Podcast: Hello, 2023

Record Date: 1/1/2023


  • 2023 is the tenth season Josh and Jim have been podcasting about the Chicago White Sox. They share some announcements of new things coming to Sox Machine’s coverage.
  • New Year’s resolutions for the White Sox include better engagement with the fans, healthy players, and operating like a normal baseball team.
  • Personal resolutions: Jim wants to read and travel more, while Josh continues the best shape of his life goal for the wedding and wants to kayak.
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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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Bruce Levine was on the radio suggesting a Cubs/Sox trade to bring Nick Madrigal back to the Sox. He doesn’t have a spot on the Cubs since he can only play 2nd base and the Sox specifically need a 2 baseman. Not the solution we had hoped for but would immediately be the best option to start the season. (and wouldn’t cost much.)

Right Size Wrong Shape

I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he would be the best option to start the season, and I wouldn’t give up anything for him at this point. He’s a low ceiling guy who has fallen through his floor.

If the Cubs will trade Madrigal for Diekman, I’m for it!

I mean, sure, he was a #4 overall pick, but look at the dipshits who drafted him there. Would you trust their eye for talent?

Bonus Baby

The A’s still have Kemp penciled in as their 2B starter, but I have to believe it wouldn’t take that much more to get him instead of Madrigal. IMO he’d be a much more secure option and a better fit with existing RH2B options.


Okay, I hated this idea at first but I’ve somehow completely sold myself on it. Obligatory preamble: of course, I wish they’d add someone more reliable. But if they are planning on internal options, then Madrigal might actually be an excellent idea.

Over the last 3 seasons, he’s put up 2.4 WAR in 552 PA—or about a full season’s worth of PAs. Plus, he’s relatively inexperienced and playing with/around injuries during that time. That’s not bad. ’22 was bad. But he’s inexperienced enough that it’s easy to see improvement.

The way I see it, adding Madrigal ends one of three ways: (1) he gets injured again; (2) he’s not good; or (3) he’s average or better. If it’s (1) or (2), then fine: you’re right where you are before. Replace him with Romy or Sosa who, by the way, you get to see in AAA or a reduced role in the meantime. If (3), then great—and there’s even a hint of upside, too.

If the Cubs would take Yolbert Sanchez for him, I think I’d pull that trigger.


This is where I’m at too. He’s worth a middle level prospect if even just to up the competition for the spot in ST but the reality is that he would be the favorite going in which says a lot about the current situation and why so many of us are disheartened by the lack of movement.

Bonus Baby

Is there any reason to prefer him over Kemp? Other than years of control, I don’t see it. And b/c of years of control I wonder whether Kemp might require even less in trade. The 1 year of control over Kemp seems fine to me, since they should know more about Sosa/Gonzalez/Rodriguez by then and be in a better position to gauge whether they need a long-term solution at 2B.


Age, years of control, salary, cost to acquire, and upside, to name a few. Steamer thinks Madrigal (2.37 fWAR) will be slightly better than Kemp (2.33 fWAR) if you calculate fWAR/PAs (and, for what it’s worth bWAR has historically liked Madrigal more than fWAR and Kemp less).

Neither player is particularly attractive and I’d be fine if they acquired Kemp. The draw for Madrigal is that, when healthy, he might lock into that player we hoped he’d be: a 110-120 wRC+ with strong defense. In lieu of signing a big-name free agent or trading for Jeff McNeil, that’s about as good as the Sox are going to do at 2B for the next several years.

Bonus Baby

I agree with all of those things, except for upside at this point, and possibly cost to acquire. He always seemed more high floor, low ceiling anyway, and now I’m worried that he’s already not the athlete he was a couple years ago — as evidenced by sprint speed last year.

Of course, Kemp’s sprint speed is even slower, but he’s been that way for a few years now, and produced pretty well the last 3 years, without major injury. I think he’s a safer bet for MLB-starter level production. Being LH is a significant plus as well.

I can see Madrigal being better primarily for years of control — if he truly stops getting injured and turns into the player you describe, it’d be a lift in the next few years. I guess with the injury history at this point, though, I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bonus Baby

Their single-season ceiling is probably about the same—roughly, a 3+ WAR player. Madrigal may be a tick higher but let’s suppose it’s the same. The tiebreaker is age/years of control: the upside of acquiring Madrigal is higher because he can produce for longer (and cheaper).

Kemp has not “produced pretty well the last 3 years.” He produced quite poorly in ’20, excellent in ’21, and below average in ’22. 2021 is pretty clearly an outlier in Kemp’s career—plus, he didn’t play a full season and it was BABIP-fueled. It’s really the only season he’s been at “MLB-starter level production.”

Being LH is not a “significant plus.” Neither player has pronounced splits. In fact, Madrigal’s wRC+ is slightly higher vs. RHP than LHP. And his career wRC+ vs. RHP (95) is higher than Kemp’s vs. RHP last season (93)—and that comprises almost identical total PAs.

I’d rather take the Madrigal gamble and fall back on Sosa or Romy than give the starting job to Kemp for the year.

Bonus Baby

Disagree with every argument except years of control.

Accounting for the length of the COVID-shortened season, Kemp has 6.2 total fWAR in the last 3 years. That’s all I meant by “produced pretty well the last 3 years,” which is exactly what he’s done — it’s an average of 2+ fWAR each year (starter level). It’s also the reason why Steamer projects him for 2.3 fWAR this year, because those are the most relevant years to consider in predicting performance this year. During the same time, Madrigal has produced a grand total of 2 fWAR, so Kemp has been over 3x as productive over Madrigal’s career.

I don’t think it’s particularly useful to look at each individual year on their own and count how many 2+ fWAR years there were, because it doesn’t tell you much about average performance. But if you want to break it down year by year, Kemp has outproduced Madrigal by a large amount every year:

2020: Kemp (0.6 fWAR), Madrigal (0.3 fWAR)
2021: Kemp (3.1 fWAR), Madrigal (1.3 fWAR)
2022: Kemp (1.5 fWAR), Madrigal (0.2 fWAR)

So Kemp has absolutely swamped Madrigal in productivity during the entirety of Madrigal’s career. You may say, “well, average fWAR per game is about the same.” That’s fine and good, but injuries matter, and Madrigal hasn’t lasted 60 games in any season so far.

If we’re wondering who would be likely to produce the most this year for the Sox, it’s Kemp by a landslide.

The L/R spit is definitely significant. Kemp’s career splits are +12 against RHP, and Madrigal’s is only +2. I also have doubts that Madrigal will maintain this reverse split given the short sample size of his career so far. In any case +10 wRC against RHP is significant. Also, based on recent performance, Kemp is projected for 107 wRC+ overall next year, with Madrigal projected for only 98 wRC+ overall — so the benefit of Kemp vs. RHP is even larger.

And the more important comparison IMO is what Kemp does vs. RHP against what Romy/Sosa would do. Kemp is expected to hit more than 107 wRC+ against RHP next year. Sosa is expected to produce 100 wRC+ overall (presumably a bit lower against RHP), and Romy is expected to produce 91 wRC+ overall.

As far as Kemp starting instead of Sosa/Romy, I don’t at all think that he necessarily should. If either of the internal guys is doing really well, particularly against RHP, then they should start most of the time. No need to define it absolutely even at the beginning of the season IMO. If they don’t do quite so well, however, Kemp would be a crucial addition in helping the Sox compete to win the division.

Will Madrigal be more valuable over the long run? Quite possibly, if he can stop being injured consistently, if the injuries haven’t already made him a lesser player than he was previously projected to be, etc. But even if he does, I agree with your ceiling for him, which is not all that high, and I think his expected floor at this point is much, much lower than Kemp’s. Kemp is at least likely to be stable, be available, and hit RHP better. Madrigal might be a total bust at this point, due to injury or otherwise.

Given the above, I’d much rather just roll with Kemp this year, and leave it to a later date to figure out what if anything needs to be done about 2B in 2024 and beyond.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bonus Baby

First, I was looking at bWAR, which is considerably lower on Kemp than fWAR. According to bWAR, his last three years look like: -0.2 (poor), 3.4 (excellent), 1.1 (below average). That’s a total of 5.3 WAR—or an average of 1.7 WAR/year.

But—taking a simple 3-year average is a bad (and incomplete) way to evaluate a player. Look no further than Kemp to see why! 2021 is clearly an outlier (and, for what it’s worth, that’s not unique to Kemp). Remove 2021, and Kemp’s 6-year career looks very pedestrian and below average. In fact, 2022 would be Kemp’s best year by fWAR (1.5) and bWAR (1.1). One excellent year—propped up by the bouncy ball and a high BABIP—doesn’t change the fact that Kemp has been mostly bad and/or not starting quality. Can you at least admit that 2021 is an outlier and not representative of what we should expect from Kemp in one season?

Yes, Madrigal is oft-injured (as I’ve already said). But we’re also talking about a relatively small sample size. Smaller, for example, than Eloy or Robert. And Madrigal’s been better over his last ~550 PAs (or about a full season worth of action) than Kemp has been. And, unlike Kemp, Madrigal’s age suggests he should trend up (while Kemp does the opposite).

Yeah, you didn’t really make a good case that Kemp being LH is “definitely significant.” Neither player has deep platoon splits nor significantly moves the needle vs. RHP. Your hunch that Madrigal will hit RHP worse doesn’t really do much for me.

If the Sox traded for Kemp, my response would be *shoulder shrug* sure. If they are indeed going with internal options, then better to have Kemp than not. But if you think he’s the answer at 2B, even for a season, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Bonus Baby

Never looked at this before, so it’s interesting to me at least. The basic Fangraphs’ formula for the “Off” stat is just wRC+ added to BsR, with what look like minor adjustments for ballpark and plate appearances rather than games.

I looked at 2022 leaderboards for players around 10 wRC+ above or below 100, and it seems that 10 wRC+ translates into the range of 6-8 runs per 162 games. That in turn would translate to 0.6-0.8 difference in fWAR over the course of 162 games. If Kemp only played 81 games against RHP, it would still be 0.3-0.4 fWAR difference. That seems significant to me.

The “let’s ignore 2021 because it’s an outlier and is BABIP induced” is unfortunately not convincing to me. His 2021 BABIP was .304, around league average and only .20 higher than the .284 he had in 2020 — so, not much different than his normal year (Madrigal’s BABIP has been much more volatile). Also, it’s not like Steamer doesn’t take these things into account: it’s predicting only a .276 BABIP for this year, and it still projects him for 2.3 fWAR. Apologies for not admitting that we should treat 2021 as an outlier (by which I take you to mean ignore it), but if projection models consider average production over a number of years, why shouldn’t we?

I’m not sure what you mean by “the answer at 2B,” but I expect that we largely agree there. I don’t expect him to be anything more than an average MLB 2B, who hits RHP better than LHP (worth maybe 0.5 fWAR or more if he plays most games against RHP). I would be much happier with that kind of safety blanket with Romy and Sosa as the only other options — particularly since I personally am putting a lot of emphasis into this year: first year without TLR, we might actually get people playing their natural baseball positions finally, and the “championship window” I think should pretty much be considered closed if they’re not a well-above average team this year.

I agree with you that if Madrigal can get over injuries and be the player he seemed early in his 2d year, then overall for the next few years he would have a lot more value than Kemp. How could I deny that? But in the context of the “championship window,” I’m just much more focused on getting at least one complete team without replacement level players before it ends — and if Madrigal ends up like he did the last couple years, then the chances of that this year at 2B would still be way too high for my tastes. Also, what the league thinks of the relative likelihoods of these things is likely to be reflected in his trade price, either higher or lower than Kemp.

2024 and after, it would be great to have an early 2021 Madrigal, but if his ceiling is roughly 3 WAR or a little above, I don’t think it would be a crushing loss for the Sox to miss out on that — I’d hope with contracts coming off the books and internal development or FA signings, the Sox could again get at least average, 2 WAR production for those years.

But if you’re more focused on the long term, I can understand your position.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bonus Baby

bWAR vs. fWAR – I don’t see any reason to count one more than the other. If you want to toot Kemp’s horn, you have to consider bWAR, too.

10 points of wRC+ – Madrigal has been better vs. RHP than Kemp was last year. Whatever your hunch about Madrigal, I don’t see any good reason to grant you that Kemp will be better vs. RHP—especially when projections clearly aren’t going to know how to handle Madrigal.

Kemp’s 2021 – Did I say ignore? I didn’t say that. I said it was an outlier. I ask you again: do you agree that it’s an outlier?

You should never ignore an outlier. But neither should you look at an average with a clear outlier in it and see that average as indicating future production.

BABIP – His BABIP in 2021 was his career high and 30 points higher than his career average.

Alfornia Jones

He doesn’t get XBH, doesn’t walk enough, can’t run the bases, and plays mediocre to bad defense next to a SS who is also mediocre to bad defender. There was nothing wrong with trading him for Kimbrell, he’s not that good even though Kimbrell didn’t have any bullets left.

The Sox are relatively good at developing infield talent, so I do think one of Gonzalez/Sosa/Rodriguez will eventually wrestle down 2B. Replacing a 1 WAR player should be doable in house. They have nothing to trade other than Hendriks or TA, then all you are doing is swapping holes in the roster. If they have any money left I’d rather they spend it on a RF. If they really don’t have anymore money to spend, please don’t trade the few measly assets we have in Project Birmingham, because we aren’t good at trades either.

The team is good enough to win the Centrai if TA/Robert/Eloy/Yoan stay healthy and produce, they’ve already won a division without a 2B or RF. Things do go right sometimes.


it would be comedic. therefore i’m all for it


Well we’ve already got his brother Ty. And his brief Nicky 2-strikes phase was great theater.


WS resolution: Reasonable roster construction – meaning competent major leaguers starting at every position, SP depth, and a decent third catcher. Build the team to win.


Hang on, you recorded a podcast episode on a holiday….which is also a Sunday…which is also the day after Josh imbibed in volume? Above and beyond the call of duty, gentlemen.

For that, I will mention that my favorite kayaking trip ever was in Milford Sound, New Zealand. Still waters, gorgeous scenery, and it was well worth the irritation of the sandfly bites we received during the hiking portion of our trip. (Speaking of which, one of the selling points of Alaskan winters is you get to avoid the ravenous mosquitoes of Alaskan summers. If you go to a baseball game up there, bring mosquito repellent.)


Can’t recommend the Smokies enough, Jim. If you don’t mind a little chill and higher likelihood of rain, you can have the national park almost to yourself in the off-season (we loved it in November). Chattanooga is really fun too and a reasonable drive from Nashville (we used to live in Nashville). Mammoth Cave/Bowling Green is a fun day trip or overnight

Last edited 2 months ago by GlossRoad

Just gotta avoid the tourist traps, the hiking is excellent.


MLB.com’s first power rankings of 2023. Sox at 16th, 1 slot higher than ESPN:

Bonus Baby

Yeah, you’ve got a couple now, which is a point. They also have Cleveland only 4 spots higher, though. I’m still more convinced by the odds-makers at this point, and if the Sox actually go out and get Kemp/Laureano or better for 2B and OF, I’d predict the Sox for 91+ wins.

Trooper Galactus

The AL Central is a complete trash heap and the White Sox still can’t manage being runaway favorites.


What reason is there to believe the Sox are even looking at upgrading 2b? They could have signed Segura rather cheaply a minute ago if they were.

I doubt Hahn is even working this winter, honestly. All trade suggestions are just fan speculation. It seems a good bet they have made up their mind to go with Sosa and Colas at 2b/RF. I hope at least one looks like they have a future.

Bonus Baby

My reasons would be primarily: (1) he said his bit about the trade market being “more fruitful” for roster upgrades; (2) I get that Hahn has a block head, but at some point he’s got to admit that 2B has been a sinkhole for too long now; (3) Since JR and Co. are so cheap, they wouldn’t have considered Segura cheap enough to sign in context of their payroll, which we all hate, but I think is reality for them; (4) and you may hate this one the most, but I expect the cheapness will be part of the reason they end up making a strong effort to trade Hendriks for guys that would be both useful and cheaper.

Could be wrong about everything of course.


Anything Hahn says means absolutely nothing to me, literally. I honestly would never believe a word from him. That’s just keeping it real.

I think there are players they could get with such low ceilings that would actually be worse than giving Sosa a shot, like Madrigal. I sure hope there is no reunion. Sosa could easily hit a few homers and prove to be at least as valuable as several mediocre replacements they could trade for. We’ll see if you are right, I expect very little roster movement prior to opening day. I would prefer that to most of the suggestions I’ve seen, unless it is for Chisholm or somebody with substantial upside.


Insofar as kayaking goes, I believe that possibly the best in the world is to be found in the San Juan Islands, in the Sound northwest of Seattle. It’s very sheltered so usually calm, with gorgeous scenery and the utterly breathtaking experience of paddling alongside wild orcas, often incredibly close, in addition to wildlife like sea otters, porpoises, swimming moose, and at night incredible bioluminescence. I recommend around April 1– usually the weather will be warm at sea level by then, but the Cascade volcanoes on the mainland should still be fully snowcapped, for added dramatic effect.


Holy shit, the Sox signed Benentendi

I guess this means that Hahn is back from Cancun and is ready to resume baseball like activity?