Well, we’ve hired Pedro Grifol from the Kansas City Royals so I suggest we do a little bit of Royalball this offseason. We’re adding defense, speed, and using platoons to make the most out of what is likely a limited budget for 2023.
It starts with what is sure to be an unpopular move: moving Luis Robert to RF for 2023. As I’ll explain, it’s because I plan on using a defensive platoon with league average bat in CF and by moving Luis to RF, I now have gold glove defense at 2 outfield positions. The platoon would be Kevin Kiermaier and Michael A. Taylor.
I’ll also look for high-upside arms whose peripherals spell success. Ultimately, this team will live or die on the bats of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaugh, and Yoan Moncada. No plan can fix all those people underperforming of being off the field. This plan attempts to pre-build in injuries and provide depth when needed.
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M- TENDER
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M- TENDER
- 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- TENDER
- Danny Mendick: $1M- TENDER
I view Mendick as a step above Romy and Lenyn. His defense is fairly consistent and he can play a legitimate SS if needed. Jose Ruiz was not an ideal reliever, but he’s fine as a “last reliever.”
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
Josh Harrison was an average middle infielder with a weak bat. With Mendick, Leury, Romy and Lenyn, he has no place on the roster. Eat the $1.5 mil to save ~$4 mil.
|Total Club Options||$13,500,000||$14,000,000||$500,000|
Write “exercised” or “takes buyout.” The question here is whether you think Pollock could do better than one year and $8 million on the open market. I’m filling it in with “exercised” unless you can provide a compelling argument against it.
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — EXERCISED
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
Try to retain, extend qualifying offer, or let go?
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2021)- LET GO
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M)- LET GO
- Vince Velasquez ($3M)- LET GO
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M)- LET GO
Jose Abreu was excellent in 2022, putting up one of his best seasons with a 137 wRC+. The question is this: do we think that over the next two years, will Jose Abreu be so much better than Andrew Vaughn so much as to spend money there or elsewhere. To me, that answer is no, and here’s why.
First, Abreu is a 35-year-old first baseman and Andrew Vaughn is 24. Andrew is on the up and up, and Abreu is already showing worrisome declines in power. Worrying me further is Jose’s high BABIP in 2022. His .350 BABIP was tied for the 2nd highest of his career and likely covered up his power decline and allowed for his higher batting average. As he ages, he is likely to see BABIP declines simply due to becoming slower and older. This means his inability to effectively slug the ball will spell trouble.
Cueto’s full season numbers are worthy of bringing him back, especially at his low salary. However, the second half was a warning shot of what to expect next year. Despite his full season of 158.1 IP and a 3.35 ERA, his second half and peripherals were a disaster. His full season FIP was 3.80 and he had an xFIP (adjusts for HR/FB ratio) of 4.38. In the second half, it all got worse. In 84.1 IP, he posted a 3.84 ERA and a FIP of 3.63. However, his xFIP (again accounting for HR/FB) was an inflated 4.59. All this is overkill for saying I expect him to regress and his inability to strike people out (just 4.7 K/9 in the second half) is setting us up for a major regression in 2023.
Elvis Andrus is not a 2B and I believe our depth at the middle infield is a relative strong suit of this team.
We should also factor in Dallas Keuchel’s contract expiration in this category for financials. Yes, he was DFA’d early in the year, but he falls into the same “contracts off the books” category financially.
|Technically Dallas Keuchel?||$18,000,000||$0||($18,000,000)|
Pedro Grifol was already announced by the time I got around to this.
List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.
No. 1: OF Michael Brantley (one year, $10 million, 2024 team option ($10 million, $2,500,000 buyout).
“Guys, you’re still trying to [trade for Juan Soto]. I told you we can’t do it, and we can’t do it. Now, what we might be able to do is re-create him. Re-create him in the aggregate.”
- Brad Pitt in Moneyball.
I present to you the platoon of AJ Pollock and Michael Brantley in LF. AJ Pollock is around for another season whether we like it or not. I suggest we take his major strength (batting against lefties) and combine it with a player who excels at hitting righties, is relatively cheap, and can probably play the outfield. In 2022 AJ Pollock posted a 161 wRC+ against lefties. Michael Brantley posted a 133 wRC+ against righties. That places us roughly at an average of 147 wRC+ in the platoon. Juan Soto’s 2022 wRC+: 145. Brantley was also 30th percentile in OAA in 2021, the last time he played a full season in the field. At $23 million, this platoon is expensive, but I’m also factoring in that even if one of them goes down, we still have a competent left fielder for 2023 and Andrew Vaughn is relegated to 4th or even 5th string in LF.
No. 2: OF Kevin Kiermaier (one year, $6.5 million).
This assumes the Rays decline his option. I intend to platoon Kiermaier in CF with Michael A Taylor, who I will trade for. Kiermaier is, as we all know, one of the best defensive CF’s in today’s game. He and Taylor routinely place in the 90thpercentile for OAA. Kiermaier, a lefty, has a career 102 wRC+ against righties and posted a 91 wRC+ against righties in 2022. Taylor has a career 91 wRC+ against lefties and a 91 wRC+ against lefties in 2022. Together, I’ve created a gold glove CF with a roughly league average bat. Coupled with their stolen base skills, we’ve got the makings of a 3-4 WAR CF with defense and speed alone. To me, this move is also an investment in pitching. By prioritizing OF defense, we’re making our pitching staff a whole lot better because that many more balls are being caught.
No. 3: LHP Andrew Heaney, (Two Years, $28 million, 2025 $15 million Team Option, $5,000,000 buyout).
I absolutely love Heaney’s peripherals. He posted the 10th best xFIP in the game among pitchers with 70+ innings and ranked 7th among all starters. He dealt with shoulder fatigue and other injuries, but please find me a pitcher anywhere who has a clean bill of health and is in the White Sox’s budget. If he plays with that elite defense behind him and can limit the HR ball, he’s got a chance to be a breakout 5th starter.
|Michael Brantley||$10,000,000||(T) $10,000,000 ($2,500,000 buyout)||0|
|Andrew Heaney||$14,000,000||$14,000,000||(T) $15,000,000
Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.
No. 1: Trade RHP Sean Burke, RHP Jimmy Lambert, RHP Kohl Simas, RHP Jonathan Steiver, and 3B Jake Burger to the Royals for OF Michael A Taylor and RHP Scott Barlow. (MLB trade value: Sox (17.8), Royals (18.6))
The Royals massively need pitching, importantly, starting pitching. The White Sox will need bullpen help (see below after Hendriks trade) and what better way to give Pedro Grifol a welcome to Chicago like his old weapon in Kansas City, Scott Barlow. Taylor, as I explained, is platooning in CF and is on the last year of a 2y/$9 mil deal. Barlow is already in arbitration and is coming off a monster stopper-role season where he pitched 74.1 innings at a 2.18 ERA. He will fit in the back end of this bullpen very nicely. I’m also selling high on Jimmy Lambert. He’s got a future as a starter in KC, especially with how he performed out of our pen. They can take his multiple years of service time to develop him, but I’ll take Barlow out of the pen instead of Lambert. Lambert’s peripherals also leave something to be desired.
It’ll be hard to see Jake Burger in a Royals uniform, but they could use some slug from the DH/1B/3B role. I’d be fine putting Gavin Sheets in here instead of Burger if it meant I didn’t have to give up Burke.
Will some of these guys come back to bite us in 5-6 years pitching for the Royals? Maybe? Who knows, they never develop pitching. We can’t worry about that right now. I don’t view any of these guys as major pieces moving forward. It’s a little short on the return, but I trust the front offices can figure something out.
No. 2: Trade RHP Joe Kelly and 3B Wes Kath to the Brewers for 2B Kolten Wong. (MLB trade value: Sox (-0.7), Brewers (-0.7))
To make this trade budget neutral in 2023, I’ve added Joe Kelly and his $9 mil contract. He really underperformed in 2022 and the Brewers could obviously use some bullpen help, even if it’s not the best. Wong has a 2023 team option for $9 mil. In order to get them to take Kelly on, you have to toss on a real piece. I think Kath can be something but right now he’s playing quite poorly at Low-A and striking out a third of the time. At AA, that became a 44% strikeout rate. Not exactly promising.
As for why I want Kolten Wong, he’s got previously elite defense (2 GGs) and has excellent platoon splits against RHP. His 135 wRC+ against righties in 2022 put him 27th among qualified hitters. He was even ahead of slugger Anthony Rizzo. His one-year deal also provides us excellent flexibility for others in our system to be ready for 2024.
Trade 3: Trade RHP Liam Hendriks to the Braves for C Travis d’Arnaud and a PTBNL. (MLB Trade Values (White Sox (16.5), Braves (13.3))
Wow, this is a blockbuster (think about the Passan Tweet). Plus the Braves actually come out ahead per the trade value. Atlanta tried Kenley Jansen on a 1yr deal and now are in need of a closer. We need to prepare for the fact that Yasmani Grandal’s best days are behind him. Even if Yaz is back, imagine this quality backup.
D’Arnaud is currently on a 2 yrs/$16M (22-23) & 24 team option contract, making it so that he’s also around next year (so we don’t need to worry about a catcher for 2024.) Liam is also around for the Braves that year too. I doubt they trust Raisel Iglesias to close out a playoff game.
This also saves us money on salary and shifts resources from the pen to the offense without much sacrificed in way of performance. We’re able to use Barlow, Reylo, and others as the closer and we can always acquire relief arms at the deadline. The Braves can now slot All-Star William Contreras into their new starting catcher role. I’d be ok giving them a minor league catcher as well to give them extra depth at the position (think Nick Ciuffo). With Seby and Perez, we have depth down to 4th string.
|Michael A Taylor||$4,500,000|
Opening Day 26-man roster.
|OF||Michael A Taylor||R|
Next in line:
These players are what I view as our depth that will be in AAA but will be up due to any injuries. These players either have options or will benefit from everyday play in AAA. These are roughly in order of how I believe in what order they should be called up.
On my 26 man we already have excess depth at OF and have relegated much of our middle infield depth to AAA for the time being. I am ok with this, especially because it truly moves Leury back to a utility role at the major league level. Any injuries to Tim, Yoan, or Wong would allow us to call up one of the AAA pieces. The presence of several also limits the need to worry about 5 options per season. It can also be an opportunity to take the hot hand from AAA.
I kept trying to wrap my head around what I can get for an Andrew Vaughn, Luis Robert, or Eloy Jimenez. I thought about blowing up the core. But guess what, I like the core. I think they have potential and are elite players. I think Eloy, Tim, Luis, Andrew, and Cease can carry us to a championship, but I can’t let them be bogged down by holes everywhere else on the team.
Once I decided I was keeping the core, I thought about what I still needed. The more I thought, the more RF became a problem. I kept being faced with overpaying for a free agent or looking at a weak trade market. Instead, I thought out of the box. If Luis Robert can play gold glove defense in CF, surely he can do it in RF for half a season until we can call up Colas. Here’s my view on this. We start the season with the platoon in CF and Luis in RF. That platoon should be a 80-100 wRC+ combo, but still put up 3 WAR due to defense. It’s also an extremely high floor even if they underperform. Worst case we swap them, but I think their defense in CF is more valuable. If Colas is ready, we have a problem of having to DFA or trade two very cheap veteran outfielders on 1yr salaries. This also means no more Andrew Vaughn or Gavin Sheets in the outfield.
With AJ Pollock on the team, I needed to find a platoon bat. Joc is an option, but I like Brantley’s competency against lefties as well. Both Pollock and Brantley have injury concerns, but the platoon should help with that. Worst case, either one can be a competent LF and Eloy presents a 3rd string option.
Second Base was originally going to be a fight between Leury, Mendick, Romy, and Lenyn. However, I was looking at wRC+ splits against righties and low and behold Kolten Wong was up there. Coupled with a 1 yr deal and gold glove defense, it’s a no brainer. Joe Kelly is excess bullpen depth and the Brewers are still in need of bullpen help and can probably fix him. Wes Kath is in case they can’t.
Lastly, I’m not comfortable waiting and seeing on Yasmani Grandal and we need to seriously plan for if he is this level of bad next year. We cannot go a full season in championship contention mode with Seby Zavala and Carlos Perez. Enter Travis d’Arnoud. He is finishing up a contract, is blocking an All-Star replacement, and is on a team in dire need of back of the bullpen help. Kenley is gone and I doubt they trust Raisel Iglesias.
As I said at the beginning, this team will live or die on the bats of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaugh, and Yoan Moncada. Nothing is going to change that.
The 2023-2024 offseason is all designed for flexibility. In fact I factored in higher AAVs and buyouts to get additional flexibility or team options. Most of the moves were 1–2-year deals, and only Andrew Heaney’s team option would still be around for 2025.
In the end, all of this was $3.5 million less than the prior season, and positions can easily be upgraded depending on salary flexibilities.