A birthday wish list for the Chicago White Sox

Today, I make another lap around the sun. I’m finally at the stage in life of not being thrilled to celebrate my birthday. Typically, I keep things pretty simple. Take the day off, catch up on movies or television shows I’ve missed, and look up what’s Culver’s Flavor of the Day to strategize my birthday dinner (It’s Turtle Cheesecake). Yes, it’s basic, and I’m cool with that.

Hell, I don’t even want presents. I’ve always felt weird in my adulthood having others spend their hard-earned money on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, but another six-pack of beer will chill in my refrigerator until March. At times, indifference to my birthday infuriates my fiancée because I don’t come up with a wish list, which makes gift buying very difficult.

While I don’t want anything from friends and strangers, the Chicago White Sox is a different story. I’m now an invested season-ticket holder for 2022. As a fan, a big signing or trade builds up more excitement for Spring 2022 and gives everyone something to look forward to while surviving the Chicago winter. While it’s fun to recap players’ 2021 seasons on the podcast, it would be nice to talk about something new.

For this birthday, I’m providing the White Sox with my wish list. It’s just two items. They can take their time from now until February to fulfill it.

Wish List: Sign Marcus Semien

I’m tired of talking about it. You are tired of talking about it. Rick Hahn is tired of talking about it.

It’s beyond time for the White Sox to make a big splash in free agency and sign a star player to a nine-figure contract. I get the point of not wanting the White Sox to give any player that type of money to say they finally got over the $100 million hump. This offseason, there are viable candidates for the White Sox to make that type of commitment.

Let’s take a look at an old friend, Marcus Semien.

MLB.com’s Mike Petriello wrote a great piece stacking up this offseason’s top shortstops to see how they rank against one another. Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are the top two free agents. Depending on what attributes you prefer more, Correa and Seager are more like 1A and 1B than debating who is #1 or #2. At age 27, both should be breaking the bank and probably will join the likes of Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor in netting $300+ million deals.

Semien won’t get that type of contract because he’s 31 years old, and honestly, is better suited defensively at second base than at shortstop. I agree with his camp’s views that he should be paid like a shortstop, however. Looking at second baseman salaries going into 2022, only five are set to make more than $10 million.

  1. Jose Altuve – $29 million
  2. Robinson Cano – $24 million
  3. Mike Moustakas – $16 million
  4. DJ LeMahieu – $15 million
  5. Rougned Odor – $12 million

DJ LeMahieu and Rougned Odor are teammates, with the former splitting time at first and third base. Mike Moustakas is not a good second baseman, and I doubt his bat. Robinson Cano is reinstated after his PED suspension. Based on how well Semien has played, and especially how well he hit last year, he should easily be the second-highest paid second baseman behind Altuve.

Back to Petriello’s article, two points stood out to me regarding Semien. Let’s start with what’s odd.

Marcus Semien 2021 Home/Away Splits

BallparkGames PlayedSlash LineHome Runs
TD Ballpark (Dunedin)21.276/.351/.5636
Sahlen Field (Buffalo)23.297/.373/.5605
Rogers Center (Toronto)36.231/.284/.51711

One could make a bigger deal with the drop-off in production for Semien hitting in Toronto compared to the Blue Jays spring training facility in Dunedin and their AAA affiliate in Buffalo. While both the batting average and on-base percentage cratered in Toronto, Semien still flexed some power north of the border.

If Semien’s road splits mirrored Trevor Story’s, I would be warier of his 2021 numbers. However, Semien hit very well on the road with a .876 OPS and a 133 wRC+. I’m not worried about the drop-off from Semien hitting in Toronto.

The other observation from Petriello that makes me think every team should back up the Brinks truck for Semien is how well he hit high velocity in 2021.

“High velocity” are pitches with a 95-plus mph velocity. Semien’s swing-and-miss rate against 95-plus velocity pitches was just 16.2% in 2021 with a 1.016 OPS. League average swing-and-miss rate against 95-plus mph pitches was 23.5%

Let’s see how the White Sox sluggers fared in 2021 against premium heat.

HitterSwing-and-Miss %OPS
Jose Abreu28.1%.691
Eloy Jimenez27.1%.790
Tim Anderson27.1%.812
Yasmani Grandal24.1%.950
Yoan Moncada23.6%.554
Luis Robert20.0%1.074
Gavin Sheets17.6%.862
Andrew Vaughn16.8%.807

Only Luis Robert had a better OPS against high heat than Semien in 2021.

For the “But he’s another right-handed bat” crowd, Semien was much better against right-handed pitchers than southpaws in 2021. In 529 vs. RHP, Semien hit 35 home runs with a .274/.342/.564 slash line while only ten homers and .243/.313/.469 in 195 PA vs. LHP.

Semien’s career has taken off since his eye-opening 2019 season, and I think this level of performance will sustain for the next two to three seasons. Unfortunately, a two or three-year contract won’t win the Semien sweepstakes. I’m thinking of a five-year deal, and at least $25 million AAV gets a team into the final bidding round. Hey, if the White Sox were comfortable offering RHP Zach Wheeler five years, $125 million, I hope they wouldn’t hesitate with the same deal for Semien.

Wish List: Please Fix Right Field

With every passing season, it feels like the White Sox are paying for the mistake of not being more serious about signing Bryce Harper.

Since Rick Hahn took over as the General Manager in 2013, only two seasons have the White Sox seen above-average offensive production out of right field. That was in 2016 with Adam Eaton before getting traded to Washington and All-Star Avisail Garcia in 2017.

It gets worse when you look at the positions fWAR since 2001.

Magglio Ordonez left the White Sox after the 2004 season. Since his departure, the White Sox have had as many 2+ fWAR seasons in right field and below zero fWAR seasons (5). Ordonez was worth 20.5 fWAR from 1999-2003. It seems the White Sox are still trying to find his replacement, only enjoying single breakout seasons in the last 17 years.

The White Sox know right field is a sore spot. Even though Hahn spoke highly of both Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets, I don’t think the game plan is to have either as the primary right fielder in 2022. For the Adam Engel-stans, I hear you, but I’m not sure health-wise he’s dependable.

It just so happens there are two good options available to help the White Sox right field woes: Nicholas Castellanos and Michael Conforto.

Castellanos had a career year in 2021, hitting .309/.362/.576 with 34 HR and 100 RBI while posting a 4.2 fWAR season. With two years and $34 million remaining in his deal, Castellanos decided to opt-out of his contract with Cincinnati. They did put a qualifying offer on Castellanos, which he also declined. Castellanos will be entering his Age 30 season in 2022.

Unlike Castellanos, Conforto did not have a career year in 2021. In 125 games, Conforto hit just 14 home runs and an unimpressive slash line of .232/.344/.384. When the New York Mets gave Conforto the qualifying offer, there were those thinking he should accept the $18.4 million to re-establish his market in hopes of a bounce-back season in 2022. Instead, Conforto also declined the offer and now enters free agency, which his market is murky. His agent, Scott Boras, will undoubtedly sell teams on the idea to focus on what his client did from 2017 to 2020, posting four straight seasons of 119 or better wRC+.

I think both surprise many signing for deals much more significant than anticipated. The average crowdsource on FanGraphs for Castellanos is four years, $80 million, and Conforto’s average was two years, $36 million.

Even though I think it may take a fifth year to sign Castellanos and a lot more money to bring Conforto into the fold, both shouldn’t be too expensive for the White Sox. While they haven’t been a ballclub to commit $100+ million to a player, they haven’t been shy signing players to a three or four-year deal around 18 million per season (Grandal, Keuchel, Lynn, and Abreu). In Conforto’s case, he may want a similar deal like Castellanos had in Cincinnati that allows him to opt-out of the contract after two years if he does bounce back to his previous form.

Either way, Castellanos or Conforto would put the White Sox in a much better situation in right field than what they have on hand. Sure, Yoelki Cespedes exists, but I don’t think he’s all that close to contributing in the majors. He’d need to have a year as Luis Robert did in 2019 to change my mind. There’s also the possibility of Oscar Colas. Like Cespedes, I’m not buying Colas as a dependable right-field solution until I see him play in the states.

The White Sox need help in right field. They should have signed Bryce Harper when given a chance. Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto would be better than what the White Sox currently has on hand.

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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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It just so happens there are two good options available to help the White Sox right field woes: Nicholas Castellanos and Michael Conforto.


Now that I mention it, I forgot to write my Offseason plan completely centered around signing Seiya Suzuki.


Suzuki in RF is definitely way less boring than some of these other options.


In what sense?


Just have old friend Tadahito Iguchi to convince him while wearing his WS ring. That should do it.


Well, I hope you enjoy your actual birthday gifts, cause I don’t think your wish list is coming true. Maybe, maybe Conforto, which could be great. Decent to very good all-around player and a left-handed bat. In the old friends department, Escobar & Garcia seem a lot likelier than Semien and whomever… and better than what we’ve been trotting out there.


Well said….I would like to see your wish come true.


I’ll sign on to both of these birthday wishes. If these sound extravagant for one person, how about I take RF while you take 2B? That’s kind of a form of revenue sharing, so Jerry Reinsdorf might be swayed.

I’m finally at the stage in life of not being thrilled to celebrate my birthday.

I’m at the stage where I’m grateful not to be Julio Lugo, one of the few MLB players born on Nov. 16….and who died this year on Nov. 15. Oy. I woke up this morning, so this is already a happier spin around the sun.

Nov. 16 always seemed like a birthday island. Tom Seaver was just a day off, and when I was a kid I never saw that date on a baseball card. (Had I come across a Herb Washington card, I probably would have pulled both hamstrings in a vain attempt to be a viable pinch-runner.) Then I was thrilled to see Dwight Gooden start his career as a surefire Hall of Famer. That didn’t quite work out, but he’s still the baseball figure I most commonly associate with my birthday.


Happy Birthday, asinwreck!


Although Conforto’s numbers weren’t great this year, I’m not too worried about his future production. He had some injuries in the first half which hampered his production. In the second half when he was healthy he had a 118 wRC+, including a 133 wRC+ against righties.


Where is a Gio extension on your bday list cause sox just got the template as Berrios has signed a 7 year 131 mil deal with the jays.




is the $ amount a reasonable floor for Giolito or are you thinking he’s waiting for a Strasburg-like deal?


So berrios has a higher war vs gio… and about 200 more innings pitched… I feel gio has a bit more upside, I wonder if the sox give him a base number right around 130 but up their offer with reasonable heavy incentives, top 5 cy young 5 mil bonus every year in the deal…. ws win a 2 mil bonus… stuff like that.


The Blue Jays just inked Berrios to a large extension.

They basically couldn’t even play in their stadium for a year and half and yet they give out 100 million dollar plus contracts in back to back offseasons. Meanwhile, We are just sitting here praying Jerry gives out a contract that size once in our lifetime.

Last edited 1 year ago by dwjm3

Angels got Syndergaard 1 year 21 mil… that makes me feel worse about no QO for Rodon.


BEWARE: High dollar long term contracts. Semien would be nice but notice Cano, Odor

and Moustakas represents money down a rat hole. Semien age 31 and home field numbers

flagging gives me pause.


I think a lot of the “bad” contracts looked stupid when they were signed. Hosmer, Chris Davis, etc.




Cano was good for the first 5 years in Seattle. Giving him 10 years in his age 31 year was a bad idea but not giving him a big contract in general. If Semien has a similar 31-35 age seasons to Cano on a Zach Wheeler contract, that would be a homerun

Odor isn’t at the same level as Semien which is why his deal is a relatively small 6 year, $49M deal

Last edited 1 year ago by joewho112
Trooper Galactus

Cano also hasn’t exactly fallen off a cliff, just been suspended for PEDs twice, which is money on his contract his team doesn’t have to pay. Of course, one could also assume a big part of the reason he hasn’t completely fallen off a cliff is because of the PEDs, so there’s that.


The more I think about it the more I like the idea of Conforto instead of Castellanos, assuming the deal is shorter. But your point that any of these people would be better than what we had in 2021 is a good one. I too wish we had signed Harper, but the more important thing is that we not continue to have these black holes in our lineup.

As for 2B, Semien just makes too much sense. I especially like the idea of rotating him in at DH to keep him fresh and keep his bat in the lineup.


From what I heard, Conforto is looking for a short term deal, possibly a one year, to rebuild his value in the trade market. It would be nice if they could grab him for multiple years.


I don’t even know what to do with this because it’s disturbingly too close to being viable to discount (even if that’s not actually Bob channeling Jerry).

Last edited 1 year ago by asinwreck

Adam Eaton lol….Is Hahn and/or Nightengale trolling us?


This was rendered well enough to earn a retweet from Bruce Levine!


Did he realize what he was retweeting? Sounds pretty made up though I can imagine the org has talked with agents who represent a range of players that happen to include this particular mix


Gosh darn those Sox, we’re getting the band back together!


darn those Sox, fixing the holes with old pairs of Sox
I’ll show myself out.


I see Avisail had a good year. Did he change something or were the Brewers strategic in his usage?

Trooper Galactus

He missed his usual spate of games, but one thing this season he did massively improve on was his fly ball rate, which was almost 6% over his career level. While this did result in more pop-ups and fewer line drives than is usual for him, the bump to his ISO more than made up for it. He didn’t pull the ball any more frequently or have a career year in terms of exit velocity, but just increasing his launch angle has paid pretty big dividends without adversely affecting his K% or BB%.


If they are considering Avi they better be looking into Conforto.


Ok, Eaton makes zero sense, but I’m going to try to be optimistic. It doesn’t specify why they met with Eaton’s agent. They owe Eaton $1 million. Maybe they want that money this year for Semien and are talking to Eaton’s agent to convert that $1 million into a Bonilla-like payment of $33,333.33, paid annually over the next 30 years.


Happy Birthday, Josh! I really hope you get what you want for your birthday!

Patrick Nolan

Looking back and wow, Jermaine Dye really should have been a DH for most of his White Sox career.

How was he only 3.0 WAR in 2006 while staying healthy and hitting .315/.385/.622?


Trooper Galactus

I remember being in the stands for an error he made coming in on a line drive that he caught kind of lazily next to his head only for it to blow through his glove to the wall. Cost them the game. Guy was legit terrible out there.