That season was fun while it lasted, but let’s move on and get to the point where multiple playoff appearances aren’t a big thing anymore. It’s winning championships time!
Seeing as though I’ve dragged my feet almost two weeks getting this done, I’ve included some of the moves that have already happened along with my thoughts on each.
I am going to leave my thoughts on Tony LaRussa out of this proposal for the most part, although I do think there are wins to be had on the margins that weren’t taken advantage of last year. We know, at this point, that the personnel isn’t changing. Let’s hope some of the in-game strategies employed (shifting, lineups) do.
In my Offseason Plan Project from last year, I called for the Lance Lynn trade, which was dumb luck more than anything because I also said getting Jackie Bradley and re-signing James McCann would have been nice. Proving once again, what the hell do I know?
Here were my goals with this year’s plan project:
- Construct a roster that can win a World Series (obvious)
- Construct a roster that can multiple ways
- Ensure the long-term sustainability of the roster (not too many long-term deals, maintain the core of young-ish players).
Here’s the thing though. We have a pretty good idea of what the budget is and we know that the budget is limited.
We know what the core of the team looks like and we know that to afford the core of the team for the long-term, they can’t just go unloading players with value who are still on pre-arbitration contracts. Or at least that’s what I think.
In my mind, I break down the core of this team like so:
VETERAN PLAYERS SUPPORTING THE YOUNG CORE
- Jose Abreu
- Yasmani Grandal
- Lance Lynn
These guys aren’t going anywhere. They are likely only around for the next 1-3 years.
SUB-30 CORE UNDER CONTRACT FOR AT LEAST 3 MORE SEASONS
- Tim Anderson
- Yoan Moncada
- Eloy Jimenez
- Luis Robert
Ok…so call me crazy, but this is where I’m looking for someone of value getting traded. It’s not going to be Tim. It’s not going to be YoYo. And it’s not going to be Luis. Would it be crazy to dangle Eloy? More on that later.
SUB-30 CORE ARB
- Lucas Giolito
Long-term contract-a-coming hopefully.
SUB-30 CORE PRE-ARB
- Dylan Cease
- Michael Kopech
- Garrett Crochet
- Andrew Vaughn
This team isn’t as young as it used to be and as the core starts to enter those years of getting contract extensions and arbitration, they’re going to need more of these guys to hang around. Could someone like Crochet or Vaughn be flipped at the deadline if they need another horse in the rotation? Absolutely. Do I think it happens in the offseason? I wouldn’t do it.
KEY RELIEF PITCHERS UNDER MULTI-YEAR CONTRACT
- Liam Hendriks
- Aaron Bummer
Not going anywhere.
There are obviously guys I didn’t include above. I don’t think Keuchel gets moved and frankly, I think there’s a better chance he rebounds to what he’s been his entire career than Rodon doing the same thing he did last year. I think both Sheets and Vaughn will be important going into 2022 with Abreu’s situation up in the air. Engel is important, but can he stay healthy?
To be clear, before we kick this off, given NO $170 million budget restraints, my plan would look like some combination of:
- Call Marcus Semien, offer 6 years, $150
- Call Nick Castellanos, offer 5 years, $125
- Call the Orioles and see what it takes to get John Means
- Be open to dealing Michael Kopech
- Sign Josh Harrison, Collin McHugh, Daniel Hudson
But that’s not the game. $170 million is the budget.
So anyway…with all of that being said about I view this roster. Let’s make some decisions.
- Lucas Giolito: $7.9M – TENDER
As much as I want to scream “EXTEND HIM NOW” from the mountaintops, I can appreciate he’s not going to leave any money on the table. With Lynn getting extended this past offseason, getting one year into that contract before giving big money to another starter may be wise. It would also allow the organization to get out from under Keuchel’s contract and evaluate how the aging process is affecting Lynn next year.
I think long-term, eventually, Giolito will sign with the Sox. He’s just too damned important.
- Reynaldo López; $2.8M – TENDER
One of the best developments of last season was Lopez’s bounceback into a viable option out of the pen or as a spot starter. It’s hard to believe he might become a definitive member of the rotation, but for the role he serves, the cost is worth it.
- Evan Marshall: $2.3M – NON-TENDER
Maybe he’ll be brought back on a lower price while he recovers, but I’m not planning for that here.
- Adam Engel: $2.2M – TENDER
The problem with Engel isn’t whether he is a starter or isn’t a starter. It’s whether he can stay healthy. I’d love to see a full season of Engel as the starting right fielder against lefties and a defensive replacement.
- Brian Goodwin: $1.7M – NON-TENDER
We shall never forget those beautiful summer months where Brian Goodwin hit cleanup for the eventual AL Central champion.
- Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M – NON-TENDER
We will always remember Jimmy Biceps. He was what he was and he will always be just that. Fin.
- Jace Fry: $1M – NON-TENDER
Enough left-handed arms back there already.
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Craig Kimbrel: $16M ($1M buyout) – PICK UP
Part of me just wants the money off the books. But the other part of me understands that he probably does carry some value on the market because he was “lights out” for half a season and it would mean a contending team needing relief pitching wouldn’t have to shell out long-term money to find out if he still has it. I don’t understand why they would pick up the option if they didn’t already have a suitor in mind and I don’t see any way they carry both Hendricks and Kimbrel on the roster next season.
- César Hernández: $6M – DECLINE
I had decline in here before they announced it, but here we are. It was a move worth making at the time even though it didn’t work out. I swear I just said that for Kimbrel as well.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, extend a qualifying offer, or let go?
- Leury García (Made $3.5M in 2021) – LET GO
This isn’t about Leury. And I almost feel bad to some extent letting him go. But there’s a reason for it in my plan. If Aaron Rowand can get traded the year after they win the World Series, Garcia can be let go.
- Carlos Rodón ($3M) – LET GO
Now we know. And I don’t agree with it. Or do I. On one hand, extending the qualifying offer means giving over $18 million to a pitcher who people were shocked had the season he did. Is there a better chance he hits 5.0 WAR again or falls back down near his previous high of 2.2 WAR and potentially gets hurt? I’d have to go with the latter.
It also tells me that White Sox budget isn’t getting extended much past that $170 million mark. Hahn recognizes that $19 million needs to be re-allocated toward other need spots, namely second base. There also could be something negative with the medicals and the Sox are potentially confident the market isn’t there. I’d be shocked if Rodon is back. I really like Rodon, but as I mentioned earlier, even Dallas Keuchel, based on his track record, probably has a better chance to rebound than Rodon does to replicate his All-Star 2021.
- Billy Hamilton ($1M) – LET GO
Given his OF defense and his ability in the run game, he’s well worth a small investment and I don’t envision his market being huge. But I think they should let him go and take the wait-and-see approach.
- Ryan Tepera ($950K) – LET GO
He performed well, but he may be above what the Sox want to spend for relievers given their other needs and a tight budget.
Plenty of holes to fill. Let’s go!
RP Daniel Hudson – 2 years/$6 million
UT Josh Harrison – 2 years/$4 million
RP Collin McHugh – 2 years/$10 million
I lumped these 3 together because they are competent veterans who are here to supplement the core of the roster. Hudson was up and down last year with Washington and San Diego, but still has the track record to be a welcome addition to the bullpen. Harrison is a better version of Leury in my mind.
As for McHugh, if they are going to roll forward with Kopech as the #4 and Keuchel as the #5, and keeping in mind they’re trying to limit Kopech’s innings while simultaneously trying to “limit” Keuchel’s innings (wink), having another guy to pair with Reynaldo Lopez for spot starts would be an incredible weapon to have.
RF Mark Canha – 2 years/$20 million
Not exciting at all, but I like Canha. But one thing Canha does is get on base. A .344 OBP for his career is nothing to sneeze at with some power to go with it. Castellanos or even Chris Taylor would seem more palatable independent of money, but here we are.
At the beginning of this plan, I laid out my thoughts on the core of this team. I’m going to be honest here…what is there to trade? If this is me sitting in the chair calling the shots, I am preserving the talent currently meandering through the minor leagues so as to not hit absolute rock bottom again. This is about long-term sustainability right?
And when I looked at guys on the big league roster, the one that wasn’t mentioned earlier that absolutely will carry value on the open market is Craig Kimbrel. A team getting Kimbrel will be able to a) take a 1-year flier on a guy who was blowing the National League away the first part of 2021 and b) not lay out long-term money to a reliever.
RP Craig Kimbrel to SD for OF Joshua Mears (#7 prospect) and 2B Max Ferguson (#20 prospect)
I really don’t believe Kimbrel is who he was at the end of last season. But I don’t believe the Sox can afford to have two big-money relief pitchers who need the ball to end the game to be effective. That last part was speculative of course. I feel like everyone is going to be fairly underwhelmed with the return for Kimbrel. In my mind, this is about shedding the salary while getting anything of consequence for him.
P Michael Kopech to BAL for P John Means
I would love for him to prove me wrong, but we’re a few years into the Kopech roller coaster and I don’t envision him panning out as most thought. But I’m sure there are some teams that are willing to bet on his upside. Means’ career trajectory doesn’t line up with the Orioles rebuild so this would essentially be a reset for the O’s on a starting pitcher with more control and more upside. The Sox get a dependable lefty arm to add to their rotation and balance out the righty power of Giolito, Lynn and Cease.
OF Eloy Jimenez and P Jonathan Stiever to ARZ for 2B Ketel Marte and C Carson Kelly
I already hate myself for typing this in. I want Eloy to be part of the next World Series Champion White Sox team. But given the parameters of this thought experiment, someone with a relatively substantial salary and of value on the open market needs to go. We’ve seen Hahn deal players who they’ve extended on team-friendly contracts before as that provides some security to the receiving team. We saw Vaughn be competent in left field and I feel that was more of a preview of the future than we thought at the time. I don’t see Vaughn being moved due to the years of team control and him still being pre-arbitration. I also see him improving on what he did this past season. Plus, with Abreu bring a free agent after the season, he may still be the first baseman of the future.
Regarding Eloy, it’s important to frame his importance to the team, with some context. Of those players under team control I mentioned earlier in this long rambling bordering on an incoherent plan, he’s fourth of the four as far as importance to the team. Anderson and Moncada are playing premium positions and Luis Robert should be given a lifetime contract yesterday. Jimenez should be a DH. There’s still potential for a jump with more contact and maybe more walks and hopefully more staying on the field, but this deal is solely one from operating within the parameters we’ve been given.
Marte is signed on a team-friendly deal through 2024. He’s a switch-hitter who provides value at multiple positions, but in this scenario would solve the issue at 2B. He was fourth in MVP voting 2 seasons ago and yes, it seems like every website making offseason prognostications has him as one of the most valuable trade chips so this idea isn’t THAT original, but I do think for what the Sox need and given the free agents at the top of the market being way out of the price range here, Marte seems like the only logical option to provide a substantial upgrade at 2B. But then in this scenario, it would require a jump from Vaughn, though Eloy was hurt most of last season. Kelly brings a catcher with upside who can start if need be and that’s more than I can say for the other two who manned the position behind Grandal last year.
TRADE I THOUGHT ABOUT BUT DIDN’T MAKE
P Garrett Crochet, P Dallas Keuchel, OF Micker Adolfo, P Jonathan Stiever, $8 million to CIN for OF Jesse Winker and P Luis Castillo
This would put the Sox about $7 million over, but then you’ve got an outfield of Winker, Robert, Canha with a DH pairing of Sheets/Vaughn and a rotation of Giolito/Lynn/Cease/Means/Castillo…good god spend the extra $$$ Uncle Jerry!
Can this team win the AL Central? Absolutely. Would they be the favorites? Definitely. Can they win the World Series? Without a doubt. But the $170 million budget leaves anyone going through this exercise operating on the margins and robbing Peter to pay Paul or something to that effect more than I would like.
Let’s be honest. The White Sox ability to make big trades is severely hindered by the lack of top-end minor league talent. And dealing the top-end minor league talent they do have leaves them back at square one (pre-Sale, pre-Eaton, pre-Quintana trades). When Rick Hahn preaches long-term sustainability, a huge piece of that is bringing in and developing talent to supplement the core and then having a replacement cycle in place as the years go by. I don’t feel they’re there yet.
The financial component is the more difficult element to this only because a) we all know the wallets are never truly going to be open until we see it (don’t give me the Machado and Harper offers) and b) we’re getting to the point where keeping the players we’ve all fell in love with is going to become extremely expensive even with team-friendly contracts in place.
The more we have these conversations as White Sox fans about financial limitations, the more the talk about long-term success on the field for the organization becomes just noise. Until they simply say, “We have holes, we can spend to fill them, spending more brings more certainty and more success, let’s do that budget be damned”, we’re going to be having this same conversation year over year and eventually find ourselves deciding who the next member of the core is to go.
This team I’ve put together I would definitely enjoy watching. Marte between Anderson and Moncada at the top would be amazing with Robert, Grandal and Abreu to clean up. Vaughn in the 7th spot in front of a good big-league hitter in Canha would give him a little breathing and then letting the Sheets/Burger thing play out, to me, would be enjoyable.
I think Giolito and Keuchel pitch better than they did in 2021, I think Cease takes another leap, and let’s just hope the gas from Lynn’s right arm continues to have life. Means is a guy who I think would thrive as the #4. The bullpen would again be good with Hendriks closing, Hudson/Ruiz/Burr from the right, and Crochet/Bummer from the left with Lopez and McHugh operating as long men/pseudo-starters providing flexibility.
I think the Padres FO will be too wary of making a trade for Kimbrel given how their season exploded. They’ll probably want to avoid the high risk of Kimbrel especially giving up any prospect worth anything.
Wow, if they can get Canha for 2/20 they should be all over that. I think his defense is declining, but the bat should still be a vast improvement over what they’ve been trotting out there for the last five seasons.
Canha is projected to get a 2 year deal in the 10-15Mil AAV range. I think two years 20 million is on the low end of that but completely believable deal. He fields the corner outfield spots decently too.
A nice pick up for the OF if you want to spend more aggressively on the infield.
I don’t buy that he’ll be that cheap. Even understanding that he’ll be 33 next season and his defense is declining badly, he’s still a solidly above average outfielder. I think he’ll get over $30m.