The White Sox’s 40-man roster now has plenty of room for activities, because it now features five open spots following Friday evening’s non-tender deadline.
They declined to tender contracts to Adam Engel, Danny Mendick and Mark Payton, with Rick Hahn singling out the first two in a quote via the White Sox’s press release:
“We appreciate all that Adam and Danny did for our organization in 2022 and during prior seasons. As we have said at other times, a lot of consideration and analysis goes into the club deciding to forego the arbitration process and instead engage with players and their representatives as free agents. Our plan is to stay in contact with all three players and evaluate their ongoing fit with our club as we move forward through this offseason.”
The other side of this coin is that the White Sox offered contracts to Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech and Jose Ruiz.
Mendick was the only complicated call among the non-tenders, because you could go back and forth with the reasons to retain him.
- PRO: He’d just played his best ball at the MLB level last season.
- CON: But he’d played a lot of mediocre ball before then, and then he underwent season-ending knee surgery.
- PRO: He’s only projected for $1 million, and still has options remaining.
- CON: But the White Sox have several other utility infielders, especially if Yolbert Sánchez hangs around after the Rule 5 draft.
The other two required less push and pull. Engel was projected to make $2.2 million coming off his worst season since his rookie year, and he turns 31 next month. Payton was not eligible for arbitration, but the White Sox used the occasion to make that particular move.
If the White Sox fail to retain either Engel or Mendick, it’ll mean that both of their careers ended on sour notes. Mendick was lost for the season when he collided with Adam Haseley down the left-field line on June 22, while Engel whiffed on a home-run robbery in his penultimate game.
The moves, if final, would also close the book on a couple of draft success stories. Engel surfaced from the 19th round of the 2013 draft, when the White Sox made him one of their many Louisville selections. He stands as the second-most successful pick from that draft class, with only Tim Anderson beating him. He debuted in 2017 and managed to survive the entire rebuild despite hitting .166 his rookie year.
Mendick beat even steeper odds three rounds and two years later, completing a steady climb from the baseball powerhouse known as UMass Lowell, and he could be the answer to a couple of trivia questions when the dust settles, such as:
No. 1: Who was the White Sox’s most successful draft pick in 2015?
(Carson Fulmer and Seby Zavala are the only two to reach the majors; Mendick holds a slight edge in career bWAR.)
No. 2: Who was the last White Sox player to reach the majors from a draft round that no longer exists?
(Major League Baseball hasn’t held a draft past 20 rounds since the 2019 season.)
Mendick and Engel have maintained their presences on the 26- and 40-man rosters over the last four and six seasons, respectively, so the non-tenders to afford the White Sox the space to pursue a little more upside in fringe spots.
They can start by perusing the other non-tenders around the league. MLB Trade Rumors broke them into American League and National League lists. There are a number of other credible major-league bench and bullpen types on the wire, but the only one who will generate immediate intense interest is Cody Bellinger, who won the MVP in 2019, but hasn’t been the same after shoulder surgery after the 2020 season. As a lefty who can play a good center field, he should still have plenty of useful baseball left, but that MVP put him on a trajectory to make a projected $18.1 million in 2023, and .210/.265/.389 doesn’t cut it.
Jon Morosi connected him to the Blue Jays, but he makes sense for the White Sox for the same reasons:
While the White Sox will lose a proven MLB bench player in Mendick, Leury García and Lenyn Sosa can back up Anderson at shortstop, along with Romy González and (later) Jose Rodríguez. With Engel and Payton off the 40-man, Luis Robert is the White Sox’s only actual outfielder on the roster, even if Eloy Jiménez, Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn are listed alongside him. If Rick Hahn’s offseason quotes are any indication, this might finally be the year the White Sox stop pretending they can cut it out there.