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So that sucked.
2022 was perhaps the least enjoyable White Sox season of my lifetime, a run that includes more 90-loss seasons than playoff appearances. Now, the organization faces finds itself at an existential crossroads. The decisions Rick Hahn and Co. make this offseason will likely define the final years of Jerry Reinsdorf’s ownership, for better or worse.
Sadly, I’m not particularly optimistic. In fact, I’ve lately been wrestling with whether to raise my newborn son as a Dodgers fan (the awesome, rich team that plays 4 miles from his house) or a White Sox fan (the bad, confusing team that plays 2,000 miles from home and generally treats its fans with disdain). Leave your best arguments in the comments.
Nevertheless, I’ve always been a devoted student so you won’t find me skipping this homework assignment. In fact, the next hour I spend working on it will surely be more enjoyable than the 2022 season in aggregate.
Here I go, attempting to turn the White Sox into a serious team.
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M — TENDER
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M — TENDER
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M — TENDER
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M — TENDER
- Danny Mendick: $1M — TENDER
The toughest decisions here are Giolito and Mendick. However, the Sox would be extremely lucky to get a pitcher with Gio’s talent at 1 year/$11 million in free agency, so it makes sense to try again in 2023 and hope for better results. Meanwhile, I’ll be whittling away the Sox’s upper minors infield depth momentarily, so I’ll keep Mendick around since the price is reasonable.
- Adam Engel: $2.3M — NON-TENDER
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M — NON-TENDER
- José Ruiz: $1M — NON-TENDER
Engel has been a good development story and a solid enough bench piece, but the price is going up right as his production dropped off a cliff. Crick and Ruiz are both back-end bullpen types; the Sox should be able to find similar production on minimum salaries.
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M — PICK UP
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M — DECLINE
This one’s for you, Marty34.
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — EXERCISED
I think this is probably the second-most difficult internal decision the front office faces. I’m no Dan Szymborski, but I’d wager “2023 AJ Pollock” vs. “Empty Roster Spot + $8 mil” probably projects pretty evenly. But given the outfield’s health struggles and the general return we can expect from a Rick Hahn free agent, I’ll stick with Pollock for another year.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu — RE-SIGN / 1 year, $18 million
This is the first-most difficult decision the front office faces, and it seems they’re committed to making the wrong choice. Every sign points to Abreu leaving, despite the fact that he’s a franchise legend AND was their most valuable hitter by a large margin in 2022. I honestly can’t wrap my head around this one… everyone else must be watching a different Andrew Vaughn than I am.
- Johnny Cueto — LET GO
- Vince Velasquez — LET GO
- Elvis Andrus — LET GO
Cueto and Andrus were awesome for the Sox last year. But we want to be the kind of team that discovers diamonds-in-the-rough, not the kind that pays market price for diamonds at Jared. In other words, the guaranteed salaries each of these proven veterans will command makes them a bad bet for the White Sox’ tight payroll.
- Trade RHP Matthew Thompson to Tampa Bay for Manager Kevin Cash
I like the idea of poaching coaching talent from the best organization in baseball. But why hire the understudy when you might be able to get the headliner? The Rays sniff out surplus value better than any team in the league, so I’m sure they’d be willing to make a managerial change if it meant adding enough value on the field. Thompson is a better prospect than either of the guys that the Marlins gave up for Ozzie Guillen in 2011, while John Farrell returned utility guy Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays in 2012, so this seems like a fair starting point should Cash be interested..
- Sign RHP Ross Stripling for 3 yrs / $36 million
Stripling just put up a 3-win season for the Blue Jays, and has a long history of throwing decent innings from the back of the rotation or the front of the bullpen. He’s not overly impressive in any specific way, but he hardly ever walks guys, misses enough bats to keep hitters honest, and is young enough that he should be able to provide fifth starter-type value over the life of the contract.
- Trade 1B Andrew Vaughn, 2B Lenyn Sosa, RHP Norge Vera, C Carlos Perez, IF Leury Garcia to Pittsburgh for OF Bryan Reynolds
Ok, here’s my big swing. The White Sox lineup needs impact lefty bats and cromulent defenders. Meet Bryan Reynolds, who has averaged 4.5 wins per 162 games over the last four seasons while playing center field for some REALLY bad Pirates teams.
Despite several years of rebuilding, Pittsburgh still seems nowhere near contention. Seriously, go look at their depth chart and check how many guys you’ve heard of. You can probably count on one hand. Apart from Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, and Ke’Bryan Hayes, that team is ugly. It makes all the sense in the world for them to cash in Reynolds this offseason. In exchange, they get Opening Day starters at 1B, 2B, and C, a high-minors pitcher with upside, and take on the Sox’s Leury problem.
- Trade LHP Garrett Crochet, 3B Jake Burger to Tampa Bay for 2B Brandon Lowe
Just as the Rays are uniquely situated to trade their manager, they also are the MLB team most likely to swap out productive players in their late-20’s… remember when they traded Austin Meadows for a utility infielder?
Lowe is better than Meadows, but he’s now on the wrong side of 27, coming off a down year, and guaranteed $15 million over the next two seasons (plus two club options). This is a great opportunity for the Sox to buy low on a guy who still would have been one of the best hitters on the club last year, even in his worst major league season.
Both Crochet and Burger should be able to help Tampa in 2023. The Rays seem infinitely more likely to maximize each players’ unique strengths than the Sox.
- Trade C Yasmani Grandal to St. Louis for RHP Chris Stratton
This is a salary dump, pure and simple. The Sox don’t have the budget to bet on a Yaz comeback, but the Cardinals always have money and their Hall of Fame catcher just retired. I could see them making a run at Willson Contreras, but if he goes elsewhere the free agent options are limited. Taking a flyer on a Grandal rebound makes more sense than rolling into the season with an “Andrew Knizner” atop their depth chart.
- Trade RHP Joe Kelly to Los Angeles for C Austin Barnes
To fill the gap left by Grandal, I’m sending Kelly back from whence he came. Kelly was bad this year, but his stuff looked mostly okay when healthy. Meanwhile, the Dodgers need back-end bullpen help and obviously know Kelly well. They also employ Will Smith, running neck-and-neck with JT Realmuto for best catcher in baseball, and Diego Cartaya, MLB Pipeline’s 8th overall prospect. In other words, they can spare Barnes, a defensive specialist who’s locked in at $3.5 million per season through 2024.
Here’s my Opening Day 26-man roster:
SS Tim Anderson ($12.5 mil)
RF Bryan Reynolds ($6.75 mil)
1B Jose Abreu ($18 mil)
DH Eloy Jimenez ($10.33 mil)
2B Brandon Lowe ($5.25 mil)
CF Luis Robert ($9.5 mil)
3B Yoan Moncada ($17.8 mil)
LF Oscar Colas (min)
C Austin Barnes ($3.5 mil)
OF AJ Pollock ($13 mil 😢)
IF Danny Mendick ($1 mil)
“OF” Gavin Sheets (min)
C Seby Zavala (min)
SP1 Dylan Cease ($5.3 mil)
SP2 Lance Lynn ($18.5 mil)
SP3 Lucas Giolito ($10.8 mil)
SP4 Michael Kopech ($2.2 mil)
SP5 Ross Stripling ($12 mil)
CL Liam Hendriks ($14.33mil)
SU Kendall Graveman ($8 mil)
SU Reynaldo Lopez ($3.3 mil)
MR Aaron Bummer ($3.75 mil)
MR Jimmy Lambert (min)
MR Jake Diekman ($3.5 mil)
MR Chris Stratton ($3.5 mil)
LR Davis Martin (min)
Total Payroll: $189.3 million
Unfortunately my roster’s championship hopes are still largely pinned on bouncebacks from guys like Giolito and Robert, but that’s probably unavoidable at this point. Luckily, the rest of the 26-man roster should be stronger all-around, specifically with the addition of left-handed hitters Reynolds, Lowe, and Colas, and much better outfield defense. We’ve also corrected the org chart’s most fixable problem by acquiring Cash.
With a little luck on our side, I feel like the division should be easily winnable (famous last words). What say you, Sox Machinists? Is this roster good enough for my perfect precious golden baby boy to root for?