Two things are true, all at once:
THING 1: The White Sox are a flawed, idiosyncratic team, with no hopes of ownership spending big on one premium player at a premium position. Due to their odd persistence about riding specific guys, and their self-imposed financial limitations, I don’t see an obvious perfect move to make them lightyears better than they are right now. I could see that move coming from a Modern Padres organization or a Classic Steinbrenner organization. But this org doesn’t have a game-changing spend in its bones.
THING 2: The White Sox are a young, promising team, with actual hopes of winning the World Series in 2022. Or in 2023. Or both! This roster isn’t an obvious favorite to win it all. But they’re the divisional favorite these next two years. A couple guys have MVP and Cy Young potential. Their holes are patchable. And if their starting pitching didn’t wear out in September 2021, they could’ve been the team playing home games against Atlanta in the 2021 World Series.
Given this team’s organizational ceiling and its huge present-day potential, I want to do two things: tinker as well as possible, and maximize the value of each young player they’ve already got.
Write “tender,” “non-tender” or “rework/extend” after each player and their projected 2022 salaries. Feel free to offer explanation afterward if necessary.
- Lucas Giolito: $7.9M — TENDER
- Reynaldo López; $2.8M — TENDER
- Evan Marshall: $2.3M — NON-TENDER
- Adam Engel: $2.2M — TENDER
- Brian Goodwin: $1.7M — NON-TENDER
- Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M — TENDER
- Jace Fry: $1M — NON-TENDER
No extension for Giolito yet, because ownership won’t do it for a fair rate. Silver lining is you see another year of track record before making big decisions.
Engel and Lopez are great deals. It was worth waiting for Cordero. Rest of the guys are not obviously more valuable than a bargain bin veteran.
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Craig Kimbrel: $16M ($1M buyout) — PICKUP (to trade)
- César Hernández: $6M — DECLINE
By the way, I’m higher on César than others. However there’s a better idea out there.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, extend qualifying offer, or let go?
- Leury García (Made $3.5M in 2021) — Ownership and manager insist I sign him. No other teams chase him, so 1yr/$5m covers it. I’d rather have César here but I can’t. I do like him for what he is.
- Carlos Rodón ($3M) — extend QO, and he probably turns it down. If he takes it that works too (read on for why).
- Billy Hamilton ($1M) — let go. His batting this year was a fun blip! Happy about it and moving on.
- Ryan Tepera ($950K) — 2yrs for $10m total. Ownership wants to double down on their trade. Luckily that’s a good idea. He’s the key right-handed reliever behind Hendriks in 2022.
One trade! Putting it first because it guides FA signings.
Trade Craig Kimbrel to San Diego for Adam Frazier, Wil Myers, 1 decent prospect. All three MLB guys have one year left on their deal.
Kimbrel and Frazier are in oddly similar boats:
- Trading for them cost an arm and a leg at midseason
- They underperformed (Kimbrel drastically)
- Their team played worse after the trade (San Diego drastically)
- Their team has plenty of depth at their position (SD could put Cronenworth or Kim at 2B, and maybe other guys I’m not aware of too)
- Most of all, both fanbases would have to talk themselves into being excited to watch that guy for another year — even though both guys are still valuable.
Trading Kimbrel for Frazier helps both teams, and gives both guys a change of scenery. San Diego gets a closer they know, at a short commitment. The White Sox get the exact perfect roster fit (left-handed good-eye second baseman) at long last. The White Sox also take on Wil Myers for three reasons: it balances the money, he’s a cromulent bat + okay corner OF, and San Diego has to throw in a decent prospect to sweeten those Myers expenses.
Ownership will not do anything thrilling here. Also, there are solid small moves they could make.
No. 1: C Manny Piña (2 years, $7M). Consistent, veteran, has a pre-existing relationship with Grandal. Actual rest for Grandal helps now and later.
No. 2: OF/DH Corey Dickerson (1 year, $4M). Left-handed bat, finished 2021 strong with Toronto, only 33, cheap.
[only if Rodon passes up QO] No. 3: SP Alex Wood (1 year, $12M). I’m budgeting a similar-ish deal for this spot on the staff. That way the Sox can confidently offer Rodon a QO. Either Rodon returns and they get an excellent pitcher at a short commitment, or they get a compensation pick and they scoop up a similar guy for slightly less money. Both pitchers have been very good, and very often injured, and (I’m assuming) would take a large short deal. If Wood won’t do it, there are similar options (Syndergaard, Kluber, Duffy).
EXTRA SECTION: OPTIMIZING THE GUYS THEY’VE ALREADY GOT
Several current members of the roster have value, but are also weird fits for a Win Right Now team. The un-sexy overall plan above lets the team do four useful things with those players:
- Grow in Charlotte, then become the equivalent of trade deadline splashes: I want to free Michael Kopech to stretch out into a starter, and free Andrew Vaughn to get actual minor league training as a hitter. Vaughn can also stop splitting his focus with learning the outfield — in my plan he’s a 1B/DH going forward.
- Stay in the bigs because at this budget somebody’s got to: While Vaughn grows in Charlotte, Sheets stays in Chicago to do his platoon mashing and balance the lineup’s handedness. While Kopech stretches out in Charlotte, Crochet stays in Chicago as a key reliever, because he might be most useful long-term in that role. It also happens to be useful short term.
- Wait for another team to need them: the Jake Burgers and Micker Adolfos of the farm need to hit well in Charlotte again. Otherwise, no other team trades actual value for them. Flip them midseason for a key need, maybe. But not yet. And on the pitching side, the team’s minor league arms are all too far away to be rated properly for trades. Hold those lottery tickets. Patch injury holes with bargain veterans.
- Innings-Sponge Cash-Sponge Veterans. Dallas Keuchel is not that bad, as fifth starters go. Wil Myers is not that bad, as ninth hitter 1B/OFs go (and he upgrades second base considerably in his role as trade ballast). I’m living with their contracts while they keep seats warm for their midseason replacements. Those replacements are SP Kopech and trained-up Vaughn.
C: Grandal with frequent backup Piña
1B: Abreu (rested by any of Sheets/Grandal/Myers in first half –> rested mainly by Vaughn in second half)
3B: Moncada (option to rest with Myers)
CF: Robert (rested by Engel)
LF+RF: Jimenez, Myers, Dickerson (LH bat), Engel (for defensive boost)
DH: platoon of Sheets (LH bat) and resting legs of starters (RH bats) –> most optimal split between Vaughn and Sheets in second half
Other bench bat not listed above: Leury Garcia (with focus on playing 2B/SS)
SP: Rodon OR Wood
SP: Keuchel –> Kopech joins staff in second half, either solving an SP injury or replacing weakest SP
RP: whoever’s left after spring training. Maybe Ryan Burr? (or else a more fun free agent if the front office is willing)
TOTAL PAYROLL: less than $170M, I am pretty sure. It varies with the Rodon/Wood situation. Either way this approach involves zero long, expensive contracts, because ownership would prefer that. So if this still goes over $170M, ownership either has to approve that expense, or approve tearing out the floorboards and making the team a lot worse to save a few bucks. In the meantime, all the young guys get used to their fullest potential. The farm system improves slightly. The White Sox still show up in October, as a division champion, ready for the playoff crapshoot. And 2023 is just as promising.
I think the payroll is closer to 210 million if Rodon takes the deal, slightly less with Wood.
I think this is a realistic trade scenario for Kimbrel. It’s also exactly why I don’t understand why the White Sox would willingly pick up his option to do it. This is literally adding a mediocre outfielder making $22 million just to add Adam Frazier, who will probably make $6-7 million himself. I think they could do a lot better in free agency with $28+ million than picking up two guys like that.
This deal also includes a prospect. So it looks like take back Myers salary and get a prospect as well. But that doesn’t sound like a budget-limited Sox thing to do. Frazier is fine as could cover a couple needs, but am not convinced he should be a top target, despite how gaga so many on this site were over him. But straight up for Kimbrel would sound good
I’m not questioning the soundness of the trade, I’m questioning why you would pick up Kimbrel’s option to do it when you could just go into free agency and pursue far better options than Myers/Frazier for that kind of money. I realize a prospect came back, but they are not in a position where accumulating prospects should be part of the plan; they need pieces that put them over the top NOW. Neither Myers nor Frazier does that appreciably, and the former might actually HURT that pursuit.
That’s an excellent point. If you pay Kimbrel off with the one million dollar buyout, you still have 26.5 million to play with for RF and 2B. Who could you get? In RF, Castellanos for 20 mil a year, Marte or Conforto for 15 mil a year, even old friend Avi Garcia, who hit 29 homers last year could be signed for 12 to 14 a year. At second, you could sign Escobar or perhaps re-sign Hernandez for a lesser amount. The other possibility is that some players will be non-tendered. The more I think about it (and I’ve put way to much thought into this as a fan) the trades of Kimbrel are questionable if you can spend the money and bring in the payroll at 170M.
For that sort of money they could sign Semien and figure it out in RF with Sheets and Engel.