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When I think of the White Sox, I don’t usually think positively. This team has brought me such joy and such pain. I recently described my relationship with this team as follows:
“It’s less love and more ‘I can’t quit you & have already invested far too much that divorce would be irresponsible because I can’t fiscally & emotionally invest in another team.’”
So, initially, I thought re-tooling the roster in a way that abandons 2023 but sets us up for 2024 and 2025 was the way to go. But, then, that didn’t make much sense, because the bones of a good roster are still here and there’s no point in wasting it (again). I saw a path to signing Trea Turner, and figured I had to go for it. I tried to put together a roster that gives the White Sox a chance at competing through at least 2024 and, possibly, beyond that, especially depending on the free agents in ’23-’24 and ’24-’25.
The name of the game is to improve defensively and obtain relief from Rick Hahn’s bad contracts, some of which we knew we wouldn’t like when the time came (Yaz), others that should never have been entered into (Leury and Kelly), and one that should never have been taken on (Why, Diekman?). The money was spent, but spent poorly. The only way to get rid of some of those bad contracts was to give up some unproven talent alongside in order to gain something.
As Kendrick said, “We gon’ be alright, do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright.” And I think that’s the case with this team. So, let’s jump into my first ever Offseason Plan Project!
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M – (Tender, but sooner rather than later, You Can Go Your Own Way);
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M – (Tender; Cease stays);
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M – (Tender; you’re cool so you can stay);
- Adam Engel: $2.3M – (Non-Tender and it looks like it’s Bye, Bye, Bye);
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M – (Tender; Kopech plays and stays);
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M – (Non-Tender; Krick will be Leavin’ on a Jetplane soon);
- José Ruiz: $1M – (Non-Tender, because, as Steam put it, Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye); and,
- Danny Mendick: $1M – (Tender, but it’ll be time to go our Separate Ways).
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) – (Pick-up because I am gonna Let the Good Times Roll); and,
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) – (Buyout, because I only have 50 Ways to Say Goodbye and not 50 ways to pay you).
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) – (Exercised, but soon after it’ll be Good Riddance (we did not have the Time of Our Life)).
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2022) – (Let Go. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.) As Gandalf the White once said, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. [Unrestricted Free Agency] is just another path, one that [all athletes] must take. The grey rain-curtain of this [league] rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then, you see it…White Shores, and beyond, a far green country, under a swift sunrise.” It’s been a wonderful nine years, friend, but this is the End of the Road. The statue will be built, the jersey retired, and tears shed.
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) – (Let Go, but You’ll be back.) It’s not good-bye.
- Vince Velasquez ($3M) – (Let Go. Thanks for the Memories.) We will always have your pitching battle against Mike Trout. ThankskbyeNEXT!
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) – (Let Go. I’ll Always Remember That Time In September.) I appreciate your hard play. Now earn your well-deserved money elsewhere, cause you’re not getting it here.
According to the Merk-Man, it sounds as though Espada is out of the running. Not surprising. NEXT!
Enter Kevin Long, Phillies hitting coach. Do I know that much about him? Nope. A quick Google and Wikipedia search shows me that he’s been a coach since 2007, first for the Yankees between 2007 and 2014 (in which the Yankees led the league in offense in 2007 and 2009 (when they won their World Series). He went to be the Mets’ hitting coach for a few years, before moving onto the Nationals where the 2019 Nationals led the league in OBP and were in the top ten in almost all other batting categories in their World Series winning campaign. He’s shown an ability to work with young hitters and get the most out of them, especially those who are uber talented (Juan Soto, for example).
More recently, he’s helped catapult the Phillies into one of the most efficient and effective offenses in the league this year. With the Phillies for only one year, he’s helped guide them to be in the top ten in average, runs/game, hits/game, home runs/game, triples/game, and RBIs/game. The Phillies rank 15th, 15th, and 13th in walks/game, grounding into double plays/game, and strikeouts/game, respectively; so, middle of the road in those categories.
As a coach on three world series teams (2009 Yankees, 2019 Nationals, and 2022 Phillies), Long has experience with organizations that have a history of sustained-ish success. This will be valuable and bodes well for the White Sox’ needs.
**INTERMISSION** The problem, though, is that I’ve now talked myself into Kevin Long as the person I want managing this team, which means they’re going to hire Ozzie or Thome. **BACK TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING**
As for the rest of the coaching staff, Katz stays, Cairo can stay, I guess, and McEwing, Menechino, and Boston are gone. See ya.
No. 1: Welcome to the Black Parade, Trea Turner (Six years, $220 million, broken down as follows: $33M in ’23, $36M in ’24, $36 M in ’25, $35 M in ’26, $35 M in ’27, $35 M in ’28, with 10M deferred over five years between ’29 and ’33. There are also opt-outs after the second, third, and fourth, and fifth years of the contract; however, even if he opts out, the 10M deferred is guaranteed, so it functions like a signing bonus). The song title at the beginning isn’t necessarily meant to invoke thoughts of death, but rather to welcome Turner to the “SoxSide” where the Good Guys Wear Black and the team rarely has blackouts; but when it does, they are something to behold. Trea Turner is, easily, the prize of this offseason. The White Sox blew it with Machado (who was just in the NLCS and had some solid performances for the Padres) and Harper (currently playing in the WS and the NLCS MVP). And for a team that requires better defense, better base running, better offense, and just…to be better, this is a no-brainer. Moreover, it’s a player-friendly deal, that gives Turner many options, and, comes out to a bit more than the annual average value Correa signed for with Minnesota in 2022.
Also, because the $10M deferred amount is guaranteed, no matter when/if Turner exercises his options, here’s how it would shake out: if he opts out after year two, it’ll be a 2 yr/$79M contract. If he opts out after year three, it’ll be 3 yr/115M. Should he opt out after year four, it’ll be a 4 yr/150M. If he opts out after year five, then it’ll be 5 yr/185M. THE MONEY WILL BE SPENT!
TA7 was the everyday shortstop; that ended for me when Turner became available AND TA’s glove deteriorated to the point where it seems to be made out of lead. He’s moving to 2B because that’s what’s best for the team. Tim is the face of this franchise and will remain its face. As the face of the franchise, a willingness to adapt and do what’s best for the team is expected. If he doesn’t like it and demands a trade, then I’ll explore those options mid-season. Sentimentality stood in the way of the Sox moving Tim, potentially impacting their ability to sign Machado (along with Jerry’s cheapness) we’re not going down that road again.
No. 2: Welcome to the Jungle, Christian Vazquez (Four years, $20 million, broken down as follows: 3M in ’23, 6M in ’24, 6M in ’25, and 5M in ’27). He’s a solid catching option and has caught for a World Series team (2018 Boston) in the past. He can bring that experience here and split time with Seby. He’ll also be a solid anchor for our pitchers through post-season starts (if any).
No. 3: Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Johnny Cueto (Two years, $20 millions, broken down as follows: 4M in ’23, 8M in ’24, and then 2M deferred annually between ’25 and ’28). Cueto set himself up for nice contract after his bounce back with the Sox in ’22. Can we expect 3.5 WAR Johnny Cueto again? No, but I think he’ll bring consistency once more and hard-nosed effort every five days that other players can and should emulate. Cueto’s value isn’t only in his ability to throw off hitters’ timing and break up the consistency of right-handers that pitch similarly. It’s also in his ability to take a leadership position in the clubhouse, something lacking on the White Sox in 2022 and something they desperately need in 2023. I envision him in a dual-role of pitcher and coach, using leadership skills throughout the clubhouse. Also, he’s at the end of his career, so deferred cash would be nice so he can pay for more speaker trucks.
“How are you going to pay for all of this, Joe?” It’s time to wheel and deal, folks. Let’s get weird.
No. 1: Trade Alert – White Sox send Liam Hendriks (CL), Leury Garcia (UTIL), Matt Foster (RHP), and Sean Burke (RHP) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Teoscar Hernandez. What do the Blue Jays need? Relief pitching. What can the White Sox give them? Relief pitching. What do the White Sox need? A lot, but namely a competent outfielder. Who should they seek? Teoscar Hernandez. Solid bat and can do what outfielders are required to do – catch the ball. What did “outfielders” NOT do for the White Sox last year? Catch the ball. The White Sox trotted out two first basemen and a DH in their corner spots last year. That can’t happen again. Teoscar fixes one part of that issue.
In order to get the Jays to take on Leury’s salary, and to get Hernandez in return, I have to give up Foster and Burke as well. The salary relief that comes from removing Garcia and off-loading Hendriks’ salary helps to make the below moves.
Also, upon trading for Hernandez, I immediately sign him to a four year, $60M contract, broken down as follows: $13M in ’23, $16M in ’24, $15M in ’25, and $16M in ’26.
No. 2: Trade Alert – White Sox send Yasmani Grandal (C), Lenyn Sosa (2B/3B/SS), Matthew Thompson (RHP), and cash ($8,250,000) to the St. Louis Cardinals for James Naile (RHP) and Garret Williams (LHP). “Joe, why would the Cardinals trade for Grandal?” Well, lemme tell ya. The Cardinals long-time catcher, Yadier Molina, is donezo and their history-making DH, Albert Pujols, is also retiring. They now have to fill two positions – catcher and DH. Your next question might be, “But the Cardinals have Andrew Knizer and an up and coming prospect in Ivan Herrera, so how does this help them?” Here’s the thing – Knizer probably isn’t the next great catcher and Herrera is probably the heir apparent to Yadi’s throne. With the news that Nolan Arenado is opting into the remainder of his contract, the Cardinals are clearly in “win now” mode and they’re not going to have time to wait for Knizer to get it together or for their top catching prospect to get up to speed on his own.
Enter Yasmani Grandal. Grandal’s got experience with young and old pitching staffs, he’s got familiarity with the NL Central, he’s shown a willingness to incorporate all sorts of technological and analytical advances into his preparation, he doesn’t have to be the catcher every day, and if he gets back to 2021 form, he’ll get on base. His role, essentially, is that of C/DH/1B (when Goldschmidt needs a spell) and de-facto assistant pitching and catchers’ coach. Also, by sending $8.25Mwith Yasmani, the Sox pay 45% of his salary while the Cardinals just pay him $10M. Even though 10M might seem like overpaying for Grandal based on his 2022 stats, I think it’s fair to say that his 2023 performance won’t be as piss-poor. He’ll likely still get on base with regularity and be able to hit some dingers. He still can’t run and his defense leaves much to be desired, but Grandal at $10M isn’t terrible, especially since he’ll be doing more than simply playing on the field. I imagine his influence would go a long way as the Cardinals transition to Herrera. Sending along Sosa and Thompson should also ease the Cardinals’ concern at taking on the remaining $10M of his contract.
As for the return to the Sox, put Naile and Williams in the Katz Lab and see what they have. If nothing, then at least there’s no salary issues with dumping them or flipping them in a trade to someplace else. It’s a cold business out there. NEXT!
No. 3: Trade Alert – White Sox send Lucas Giolito (SP) and Jake Diekman (RP) to the Milwaukee Brewers for Keston Hiura (2B/OF/DH), Eric Lauer (LSP), Luis Perdomo (RP), and Esteury Ruiz (IF/OF). The Baseball Trade Values Simulator trade machine all but said that this is a valid trade in which neither team overpays. This is a salary dump (Diekman) along with a trade to maximize Giolito’s value after a down-2022. Giolito’s not re-signing with the Sox. He’s a Boras client and they jerked Gio around before the 2022 season over pennies before agreeing to terms. That very clearly left a sour taste in Gio’s mouth as he, himself, has admitted. He’s also a player rep on the MLBPA, so his duty to earn as much as he can to set the standard for future pitchers is going to take priority. Moreover, while he’s shown flashes of brilliance, including a whole season’s worth, there’s too many questions around him for me to feel comfortable with letting him pitch in ’23 and then losing him for nothing. All that to say, based on his inconsistency the past few years, keeping him around and signing him to a long-term contract is a no-go for me. So best to trade him and get something out of it. Lauer should prove a solid starting option and he’s a lefty, Hiura provides some versatility off the bench, Perdomo can fit nicely into the bullpen, and Ruiz can either be developed or used as trade bait.
In arbitration, Keston is anticipated to make $2,250,000, Lauer is expected to make $5,200,000, Perdomo will make $1,000,000, and there’s no expectation as to Ruiz’s salary.
No. 4: Trade Alert – White Sox send AJ Pollock (OF), Danny Mendick (INF), and Andrew Dalquist (SP) to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Cody Bellinger (OF/1B). I saw a version of this trade on a different Offseason Plan Project (Billpatrick) and loved the idea. So shout out to Billpatrick. Not sure why I didn’t think of it, since I’ve always been a Bellinger fan. But that might be cause I couldn’t think of a universe where he gets traded. But, it actually makes sense. I think injuries have side-tracked his career and development. Long story short, I want him on the squad. His lefty bat and defensive abilities will help this lineup. Pollock thrived in LA. The Dodgers traded him because they needed more relief help. So, I’m tossing in Andrew Dalquist to see what he could give them. They get their 4th outfielder back and a pitcher out of it along with a solid utility infielder.
Upon trading for Bellinger, I’m immediately signing him to a two year, $35M contract broken down as follows: $15M in ’23 and $19M in ’24.
So, I’ve offloaded some horrible salaries (Grandal, Diekman, Pollock, and Garcia), shipped out some solid pieces (Giolito, Foster, Mendick, and Sosa) to bring in players that can help us win now and in the future (Turner, Hernandez, Lauer, and Bellinger), along with ancillary pieces that will assist in a run (Hiura and Vazquez), and, finally, a player that can hold players accountable (Cueto). I filled in our outfield holes with external options, second base with an internal option, and strengthened our defense, while maintaining a solid rotation and ‘pen for cheaper. Here’s how the 26-man breaks down, with salaries:
Starting Lineup (Total: $114,853,333):
- 2B – Tim Anderson – R – ($12,500,000);
- SS – Trea Turner – R – ($33,000,000);
- CF – Luis Robert – R – ($9,500,000);
- DH – Eloy Jimenez – R – ($10,333,333);
- 1B – Andrew Vaughn – R – ($720,000);
- LF – Teoscar Hernandez – R – ($13,000,000);
- 3B – Yoan Moncada – S – ($17,800,000);
- C – Christian Vazquez – R – ($3,000,000); and,
- RF – Cody Bellinger – L – ($15,000,000);
Bench (Total: $4,160,000):
- Oscar Colas – OF- L – ($720,000);
- Seby Zavala – C – R – ($720,000);
- Gavin Sheets – OF/1B/DH – L – ($720,000); and,
- Keston Hiura – 2B/LF – R – ($2,000,000);
Pitchers (Total: $62,410,000):
Starting Pitchers (Total: $35,200,000):
- Dylan Cease – R – ($5,300,000);
- Lance Lynn – R – ($18,500,000);
- Michael Kopech – R – ($2,200,000);
- Eric Lauer – L – ($5,200,000); and,
- Johnny Cueto – R – ($4,000,000);
Relief Pitchers (Total: $27,210,000):
- Reynaldo Lopez – CL – ($3,300,000);
- Kendall Graveman – Set Up – ($8,000,000);
- Aaron Bummer – Lefty – ($3,750,000);
- Joe Kelly – RP – ($9,000,000);
- Garret Crochet – Lefty – Set Up – ($720,000);
- Luis Perdomo – RP – ($1,000,000);
- Jimmy Lambert – RP – ($720,000); and,
- Davis Martin – Long Relief/Spot Starts (If healthy; if not, then it’ll be Norge Vera – Long Relief/Spot Starts) – ($720,000).
Retained Salary (Total: $8,250,000)
- Yasmani Grandal – C – ($8,250,000)
WHITE SOX TOTAL SALARY COMMITMENTS FOR 2023: $189,673,333