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There’s just not much that the White Sox can realistically do to change their fortunes. Their best assets in trade are generally some combination of needed, injured, or not cost-effective. They aren’t likely to add to (and more than likely will subtract from) the payroll. Their best bet is the guys here, and given the number of extensions they’re now buried under, it’s a bet they placed years ago.
My working theory is that Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t want to add to the payroll past 2024 if he can avoid it, so any contracts over two years are gonna include option years that the team controls or some other mechanism by which they might get out of it.
- Lucas Giolito: $10.8M TENDER
- Dylan Cease: $5.3M TENDER
- Reynaldo López; $3.3M TENDER, EXTEND (3 years, $4m/5m/7m)
- Adam Engel: $2.3M NON-TENDER
- Michael Kopech: $2.2M TENDER
- Kyle Crick: $1.5M NON-TENDER, MINOR-LEAGUE DEAL
- José Ruiz: $1M TENDER
- Danny Mendick: $1M TENDER
Giolito is about as good a pitcher you’re gonna get on a 1/11 deal, so given their lack of quality starting pitching depth I don’t see how non-tendering or trading him does anything to help the team at all, even coming off a bad season. Cease and Lopez seem like no-brainers, but if Lopez is amenable to committing to the bullpen, I wouldn’t mind exploring an extension for him that gets a few more years out of him in the $3-7 million range per season. Kopech’s another no-brainer, but they need to get more arms to pair with him to help him get through a full season. Crick isn’t worth keeping on the 26-man, but if he’ll take a good minor-league deal I think he’s worth having around for depth. Ruiz and Mendick are cheap depth pieces who aren’t great options but are about as good as this team’s gonna get at the back end of their roster.
- Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) PICKUP
- Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout DECLINE
Tim is another frustrating example of so many White Sox players who flash 5+ WAR potential but fall short due to various injuries. Even with that said, the White Sox aren’t going to improve on their production at the position within their budget, so Anderson is probably their best shot at getting it. At worst, his entire profile craters and his 2024 option is declined. At best, you have an All-Star caliber player with another reasonably cheap season who can be retained or traded depending on where the team goes. As for Harrison, well, I never wanted him in the first place, and regardless of the budget I think the White Sox can do better with that money.
- AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) — BUYOUT
Either I’ve totally misread Pollock’s market, or he really must have hated it here.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- José Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) LET GO
- Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) LET GO
- Vince Velasquez ($3M) LET GO, MINOR LEAGUE DEAL
- Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) LET GO
I really want to bring back Abreu, but the team needs to get younger and more versatile, and while he’s still one of their best bats, they can’t be investing eight figures in more first basemen and expect to compete. Jose deserves better than this franchise anyhow. I loved Cueto, but I fear he may have priced himself out of the White Sox reach and, let’s face it, he’s hanging on with smoke and mirrors at this point. Again, the White Sox need to get younger, not keep investing in the end of guys’ careers. Velasquez was yet another 2022 signing I despised, but if they can get him on a minor league deal (like they should have in the first place), he could be a good swing man to call upon as the season grinds on. Andrus, again, I wouldn’t mind having back, but with a wealth of young middle infielders in their system to call upon he might be too much investment for a redundancy. But, again, if he fits the budget, I’d bring him back.
I wanted Matt Quatraro, but I’ll settle for Grifol, I guess, as unexciting as he is. What concerns me more is that Grifol will be saddled with too many members of his staff who were not of his own choosing, which will only contribute to further clubhouse chaos.
No. 1: Zach Eflin (1 year, $10m, team options for 2024-25 at same rate, $1m buyouts each year). The White Sox need more starting pitching that fits in their budget, and Eflin fits the bill thanks to some injury struggles. He fits a good hybrid starter/reliever role that I think will pair nicely with Kopech to chew through some innings without having to chew through arms while keeping both players from being overworked.
Mike Clevinger (1 year, $9 million) Still getting back into the swing of things after TJS, Clevinger had a bad 2022 but still has good upside for a make-good deal. He’s about as good as we’re gonna find for seven figures.
Jean Segura (2 years, $25 million) I gave serious consideration to bringing back Elvis Andrus and saving money here, but he’s not a second baseman by trade, and unlike Segura has spent most of the last few years being a well below-average bat. Segura might be entering the twilight of his career, but he still has a good glove with an above average bat that can produce double-digit home runs. He’s a good veteran investment who will allow their middle infield prospects (Sosa, Rodriguez, Sanchez) to develop without being overly rushed.
Jurickson Profar (2 years, $18 m w/$9m option for 2025 with $2m buyout) I’m personally not enamored with Profar, but he does bring a few options to the table that the White Sox could use. He’s a switch-hitter, has double-digit power, and can provide passable defense across the outfield and potentially even cover an infield position in a pinch. What’s more, he has developed into a very patient hitter the last couple years, and an 11% walk rate would fit nicely into this lineup. This contract shouldn’t make Profar immovable either in trade or to more of a bench role should Oscar Colas force the issue.
No. 1: Trade Liam Hendriks, Leury Garcia, and Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Cody Bellinger. Sign Bellinger to a 3-year/$36 million deal with an opt-out after 2023. If he takes the buyout, White Sox retain a team option for an additional 3 years/$60 million. Bellinger has fallen far since his MVP campaign, but if he were on the White Sox last season he’d have led the team in home runs and stolen bases and been second in games played. The White Sox need a lefty power bat and far better defense in the outfield, both of which even this much-reduced version of Bellinger can provide (he’s still an great center fielder, so he’s backup for Robert as well as excellent in RF). By signing him to an extension, the White Sox can reduce his 2023 hit on the payroll by about $5-6 million and give him some degree of financial security more commensurate with his current production, and if he returns to something resembling his former self, they can retain him for a still reasonable price should they want to.
The White Sox are by far giving up the most valuable player in this deal, but it’s basically a way to salary dump Kelly and Garcia so they can shore up their issues elsewhere while getting a risky but still problem-solving player for right field. If Bellinger winds up getting non-tendered, just sign him to this deal and see if there’s another avenue to use Hendriks to shed some salary. Or, you know, just expand the damn payroll.
C – Yasmani Grandal ($18.25m)
1B – Andrew Vaughn ($750k)
2B – Jean Segura ($12.5m)
SS – Tim Anderson ($12.5m)
3B – Yoan Moncada ($17.8m)
LF – Jurickson Profar ($9m)
CF – Luis Robert ($9.5m)
RF – Cody Bellinger ($12m)
DH – Eloy Jimenez ($10.33m)
The fortunes of the 2023 team rely on a log of players (Moncada, Anderson, Robert, Jimenez, Grandal) staying healthy and returning to form, and I’ve doubled down on that formula a bit with Bellinger. But Segura and Profar provide decent veteran ballast, and I’m betting that moving Vaughn to first base will not only pay instant dividends for the outfield defense but contribute to an offensive breakout.
IF/COF – Danny Mendick ($1m)
C – Seby Zavala ($750k)
UT – Romy Gonzalez ($750k)
1B/COF – Gavin Sheets ($750k)
The bench is weak, but I think covers the most important areas. Romy functionally replaces Leury Garcia as the super-utility, only without dedicating an absurd amount of payroll and at least some hope he might become a positive offensive contributor. Mendick has shown flashes of being a pretty good player in small sample sizes, and he can play anywhere in the infield and even corner outfield in a pinch. Sheets provides some lefty pop off the bench and could be good for platoon situations. Zavala is the logical backup to Grandal, with Carlos Perez waiting in Charlotte should disaster strike.
Speaking of waiting in Charlotte, instead of leaning on Lenyn Sosa and Oscar Colas to be positive contributors out of the gate, this plan allows them to get more reps in AAA while not really blocking their path to playing time when somebody inevitably gets injured. At a minimum, there won’t be any more Tony La Russa playing Leury Garcia while Sosa rides the bench. Ideally, they’ll prove they deserve to play at the highest level in April and May and be ready reinforcements when needed.
RHP – Dylan Cease ($5.3m)
RHP – Lance Lynn ($18.5m)
RHP – Lucas Giolito ($10.8m)
RHP – Mike Clevinger ($9m)
RHP – Michael Kopech ($2.2m)
RHP – Zach Eflin ($10m)
Cease has risen to be the unquestioned ace, and Lynn is still a solid #2, but there’s a lot of question marks after them who I’ve tried to simply create depth around. Giolito could rebound into ace form, but he could also continue to be an uninspiring 4th/5th starter type. Clevinger could rebound into ace form or just play himself out of the league. The Kopech/Eflin tandem will require deft management by Grifol and Katz throughout the season, but if they play their cards right then 140-odd innings out of each shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, and if Kopech holds up well enough then Eflin can move to a long relief role. Personally, I just like having six guys around who I think can cover five innings when needed.
In the minors, they’ll still have Davis Martin honing his craft, and hopefully Vince Velasquez (or a few names like him) who are willing to come in on some decent minor league deals, because the gap between Martin and their next best option is pretty horrifying.
CL – Kendall Graveman ($8m)
RHP – Reynaldo Lopez ($4m)
LHP – Aaron Bummer ($3.75m)
LHP – Jake Diekman ($3.5m)
RHP – Jose Ruiz ($1m)
RHP – Matt Foster ($750k)
RHP – Jimmy Lambert ($750k)
This bullpen is admittedly shaky, because after the first three names there’s little reason to have a boatload of confidence in anybody. Graveman is tabbed as the closer based on previous experience, but Lopez could bulldog his way into the conversation as well, though I like the idea of keeping ReyLo a bit stretched out as an emergency starter. Lambert and Foster have both produced nicely in recent history, but neither is a sure bet. Ruiz and Diekman are not good, but the former is about as good as we’re gonna find on a budget and the latter we’re just kinda saddled with (unless we launch his salary instead of, say, Leury’s in the Bellinger deal).
Regardless, I’m willing to run with this to start the season. This gives Crochet time to work his way back from TJS, and maybe even get stretched out a bit (if they intend to make him a starter, regardless of my disagreement with that path, they need to start doing it NOW) for multi-inning duty. That’s a solid potential midseason reinforcement, and history suggests there will be plenty of serviceable relievers available before the deadline. Otherwise, Anderson Severino, Bennett Sousa, Tanner Banks, and perhaps even Kyle Crick are potential reinforcements from the minors in the immediate term. With Kopech/Eflin acting in a tandem starter role, there hopefully will be fewer innings to cover.
The total cost of this ultra-risky plan? Approximately $183.5 million, well within budget and hopefully leaves them a few more options to add at the trade deadline. I dunno, maybe a few of these ideas are pie-in-the-sky, but given how unenthused I am about them, I think that’s a pretty good indication they’re probably within the realm of realism beyond a lot of trade proposals that I think vastly overvalue the White Sox’s hand. Guess time will tell.