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The sky is not falling. The White Sox have the makings of a fairly complete team if they’re honest with themselves about who is and isn’t an outfielder. I’m not overly worried about cutting guys who had a down year in 2022 because–sheesh, that’s pretty much everyone.
The sky is sadly NOT the limit. My heart says “Our championship window is open!” but my mind says “This team won 81 games last year in a terrible division.” I’m NOT trading away any real prospects because Rick Hahn spent much of his career going “all in” with mediocre teams and look where it got us. Smart teams trade away major league players and back-fill with prospects unless they have so much young talent they can’t fit it all on the field. We’re, uh, not there yet…
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M – Tender
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M – Tender
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M – Tender
I’d offer him an extension, but his buddy Lucas will talk him out of signing it.
- Adam Engel: $2.3M – Re-sign for just $2M
I think Adam has a decent chance of being a decent 4th outfielder again after a bad year. We’ll need a righty to platoon with our new RF and Adam is better out there than Leury. Not to mention there’s no one else in the org who can even play a decent CF.
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M – Tender
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M – Non-Tender
- José Ruiz: $1M – Tender
Jose is actually a perfectly solid pitcher in low-leverage situations. He has major league stuff. He’s in his prime. He’s been consistently healthy. Deployed properly–that profile is well worth $280k above the minimum.
- Danny Mendick: $1M – Tender
The consumate utility player–hard-worker, above average defense at multiple positions, a little pop in his bat, seems to consistently come up with hits in key situations. He’s better than Leury, better than Romy, and (at this point) better than Lenyn. And frankly, I just like the guy. Plus he still has options available, so he can be stashed in AAA to start the season if everyone is miraculously healthy. Easily worth a measley million dollars.
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) – Pick Up
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) – Pick Up
We don’t have the money to upgrade everywhere, so this is where I pinch pennies. None of our middle infield prospects is quite ready and Josh is still going to outplay Danny Mendick over a full season. Harrison also gives the Sox an option at 3B if Moncada misses time. The last two seasons Josh has been an average hitter at the plate and slightly above average in the field. That’s easily worth $4.1M. Not to mention that I love having a pair of black guys with swagger turning double plays for our beloved south siders.
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — Exercised
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) – Retain 2 years/$30M
At age 35 Pito was somehow still the healthiest and the best hitter in our lineup. The fear of diminishing power is pretty overblown for a guy that had 55 extra-base hits and strong exit velocities. He looks to have at least a couple years of production left. The guy relishes big moments and loves playing against the best–that’s someone I want on my team for a playoff run. That being said, will someone please sit the man for a few games in April!?
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) – Let Go
Love the guy, love his presence in our locker room, and would happily bring him back. But we can’t afford him.
- Vince Velasquez ($3M) – Let Go
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) – Let Go
Not Ozzie Guillen. He was the right man in the right spot in ’05 and he is a true White Sox for life, but there’s a reason he hasn’t managed in 9 years. Even if you put aside the fact that he can be a horse’s ass, his small-ball tendencies would make him a dinosaur in today’s game.
No. 1: Cody Bellinger (1 year/$13M)
I’m assuming here that the Dodgers will non-tender the former MVP that has looked lost at the plate for multiple years rather than pay him a projected $18.1M. A one-year prove-it deal with the Sox makes sense. We desperately need to improve our OF defense which means a) putting a real OF in right, and b) keeping AJ Pollock out of center if/when Luis Robert is injured. Bellinger is a plus defender at both positions. Worst case scenario—he makes some highlight catches, steals some bases, and gives us a little lefty pop. But if a change of scenery helps him discover even a little of that MVP form…
No. 1: Trade Eloy Jimenez and INF Yolbert Sanchez to MIA for LHP Jesus Luzardo, OF JJ Bleday, and C Ronald Hernandez
This trade is mostly Jimenez for Luzardo. The teams exchange talented but injury-prone guys with 4 years’ control remaining. Eloy is a top-shelf hitter but his defense (and desire to keep playing the outfield) will always hold him back. Jesus has top-shelf stuff and though he threw just 100 innings in 2022, he did so with a 3.32 ERA (and peripherals to match) in a division that had 3 playoff teams.
The Marlins have a plethora of young pitching talent but desperately need to add thump to their lineup. The Sox have too many DH’s but could use a talented young lefty in their all-righty rotation. It will be a long time before another top-flight arm matriculates from the Sox farm system, so this stabilizes our rotation for years to come. Not to mention that the swap will save the White Sox a little money.
As for the prospects in the deal, Miami could use some middle infield depth and the Sox have plenty to spare. The Sox need outfield depth to avoid what we’ll call “the Sheets scenario”. Bleday is a mostly busted prospect at this point, but he has 3 options remaining, offers decent defense, and has more upside than Haseley. Maybe a change of scenery does him good. The Marlins are probably happy to move on. Hernandez is still a raw teenager, but he’s loads better than any catcher prospect currently in the Sox’ system.
No. 2: Trade Kendall Graveman to BOX for RHP Kutter Crawford
I like Graveman and think he has a fair contract, but we need to cut back on bullpen spending somewhere. I want to keep Hendriks because I don’t want Graveman closing if he can’t pitch well on consecutive days. The Red Sox need bullpen help and don’t mind adding payroll. They have a glut of young 5th starter types so they won’t mind parting with one. Crawford is slated to start the season in Charlotte but he provides crucial depth to a Chicago staff that otherwise has only Davis Martin to hold the line between injury and oblivion.
- SS Anderson $12.5
- 3B Moncada 17.8
- CF Robert 9.5
- DH Abreu 15.0
- 1B Vaughn 0.7
- RF Bellinger 13.0
- LF Pollock 13.0
- C Grandal 18.3
- 2B Harrison 5.6
I know–mostly the same guys as last year. I’m betting that if the dugout doesn’t feel like you’re visiting Grandpa in the nursing home then the kids will have more pep. Plus Colas and Sosa should be up sometime around the All-Star break. I would prefer that Jose and Andrew split the time at 1B 50/50 because they could both benefit from staying better rested.
- 1B Sheets $ 0.7
- OF Engel 2.0
- UTIL Garcia 5.5
- C Zavala 0.7
Sheets is your go-to pinch hitter (a role in which he’s excelled) but isn’t quite good enough to deserve a starting spot. Leury gets a few starts in left–his best position defensively. He won’t be as bad in ’23 as he was in ’22 (and won’t play as much), though if he doesn’t revert to form by summer cut him and move on. Engel platoons with Bellinger in right. Mendick will spend most of the season in the majors but may be the odd man out when the season opens.
Zavala was the 13th most valuable catcher in baseball last year and only played half a season. Is he really that good? No, but he at least looks like a solid back-up–and maybe more?
- Cease $ 5.3
- Lynn 18.5
- Giolito 10.8
- Luzardo 2.0
- Kopech 2.2
Any or all of these guys are capable of earning Cy Young votes. This is the strength of the roster. Crawford, Martin, and hopefully Stiever are ready to step in as depth.
- CL: Hendriks $14.3
- SU: Lopez 3.3
- SU: Bummer 3.8
- MID: Kelly 9.0
- MID: Lambert 0.7
- MID: Diekman 3.5
- MID: Ruiz 1.0
- LR: Banks 0.7
Even without Graveman this remains a solid bullpen with plenty of firepower to get through 7, 8, and 9. I thought Banks excelled in long relief this past year, so that job is his to lose. This feels like an average bullpen on paper, but remember that everyone will look a little better with good defense behind them. Foster and Sousa start in AAA and probably see plenty of time in the majors. Crochet should be back by August.
Depth, depth, depth. I’ll tell you what won’t derail my 2023 White Sox–injuries. Total payroll comes in right around $190M. I really wanted to include Andrew Benintendi in this plan but I just couldn’t make the money work.
This team is built on strong starting pitching. The bullpen should be fine. The lineup won’t be great, but it could be pretty good if a few guys rebound. Our games will be boring, but we’ll win more than we lose. So sit back, relax, and strap it down! Your 2023 season is coming up next.