this winter anyways. I don’t even know if Washington would want to take Collins, just get him outta my sight please god.
Of the rebuilding teams, Washington makes the most sense to me bc 1) they don’t currently have a bounty of young arms that need major league innings, like Miami or Detroit 2) nor do they have a 3B prospect of note that will need MLB at-bats soonish, unlike TEX, BAL, or PIT (Jung, Henderson, Hayes respectively) and 3) the Nats ownership has been more willing to spend and less willing to be bad for long periods than these other rebuilding franchises, so taking on money for a MLB-ready contributor makes more sense for them than most.
I don’t care who comes back, bc I assume no one of any note, so he better not cost anything.
No. 4: Trade 2B Cesar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for LHRP Anthony Misiewicz.
The Mariners got outright dreadful production from their second basemen last year, -0.3 fWAR dreadful. Hernandez offers cheap, steady competence, and projects to put up 1.9 fWAR next year. If the M’s had won two more games in 2021, they would have made the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
Misiewicz is a multi-pitch lefty suited to low-leverage work. Which isn’t exciting and sounds a lot like Jace Fry, who I just shipped north, it’s true. However, unlike Fry, he doesn’t have spurts where he walks so many guys that he’s completely unplayable, another lefty around doesn’t hurt, and also I don’t believe the White Sox are complete without a reliever with an intensely Polish name. What other fanbase could pronounce his name with ease, anyways?
Roster and salaries:
- C Yasmani Grandal $18.25M
- C Reese McGuire $0.575M
- 1B Jose Abreu $19.66M
- 1B/DH/OF Gavin Sheets $0.575M
- 2B/OF Ketel Marte $8.0M
- UTIL Leury Garcia $4.5M
- 3B Yoan Moncada $13.8M
- SS Tim Anderson $9.5M
- LF Eloy Jimenez $7.33M
- CF Luis Robert $6M
- RF Seiya Suzuki $16M
- OF Adam Engel $2.25M (arb proj)
- SP Lance Lynn $18.5M
- SP Carlos Rodon $18.6M
- SP Lucas Giolito $7.9M
- SP Dylan Cease $0.575M
- SP Michael Kopech $0.575M
- CL Liam Hendriks $13.3M
- LHRP Aaron Bummer $2.5M
- RHRP Ryan Tepera $4M
- LHRP Garrett Crochet $0.575M
- RHRP Jimmy Cordero $1.2M
- RHRP Jose Ruiz $0.575M
- LHRP Anthony Misiewicz $0.575M
- RHRP Ryan Burr $0.575M
- RHRP Reynaldo Lopez $2.75M
- Position players: $106.44M
- Rotation: $46.15M
- Bullpen: $26.06M
- Total: $178.65M
I believe this lineup could be the best in baseball with shocking ease, running a full 9 deep of quality hitters, three of them switch-hitting. Against RHP, it could look something like:
- SS Tim Anderson, R
- 2B Ketel Marte, S
- CF Luis Robert, R
- C Yasmani Grandal, S
- 1B Jose Abreu, R
- RF Seiya Suzuki, R
- 3B Yoan Moncada, S
- LF Eloy Jimenez, R
- DH Gavin Sheets, L
There is a very real chance that the WORST hitter in this lineup would be Tim Anderson or Jose Abreu, without either dropping off from their 2021 performance. The rotation is likely to continue to be excellent, maybe even better. The front end of the bullpen is the biggest concern here, but that’s pretty easy to improve, either by RPs in-house taking steps forward, or trades at the deadline if they aren’t cutting it. The back end is still very, very good. With some injury luck, this team could outright cruise to 105 wins.
Interesting read, a-t, and some interesting trades/upgrades.
I’d give you the $10M you need.
This is by far my favorite plan I have read. It is incredibly well thought out and I like most of the ideas. You won me over on Seiya, found the most sensible Kimbrel trade, and were creative in how you pulled Ketel Marte. Engaging the third team, finding a team who would love Vaughn the most (he’s a perfect Brewer). I think the Diamondbacks have to believe heavily in a Huira bounce back to do it but alas, it’s realistic.
If you get a chance, would love for you to read mine and give some feedback.