White Sox avoid arbitration hearings, sharpen payroll projection

(Photo by Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

Thanks to the lockout and a contentious negotiation with Lucas Giolito, the White Sox didn’t have all their players under contract until April 1.

Back to a normal schedule, the White Sox resumed their usual pattern of having all players under contract before the filing deadline, which arrived on Friday.

The White Sox opened the offseason with eight arbitration-eligible players, but non-tendered Adam Engel and Danny Mendick while outrighting Kyle Crick. That left five players, and all of them reached deals on Friday.

Shoutout to MLB Trade Rumors, which came $100,000 away from nailing the sum with its individual projections.

PlayerProjectedActual
Lucas Giolito$10.8M$10.4M
Dylan Cease$5.3M$5.7M
Reynaldo López$3.3M$3.625M
Michael Kopech$2.2M$2.05M
José Ruiz$1M$925K
Total$22.6M$22.7M

That brings the payroll to a little more than $170 million for 19 spots per Spotrac. Throw in seven other spots at the league minimum of $720,000, and you get to about $175 million. That’s $15 million or so short of the 2022 team’s Opening Day payroll, which was $193 million according to Cot’s. (To be fair, I’d call it $191.5 million when adjusting for roster deflation, since the 2022 season opened with a 28-man roster.)

Back in November, Rick Hahn said he thought the payroll would be “somewhere in the vicinity of where it was in 2022.” You can argue whether a 9 percent reduction counts as “in the vicinity,” but I’d rather focus on the idea that the White Sox are removing resources while their status as a contender is in critical condition, which represents either a terrible financial plan or the absence of one.

At least the Sox are trying to compensate by adding resources elsewhere. Along with the reconfiguration of their hitting infrastructure to accommodate 2½ coaches under an enthusiastic Pedro Grifol, James Fegan reported that the Sox hired former Nationals assistant GM Sam Mondry-Cohen to their baseball operations department in their continued efforts to put their hitters on a data diet.

Mondry-Cohen spent the past year as a consultant for the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies, an executive in residence at a biomechanics company called Reboot Motion and as a senior fellow for Wharton’s sports analytics and business initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. But Mondry-Cohen is best known for his time with the Washington Nationals, where he was credited with effectively creating their research and development department and developing their internal statistical database, beginning as an intern with the team in 2009 until he left after the 2021 season.

The White Sox roughly summarized Mondry-Cohen’s role as an offensive complement to [Rod] Larson’s. And despite all the fancy front office titles and responsibilities, Mondry-Cohen’s experience with the Nationals is rooted in trying to distill analytical information into actionable takeaways for players on the field. That figures to also be the thrust of a role that per a source, will also involve traveling with the team throughout the season. As will also be the case with the White Sox, Mondry-Cohen’s time with the Nationals was an effort in blending advanced metrics into the process of a franchise that maintains an open reverence for old-school baseball concepts, and it culminated in a World Series championship in 2019.

Because we’re talking about the White Sox, this development is simultaneously praiseworthy and lamentable. It’s great that it’s happening at all, but it’s a shame that the White Sox wasted two years and a record payroll on Tony La Russa, whose only real nod in this direction turned out to be more of a Duncan Children Jobs Initiative.


Going back to Giolito, as he and Hahn exchanged versions of their contract discussions before last season, Fegan reported that the White Sox offered Giolito a four-year, $50 million extension before the 2021 season. That would’ve covered his three arbitration years and his first year of free agency, with a club option for 2025.

As I wrote at the time, the White Sox seemed to have offered Giolito a fair deal in terms of dollars. The decision came down to whether Giolito had any interest in delaying free agency, and I’m guessing the answer was something like, “Not for less than seven figures.”

Now that he locked in his third and final arbitration salary, we can put a little finer of a point on the topic. Giolito’s 2023 deal ran his total through $22 million for his arb years, so that means he’d have to make $28 million next year in order to earn the money the White Sox were willing to guarantee him through 2025.

That seems more unlikely than likely at this moment, but it’s also probably besides the point for a player of a certain mindset. Carlos Rodón possessed a similar belief of his self-worth from draft day forward, and while he slipped behind the salary curve by going year to year, it only took him one winter to regain the lead, and a second winter to blow it up and redevelop the land into something entirely unrecognizable.

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Augusto Barojas

Sox are 12th in payroll at the moment according to spotrac. A few million more and they could be 10th, but it doesn’t look likely they will be higher than that. This after being 20th or lower in 5 of the past 7 years, 15th in 2021, and 7th last year.

It looks like their payroll peaked some time after their rebuild did. How are those billboards coming along?

Augusto Barojas

Outstanding, thanks.

GrinnellSteve

While the Mondry-Cohen hiring (or something similar) should have happened sooner, it’s great that it is happening. The proof will ultimately be on the field, but this has the makings of a very good move. It seems to me that players such as Vaughn, Moncada, Robert, Zavala, and the likely rookies could all benefit from his presence.

And of course the Grifol hiring should have happened 2 years earlier, too.

BenwithVen

Agreed. It’d be great be great if this org could attract more FO/Analytical talent, this seems like an actual step forward.

FishSox

Call me dour, but I fear RH’s, KW’s and JR’s fingers could stir the Mondry-Cohen pie and we wind up with another shit sandwich. Not that there’s a history of that or anything.

Sorry for trying to find the black cloud in the silver lining.

RayHerbert

then why hire him?

ChiTownMax25

Unfortunately this is probably true. The White Sox poor culture and analytics infrastructure has caused a lot of staffers (both in analytics as well as other departments) to leave over the past few years, so my head and heart are moving in different directions on this one.

Bonus Baby

I’ve got to think that Vaughn in particular should be able to get a bit more lift to the ball. He hits the ball plenty hard, but he hasn’t even reached 10 degrees launch angle in either season so far, and was at only 7.5 degrees last year. Make it more like 17.5-20 and he’ll hit plenty of HR’s with his typical 91 mph EV.

I don’t know that I like Moncada’s chances of resembling the hitter he was in 2019 again, but I suppose there’s some hope there as well — at least to get him back to the walk-heavy batter he was in 2021.

Bonus Baby

As far as payroll goes I haven’t sided with the folks who have suggested that significant payroll increases are absolutely necessary right now, and that it’s inexcusable to not go out and get tier one free agents right now.

I have, however, always thought that failing to even match last year’s payroll is inexcusable during a purported “championship window” that they sold the fans on during all those years of tanking. It’s even worse IMO since the peak payroll would have been during the reign of JR’s personal friend TLR — which is basically JR screwing fans over two different ways.

As far as accounting goes, do your numbers account for buyouts and deferred payments, Jim? Fangraphs has the Sox at an estimated payroll of $186M, and it looks like the buyouts to Pollock et al. may be where most of the difference from your calculation comes from.

Either way, they really need to be doing something on 2B and 4th OF. I’ll put in my broken record suggestion for Kemp and Laureano, which might be a harder trade to work out now, but should still be doable from farm assets IMO. With the two of them, payroll would go up $7.5M … which really would be right around last year’s payroll by Fangraphs’ count.

Get it done JR and you freaking losers in the FO!

Last edited 1 year ago by Bonus Baby
Adam

I don’t know. Go take a gander at the free agent class next year. It’s pretty much Ohtani and nothing. Machado can opt out but I don’t think the sox are grabbing him. So with about 60 mil coming off the books plus the 30 mil in Disney money this year, they could have got a top tier guy with the Disney money this year, then paid him with the money coming off after that. And then still had money next year to patch holes here and there.

Since they didn’t spend, we’re left with this team for 2 more years. Unless the trade market heats up…like it did this year.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

The Sox have never needed 30M in Disney money to sign a decent free agent! And you are completely right, there is basically nobody all that good to sign next winter. They have 60/100M coming off the books after 2023/24, and needed to act sometime in the past 3 winters when good players were available, instead of doing next to nothing. They blew it, and their “championship” window is shut, as if that was ever their actual goal.

Reinsdorf is the kind of guy like when you go to dinner with a group, and everybody chips in to pay the bill, you know he’s the guy who contributed nothing toward the tip and probably didn’t even pay for his own drinks – and he makes 10X more money than everybody else.

Bonus Baby

Well, trading for Laureano would be an even better idea then. He’d be controlled through 2025 and is still only 28. If Colas is good, they should have their 4 outfielders for some time. If Colas is not good, then having Laureano as a backstop would be even more important.

And if the Sox are not competitive this year even after addressing 2B and 4th OF flexibility/depth, then they’d have just about no chance of being competitive in 2024 anyway. I’m still ready for them to pull the pin and blow up the team if they’re .500 or lower at the trade deadline. In that case, they’d restock the minors.

Just for this year, give me one year without TLR and without a stupidly constructed roster (people playing out of position, lack of depth, lack of flexibility, etc.). If they do that and it goes well, great. If they do it and it goes badly, blow it up.

HallofFrank

In addition to adding someone via trade, I wonder if they’ll explore extensions with some players. Cease is probably the most natural candidate. Giolito and TA both strike me as possible but unlikely. ReyLo and Kopech are both interesting options. And the dark horse, perhaps, is Oscar Colas.

Anyway, that’s another way the Sox could hike up the payroll, too.

Foulkelore

I would love a Cease extension, but he hired Boras as his agent in 2022. With how he performed last year, they are never going to be able to work out an extension with Boras/Cease before Cease hits free agency.

Alfornia Jones

the going rate is $30mil per year, and 6-7 years. there aren’t many dumbasses that give out hometown discounts, so there is no way they are extending him. ride him hard and put him away wet for the next 2 years.

Bonus Baby

Agree on the hometown discounts — but the Sox are the only team that can right now guarantee him money for a bunch of years. How worried is he that he’ll blow his arm out in the next two years? I have no idea, but players will often accept less money for more security.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bonus Baby
HallofFrank

Yeah. “Hometown discount” isn’t the right word. It’s more like “risk-averse contract.” I know that, if it were me, I’d almost surely be signing one of these. Teams that sign these contracts almost certainly come out ahead, but it’s not easy to turn down a contract that basically guarantees you’ll never have to work again for a chance that you’ll earn even more later. I know the player’s union and all that are factors. But without those factors, no doubt I’d rather take the risk-averse track.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I’d bet whatever anybody wanted that they aren’t extending Cease. Unless he falls flat in 2023. If they wanted to extend him, they needed to do it before the season he just had. No way are they extending a Boras client who just had a Cy Young caliber season. Ridiculous to even contemplate. He would get twice or even three times the contract dollars somewhere else.

He’s already had TJ surgery. I’m sure he would say “thanks, I’ll take my chances.” Surely that would be Boras advice. Hahn has probably never even spoken to Boras in his life.

Last edited 1 year ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack
bobsquad

Absolutely no chance Boras lets him sign an extension. I was looking through pitcher extensions Boras has negotiated, and I could only find one: Lance McCullers (who has only started 69 games over the past 5 seasons) got $85MM for 5 years in 2021.

I really believe that Boras has more player intelligence than probably 25 MLB teams, and aside from weird cases like 2020 Rodon there is no outsmarting him.

Last edited 1 year ago by bobsquad
a-t

thank god they didn’t pull silly stuff like with Gio last year. the fuckin’ Rays are going to arb over $125K with one dude

mikeschach

Speaking of budgets and spending, and of course Liam’s health and recovery are paramount, but does anyone know if his salary this year is covered by insurance? I assume there is some kind of coverage that teams take out for big salaries and it seems likely that he will not pitch this year, or much of it, due to health issues. Might that free up an additional chunk of change that could be applied to this year’s product?

Bonus Baby

Interesting question, and I have no answer for Liam in particular, but I found this:

https://community.fangraphs.com/insurance-in-baseball-is-like-a-black-hole/

Bottom line is that it seems insurance for Liam is likely IMO, but probably has at least a 90-day deductible period starting at the beginning of the season. So they probably wouldn’t begin collecting before the end of June.