lstanczyk27’s Offseason Plan: Finding Nimmo (and losing Gio)

PREAMBLE

The Sox are in both a tricky spot and have reason for optimism. They’re starting to have to make tough roster decisions and have holes to fill, but also still possess the talent to go far in the postseason with a manager who doesn’t actively contribute to losses in the dugout.

We know the Sox need to improve in the outfield, which is tricky while already being up against the $190M payroll. Here, I lean into my confidence in Ethan Katz by dealing away arms to clear payroll and land the left-handed hitting outfield help we need.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

  • Lucas Giolito: $10.8M — TENDER
  • Dylan Cease: $5.3M — TENDER
  • Reynaldo López; $3.3M — TENDER
  • Michael Kopech: $2.2M — TENDER
  • Danny Mendick: $1M — TENDER

It’s pretty easy for me on all of those. The middle three are self-explanatory, Giolito is a tradeable asset if you want to move on from him (see later on), and Mendick, while rehabbing an injury, was really darn good last year in a bench role. He should definitely factor into next year’s roster. He’s earned it.

  • Adam Engel: $2.3M — NON-TENDER
  • Kyle Crick: $1.5M — NON-TENDER
  • José Ruiz: $1M — NON-TENDER

The Crick decision was made already, but I would have done the same. With Adam Engel, I don’t really want to get into the business of paying glove-only bench guys multi-million dollars. You got way more out of him then you ever expected, and it’s just time to move on. I’ve heard some arguments on keeping Ruiz, but I can’t quite understand why. He’s had two seasons with Katz and has not gotten any better. Someone else can mop-up for $500k less next year.

CLUB OPTIONS

  • Tim Anderson: $12.5M — PICK UP
  • Josh Harrison: $5.625M — DECLINE

These again are self-explanatory. There are way too many similar internal options to Harrison to keep him around, and you aren’t ditching Anderson after a rough couple months on the heels of some near-elite seasons.

PLAYER OPTIONS

  • AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — EXERCISED

I don’t think there’s any chance he declines this, nor do I think it makes sense to trade him with his value being pretty darn low (who is going to want him?). He still can bring some productivity, I think, in a limited role against LHP. He can be a guy who spells the left-handed hitting outfielders we acquire in my moves below. An expensive bench option, but he’ll serve a purpose in 2023.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

  • José Abreu — LET GO
  • Vince Velasquez — LET GO
  • Elvis Andrus — LET GO

Abreu walking out the door is a tough pill for me to swallow. We’re talking about someone whose jersey I got for my college graduation gift his rookie year. He’s a franchise legend who should have his own day at The Rate when he retires in about 5-6 seasons. However, it’s good practice to let someone walk a year a year too early than too late. The current roster construction combined with Abreu’s age and power decline made this a hard, yet sensible decision.

Velazquez is an easy decision and I won’t have the budget money to bring Elvis back in this plan, plus I like the internal options better for 2B than I do if we were to lose Cueto.

  • Johnny Cueto — RE-SIGN (1 YEAR/$6M)

Cueto was a stabilizing force last season who seemed to thrive under the guidance of Ethan Katz. With a new voice in the clubhouse Cueto also is familiar with, I would think there’d be mutual interest here. With my plan below involving moving a starter, bringing back an innings-eater like Cueto is important.

MANAGER

We already know this one, but for the record, Grifol was my third choice of the known candidates after Espada and Long. However, I am full bought in and ready to run through a wall for this guy.

FREE AGENTS

No. 1 Sign OF Brandon Nimmo for 5 years/$85M

Jim Bowden predicted 5/$80M earlier today, so I’m saying the Sox will pay up a bit from that. There isn’t much more of a perfect fit for them on the market than Nimmo. He slots perfectly into LF and the two-hole in the order as a left-handed bat who gets on base and plays Gold Glove caliber defense, ranking in the 90th percentile in outs above average on Baseball Savant. He might not hit 16 home runs every season of the contract, but what if the tick in power stays? He might even be worth more than this deal.

No. 2 Sign SP Jose Quintana for 2 years/$20M

Quintana was magnificent down the stretch this past season with the Cardinals, and I think it would behoove the Sox to balance the rotation out with a left-handed arm. Quintana likely earns less this offseason than someone like Martin Perez, but slots in with the veterans of Lynn and Cueto here to eat innings and buoy a staff on a team with what looks to have an iffy bullpen after losing a key piece of it (see below).

Outside of 2021, Quintana has historically been over the 50th percentile in avoiding barrels, and I have faith that Katz combined with the familiarity and comfort of the franchise he came up with can keep him at an average to above-average level for at least 2023. Keith Law has him getting two years at 10-12M per year, which sounds steep to me, so I’ll hedge on the low end here.

TRADES

No. 1: SP Lucas Giolito to the Baltimore Orioles for RF Anthony Santander

The trade simulator on tradevalues.com has Giolito (13.2) much more valuable than Santander (5.3), but I’m not sure I agree with that. Santander has one more year of team control, is estimated to make just about $3.0M less next season ($7.442M), and is coming off of his best professional season where he popped a team-high 33 home runs with 89 RBI and a .773 OPS. The switch-hitter does hit lefties better than righties, but his career splits are much closer and he might be the best fit available on the trade market.

He can probably be had because Baltimore has a bevy of young bats on the way and not enough arms. They were 29th in SP fWAR last season, and even coming off of a down year, Giolito is a massive upgrade for them. Santander gives the Sox much needed pop and stabilizes RF. He’s not Willie Mays defensively but even being in the 30th percentile in most Baseball Savant categories is better than being in the 1st percentile, which is where we currently are at.

We all figure Lucas isn’t getting paid next off-season by the White Sox. If that’s the case, why not move him to address another need? That’s what it boils down to for me.

No. 2: Trade RP Liam Hendriks to the Dodgers for SP Ryan Pepoit, INF Rayne Doncon

Gosh I hate this…but it’s going to be necessary to trade one of these bullpen arms to get the money freed up to fill the roster holes. No one will be more desperate this offseason to acquire a closer than the Dodgers, and $14.3M in budget money can go a long way right now.

In return, the Sox get someone with a promising future who can help them out of the bullpen or in spot starts in Pepoit. Doncon is a MIF who just had a nice year in his first year stateside as a 19-year old. He’d probably man SS or 2B at Kannapolis or Winston-Salem next year, with the Sox hoping to continue to tap into his 6’2 frame that yielded 12 homers in 62 games between Rookie-ball and Low-A in 2022.

SUMMARY

Lineup

  • Anderson SS
  • Nimmo LF
  • Robert CF
  • Jimenez DH
  • Santander RF
  • Vaughn 1B
  • Moncada 3B
  • Grandal C
  • Mendick/Sosa/Gonzalez winner 2B

Bench: Sheets, Pollock, Garcia (ugh), Zavala, Mendick/Gonzalez (Sosa starts in AAA unless he wins job outright)

The top four in this order really does have a chance to be one of the best in baseball. With Santander there, Vaughn, Moncada, and Grandal shouldn’t have a ton of pressure to produce. This is balanced with a left-handed and three-switch hitters and should make them tougher to pitch to.

Rotation

Cease, Lynn, Cueto, Quintana, Kopech (not in that order, just listing the names)

Bullpen

Closer: Lopez

Lefties: Crochet, Bummer, Diekman

Righties: Graveman, Kelly, Lambert, Martin/Pepoit (spot starter)

We’re banking a lot on internal improvement and no regression from older players with the pitching, but I think its important to have starters that can give you length if you are trading Hendriks. You’re confident here four of your arms can give you 160-200 innings, with Martin and Pepoit serving as safety nets for Kopech if he just can’t sustain health. The ceiling isn’t as high as its been in past years here, but I think the floor is higher.

With this roster, I’ll have Pedro pneumonia and be ready to back Grifol’s guys. Let’s win in 2023.

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lstanczyk27
lstanczyk27
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a-t

Gio for Santander feels like selling brutally low on Gio. He’s just one rough year removed from a three-year stretch of being a top 10 SP in baseball by fWAR.

Hendriks to Dodgers is a popular idea and I like the proposed return here.

Nimmo for 5 years/$85M is understandable given Bowden’s projection, but I think Bowden is just brutally, horribly, old-school out of touch on that one. Nimmo’s a 29 year old lefty OF coming off a star-level 5.4 fWAR season, who can handle center okay and the corners great, and has a career 134 wRC+. Pito’s career mark is 133. He’s dealt with injury issues, but there’s no way that high quality a player (career 4.5 fWAR per 600 PA) gets less than the Wheeler deal.