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The White Sox look towards 2023 not as far into no-man’s-land as they might appear coming off a .500 season in arguably the worst division in baseball. From my perspective (and likely many other White Sox fans’ as well), almost everything that could go wrong in 2022 went wrong. Long-term injuries to key contributors such as Jimenez and Robert. A seemingly directionless approach at the plate for Moncada and Grandal. An off-year for rotation stalwart Giolito. And bad ball luck on many occasions for the bullpen.
This said, I used the word almost for a reason, as there are components of the 2022 season worth taking solace in. Cease is a bonafide, front of the rotation, mustache machine. Jimenez was possessed upon his return from injury. Zavala, if nothing else, is outstanding behind the plate and can be a great second catcher option for years to come. And while it hurt this year, the fact that the boys all played at the low-end of their projections would lead us to believe that maybe they’ll produce better in 2023. More on all of this below.
A quick word before I begin below: this plan is what I believe the White Sox might do with the constraints they have. If it was all up to me, the plan would look entirely different, even given the same constraints. The below represents years of watching Rick and co. operate, and is my best guess at what they do.
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M – TENDER
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M – TENDER
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M – TENDER
- Adam Engel: $2.3M – NONTENDER
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M – TENDER
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M – NONTENDER
- José Ruiz: $1M – NONTENDER
- Danny Mendick: $1M – TENDER
I think what I’ve shown above is likely pretty close to what a lot of folks think the Sox will do with arbitration this year. One other point I have is that I think it’s possible, if not even likely, that all the non-tender candidates here return to the Sox on minor league deals.
Total Arbitration Dollars: $22.6M
Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) – PICK UP (Already Done)
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) – DECLINE (Already Done)
While I wasn’t surprised the Sox declined Harrison’s option today, it does confirm (from my perspective) to me what I believe the Sox will be doing this year with second base: an internal option.
Total Club Option Dollars: $14M
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — EXERCISED
Sox fans shouldn’t hate this as much as I’m sure many will. Sure, $13M kind of stinks, but I think there is a role for Pollock on this team. Will get into this later.
Total Player Option Dollars: $13M
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) – LET HIM WALK
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) – LET HIM WALK
- Vince Velasquez ($3M) – TRY TO RETAIN
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) – LET HIM WALK
I think each of these choices deserves some expanded though:
Jose Abreu – LET HIM WALK
You love Jose, I love Jose, everybody loves Jose. But at this point, Vaughn needs to be playing every day at a more natural position. We can’t let Vaughn be a negative WAR player because he has to be the worst defensive player in baseball in the outfield. This is a hard choice for Rick and co. to swallow, but the right one from a financial, production, and roster construction perspective.
Johnny Cueto and Elvis Andrus – LET THEM WALK
Johnny Cueto and Elvis Andrus will forever be amazing White Sox trivia questions. They are essentially the only reasons the Sox didn’t have a sub .500 season in 2022, and for that my soul is grateful. However, both far exceeded their peripheral numbers in 2022, and I don’t see them besting father-time once more in 2023, especially for what they will cost. Let them walk.
Vinny V – TRY TO RETAIN
If you would’ve told me that I’d be advocating to keep Vinny V in November 2022 after the Sox missed the playoffs in April of this year, I’d call you crazy. But, our lord and savior Ethan Katz is a man of magic and mystery.
Vinny V quietly pitched the 2nd half of the 2022 season to a 3.15 FIP and 3.57 SIERA while limiting opposing hitters to only a .201 batting average. If they can get him back at the same $3M they got him for 2022, I think another winter/spring with Ethan could create a solid pitcher at a bargain.
Total “Try to Retain” Dollars: $3M
My only note here is I think Pedro Grifol is going to be a great manager, and I’m super excited about it!
No. 1: LHSP Carlos Rodon – 5 year, $130M + 1 year club option for $26M ($5.2M buyout)
It’s time to bring the king home.
No. 2: LHOF Andrew Benintendi – 3 year, $45M + 1 year club option for $15M ($3M buyout)
Similar to the Jose Quintana move above, acquiring Andrew Benintendi is a stars-have-aligned type move. Reuniting Benintendi, a much needed left handed hitter who plays a decent corner outfield, with Pedro Grifol just makes too much sense.
Total Free Agent Dollars: $41M
No. 1: Trade RHRP Liam Hendriks and RHINF Bryan Ramos to Dodgers in exchange for LH2B Gavin Lux
The Dodgers are addicted to getting one of the “guys” each winter. This winter, it will probably be Trea Turner. When that happens, their shortstop-of-the-future Gavin Lux is suddenly without a spot. What about second base, you ask? Well, Dodgers top 3 prospect Michael Busch is ready and waiting in AAA for his spot, and he’s 25.
The Dodgers also need a bonafide closer. In Liam Hendriks is a bonafide closer, and one who is over $5M AAV cheaper than Edwin Diaz, who just set the market for bonafide closers. Sox chip in Ramos (Sox org #2) as a kicker, and I think Lux comes to the south side.
Total Trade Dollars: -$13.6M
Let’s round out the 26 man.
Pitchers – 13 Total – $91.01M
SP1: RHSP Dylan Cease – $5.3M
SP2: LHSP Carlos Rodon – $25M
SP3: RHSP Lucas Giolito – $10.8M
SP4: RHSP Lance Lynn – $18.5M
SP5: RHSP Michael Kopech – $2.2M
CL: RHRP Reynaldo Lopez – $3.3M
SU: RHRP Kendall Graveman – $8M
SU: LHRP Aaron Bummer – $3.75M
MRP: LHRP Garrett Crochet – $720K
MRP: RHRP Joe Kelly – $9M
MRP: RHRP Jimmy Lambert – $720K
MRP: LHRP Jake Diekman – $3.5M
LRP: RHRP Vince Velasquez – $3M
Hitters – 13 Total – $105.45M
C: SHC Yasmani Grandal – $18.25M
1B: RH1B Andrew Vaughn – $720K
2B: LHINF Gavin Lux – $720K
SS: RHSS Tim Anderson – $12.5M
3B: SH3B Yoan Moncada – $17.8M
RF vs RHP: LHOF Oscar Colas – $720K
RF vs LHP: AJ Pollock – $13M
CF: RHOF Luis Robert – $9.5M
LF: LHOF Andrew Benintendi – $15M
DH: RHDH Eloy Jimenez – $10.3M
Bench C: RHC Seby Zavala – $720K
Bench UTIL: SHUTIL Leury Garcia – $5.5M
Bench INF: RHINF Jake Burger – $720K
TOTAL PAYROLL: $196.46M
I know I’m just a bit over the $190M limit (3%), but I think this team here is both realistic in its construction, and has the ability to win it all. Go Sox!