Rangers benefit from shots White Sox didn’t take

Marcus Semien and Corey Seager
(Photo by Thomas Shea/USA TODAY Sports)

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” is a quote that Rick Hahn used on at least a couple of occasions over his tenure as White Sox general manager. Curiously, both times I could find involved NPB free agents.

Back in 2014, the White Sox made what appeared to be a legit run at Masahiro Tanaka after the Rakuten Golden Eagles posted him, offering him a reported nine-figure deal that ran with some of the league’s higher bidders. They didn’t figure to be a favorite with the moneyed teams on the coast also participating, but Hahn said about the process:

“We view this as a situation where you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, and it was worth the effort,” Hahn said in a Wednesday evening conference call. “We saw Mr. Tanaka as a player who could complement and fit in nicely to some of the other things we’ve accomplished over the last several months.”

Four years later, the White Sox were limited to a $300,000 offer for Shohei Ohtani due to the penalty incurred by blowing out their budget to sign Luis Robert, but given that Ohtani could only sign for something like $3.5 million due to the new international restrictions, every offer was relatively meager, so the Sox had nothing to lose by maxing out.

“We know this is a long shot, as I said. We do have a responsibility to leave no stone unturned, exploring every avenue to be in the best position going long term. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, said Wayne Gretzky and Michael Scott. That is our approach to this one. We will take our best shot.”

I thought of this line watching the Texas Rangers go from a 102-loss team in 2021 to the American League champions two years later. Majority owner Ray C. Davis forced open a window of contention by opening the purse strings for Marcus Semien (seven years, $175 million) and Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million). When that merely resulted in a 68-94 record, the Rangers fired team president Jon Daniels and manger Chris Woodward, lured Bruce Bochy out of recent retirement, and signed Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million), Nathan Eovaldi (2 years, $34 million), and retained Martin Perez on a $19.65 million qualifying offer.

On one hand, that’s a lot of brute-force spending. On the other, the Rangers’ Opening Day payroll was just $10 million more than the White Sox’s, $199.6 million to $189.2 million.

How could it be that close despite all of those sizable contracts? Better position-player development is one, as the Rangers paid Adolis García, Jonah Heim, Leody Taveras, Josh Jung and Evan Carter only six figures apiece. After Seager and Semien, the highest-paid position player on the Opening Day roster was Nate Lowe at $4.05 million.

Also, in contrast to the White Sox’s bullpen-first strategy, the Rangers cut corners assembling a relief corps, as the White Sox spent three times as much in that department.

White SoxSalaryRangersSalary
Liam Hendriks$14.3MJose Leclerc$6M
Joe Kelly$9MIan Kennedy$2.25M
Kendall Graveman$8MWill Smith$1.5M
Aaron Bummer$3.75MTaylor Hearn$1.4625
Reynaldo López$3.625MJonathan Hernandez$995K
Jake Diekman$3.5MBrock Burke$724,840
Jose Ruiz$925KDane Dunning$724,840
Jimmy Lambert$735KCole Ragans$724,145
Total $43.835MTotal$14.38M

That difference in bullpen spending would’ve more than covered Semien’s $26 million salary for the season.

Of course, the Rangers eventually had to invest in their bullpen by trading for Aroldis Chapman and Chris Stratton, but Texas’ best reliever in the postseason has been Josh Sborz, and he didn’t even break camp with the team. If you have enough offense and starting pitching, bullpens can eventually sorted out, as the 2019 Nationals proved, and the Rangers further copied from that playbook by beating the Astros in seven games without winning one at home.

The White Sox tried to build a team backward, and while Liam Hendriks’ cancer diagnosis ultimately foiled the strategy, it didn’t stand a chance in the first place, not with everything else that went wrong. The bullpen can only protect 100 percent of the leads that get to them.

This flaw in the plan was evident when the White Sox signed Hendriks back in 2021, because it was the same problem the Sox ran into when they tried to accelerate their first rebuild by paying David Robertson more than any other free agent.

There’s nothing to dislike about having Hendriks in the White Sox bullpen. He’s been the best reliever in the game the last couple of years, and the Sox saw up close during the wild card series how much trust he earned from his manager. The Sox needed a pure strikeout guy, and Hendriks delivers an alarming amount of them.

If excitement is muted, it has more to do with Hendriks’ role than the pitcher himself. His work can only be properly enjoyed if his teammates do well enough in the first eight innings. Robertson fell short as the crowning piece of the 2014-15 offseason because he didn’t get enough of those leads. He personally earned his $46 million deal, yet the White Sox did not get their money’s worth because they did not have a single winning season over Robertson’s term.

Compounding the problem, the Sox proritized relievers over the next three acquisition periods, which is how they ended up with a $44 million bullpen. Hahn spent past the point of diminishing returns, and it ended up being payroll weight they couldn’t carry when the ship started sinking.

The counterpoint is that Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn’t have approved a Semien-grade contract even if Hahn only spent $15 million on the bullpen. That’s indeed a problem at the ownership level, but it doesn’t absolve Hahn and Kenny Williams. They allocated franchise-record outlays the last two years in the worst way possible, especially since it replicated the mistakes the last time they got the chance to run the rebuild, because it turns out they only had one idea for working around the constraints.

That gets back to the debate about whether Hahn ultimately delivered on his vow that “the money will be spent,” but the good news is that either answer ends up in the same place. Technically, they did spend quite a bit of money, but they did so terribly. But if “the money” implied a Semien/Seager/Machado/Harper-grade contact, the Sox broke that promise.

Hahn tried to point the fine print as if it held any standing in the court of public opinion, but he knew what he meant. He also learned what Wayne Gretzky and Michael Scott meant. When you’re perfectly set up to take that wide-open shot, passes might as well be misses.

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If the Rangers were run by the White Sox:

Josh Jung would have been penciled into the outfield since 2021, and Evan Carter would have broken camp this season… or last.

Jonah Heim wouldn’t be on the team because, why? They already have a top catching prospect in Isaiah Kiner-Falefa.

No Ezequiel Duran either, since Joey Gallo was signed to an arb extension that paid him $25MM this season (with a $35MM team option next season).One of Semien or Seager would have to go, because the manager and GM don’t have it in them to tell a veteran SS he has to play 2B…

…which is better anyways because using the money for one of them could have gone towards Avi Garcia AND Raisel Iglesias, technically shopping at the top of the market (without the commitment of shopping at the top of the middle infield market).

Last edited 1 month ago by bobsquad

Something I have been thinking about is a quote from the former president of Real Madrid when he was asked why he paid so much for David Beckham and he said “Well, I tripled the team’s revenue in one day.” I feel like that aspect of free-agent signing has completely eluded Reinsdorf throughout his tenure as an owner. Yea, you spend a large amount of money on free agents, but that money (if spent wisely) can result in a lot more revenue coming back into the team’s coffers.

Perhaps it’s not that surprising given that Reinsdorf’s background was not in real-estate investing per se, but rather in finding loopholes to avoid taxes and maximize profits. Everything that he’s done as an owner lately seems to be geared towards finding loopholes and shortcuts rather than doing the work and actually investing in things that will pay big dividends in the future, whether that’s premier free agents or an improved front office.

As long as Reinsdorf owns this team, I fear the Sox are going to be penny-wise, pound-foolish. They’ll continue to squeeze every penny because Reinsdorf views the competition not in terms of wins on the field, but in terms of dollars saved versus other owners.


 They’ll continue to squeeze every penny because Reinsdorf views the competition not in terms of wins on the field, but in terms of dollars saved versus other owners.

He basically said as much at that Milken Institute speech he gave. The only competition he seems to ever acknowledge are other owners (specifically ones that don’t share his philosophy) and the MLBPA.

Last edited 1 month ago by BenwithVen

Ebenezer Jerry is penny wise and dollar stupid. He is content with the smaller crumbs he receives in exploiting the loopholes for the savings on his taxes. And, the stupid marketing gimmicks that he gets his sponsors to pay for.

He does see not the potential profits he could add to the bottom line with having a team that consistently competes year over year. He see it as loosing $100 million from his savings account by paying the market rate for top tier players.

Alfornia Jones

The real irony is that JR doesn’t even need to spend a lot of money if he were to employ the discount model of TB/MIL/CLE/OAK, and still have a competitive team every year. If he let baseball people run the organization and maxed out payroll at $100mil per year, they would be a playoff team every year in this division. More about control, less about money.

As Cirensica

As long as Reinsdorf owns this team, I fear the Sox are going to be penny-wise, pound-foolish

For the White Sox it is more like penny-fool, astoundingly pound foolish.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica

I might be wrong but i think Jim went into this with more detail during the season when comparing Jerry to the (i think) Padres owner who basically said that spending big on a contract is investing into the increased profits that player brings by being good. Reinsdorf is the main reason seasons like these while annoying dont really stick with me much anymore. I will never take this team seriously from a wins and losses perspective as long as Jerry is only out to make a buck.

Josh Nelson

At least Jerry got to save some money with the Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly trades! *insert eye roll*


The center of the Rangers success revolves around their two mega signings which was a 500M payroll commitment. Semien and Seager combined for 14 WAR at 2b/SS. Reminds me of the Tigers run in the 80’s when they had Trammell and Whitaker. (and how is the latter not in the HOF?) Great production at two positions most teams don’t get that much from goes a long way. Rangers are gonna be solid for a few years.

Other teams compete, and the Sox don’t. It’s that simple. Jerry didn’t even try, he is a pitiful, cheap, and small turd man. They’ll never get anybody like Semien, Bellinger, etc, and will “try” to win with cheaper alternatives. It’s the same as not trying at all, as are the results.

Last edited 1 month ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack

As I watched the games between the Rangers and Astros, I too wondered “what if?” If the Phillies win tonight, I’ll stare into the abyss as many of the players fans wanted (Semien, Harper, Seager, Schwarber, Turner, and Wheeler) will be going to the World Series. The only one the sox made a serious offer to was Wheeler and they refused to pay more to convince his wife to leave the east coast (allegedly). I must go now and cry.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Apparently it was too much to ask for the Sox to sign even one of those guys. I remember when I was sure they were going to sign Manny Machado. What a bunch of cowardly liars.


But they signed Yonder Alonso because he’s a friend of Machado. Like that was gonna make any difference! Sox play checkers while everybody else plays chess.


Not only did signing Alonso not make a positive difference, but when Machado asked Alonso how he liked playing in San Diego, Alonso told him how great it was … after Alonso already signed with the Sox … and while the Sox were trying to sign Machado.

JR’s Culture Club

That bullpen spending chart—good lord!

I’d be fine with a bullpen full of major league minimums for the next two years and $40 million/per year over 10
years offered to Ohtani…

But as has been pointed out JR prefers the 2-3 year deals for middling relievers as the pathway to defending the claim that “the money will be spent”


Surely you can scrap heap your way to an Ohtani the way you can a bullpen???

As Cirensica

On the other hand, Arizona’s bullpen is even cheaper than Texas:

TOTAL: $7,052,000

Paul Sewald 4.1 million (they aren’t paying the full amount)
Kyle Nelson 0.728 million
Kevin Ginkel 0.746 million
Ryne Nelson 0.722 million
Joe Mantiply 0.756 million
Luis Frias 0.720 million
Bryce Jarvis 0.720 million
Ryan Thompson 0.720 million
Justin Martinez 0.720 million
Andrew Saalfrank 0.720 million

If we include injured relievers, it is still a bargain:
TOTAL: $ $16,280,000

Mark Melancon 6 million
Scott McGough 2.5 million
Corbin Martin 0.728 million


No risks, lesser rewards, the white sox way.