Minnesota makes first move by signing J.A. Happ

Over at The Ringer, Michael Baumann asked whether the White Sox had separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the AL Central.

Later in the day, the Twins responded as though the article reminded them of their position in the division. Minnesota finally broke the seal on its offseason by signing veteran lefty J.A. Happ to a one-year, $8 million deal.

The deal gives the Twins a fourth starter they needed, as both Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill became free agents this winter. Happ’s easy to overlook because he’s a late bloomer without much in the way of velocity, but over his last six seasons, he’s 72-39 with a 3.74 ERA, and good for 30 starts in most full seasons. He’s accomplished enough that Yankees fans thought Aaron Boone put him in a position to fail by not starting him in Game 3.

He’s also a lefty, and the White Sox like seeing that. One particular White Sox literally liked the news on Twitter.

Anderson has enjoyed facing Happ thus far, going 9-for-16 with two homers and a triple over the course of their matchups. Happ’s fared decently against the White Sox over the course of his career, with a 4-3 record and 51 strikeouts over 46⅓ innings. He built a lot of that success during the days where the White Sox couldn’t hit a lefty with good command and the threat of a changeup.

These White Sox are coming off a 14-0 record against lefties during the regular season, and they also backed up their talk against Jesus Luzardo in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series. The Sox didn’t face Happ in 2020 because of the schedule, but they torched him for 10 runs over nine innings in 2019.

So there’s reason for both sides to feel buoyed by this news. Happ should help the Twins over the course of 162 games, but the White Sox might not feel directly threatened by the 19 games that involve them.

* * * * * * * * *

In other news

*The Toronto Blue Jays resumed swinging and missing on top free agents after their success signing of George Springer. Michael Brantley appeared destined to join his former outfieldmate in Toronto — or will it actually be Dunedin? — but the initial reports were premature, and Brantley ended up returning to Houston for two years and $32 million. That contract is another one that basically arrived at the FanGraphs’ crowdsourced average (two years, $30 million).

*The Astros reportedly just signed Jason Castro to a one-year deal, taking another cromulent backup catcher off the market.

*Speaking of Springer and FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski mapped out Springer’s projections over the duration of the six-year, $150M deal, and the aging curve looks fairly predictable.

  • 2021: .283/.364/.534, 4.7 WAR
  • 2022: .280/.361/.527, 4.2 WAR
  • 2023: .273/.351/.501, 3.4 WAR
  • 2024: .267/.344/.466, 2.5 WAR
  • 2025: .257/.328/.436, 1.7 WAR
  • 2026: .250/.317/.404, 0.9 WAR

One might look at this deal and see the Blue Jays not getting their money’s worth after the halfway point. I look at these lines and think Springer is a guy who can get a team where it needs to go in those first three years. If he helps his club become a legitimate postseason threat multiple years in a row, with the TV ratings and October revenues that follow, that opens a team up to a whole new level of money that makes an inefficient $25 million salary much, much easier to absorb.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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HallofFrank

Tim Anderson “liking” that Tweet is just amazing.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I tried posting a comment regarding The Ringer article yesterday, but it looks like it went to spam. I thought it was a bit strange, not because he has the Sox as the favorite in division, but some of the underlying assumptions seem a bit presumptuous to me. Among them: Vaughn, Crochet and Kopech will all be on the team, and although he doesn’t actually say it the reader infers that he has Engel in left and Eloy at DH (which, if he believes Eloy is moving to DH I would think that would be a big enough deal to actually, you know, say). I wonder if he knows something or we are all way off base on what the roster is going to look like this year.

roke1960

Engel/Eaton/Madrigal at the bottom of this lineup makes it look much less imposing. That can’t happen.

denman

I don’t have a problem with Eaton/Engel, Madrigal in the 8 and 9 spots in the order. All three are “tough outs” who “put the ball in play”. I think the Sox batting order cries out for a middle of the order lefty with plus power and a decent OBP. Brantley would have fit the bill; a 29 year old Harold Baines would be ideal. As it is, unless Collins comes through offensively or Moncada and Grandal put up great numbers from the left side. I see this line-up being vulnerable to right handed starters and relievers with good command and tricky deliveries.

roke1960

I like them at the 8/9 spots in the order. I don’t like all 3 of them in the 7/8/9 spots! And a 60-year old Harold Baines might be better than what the Sox have trotted out there lately!!

jhomeslice

If Eaton is healthy enough to play, Engel is not going to play much, at least not against right handed pitching. At least I hope that is what they are thinking, that is a very weak 7-9 as you said. I think Vaughn and hopefully Mercedes, and maybe even Collins have to figure in to their internal DH solutions.

tommytwonines

If they move Eloy to DH and trot out an outfield with Engel and Eaton as everyday players then the decision not to sign Springer is egregious.

As good as this team will be – and they should be pretty good – I will still look at right field and say “Why?”

Last edited 1 year ago by tommytwonines
texag10

So we have Vaughn on the major league bench with Eloy taking up DH?

Oddvark

They could be going off the projected lineup at Fangraphs/Roster Resource, which has Eloy at DH, Eaton and Engel starting, and Adolfo as the 4th OF (but without Vaughn on the roster):

https://www.fangraphs.com/roster-resource/depth-charts/white-sox

Trooper Galactus

Zack Collins projecting to 30-40 games behind the plate is NOT GOOD.

denny

There’s been a ton of hot-stove roster chatter. Here’s my 2 cents.

Starting pitcher – For FA’s, unless it’s Trevor Bauer I’d just as soon roll the dice with two from Cease/Kopech/Lopez/Crochet/Stiever/Varga. A trade like the Dunning for Lynn could always happen, tho I have no suggestions.
Closer – Hendriks pretty good catch. But I really had no problem with Colome.
RF – I’m not an Eaton fan and I think Engel deserves to play, but it’s done now and let’s hope it works until Cespedes develops. (I was rooting for a trade for one of: Balt’s Santander, SF’s Mike Yaz, or TB’s Meadows)
DH – Eloy just seems like such a logical choice, but it probably won’t happen (yet), so talk of Brantley, Joc P, Rosario, et al is moot IMO. Early money is that it’ll be Abreu/Vaughn tandem.
Backup C – Seems like the FA list is dwindling. Wishful thinking for LaRussa to lure Yadier Molina out of St L. Most likely Collins will be given one last chance to sink or swim. If it’s sink, maybe an in-season swap for a veteran being dumped – W Contreras?

So unless there’s a surprise trade or a Utility signing (LaStella?), Rick Hahn might be done for the winter.

dongutteridge

I have to disagree about the starting pitching. I can see the Sox losing the division by not signing another starting pitcher. To me, this is the most important addition remaining.

Not only do they have very little depth but who is gonna eat up all of those innings out of the 4 and 5 spot? Kopech, who hasn’t pitched in 2 years? Cease, with poor command and who has yet to throw 150 innings in a season? And, who wants Lopez back in the rotation?

They should spend on Odorizzi. It would also take him away from Minnesota.

dansomeone

Odorizzi is not really an innings eater, as he struggles the third time through a lineup.

dongutteridge

The thing is he’s more of an innings eater than anyone else available other than Bauer.

Plus, throwing between 143 and 187 innings 6 years in a row qualfies as an innings eater, these days.

texag10

I mean, I’m not a fan of it at all but it was only 2018 when Lopez threw 188 solid innings and 2019’s underlying numbers weren’t all that different. He could theoretically be an okay #5 pitcher but the “theoretically” part is why we need to go sign another arm. Paxton could be a good get but doesn’t really give you the warm and fuzzies. Taijuan Walker is an interesting name to me but health is concern there as well.

dongutteridge

I’d be okay with either of those guys but both are less likely to give a lot of innings than Odorizzi.

denny

After T Bauer, all of the names in the many discussions seem like guys with WARs around 1. I realize it’s a leap of faith to match that internally, but who knew Giolito would go from worst to ace-like? Time to find out if Katz can unlock one of the young guys. If the aim is an vet innings-eater, how about Wainwright ?

Eagle Bones

At this point, now that they’ve opened their competitive window, they need to focus on reducing risk. Adding another arm may not move their ceiling up too much higher (though I would argue that Paxton and Tanaka would still do that), but it would significantly reduce the chances that they end up with a black hole in one of those 4/5 spots.

roke1960

I too like Wainwright. I would think with Tony as manager, the chance of getting Wainwright and Molina to come to Chicago are decent. Will Jerry spend that little amount it takes to get them? That’s another question.

Neat_on_the_rocks

I’ve been firmly in the “whitesox need a backup C” camp all offseason. However, I am talking myself down a little bit from it.

If the Sox really want to give Zach Collins a real chance, I guess I can respect that. My biggest worry is that if Grandal gets injured, that puts the Whitesox in a VERY bad spot currently.

But the more I think about it, the simple truth is that these backup catcher types we’re talking about are always available. Theres always somebody that can be traded for in an emergency situation where Grandal is hurt and Collins sucks. Or, you can always find a defensively oriented backup catcher on the street. If hes on the street, his bat is gonna suck. But those guys are usually floating around.

That’s my biggest fear. If anything happens to Grandal, you could be looking at Zack Collins catching for 80+ games, and I’d rather not have a Dioner Navarro rehash.

Milky✌️

Yeah, I could handle Collins et al catching 40 odd games if that was the only hole on the roster. But with how things stand right now, if Grandal gets injured, things get really ugly.

Trooper Galactus

I honestly don’t think I could handle Collins catching 40 games. I really think he’s that bad back there.

Milky✌️

I talk a big game but I’m sure if it came to pass I would be horrified.

Trooper Galactus

I realize his MLB sample is very small, but his defense and framing were somehow WORSE than advertised, and boy, is that saying something. In what few games he was behind the plate runners stole on him with near impunity. He couldn’t hit worth a lick. When the guy displays zero aptitude at any aspect of his position, and beyond hitting hasn’t really displayed it in the minors, I don’t know why we would rush to trust him to play 30+ games while being the primary fallback option.

Oddvark

You’ve already mentioned it, but yeah 11 games (89.1 innings) is barely a sample size at all, especially for a 24-year-old (in 2019) getting his first taste of MLB action. I don’t have high expectations for his defense, but it seems premature to write him off as a complete disaster behind the plate.

I get that we could have much much much more faith in an established veteran, and that would be the smarter way to go. And maybe now is not the best time to give him a chance when the team is legitimately trying to contend. So not arguing that having Collins as the primary back-up is a great choice. Just no sure if the total dismissal of any potential from him is fair.

Trooper Galactus

I’m not trying to dismiss his potential, but I don’t believe in it and whatever I do believe I would not be willing to gamble a roster spot on with a potential World Series berth on the line. This is a problem of the organization’s own making given their adamant refusal to provide Collins playing time the last two seasons while letting Castillo and Encarnacion play out the string.

metasox

Someone should give him a chance, but it doesn’t have to be the Sox

MarketMaker

mine is sharks.

Trooper Galactus

<checks to see if Jeff Samardzija is a free agent>

“Aw shit.”

karkovice squad

Not for nothing but the Tigers also beat up on lefties last season about as well as the Sox, tho the default 2021 schedule might make it a bit easier for the Twins to keep Happ out of those series than it does to keep him out of the ones against the Sox.

Last edited 1 year ago by karkovice squad
asinwreck

If the Sox signed Collin McHugh, Tyler Flowers, and Adam Duvall, I’d be fine with it. Happy? No, but fine with it. This as a best-case-remaining scenario is life rooting for a team with a third-rate owner.

texag10

I think they could go the cheap route and still end up with Joc but what do I know. Frankly, I’m shocked that there was no interest in Archie Bradley at 1/6 (unless there was some other factor that drove him to the Phillies). That’s such a cheap contract for a good, versatile bullpen piece.

Oddvark

I’ve mentioned Adam Duvall in the past as a decent OF defender with some pop, and while I still like the idea of an all-Adam outfield, when I looked at his splits, he has not been all that good against RHP over his career, so adding him wouldn’t do much to address the team’s biggest offensive need. I think I’d prefer giving Mercedes/Vaughn a shot over Duvall.

Some lower market lefties that might provide better production against RHP that might be considered could be Brad Miller or Tommy LaStella (as someone else suggested recently). Neither would provide OF help, but both would offer some defensive (limited) flexibility across the infield.

asinwreck

One of the reasons I suggest the quite-flawed Duvall is I expect Eloy and Eaton to miss time with injuries based on everything I’ve seen from them. If they are out at the same time, Leury and Engel are 2/3rds of a starting OF, or maybe Nick Williams gets called up. The Sox need more depth in the outfield, and Duvall would help there.

Ozuna would be my #1 remaining target, but that does not happen when Jerry Reinsdorf is running the show. I wouldn’t mind LaStella at all, and suspect he too will earn more than the Sox are willing to pay.

dwjm3

Ozuna makes so much sense Jerry will likely avoid signing him. You fill the DH hole for the duration of the window as well as allow Vaughn to be properly developed. Also from a PR standpoint it is easier to make the claim the money was spent.

denman

Ozuna makes sense going into 2021 (although the pressing need is a lefty hitter). The problem is that Ozuna is almost certain to command a multi-year contract of 3 years or more. Ozuna solves problems for 2021; but if any or all of Vaughn, Collins, Cespedes and possibly Burger, Adolfo, BRuth and maybe Mercedes progress, Ozuna, with what would certainly be a hefty contract that would be hard to move, might become a drag by as early as the second half.

Last edited 1 year ago by denman
Trooper Galactus

I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but for once I would like them to be in a position of having too many good players available.

Eagle Bones

It’s pretty tough to block players who cant get on the field or advance past AA.

Yolmer's gatorade

Shin-Soo Choo is my good bad suggestion. Good OBP and can play a corner if necessary. Probably can be had for $5 million or less.

I liked Choo a lot, but I think he’s already diving off a cliff.

Meh, I’d say he is more slowly approaching his death like the rest of us. He ticks a lot of boxes for a DH/corner outfield backup for the Sox. You can’t really tell if his 2020 is regression or a bad stretch. His 2020 was better than Eaton’s too.

His defense has been pretty far underwater for several seasons now and he’s started getting beat in the zone. For what it’s worth, I think he’s toast.

Agree on the defense. His stats last year to me still say league average hitter who takes walks and can hit righties. That is not bad as a placeholder for Andrew Vaughn at DH.

If last year’s 96 OPS+, .323 OBP, and availability for half the games in a shortened season is representative of where Choo is at, I’ll take a pass.

denman

There may be a dead cat bounce left in Choo who put up acceptable numbers in 2019 and he does bat left handed. But the Sox are loaded with potential DH/1B/LF bat first types who are young and unproven. I felt Brantley was an ideal fit for Sox DH. Now that he’s off the board, I’d like to Hall of fame baseball person TLR the opportunity to run in house talent through the DH spot.

Yolmer's gatorade

There is still a spot on the bench for Collins or Mercedes to fight over. You pencil Choo in as the DH to start the season and have Engel, Mendick, Backup Catcher, Collins/Mercedes on the bench. If Collins or Mercedes can overtake Choo, great. If not, you have a league average bat to play DH and backup corner outfield until Vaughn comes or they make an in season move for more offense. It would be a very White Sox move, but at least it plugs potential holes at DH and the inevitable Eaton/Jimenez 2 week DL stint.

I guess if we’re hoping for a dead-cat bounce or some semblance of adequacy we’d be just as well off with Mercedes as DH is what I’m getting at.

I disagree with that. Even if the Sox are going to play at the bottom of the barrel of remaining free agents (which it seems like they are), they need bodies who could provide adequacy. Choo is a cheap body would could provide adequacy in a few different ways.

I think they can afford better chances at adequacy than Choo, but I do agree that they just need more bodies to cycle through that have a hope of it.

Foulkelore

The simultaneous Eaton/Jimenez 2 week DL stint, as they somehow run into each other, even though they are playing the corners with Robert between them.

Trooper Galactus

It’s sad that I can look at the sixth year projection for Springer and think, “Wouldn’t that be nice to have in right field?”

MarketMaker

we love left-handed pitchers, don’t we folks?

roke1960

The thought of the Sox facing Happ 6 times this year is certainly a happy one.

Milky✌️

Timmy on the cover of RBI 21

A distant third to The Show & Super Mega Baseball, but I’ll take it. I know my dad will be thrilled, we used to play the original NES game together.