Spare Parts: Free agent pool taking shape, with White Sox’s contributions to come

(Arturo Pardavila III)

There’s always some wiggle room when it comes to the size of the free agency class due to mutual options and opt-outs, and it seems like the pool is taking more of a maximalist approach, with both teams and players declining options. Among the noteworthy decisions:

*Nick Castellanos opted out of the last two years and $34 million remaining on his contract with Cincinnati, although he’ll have to contend with the qualifying offer on him this time around.

*Avisaíl García declined his half of a $12 million mutual option with the Milwaukee Brewers.

*Yusei Kikuchi declined a $13 million player option with Seattle, which was made possible by the Mariners declining the option to exercise an option that effectively led to a four-year, $66 million extension.

We’ll see whether this means that players are bullish about their chances to earn fair value around a potential lockout. We’ll also see whether the White Sox add to this pool, as maybe Rick Hahn will mention something about Craig Kimbrel or César Hernández when he finally talks to the media later this morning.

For the time being, Keith Law ranked Kimbrel as 39th on his free agent rankings:

The Cubs gave Kimbrel a three-year deal partway through the 2019 season, and the first two years were disastrous: 36 innings, 24 runs allowed, including 11 homers, and 24 walks for a 6.00 ERA. He was a revenant for the first four months of 2021, was traded to the other side of Chicago, and turned right back into a pumpkin, with a 5.09 ERA and a big spike in his home run rate again. His stuff has dropped off since his last full, good season in 2018, but it didn’t change appreciably between 2019-20 and 2021, and his curveball is still a hammer. He doesn’t locate his fastball as well as he used to, and that’s where he gives up nearly all of his damage: 14 of the 16 homers he has allowed in the last three years were on four-seamers, and just two on the curveball. You’re rolling the dice here, but one year and $10 million might work for a contender hoping to catch the good Kimbrel in a bottle. I couldn’t go longer given his track record over the longer term.

SPARE PARTS

Tony La Russa said his entire coaching staff will return, and he expects improvement out of the whole organization now that everybody is familiar with strengths and shortcomings, including one we just talked about:

“There’s all kinds of stuff,” La Russa said. “We can make better pitches. Have better at-bats. I’m not going to give you a scouting report but there are big things, little things and things in the middle. We’ll have a list, and we’ll prioritize. It was obvious to everybody we can do better defending the steal.”

Mike Petriello put Carlos Rodón in the “likely to receive an offer” group.

Rodón’s path has been wild. A year ago, the oft-injured lefty was non-tendered by the White Sox, who months later signed him to a mere one-year, $3 million deal without a promise of a rotation spot. They were rewarded with a stunning season, as Rodón threw a no-hitter, made the All-Star team and will probably get some Cy Young votes. The problem, given his history, is that he had repeated issues with shoulder soreness down the stretch; he pitched just 28 innings in the final two months. This is a tricky one, but because Rodón was so good this year (and managed to hit 99.4 mph in his brief ALDS appearance) that we think he’ll try his luck on the market.

Prediction: Receives offer, declines it

For additional context, Keith Law had Rodón 17th on his list.

Lucas Giolito’s first attempt to follow Harvard-Westlake teammate Max Fried as disrupted by COVID-19, but he bounced back in time to catch Game 6 at Minute Maid Park, the site where Giolito faltered in the ALDS.

But playoff games, even crowd-silencing routs, are long and allow time for the mind to wander, and for Giolito to think of his own team’s situation.

“It served as motivation like, yeah, I really fucking want this,” Giolito said. “I was texting with a couple guys on our team while I was there about ‘OK, yeah, this is doable for us.’ We’ve got to clean up a few things. But I’m watching this game and I’m like, that could be us next year. And we’ve got to come ready to go.”

One hundred years before curmudgeons groused about analytics ruining the game, Chicago Tribune writer Hugh Fullerton was slammed for collecting his own data on games he watched in the 1910s, which allowed him to know something was amiss when the White Sox played the Reds in 1919.

As more recent innovators have found, traditionalists didn’t like his new approach. A letter to Baseball Magazine complained that Fullerton “would have us believe that good ball can only be played by those men who work with the assistance of a tape-measure, a tee-square and an intimate knowledge of algebra and fractions”.

Tucker Barnhart, whose $7.5 million option for the 2022 season made him a questionable fit for Cincinnati’s budget, found a pretty good landing spot in Detroit. The Tigers only had to give up 2019 second-round pick Nick Quintana, a 24-year-old third baseman who hit .196 in Low-A. I’d hoped that the White Sox might be able to swing a deal for Barnhart, but the Tigers are instead getting the two-time Gold Glove winner.

I’ve seen this Cubs-Cardinals brawl surface as a standalone clip a few times, but I never actually looked into how it came to be that a manager and two hitters found themselves around the batter’s box as an umpire called spite strikes. Now I know the rest of the story.

Speaking of catchers, Buster Posey’s abrupt retirement announcement slapped a bow on the neatest of packages. In 12 seasons — 10 full seasons, one injury-shortened, one cup of coffee — he won Rookie of the Year, MVP, three World Series rings, a batting title, a Gold Glove, three Silver Sluggers and seven All-Star nods. He hit .302/.372/.460 while finishing with exactly 1,500 hits. You know airplane/black box joke format? After returning from opting out of the 2020 season to hit .304/.390/.499 for a 107-win Giants team, he basically made his entire career out of his best work.

(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III)

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asinwreck

The return of Avi would generate a lot of talk on this site, but I had a realization that something else could happen that would dominate our discussions this winter.

Robinson Canó was reinstated from his PED suspension yesterday and has 2/$40m left on his contract. What if the Kimbrel option is being picked up as part of a Canó deal? Would this front office send Kimbrel and Keuchel to the Mets for Canó and….someone else? Dom Smith, maybe?

There’s two questions here. One is, would you want to see it? (No, no I would not.) The other question is, would this franchise make such a deal? (I could see them doing it.)

shaggy65

I have the Sox trading for Cano in my OPP because it seems like the most reasonable way to dump Keuchel’s contract. I expect Cano to be motivated after his suspension and think he adds a gifted lefty bat to our lineup. He won’t be the MVP-caliber player from his prime, but he’s aged well to this point (albeit with a little help from a pill bottle).

He’s definitely not worth $20M a year at age 39, but dropping Keuchel’s contract helps offset some of the money. And I’ll bet that the new Mets regime would be willing to include some extra money to get rid of a player acquired before they were in charge.

asinwreck

The new* Mets regime absolutely wants to be free of that contract. What worries me is from the eye test, this is no longer a player who should be playing second base, meaning he’d add to the glut of 1B/DH types on the roster, He’s also gotten hurt more in recent years, so his durability is in question.

Add those concerns to the possibility age and lack of PEDs might affect his hitting, and having him for two seasons could make Sox fans long for the days of pickup up another aging New York second baseman. Few have fond memories of the Sox’ Steve Sax.

*It’ll be Alderson again, unless they can actually convince someone else to work for them.

mrridgman

I hate the thought of Sox acquiring any aging vets, especially very aging. Track record is horrible.

dansomeone

Yeah, this brings to mind Robby Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr, Manny Ramirez, etc. Hall of famers who were toast by the time Kenny got his man.

calcetinesblancos

I hadn’t thought about “Kenny always gets his man” in a long time, but I needed that laugh today so thank you.

Root Cause

I could have gone all day without seeing that Avisail Garcia is a free agent.

dansomeone

The Brewers are reportedly considering a qualifying offer for Avi.

670WMAQtheElder

Castellanos would not be a defensive upgrade in RF especially at his price over a Sheets or Vaughn.

shaggy65

Uhh, he’d definitely be better than Sheets. But regardless, you’re getting him for the true middle-of-the-order bat.

mrridgman

Sheets has played in 17 MLB games in the outfield; Castellanos several seasons. One has the opportunity to improve, the other doesn’t.

Soxfan2

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be very content with Castellanos in RF. Besides the defense, my problem with Castellanos is how ideal is his bat for the Sox? Ideally, the Sox can get a RF that can hit righties well. Castellanos is typically around league average against righties. Last year, he was great against righties (140 wRC+). The previous 3 seasons he averaged a 108 wRC+ against righties.

Depending on our budget, I’m not sure handing out $18M+ to a guy that doesn’t play RF well nor fix our problem against righties is worth it. With that being said – a 2.5 WAR, 115 wRC+ in RF would still present a massive upgrade to a Sox team that needs to make a splash at RF or 2B.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

It’s just one man’s opinion, but Law suggesting Kimbrel worth 10M is an opinion by someone who isn’t stupid that he isn’t likely to be worth 16M to anyone. I happen to agree and hope they decline the option rather than create the headache of finding out Law is correct. If Liam were out for next year and the Sox had a sudden hole at closer, would anyone want the Sox to sign Kimbrel for 16M, seriously?

mikeyb

Sox are going to keep Kimbrel and trade Hendriks, so they get out of paying him in 2023.

asinwreck

The first team news of the day.

jorgefabregas

Interesting. A somewhat obscure, but somewhat credible (based on previous scoops) twitter account said this would be the case a couple weeks ago. I hope that this reflects some ambition for the position and not “Hey, we have Yolbert Sanchez and Jose Rodriguez in the high minors and we’ll take a flyer on someone in the meantime.”

Btw, Fangraphs seems to have moved Rodriguez up to 5 on the White Sox’ top 30, presumably due to Longenhagen getting a better look at him in the AFL.

dansomeone

Well, that saves around 6.2M in projected arb salaries.

jorgefabregas

Allen Thomas out as strength and conditioning coach. Kopech will be a starter. Would like to have Rodon back. Anywhere I can listen to this live? I can’t live without Hahn’s trademark “uhhhhhhl” vocal tic.

Last edited 2 years ago by jorgefabregas
jorgefabregas

Engel had surgery to “clean up” his shoulder.

asinwreck

Thomas leaving bears attention. Is that department going to be guided more by performance analytics? Might the hire come from another organization?

Herm Scheider was a Yankees’ assistant trainer before Veeck and Hemond hired him. Maybe the next strength and conditioning coordinator will come from someplace like San Francisco.

HallofFrank

There really wasn’t any reason for the Sox to put up Cesar’s option. He was a FA last year and netted 1 year, $5m with the team option. He’s a year older and fresh off the worst season of his career. Even if the Sox want him at 2B, he should be available for less.

HallofFrank

The Kikuchi deal has me thinking about a Luis Robert extension. In Robert’s current deal, he’s guaranteed $50m through 2025. The team will likely exercise the two team options, netting him $88m through 2027.

My idea is this: restructure his current deal to guarantee him $10m more through 2025. So, add $2.5m per year over the next four seasons. In exchange, the Sox add one more club option after the 2027 season: a 7-year, $210m ($30m/year) option. The incentive for Robert is the extra guaranteed $10m, while the downside is *maybe* locked in to “only” a 7-year, $210m deal (if the Sox even have the stomach for it). Meanwhile, if Robert is the next superstar, the Sox have him locked up through his age 36 season for around $300m.

shaggy65

Interesting! He sounds legit to me. If only I had known about him before submitting my OPP…

burning-phoneix

I’ve been on the Suzuki train since last season. SIGN HIM UP, RICK!

burning-phoneix

Keith Law has no idea what he’s talking about. The reason Kimbrel’s fastball is getting hit is because he can’t locate his curveball, allowing hitters to sit on the fastball. Not the other way around.