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My OPP objectives:
(1) Keep the skeleton of the 2022 team, but with a few transplants;
(2) Make the team more athletic and versatile;
(3) Move some money off the books to strategically reinvest in 2023;
(4) Set the team up well for 2024 and beyond.
See the appendix for a short defense of these objectives and how I accomplish them.
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M – Tender
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M – Extend (see below)
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M – Tender
- Adam Engel: $2.3M – Non-tender
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M – Tender
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M – Non-tender
- José Ruiz: $1M – Non-tender
- Danny Mendick: $1M – Non-tender
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) – Pick Up
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) – Decline
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — EXERCISED
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) – Retain (see below)
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) – Let go
- Vince Velasquez ($3M) – Let go
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) – Let go
Joe Espada, baby.
No. 1 Brandon Nimmo – 6 years, $120m ($20m AAV) w/ vesting option – Nimmo has long made all sorts of sense for the White Sox. He’s a LH OF with some pop and solid defense. He’s had injury issues, so he’ll fit right in (and, more importantly, it makes him relatively affordable?). I think the 6th year plus the vesting option gets them over the hump. The vesting option is what I’ll call the “Basically Stay Healthy Option”: if he gets to 900 PA in years 5 & 6 combined, a 7th year player option triggers at 1 year, $18m.
No. 2 Jose Abreu – 2 years, $28m ($14 AAV) w/ options – I’m calling this a “lifetime contract.” It starts at 2 years, $28m guaranteed, and there are an infinite number of club options at $14m after that—until Abreu retires. The first year the Sox decline the club option, a player option triggers at 1 year, $6m. So this is effectively 3 years, $34m guaranteed. I know this is controversial. Maybe I’m blinded by sentiment? But I don’t think so. Abreu’s changes in 2022 are sustainable, I think, so that even if the power isn’t there, he’s a productive offensive player and well worth the $14m.
No. 3 Kevin Pillar – Minor league deal – If not Pillar, a generic 4th OF type that can hangout in Charlotte for a bit.
Dylan Cease – 4 years, $64m w/ club option – It works out like this: $10m in 2023; $14m in 2024; $20m in 2025; $20m in 2026; w/ club option for $20m in 2027. Cease locks in a lot more guaranteed money in exchange for two more control years. I’d also add in incentives, so that he can increase the value of his deal. Note, too, that 2026 is guaranteed and not a club option.
I tried my best to balance the trades in terms of value. I’d be happy to hear in the comments where you think I’m way off, in either direction. But I’ve tried to make the trades where they can be easily tweaked, too. So, if you think one is unbalanced, feel free to offer suggestions to balance it.
No. 1 Trade Gavin Sheets and Leury Garcia to the Orioles for John Rhodes (3B; 35+ FV) .
Why the Orioles make this trade: Gavin Sheets hits like an all-start at home (.908 OPS) but is a nightmare on the road (.508 OPS). That initially makes him an odd candidate for a trade. But there is one place on the road Sheets does hit: Camden Yards. He apparently likes hitting in his hometown, because his 1.005 career OPS is by far his best in any park. He crushes at Camden, far more than he does in Chicago. He’s a nice addition to this O’s club and fits well in their lineup. That brings us to Garcia. No doubt: he’s negative value. But he defrays Sheets’ value and he shouldn’t be entirely underwater. 2 years, $10m is a contract the O’s can easily absorb, and he’s a versatile veteran and clubhouse guy who—against all odds—has had postseason success. He’s still negative value, but I think he makes more sense for O’s than for the Sox.
Why the White Sox make this trade: They get Garcia’s contract off the books, add some depth to the farm system, and open up roster spots to allocate elsewhere. Rhodes is just a low ceiling throw-in. So if the O’s balk at this, I’ll take anyone in return.
No. 2 Trade Lucas Giolito and Andrew Vaughn to the Angels for Reid Detmers, Jo Adell, and Jhonathan Diaz (SP; 35+ FV).
Why the Angels make this trade: I’m operating under the assumption that the Angels are giving it one more push with Trout, Ohtani, and Rendon in 2023. If it fails again, then I think they tear it down. On this assumption, Giolito and Vaughn fit perfectly. Giolito gives a team desperate for pitching Cy Young-upside at a reasonable price. And he’s only under contract for one more year: an ideal scenario, if my assumption is true. Vaughn gives the Angels a stable, middle-of-the-order bat and their 1B of the future. If they do tear it down, they can immediately flip Vaughn for prospects. Detmers is difficult to give up, but I think they’re ready to move on from Adell.
Why the White Sox make this trade: I like Giolito and Vaughn a lot. This trade is certainly a risk. Giolito could regain Cy Young form and Adell could struggle. Vaughn could rake for years. But both teams are taking a risk. Adell is still a considerable talent (and only 23), and Detmers emerged as one of the best young pitchers in the game. Detmers is the real prize, as I’m not expecting much from Adell. But I also like Diaz as credible pitching depth, and he can shuffle into the 5th starter mix. Either way, the Sox get younger, more athletic, deeper, and cut some money off the 2023 books.
No. 3 Trade Liam Hendriks, Jared Kelley, Matthew Thompson to the Mets for Jeff McNeil, Eric Orze (SP; 45 FV)
(Note: Some commenter mentioned something similar weeks ago, but I’d had the same thing planned)
Why the Mets make this trade: McNeil has been excellent this season and he’s a big part of the Mets success. He may be unmovable. But I think the Mets would consider selling high. Here’s why: His incredible year was, in part, BABIP-fueled, as the .353 BABIP is at career heights. He’s most likely closer to a 2.0-2.5 WAR player—and he’s now on the wrong side of 30 and hitting arbitration. The Mets also have slick-fielding 27 year old Luis Guillome (1.5 WAR in 335 PA in ’22) and top prospect Ronny Mauricio (55 FV SS with ’23 ETA) as options to replace McNeil. The return is a solid one. In Hendriks, they get their Diaz replacement at an affordable cost: only one guaranteed year of $14m with a club option in ’24. They also add considerable pitching talent in Kelley and Thompson.
Why the White Sox make this trade: Losing Hendriks hurts, but the Sox have a glut of highly paid relievers. I’d rather shift that money elsewhere. This not only gets some money off the ’23 books, but allows the Sox to very ably fill the second base hole. Although it’d be nice, the Sox shouldn’t expect 5-6 WAR production from McNeil (for reasons I suggest above). I expect he’ll settle in closer to 2-3 WAR: but as a lefty who hits RHP pitching well, that’d still be an enormous boon to the Sox lineup. He’s also under control for a few more years, too. Losing Kelley and Thompson hurts, but they add Orze to the system. Orze is coming off a rough year at AAA (so I suspect his FV will drop a bit?), but I’m adding high minors pitching depth like crazy. While they come out well behind in prospect cost, Hendriks alone doesn’t get it done: and it’s worth getting done.
No. 4 Trade Kohl Simas to the Royals for Drew Parrish (SP; 40 FV)
Why the Royals make this trade: The Royals are in a strange place and I’m not really sure what they’re going to do. But I don’t think they’ll contend in ’23 or ’24. And they have a surplus of young arms already. Parrish struggled in AAA in this year, but he’s close to the Majors with some AA success. The Royals can kick the can down the road a bit with Simas, who’s a bit more of a project.
Why the White Sox make this trade: Pitching depth. I like the Dart, but they could use another talented arm that’s nearly ready for Chicago, especially given how the rest of this offseason shakes out for me.
AJ Pollock – I’m having a frank conversation with AJ Pollock at the start of the offseason: if he comes back, he’s this team’s 4th OF on Opening Day—and Oscar Colas is knocking on the door. I suspect it won’t matter and he’ll come back. But, with that knowledge, I think there’s a good chance he opts out. While he definitely wouldn’t get $13m on the open market, he gets $5m for walking away and could surely find a starting gig somewhere else—and therefore more future potential earnings. Still, I’m operating under the assumption that he’ll opt in.
If Pollock does opt out – I use the $8m to add a 5th starter. Ideally, Jose Quintana. And, if that happens, some of my trades look differently, since I wouldn’t feel the need to stockpile high minors pitching depth. In that case, I’d probably look to add credible high minors OF to compete for the 4th OF spot.
5th Starter – With Pollock in, I’m content to take a “by committee” approach to the 5th starter. Crochet is the lead candidate, but I know he has to work into it and will pitch far from a normal workload. In addition to the Dart and Sean Burke, I also see Lopez and Lambert as possible internal options. But I also address this by stocking up on credible, high minors pitching depth by adding Orze, Parrish, and Diaz. All of these options give the Sox space to throw some stuff around and see what fits, and they are insurance for what will be a relatively injury-prone rotation.
Oscar Colas – I’m pumped to see Colas in Chicago. But I’m hesitant to give him the starting gig from the outset. He’ll start in Charlotte, but I’m ready to pull him up to Chicago at any moment. He’s the first replacement for any OF injury or an injury to Eloy. He’s also my backup plan to Adell—and I suspect he’ll be needed. I’d be surprised if he’s not in Chicago before May 15, on my roster configuration. More bats than spots, right Jim?
Jake Burger – I toyed around with moving him for whatever I could get for him, but I think the Sox would be wise to keep him around one more year. And that’s what I tell him: this is your last season starting in Charlotte. You can force your way into the lineup, you’ll be around in case Moncada gets hurt, and you can make your case for the starting 3B job in ’24. Otherwise, we’ll move you at some point.
Strength & Conditioning & Player Development – I don’t care to lay out a plan other than saying it should be a priority.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, here’s where the payroll sits for returning players (after the trades and non-tenders):
|Harrison, Josh (buyout)||$1,500,000|
Here are the additions via trade or free agency:
|Kevin Pillar (minor league)||minimum|
Here is the increase for the extension:
|Dylan Cease (addition)||$5,250,000|
TOTALS: $139,983,333 in returns + $40,200,000 in additions + $5,250,000 salary increase for extension = $185,433,333
If the right deal for a generic reliever or a 5th starter comes along for 1 year, $3m, I’ll take it. Otherwise, I have a little more wiggle room for the trade deadline.
C – Yasmani Grandal
1B – Jose Abreu
2B – Jeff McNeil
3B – Yoan Moncada
SS – Tim Anderson
LF – Brandon Nimmo
CF – Luis Robert
RF – Jo Adell (Oscar Colas, if Adell doesn’t work out)
DH – Eloy Jimenez
Lineup: (1) Tim Anderson (2) Jeff McNeil (3) Jose Abreu (4) Eloy Jimenez (5) Luis Robert (6) Brandon Nimmo (7) Yasmani Grandal (8) Yoan Moncada (9) Jo adell
C – Seby Zavala
INF – Lenyn Sosa
OF – AJ Pollock
UTL – Yolbert Sanchez
SP1 – Dylan Cease
SP2 – Reid Detmers
SP3 – Michael Kopech
SP4 – Lance Lynn
SP5 – A combo of Jhonathan Diaz, Garret Crochet, Eric Orze, Sean Burke, and the Dart
CL – Kendall Graveman
RP – Aaron Bummer
RP – Jake Deikman
RP – Joe Kelly
RP – Reynaldo Lopez
RP – Jimmy Lambert
RP – Tanner Banks
Key Players Added & Subtracted from 2022 Team
Added: Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Reid Detmers, Jo Adell
Subtracted: Lucas Giolito, Andrew Vaughn, Liam Hendriks, Gavin Sheets, Leury Garcia
Key Players Added & Subtracted from Farm System
Added: Eric Orze (45 FV) Drew Parrish (40 FV), Jhonathan Diaz (40 FV), John Rhodes (35+ FV)
Subtracted: Jared Kelley (45 FV), Matthew Thompson (40 FV), Kohl Simas (40 FV)
Appendix: Defense of Objectives and How I accomplish them
(1) Keep the skeleton of the 2022 team, but with a few transplants.
Defense: The ’22 team had a lot going against it. Bad manager, bad front office, bad luck, bad health, and some surprisingly bad performances. And yet they were still (miraculously?) a .500 team. We know there’s talent here. But it’s misplaced. It’s like a Mr. Potato Head with appendages in the wrong places. We need a fundamental restructuring of the Front Office—and I guess that’s why I’m the GM now? But we don’t need a fundamental restructuring of the team. We do need to make some changes, however. One strategy I suspect will be popular in OPPs that I’m not interested in is trading Grandal, Moncada, or Jimenez. The reason is simple: they don’t have the trade value to return the kind of value they should provide in 2023. I’m certainly listening to offers. But I’m not expecting calls. Jimenez is a possible exception. I’ll poke around and see what’s out there. But we waited one offseason too long to move on from him. The talent is still here, so I’m not selling low.
How I accomplish: The core remains, but I shuffled things around a bit and added two very good LH bats in Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo. Detmers is also now a core piece.
(2) Make the team more athletic and versatile.
Defense: I shouldn’t have to defend this objective, so I won’t.
How I accomplish: I added Nimmo, Adell to the OF and moved Eloy to DH. I moved on from Vaughn and Sheets.
(3) Move some money off the books to reinvest in 2023.
Defense: The 2023 team needs a shakeup and there’s not much room in the budget. One way to shake things up is to move money and reinvest that money in ways that help the team win now.
How I accomplish: This was a challenge because I didn’t care to trade Grandal, Moncada, or Jimenez. But moving Giolito, Hendricks, and Garcia freed up more than enough money to sign Nimmo.
(4) Set the team up well for 2024 and beyond.
Defense: This may be the most controversial, because it means I’m not trading away all prospects for win-now players. The reasoning is simple: I’m building a team to be good for 10+ years, not a team to be great for 3-5 years. I’ve long preferred what I call the “Cardinals Model” to the “Cubs Model.” Of course, the Cardinals are an excellent franchise and no JR-owned team can adequately reproduce what they’ve been up to. But that’s the kind of team I’m aiming at: a solid team that may not ever be the favorite to win it all, but is almost always in the playoff picture. The surest way to sustain that kind of success is to sustain a strong farm system. As you’ll see, I do move some prospects, but also add some prospects.
How I accomplish: I mostly keep the farm system in tact and the key players I add (Nimmo, McNeil, Detmers) will be around for several years. I also added a few prospects to the pipeline that have the added benefit of shoring up pitching depth for the near future, too.