Edwin Encarnación will try to give White Sox their own Nelson Cruz

About a month ago, Rick Hahn opened one avenue toward improving the White Sox roster, and NBC Sports Chicago’s Vinnie Duber saw where it could go:

“We’re not eager to get locked in with someone positionally who can only DH,” Hahn said. “I think having a guy who can fill that role but also go out and play a defensive position would be a net greater benefit. We’re talking about generic, hypothetical players.

“If you’re talking about a guy Nelson Cruz, yeah, you’re OK with that guy just being a DH. If you’re talking about lower caliber guy than that, then maybe you want them to add some defensive value, as well, to move them around the diamond and get other guys off their feet from time to time.”

Ideally, the White Sox would like some versatility. It’d be nice to have a Cruz-esque thumper at DH, too. One of those exists on the free-agent market in Edwin Encarnacion. On the table.

Indeed, Encarnción was so much on the table that he’s now off the market. Dominican reporter Yancen Pujols broke the news Christmas evening that Encarnación is heading to the White Sox on a one-year, $12 million deal. Officially, it’s an $11 million contract for 2020 with a $1 million signing bonus, followed by a $12 million club option with no buyout.

The White Sox sorely need production in that “Cruz-esque” shape, because they’re coming off a year that looked like Rick Renteria he spent half the year batting his pitchers. Look at where White Sox designated hitters ranked in the league that used them:

  • BA: .197 (last)
  • OBP: .275 (last)
  • SLG: .342 (last)
  • K%: 29.6 (last)
  • BsR: -7.2 (last)
  • WAR: -3.5 (laaaaaaast)

(I included FanGraphs’ baserunning stats because it’s not like the White Sox even benefited from slappy, speedy guys who could do something on the rare occasion they reached base.)

Enter Edwin Encarnación. He brings 414 career homers to the White Sox, which is an even more impressive total considering he didn’t break out until his age 29 season, when he hit 42 homers and drove in 110 runs for the Blue Jays in 2012.

Over the last eight seasons, Encarnción has never hit fewer than 32 homers, even belting 34 when limited to 109 games last year. It’s a lot of power paired with a respectable strikeout rate. Fun fact: His highest single-season strikeout total is 138, and so is Yolmer Sánchez’s.

All in all, Encarnación has produced late-30s excellence in the mold of the aforementioned Cruz, and now he arrives in Chicago on a similar deal. Cruz, then 38, signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Twins before last season, and Minnesota exercised a $12 million club option afterward. Cruz made it an easy decision by hitting .311/.392/.639 with 41 homers and 108 RBIs over just 120 games.

* * * * * * * * *

While the White Sox would love for Cruz to be a perfect comparison, Encarnación throws a few more caution flags than his counterpart, even if he’s a year younger. He turns 37 in a dozen days, and while he can point to a generally healthy track record, he did miss a month during the second half of 2019 with a strained oblique. To his credit, he erased any lingering concerns with a ferocious September.

Regarding his hitting profile, Encarnación’s batting average has dropped in four straight seasons, and the gap between his walk and strikeout rate is wider than it used to be. He’s also averaged just 18 doubles the last three seasons, which is the column that made me most nervous when first-guessing the Adam LaRoche and Yonder Alonso signings.

I’m not as anxious about that particular stat in this case because unlike LaRoche and Alonso, Encarnación is coming off eight consecutive 30-homer seasons. The other guys had an extra-base-hit problem, whereas some of Encarnación’s missing doubles can be found over the fence.

It’s not by accident. Encarnación is fighting his decline with more and more fly balls, and that’s generally a good idea for how strong a man he is. There are signs of diminishing returns, though:

YearLaunch angleGB%IFFB%BABIP
201615.738.212.3.270
201716.737.110.1.271
201818.136.011.0.265
201922.530.818.0.239

Todd Frazier’s 2016 season is instructive here. Remember how he hit 40 homers for the White Sox, yet his production felt rather unsatisfying? His other numbers were crushed by a low BABIP (.236), and although that stat can fluctuate on luck alone, Frazier earned it thanks to a spike in his pop-up rate (18.5 percent).

Encarnación is in the same neighborhood in both of those columns. Only four players in baseball popped up the ball more frequently last year, and only five players had a lower BABIP. Perhaps he has one more adjustment in him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his last years in baseball featured admirable home-run totals surrounded by eroding production, and the homers could be jeopardized if the league de-juices the baseball.

That’s no knock on Encarnación, because he should be able to age like a 37-year-old does, even if Cruz didn’t. It just makes me a little apprehensive about penciling in the kind of spark he can give the White Sox. On paper, even an average DH season for Encarnación would give them a five- or six-win bump in terms of WAR, but 1) WAR doesn’t translate to wins like that, and 2) even it did, White Sox DHs were so aggressively awful that they probably broke the model. Just like the absence of a foul stench doesn’t guarantee a great smell, you’re not necessarily going to detect real improvement from -3.5 WAR to 1.5 WAR the way you’d feel the surge from 1 to 6.

* * * * * * * * *

Now that we’ve accounted for the caveats and attempted to adjust expectations, let’s take a second to appreciate how much Hahn has aesthetically improved the White Sox lineup and rotation. If you act as though the White Sox will avoid manipulating service time one way or another, one set of names is superior to the other without even having to get Michael Kopech involved.

Position20192020
CatcherJames McCannYasmani Grandal
First baseJosé AbreuJosé Abreu
Second baseYolmer SánchezNick Madrigal
Third baseYoan MoncadaYoan Moncada
ShortstopTim AndersonTim Anderson
Left fieldEloy JiménezEloy Jiménez
Center fieldLeury GarcíaLuis Robert
Right fieldJon JayNomar Mazara
Designated hitterDaniel PalkaEdwin Encarnación
Starting pitcherLucas GiolitoLucas Giolito
Starting pitcherCarlos RodonDallas Keuchel
Starting pitcherReynaldo LópezReynaldo López
Starting pitcherIván NovaGio Gonzalez
Starting pitcherManny BañuelosDylan Cease

That accomplishes what Patrick articulated Hahn should’ve done with the White Sox last year — put respectable MLB talent around their prized prospects to give their performances a better idea of their collective impact. To my eye, they’re still short on gloves and on-base types, but they’ve really addressed their shortage in power and starting pitching, and now we’ll all get a better sense of how things fit. I’m looking forward to seeing how Moncada’s breakout plays when it’s not being negated by atrocious production at bat-first positions, whether an increase in quality plate approaches makes extreme aggression from Anderson and Abreu more absorbable, so on and so forth.

It might not work because most of the additions are in their 30s, and Mazara’s track record made him expendable in his 20s. That almost seems besides the point at the moment, because the improvement in organizational mindset is the bigger triumph. Granted, it’ll continue to be concerning if the White Sox somehow continue to get saddled with worst-case scenarios from their best attempts at improvement, but as it stands now, it’s mostly costing them short-term money and Steele Walker, and one of those is a renewable resource.

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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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MrTopaz

Someone mentioned a couple of seasons back that there was a study (maybe?) of how teams gel together. I have no idea how they would quantify that, but there seems to be a good correlation between a large number of free agents coming in at once, and good reported chemistry in the clubhouse. Like, everyone bands together because it’s such a shocking change to the roster and there’s too many new people for anyone to really be ostracized. Anyway, I’m hoping something like that happens. It’s just more fun to root for guys when they’re not taking 26 different cabs home.

burning-phoneix

The White Sox dugout seemed to be the loosest and funnest in the Majors last year. Here’s hoping all these new guys don’t spoil the chemistry, especially with Designated Class Clown Yolmeme gone.

ParisSox

This was a nice off season. This is where Hahn’s strengths are – getting Grandal early and adding the other pieces (not to mention good contract extensions, though that is not yet part of this winter). Similar to the 2015 off season. Now his weaknesses are finishing the job and having too much trust in incumbent personnel (coaches, scouts, et al).

I believe this winter, like 2015, played to Hahn’s strengths, where he is most comfortable and at his best. Now let’s see if he learned from the past. For example, if Ricky has Encanarcion bunting Abreau to second base in the second inning and there’s no consequences, well like the Ventura episode, the weak link could bring down all good intentions.

I’m not saying Ricky is a weak link, I think he can be a very good manager given the right personnel. And now that he has the right personnel, let’s see if he can adjust to managing to win rather than managing to learn, so to speak. (hinting here that his bunting habits were motivated more by wanting to teach than wanting to win and now that he has a proper roster, he shouldn’t see the need to bunt so much and can play more to run optimization.)

shaggy65

It’s hard to quantify, but there’s a real benefit to not having any big holes in the lineup. Opposing pitchers can’t strand baserunners as easily or catch their breath with an easy inning. I thought about this after the Mazara trade because I think he can post better numbers as a #7 hitter (where we’ll play him) than as a #3 or #4 hitter (where the Rangers played him. He’ll no longer be getting the pitcher’s highest focus. 

With EE on board our lineup should be a battle top to bottom. The whole might prove to be greater than the sum of its parts. 

MrStealYoBase

Even if Mazara doesn’t improve at all, a 96 OPS+ is a lot easier to swallow in the bottom third of the lineup. As long as you aren’t counting on him being one of your 5-6 best hitters, the upside might be worth gambling on. (Especially if you find someone to take the lions share of LHP ABs)

soxfan

If we’re smart, Mazara and Garcia will be platooning in RF. 

burning-phoneix

How would you guys construct the lineup this year, after Robert and Madrigal come up?

I’m thinking

1.Tim SS
2.Robert CF
3.Yoan 3B
4.EE DH
5.Abreu 1B
6.Grandal C
7.Eloy LF
8.Mazara RF
9.Madrigal 2B

Madrigal at #9 and Tim at #1 has the chance to give us two leadoff type hitters in a row.

MrStealYoBase

TA to #7 and shift everyone 2-7 up one.

roke1960

I like Robert and Madrigal in the bottom third of the order to start the season. That would allow them to ease into the major league grind without too much pressure. I’m thinking:
1. Timmy ss
2. Yoan 3b
3. Abreu 1b
4. Eloy lf
5. Grandal c
6. Edwin DH
7. Robert cf
8. Mazara rf
9. Madrigal 2b

Timmy deserves to hit in the leadoff spot due to his batting title. Once we see his BABIP is not sustainable, he can drop back to where he is probably more comfortable. As the season goes on, and if Robert is as good as advertised, I could see switching him and Timmy in the lineup. Also, switching Edwin and Eloy early on may be ok, though I really think Eloy will thrive in the 4 spot.

The only thing that needs to be addressed is a rf against lefties. Signing Castellanos would require a multi-year commitment and would close off right field to a potential FA (Mookie, Springer, Joc Pederson) next year. I wouldn’t mind seeing if they could get Puig on a short term deal. He and Mazara would make a nice platoon in rf.

Eagle Bones

Agree with leaving Robert and Madrigal in the bottom third at first to take the pressure off. Let them earn their way up the order. I’d go with something like this against righties:

1. Moncada
2. Eloy
3. Abreu
4. Grandal
5. Encarnacion
6. Mazara
7. Anderson
8. Robert
9. Madrigal

Against lefties I’d move up Anderson, move down Grandal and hopefully sub in another OF for Mazara.

roke1960

That’s an interesting take. Since Yoan and Eloy are likely to be their two best hitters, getting them the most at bats makes sense.

Eagle Bones

Yep. If Robert comes up and goes off, I have no problem moving him up to leadoff and bumping guys down a bit, but yeah I like keeping Moncada and Eloy in that top third. Sadly I can see them insisting on keeping Abreu third even if he doesn’t deserve to hit that high, which I guess is a good problem to have if it presents itself.

Amar

This, Moncada is the one who should have the most PAs

Right Size Wrong Shape

Your best hitters should hit 2nd and 4th.

Eagle Bones

What is the commonly held theory at this point? I still like the best hitters getting the most PAs. I know some of the math says your 4th and 5th hitter should be better than your 3rd hitter, but that does feel odd to me moving better hitters further down the lineup card.

roke1960

I saw an argument for Grandal hitting first and Moncada 2nd. Grandal is the highest OBP guy from last year. If you’re not going to steal bases, then having the guys that will get on base the most should be getting the most PAs. I’m not sure I agree with a guy like Grandal hitting first. It just doesn’t seem right.

Eagle Bones

I would be game for something that starts with (1) Grandal, (2) Eloy, (3) Moncada, but as I said above, I feel like they’re going to continue to stick Abreu in the third spot.

John SF

-Grandal
-Encarnacion
-Abreu
-Moncada
-Jiminez
-Nomar
-Robert
-Anderson
-Madrigal

Would be a fairly unconventional lineup with all the speed at the bottom of the order.  

But the lefty/righty balance would be ok, Abreu would keep his probably untouchable 3-spot, our highest OBP guy who also takes the most pitches would be leading off.  And the second time through the order the sluggers would likely have one of those table setting speedsters on base for them.  

Something tells me Ricky would never get this creative but I would enjoy it.   The only real issue with it is Encarnacion’s K rate. 

hackwilson

Clubhouse comrades while tanking was tollarated maybe but not what The NY Yankees allow. That’s who Rick Hahn’s up against.
Dallas Keuchel is a much needed gamer in the clubhouse.

Encarnacion is a one year rental for good reason and no one is expecting him to not decline. Maintaining his power for a season would be worth watching as a fan. Stay healthy Edwin.

Brett R. Bobysud

Have there been any real updates on Yolmer’s FA situation?

It’s been said before, but if the Sox can get him back in a cheaper deal to be the main utility infielder, I’d seriously consider it.

asinwreck

Given the glut of freely-available players at his position, I would not be shocked to see him sign somewhere for about $2 million. That somewhere could be back in Chicago, and I’d be happy to see that as long as he isn’t a regular in the lineup after Memorial Day.

Brett R. Bobysud

Agreed.

If he’s the opening day 2B, fine, but by May (barring injury) he should be the main utility infielder.

Same could be said for Mendick if they don’t bring Yolmer back.

baseballnut23

Ben Zobrist intrigues me. Switch hitter. Stop gap until Madrigal is ready. Also plays RF to hedge against any Mazara regression.

asinwreck

Zobrist was my pick for cheap 2B solution in my offseason plan for the reasons you mention. I don’t know if he’s retired or not, but he’d be #1 on a long list of possible veteran infielders who are available.

baseballnut23

Maybe we can sell him on not having to move.

Right Size Wrong Shape

He lives in Tennessee.

He’s from central Illinois originally and all his extended family still lives there

Eagle Bones

Yeah I like his fit with this roster. Switch hitting helps as well.

buckysuncle

No more Gatorade please.
Trade Collins for Adam Frazier 2B to Pirates who have a C vacancy.
Madrigal is a leadoff man because he, per moneyball, “gets on base”.
Number 7 bats 7th because it’s Ricky Renteria’s lineup. I’d project that to protect TA7 you’re gonna see EE batting 8th.
Keep the line movin’!

haroldinthehall

You’re saying opening day lineup.
Madrigal
Grandal
Abreu
Moncada
Jiminez
Robert
Anderson
Encarnacion
Mazara

buckysuncle

Sorry but Adam Frazier starts 2B as Madrigal makes his way up. Moncada should always bat clean up like you have him.

haroldinthehall

I don’t believe Collins alone gets pitsburgh motivated. Frazier’s another lefty which is brilliant but maybe Fry and Collins? I like the idea of another controllable supersub. So long Adam Engle.

mikeyb

I have absolutely no idea if the White Sox are going to be good this year, but goodness they should be fun. Go get Puig now and really turn this thing up to 11.

Brett R. Bobysud

Top 10 major league player searches on fangraphs as of 10:00 am CST this morning:

1. Edwin Encarnacion
2. Hyun-Jin Ryu
3. Yasiel Puig
4. Yoan Moncada
5. Dellin Betances
6. Yasmani Grandal
7. Tim Anderson
8. Mike Trout
9. Eloy Jimenez
10. Nomar Mazara

Top 4 minor league player searches on fangraphs as of same time:

1. Nick Madrigal
2. Luis Robert
3. Jo Adell
4. Andrew Vaughn

lil jimmy

This move is very Kenny Williams “like” to me. He often said, to win in our ball park, you have to hit the ball over the wall.

MrStealYoBase

Mashing 250+ HR is certainly one strategy to build a team.

striker

I bet this means McCann gets traded. He lost AB from the Grandal move and just lost more. I can’t imagine he’s fine with going into his contract year as a backup after putting together a career year that put him on the All Star team. I know he regressed back to earth in the second half but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be a starter somewhere. I’m sure the Sox would love the depth but this could cost him a lot of money next year.

Trading him now makes sense too because his stock is up, the demand for CAs is high, and he isn’t a long term piece.

That being said, what type of AB shared time would make it work? Abreu, Encarnacion, Grandal and McCann splitting 1800Abs between CA, 1B, DH.

Eagle Bones

While I kind of think they should just keep McCann, keep the quality depth and no over-complicate things, I could see the logic in dealing him for a similarly priced reliever on a one-year deal and then signing a vet backup. I’m having trouble coming up with a name, but that would make some sense. Maybe the Rockies are dumb enough to move an erratic high-velocity arn like Estevez for him?

I don’t see the purpose in trading him unless it helps the ML roster (you’re not going to get any prospects of value back for him).

asinwreck

It depends on the market for catching. The most attractive catcher available via trade now is Wilson Contreras, and I imagine the Dodgers would be open to moving Austin Barnes. A bunch of free agents of varying quality (Jason Castro, Robinson Chirinos, Russell Martin, Kevin Plawicki, Josh Phegley, Jonathan Lucroy) could also drag down the market for one year of McCann. I suspect he’s worth more to the Sox than he’ll return in trade.

Eagle Bones

Yeah I don’t disagree with anything you have here. Seems like this all depends on how other teams view McCann in relation to the FA catchers out there.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Exactly, and I don’t have an idea where he really fits in. Those guys are all kind of the same to me. I just really can’t imagine that anyone is going to give up much for McCann when other options are available.

Amar

Yeah, 1 year of McCann is worth more to us. It would be the luck of the Sox should Grandal is out for a period of time due to injury. 

HallofFrank

In my OPP, I traded McCann for a couple lower level prospects (after signing Grandal, Keuchel, and JD Martinez). I’m not sure exactly what the market would be, but maybe a 45+ or a couple of 40s would be a reasonable return? And this is a system that needs the depth. 

Either way, I’m not opposed to keeping or trading him. Surely, if they were to trade him, the Sox can 30-40 capable caught games between Collins and Mercedes. It gives one of those guys a chance to grab a backup C spot by the horns. I do see the advantage of keeping McCann, though. 

Eagle Bones

Surely, if they were to trade him, the Sox can 30-40 capable caught games between Collins and Mercedes.

Can they? What if Grandal gets hurt?

I have a hard time seeing anyone giving up much for him when they could just sign Jason Castro (who actually looks better). How much surplus value does he really have getting paid 5 mil on a one year deal?

roke1960

I agree. We’ve complained for years about the Sox lack of depth- and rightfully so. Now that they are building up some major league depth, we should be hanging on to it. Money certainly isn’t an issue.

HallofFrank

Re: 30-40 capably caught games. I think so. I’m not saying Collins or Mercedes will be defensive wizards back there (or even average). But I also don’t think (from my admittedly very limited perspective) *both* would be a complete dumpster fire back there. I recall very little about Collins time spent behind the plate this year, and in his case that’s a good thing. 

Re: McCann and his value. I agree his market is likely to be fairly limited, but there’s a reason why. It’s easy to look at his 2019 and see an outlier. And if he returns to 2018 McCann, I don’t feel much better about him being option #1 if Grandal gets hurt. 

As it is, the most likely outcome is that McCann plays about 30-40 games. He is probably better than Collins/Mercedes in that time? But even that I’m not so sure of. Either way, I like the idea of giving the young guys a chance and, in the meantime, allocating that $5m to a RP or an OF.

That said, I’m fine if they keep him too. I see the need for depth.

Trooper Galactus

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that, yes, both Collins and Mercedes would be absolute dumpster fires back there.

HallofFrank

Even if they are, it’s probable either could best McCann’s -0.7 fWAR from 2018.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Collins or Mercedes would be better than McCann in those 30-40 games (though it’s certainly plausible). Only that the value they provide in that small time frame is likely to be roughly that of McCann. And they’d do it much cheaper, with more potential relevance to the future, and bring some assets back in whatever McCann nets. 

John SF

I agree. But we will see what the front office thinks.  

It’s also probably at least a little bit up to our staff ace Lucas Giolito.   If Little Gio says he wants McCann Calling his games, I think we just keep him for another year.  By 2021 Giolito should be settled in enough with Grandal to transition.  But we just got our ace looking good and we don’t want to spook him.  

Trooper Galactus

I really don’t think it’s likely they outproduce McCann. I think the greater likelihood is they’re both beyond wretched behind the plate and don’t hit nearly well enough to compensate, resulting in production similar to 2018 McCann. Every time I’ve seen McCann catching he’s looked like he doesn’t belong back there, and Mercedes is reputedly even worse.

GoGoSoxFan

TrooperG, did you mean to say every time you’ve seen Collins catching? If so, I agree.

Trooper Galactus

Yes, I did, thank you for the correction. McCann isn’t a particularly good framer but his defense is otherwise sound from what I can tell.

haroldinthehall

Light It Up Edwin Encarnacion…

asinwreck

Matt Moore, my sleeper pick for White Sox pitching free agent signing, just went to Japan. He’ll get $3.5 million to pitch for the SoftBank Hawks. Even after getting the two lefties last week, I would have liked to have Moore as depth. Dunno if he would have preferred being a swingman/long reliever in the majors to starting in Japan.

Right Size Wrong Shape

It feels like there’s been somebody named Matt Moore playing in one of the professional sports leagues every year of my life. I don’t even know which ones are which anymore.

baseballnut23

Alex Wood would be my preference. A little bit younger. More recent success.

asinwreck

I also like Alex Wood a lot, but am pretty sure he won’t agree to be a swingman as he works to rebuild his value going back into free agency next winter. I suspect Wood is on the radar of a few teams and will sign a one-year deal for 2-3 times what Moore got.

baseballnut23

You’re probably right. I see Wood getting 7mil-9mil.

asinwreck

I’m a little shocked the Angels haven’t already given him that much. They gambled on a return to form from Matt Harvey last year and Wood’s a far better bet to recover lost glories.

baseballnut23

He would definitely upgrade the Angels staff. The Harvey signing might have scared them off.

Trooper Galactus

Certainly not Moore recent success.

Eagle Bones

Szymborski’s writeup on the EE signing:

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/white-sox-add-two-es-to-their-o/

Patrick Nolan

I’ve got the same tempered enthusiasm toward this move. Encarnacion should be an above-average DH. The Sox have a team that looks fairly complete, but I still don’t feel like they’re AL Central favorites. That kind of bothers me given all the 2020 World Series talk we’ve been hearing for the last four years.

I guess plenty of the blame falls on their (lack of) work done last winter. The Sox have made substantial improvements, but they failed to land two stars (4+ WAR players) this winter. Maybe that would have been easier to do if they gave themselves two offseason markets to work with. What are they right now…an 84-ish win team?

The two sources of optimism despite that projection: 1) Robert, Kopech, and Cease give them upside on that mean projection and 2) Maybe (unlike last time) they’ll be able to fire some more bullets next winter to keep working to get them over the hump).

MrStealYoBase

I think they are neck-and-neck with Minnesota and ahead of Cleveland at this point.

“Cleveland won 93 games without Kluber”

Yes, but what are the odds they go 18-1 against the Tigers again? You take away them beating up on bad intra-division opponents (2019 WSox included) and they are a below-average team, starting pitching and Francisco Lindor be damned. I think their FO realizes this.

Also Minnesota hitting 307 HR again seems unlikely, their rotation is 2/5 AAAA punching bags, and they don’t have a strong bullpen to balance it out. (I’ll also point out they had a mid-80s win projection last year using the same team building strategy the White Sox are currently employing)

roke1960

The Sox and Twins will likely have home run totals very close to each other in 2020. The Twins lost 60 HRs with Schoop, Cron and Castro, and haven’t really replaced them yet. The only big FA bat left is Donaldson, and I don’t see the Twins outbidding the Nats for him, even if the Braves don’t get involved. Cruz can’t possibly continue to defeat Father Time and hit another 40 HRs. Kepler and Garver are likely to have their totals drop also. And they will have to trade Rosario if they are going to get any starting pitching help. Their rotation is a mess and there are no Tier 2 starters left. Their big relief arms added were Romo and Clippard. This division is ripe for the taking.

Eagle Bones

I don’t see anything in the FG depth charts that jumps out at me as way off any they basically have Cleveland and the Twinks neck and neck with the Sox a step (2.5 – 3 wins) behind. That seems about right. Only thing I might quibble with there are some of the innings projections for Cleveland starters (they’re a little rosier than I would have guessed on Clevinger and Carrasco).

Eagle Bones

No need to guess though, TwinkieTown has your answers for you. Apparently we can all pack it in early as the Twins are a true talent 97 win team going forward, Grandal is a 2.5 win catcher, Robert and Madrigal don’t exist, and the Sox lost almost as much product this offseason as they have gained.

https://www.twinkietown.com/2019/12/26/21034635/mlb-minnesota-twins-war-record-free-agent-why-are-you-scared-of-the-white-sox-al-central-pennant

HallofFrank

That’s part of the blame, but the Sox have also been pretty unlucky with injuries. Kopech, Rodon, Basabe, Adolfo, Dunning, Burger, Hansen, and Burdi—2-3 years ago you probably expect at least three of those guys to be on the opening day 2020 roster and be significant contributors. Or, perhaps just as importantly, some of those guys at least have the prospect pedigrees to be trade bait. 

This is not to suggest the FO couldn’t have done more to put the team in a better position for 2020, and injuries are inevitable. But they seem to have gotten particularly unlucky on the injury front and the 2020 team should feel that more than others. 

Trooper Galactus

Look at the Yankees injury charts from 2019 and tell me about how the White Sox couldn’t succeed because of injuries to a bunch of minor league players.

HallofFrank

Well the success of rebuilds largely depends on the success of said minor leaguers. Particularly so for the first year of success. The Sox case is almost as different as it possibly can be from the 2019 Yankees. 

Trooper Galactus

I’d say the Yankees have been pretty darn successful in their minor league system over the years.

Brett R. Bobysud

I’ve said it before, but I’m wary of setting high expectations for this team, particularly in the first half.

Robert and Madrigal are going to need time to adjust to the majors and there’s always the possibility that guys regress from their numbers last season. Plus, let’s never forget about injuries.

On the other hand, the potential for certain individuals to improve should not be discounted either. Eloy seemed to figure things out at the plate in the second half of last season, and both Cease and Lopez could benefit from having a better catcher behind the plate in Grandal.

Potential success may come down to what Minnesota and Cleveland do in the remainder of the offseason. The Twins have a good lineup, but they need starting pitching and thus far they haven’t gotten it. And I’m still not sure if the Indians want to compete this year or not.

If the Sox hover around .500 by the time of the All-Star Break, then I would call it a success. If things go well, this team strikes me as one that could be very dangerous in the second half of the season, and potentially compete for a wild card spot.

tommytwonines

You’re a glass a half-empty guy. And it’s a dribble cup. 

Patrick Nolan

I’m a “put stock in the numbers” guy. It’s not my fault the numbers don’t scream THIS IS A GREAT TEAM.

Patrick Nolan

Discuss.

Eagle Bones

One thing I’m confused by is people responding to this pimping the “flexibility” angle after they unnecessarily tied up a 1B/DH spot and $50 mil in Abreu. If they hadn’t done that, would make a lot more sense to jump in on Castellanos and/or Ozuna right now.

MrStealYoBase

Not just Betts and Springer. Also Pederson, Brantley, Reddick, Peralta, Kike Hernandez…

Any of which I would prefer over the current options. Ozuna can’t really play anything but left with his arm the way it is. Castellanos can’t really play any position, period. Puig isn’t very good.

(Pederson would probably be the RF already if the Sox had a slightly deeper farm system)

Milky✌️

Yeah, I’d more or less rather have any of those guys long term over Castellanos/Ozuna/Puig. If a Mazara/Leury RF platoon is the biggest hole in the lineup, that seems not so bad? For one year at least. Don’t count on it, but there is still the outside chance one of the half dozen AA outfielders figures it out in time for next year too. If there’s no more bats coming this offseason I would want some significant bullpen help. Well, I want that regardless but hey

roke1960

I agree with this wholeheartedly. If they sign Castellanos, he’s going to get 4-5 years, which means the corner outfield spots are all filled up for the next several years. Though Betts is likely a slim possibility, I could see them taking a run at Springer, or at a minimum, Joc Pederson. Giving Abreu 3 years really hurt their flexibility, since it will likely keep Eloy in the outfield even if he continues to be a butcher out there.

denman

Why would you consider Betts a “slim possibility”? He seems very much the kind of player the team would be willing to give a guaranteed contract of eight years (the offer Machado rejected). That might not be good enough to land him but it should be enough to open the door to further negotiation. There may be reason the thing the Sox might be a preferred destination for Betts.

Trooper Galactus

Well, Betts will be two years older than Machado as a free agent, so that’s probably going to make the FO waffle a bit, and as with Machado it would not be surprising if another team were willing to offer ten guaranteed. We’re talking about a guy who has posted nearly 40 bWAR in the last 5 seasons and won an MVP over Trout in that time. If the White Sox are thinking 8 years with options again, they’ve already lost.

Eagle Bones

If they really want him (and they better) they need to go full Steinbrenner and just say they’re not going to let him get away, cost be damned.

denman

I agree–if the Sox want Betts they have to refuse to be outbid. I was pointing at the Machado offer as a floor to get talks started. From what I hear, Anderson and Betts are friends and Mookie likes the city of Chicago. So it might be all about the money. But that’s next off-season; if Maraza breaks out, it may be a moot point.

Eagle Bones

I look forward to people telling me the sox dont need betts next offseason because mazara finally cracked an .800 ops.

Trooper Galactus

Or a 100 OPS+.

Neat_on_the_rocks

You know thats going to happen. They’re going to platoon him more than he has in years past, and hes gonna play 120 games with an .825 OPS and people will say we dont need Betts we have our own star right here.

Those people wouldn’t necessarily be horribly wrong, so long as the Sox were willing to go find an Ace pitcher instead.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Outside of Betts, Springer and Realmuto, the free agency class next year looks underwhelming in my opinion. Hopefully some of the prospects regain their shine this year so that the Sox can trade for any needed upgrades next offseason if they strike out in RF.

Trooper Galactus

If Mazara breaks out you trade his walk year to somebody who can fill another gap in your roster or restock your farm system if you can sign Betts.

Trooper Galactus

Sure, they need to say that, but they never do. That’s the problem.

denman

, for once I agree with you–sort of. Mazara could have the kind of break out season JD had in his age 27 season or that Encarnacion had in his age 29 season. Anything short of that level, flip him and go after Betts.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Mookie Betts will only be 28 when he is a FA. If he goes and puts up yet another 5 WAR season, I want the Sox to offer him 10/330. and be willing to go as high as 12/360 if he wants it. Thats the guy that changes everything.

yoyo

Sox have given themselves a chance to win the central this year. It appears a winning record is in the works, which is great. I don’t however see a team that will stack up against playoff teams very well. Pitching is average with the improvements made (unless substantial prospect growth happens) and defense is still questionable. Honestly though, all it takes is to make it to the playoffs and get hot at the right time, so anything is possible.

roke1960

Yep, the key is just getting to the playoffs. By season’s end, we could have 3 studs (Giolito, Kopech, Cease), with Keuchel and Gonzalez as the steady influence. Right now, this looks like an 85 win team- if they add a platoon bat for rf and another reliever, they should be ready to go. There is so much upside with Eloy, Robert, Moncada, Kopech, Cease, Giolito and Madrigal. And I would really like to see a couple of the young relievers (Burdi, Hamilton, T Johnson) have an impact. If they do, the bullpen could actually be a strength.

John SF

The Giants were a 85-win true talent team that won the World Series on the back of an elite rookie pitcher and getting hot at the right time.   

Just making it to the post season is all I care about.   That’s why I’m so excited to go for the division this year.   When I look at this team I see a team that absolutely *could* beat any other team in baseball in a 7 game series.  

I wouldn’t bet on the Sox doing it.  I certainly wouldn’t call us favorites over teams like the Yankees, Rays, Braves, Astros, Dodgers, or Nationals.  But we totally *could*!  

Kopech/Cease/Rodón/Lopez is a rotation with the innate talent to shut down anyone.  And our lineup definitely has the innate talent to put some runs on the board.  

evenyoudorn

I’m prepared for someone to immediately prove me wrong because I’ve certainly not looked into this, and these comments get tiresome, but I’d have to bet the 2005 team wasn’t projected to be much of a powerhouse (or rather, that they wouldn’t have been if we had the same models at our disposal back then).

Cliff Pollite. The f*ck?

7 K/9, .200 BABIP, 91% stranded, 2.00 ERA to 4.40 FIP.

Not predictive and this isn’t a “stats” comment, just agreeing… Shit happens. Just get in the show! And it’ll help attract those top shelf guys next time around.

I’m also a little drunk on Sox fever (and alcohol).

Foulkelore

You are correct. I recall win projections for that team being in the low 70s before the 2005 season started. Although, I don’t remember if those were projections based on data or just “expert” predictions.

Trooper Galactus

I don’t recall anybody being down on the 2005 White Sox, and at least one projection system had them as the top team. I remember at least one pundit saying their pitching staff looked pretty good with Garland on the back end (I think he expected better from Hernandez and worse from Garland, like many) and McCarthy waiting in the wings. And the offense, despite losing Ordonez and Lee, still had plenty of thump with Konerko, Crede, Rowand, Thomas, Dye, and Everett. Nobody, however, saw the years from Jenks, Hermanson, Politte, and Cotts coming.

evenyoudorn

So let’s get knocked out of the divisional round this year, show Jerry that the net is higher when there are people buying beer and >$7 outfield tickets, and then add a star RF and a hired gun closer next year and /Jake Taylor quote.

Foulkelore

Every author at Baseball Prospectus had them finishing 3rd or 4th in the division: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/3884/preseason-predictions-al-staff-picks-2005/
A late preseason PECOTA projection was higher than I remembered, but had them still only finishing 3rd with 80 wins: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/3836/lies-damned-lies-pecota-projects-the-american-league/

evenyoudorn

This guy’s with me! Also, for context, after a very selfless family-focused Christmas I’m drinking gifted Scotch and watching Die Hard alone. So I love all of you without regard to your inconvenient/unwelcome rationality. I’m in heaven.

evenyoudorn

Also, did those projections assume 120ish (prob no… but more than 34) games of Frank? Full season of Hermanson vs. flameout Bobby Jenks?

Give me at least one vet reliever and I’ll feel OK. We can fill in the pen with recovering/AAA guys or a deadline deal. Rodon with his injury history and killer slider… Andrew Miller 2.

Eagle Bones

Rec for your last sentence

Brett R. Bobysud

Also, Encarnacion signing effectively takes away any speculation about Vaughn being “rushed up” through the system (not that I thought there was any real chance of him getting called up to the majors this season anyway).

They can now, if they want, put Vaughn on the same track that they had Robert & Madrigal on last season. Start him off in Winston-Salem for a week or two, where he hopefully gets into a nice groove at the plate, then move him up to Birmingham where they should be able to more effectively measure where he’s at.

If he does well at Birmingham, they can let him finish the year at Charlotte as a reward, with an eye towards a call-up in early 2021. By then, chances might be that Encarnacion moves on, Abreu gets moved to DH, and Vaughn is groomed to take over 1B full time.

tommytwonines

Has anyone seen Vaughn play first base? How good is he – defensively?

Trooper Galactus

Better than Abreu, but nothing particularly special from what I’ve seen. Looks pretty good at picking throws out of the dirt.

asinwreck

Before the draft, Kiley McDaniel said Vaughn had less raw power but was defensively superior to Pete Alonso. (That was in May. Keith Hernandez observed Alonso improved in the second half of the season.)

dongutteridge

Very nice job. I’m complementing the White Sox. They don’t need to do anything more for the lineup. They do need to do some things for the bullpen because this is not a great starting rotation.

I’d like to see them invest in 2-3 of the best available relief pitchers now.

Josh Nelson

Who are those best available relievers? This wasn’t a very deep FA class to begins with.

Eagle Bones

Will Harris would be a great fit, though I’m sure there are a bunch of teams after him. The rest of the options look more like depth guys or bounceback candidates (both of which would be fine additions, but they should def aim for Harris first).

Josh Nelson

For some reason I thought Will Harris had already signed, but you’re right, the White Sox should give him $5 million to help bridge to Bummer/Colome.

Eagle Bones

Checked MLBTR and Fangraphs, they have him getting something like 2 years, 15-20 mil. They should be willing to do that.

lil jimmy

Will Harris, at this point, is the best player for us to sign. No question he would elevate the whole bullpen.

anthonyprinceton

The best RP still available appear to be Harris, Hudson and Cishek.

dwjm3

I see this is going to be his age 35 season. I wonder if he can even score two years given age and the erratic nature of relievers. He is older than I thought.

knoxfire30

The FA class isnt that good, but I am not too concerned about the pen at this point. You have some potential help coming from the minors in Tyler Johnson, Ian Hamilton , Matt Foster, and Burdi. You could potentially shift any of the young starters to the pen if Kopech and or Rodon bump say Lopez or Cease out of the rotation. And come July every team under 500 puts half their pen on the market prior to the trade deadline. We have seen the sox send away useful pen arms in bunches the last couple years and get a lot of barely borderline prospect types back. The sox could have an abundance of 4A borderline prospect talent to shed anyway off their 40 man so this deadline could be a good time to move some of the glut in the minors for useful pen arms if the sox have a need and are in the race.

onedog

Can never have too much pitching. Guy that is a headache down the line is Carlos Rodon. Renteria shouldn’t be worrying about innings, pitch count, spot starts etc in July for a player who’s always hurt.

Package Rodon, Collins, Basabe to Oakland for a LHP either Puk or Luzardo.

Trooper Galactus

I don’t see the A’s doing that, though Collins does strike me as the type of player they get a monster season from out of nowhere.

asinwreck

Since this thread is about a notable Sox free agent signing, I’ll use it to wish a happy 72 to #72. When Carlton Fisk signed with the Sox, the plan to start Jim Essian was shelved, and Essian would go on to be part of the Tom Paciorek deal after the 1981 season. Essian’s situation comes to mind now that Grandal and Encarnacion have reduced McCann’s opportunities (although I can’t imagine McCann would bring back a 151 OPS+ player).

luzinskithebull

Great signing FO. Rick Hahn’s giving the divisions pitching staffs nightmares.

Make it Murderers’ Row and trade Vaughn for Mookie straight up.

Kopech and Robert are going to be All Stars.

David

I think there’s a pretty good chance Mazara makes a big move forward. I look at his “most similar to age 24” list on Baseball Reference and I see two (marginal) Hall of Famers in Baines and Dawson, a should-be Hall of Famer in Dwight Evans, an MVP in Jeff Burroughs, and 400 homes in Jay Bruce. No guarantee, but you can see some nice precedents.

evenyoudorn

Even Paul Konerko can’t compete with that kind of square footage.

Trooper Galactus

Jeff Burroughs is the top-comp and had more bWAR in his age-23 (and age-22) season than Mazara has for his career. That list is mostly similarity by raw numbers, because by rate stats Burroughs and the others have WAY more going for them.

roke1960

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Thursday, the White Sox “remain engaged” in the right-field market even after trading with the Texas Rangers for 24-year-old right fielder Nomar Mazara earlier this month at the winter meetings. Feinsand pinpointed free agent Yasiel Puig as a “primary target.”

A nice platoon partner with Mazara, and hopefully on a 1-year deal.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I think this makes a lot of sense, even if the downside is that it means they keep Robert in AAA to start the year and put Puig in CF.

dwjm3

I like it if we are going after Mookie next year.

roke1960

Yeah, any one-year deal would keep rf open for a big FA addition in 2021. Especially since every other position will likely be spoken for.

PopeDonnPall

And of course there’s Bruce Levine to splash cold water on another rumor.

Bruce Levine
@MLBBruceLevine
·
2m
The Chicago White Sox have zero negotiations going on with Yasiel Puig’s people according to MLB sources .

lil jimmy

Good.

Eagle Bones

Doesnt he have reverse splits?

jorgefabregas

Yes. Plus better than Mazara against RHP and better than Mazara against LHP. Just a better player, really.

asinwreck

Given my avatar, I need to present two pieces of evidence in support of Puig.

1) His training regimen (click for video):

My offseason training with sumo wrestlers in Japan ?? pic.twitter.com/HmqAaGpEej

— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) December 14, 2019

2) He inspired this spectacular record.

iowasox1971

Sign Puig if he will take a one-year deal and maybe see if we can flip Mazara to a rebuilding team that might be willing to trade us bullpen depth. Puig plays much better defense than Mazara, has a lot more speed and will not have to be rested against same-side pitchers. If Puig’s price has come down, then he would be a much better option in right than Mazara.