Following up: White Sox exercise Craig Kimbrel’s option, decline César Hernández’s

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale sald the White Sox would exercise the $16 million option on Craig Kimbrel. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported that the White Sox declined the $6 million option on César Hernández.

The White Sox confirmed both courses of action on Saturday, leaving only one other item from those initial declarations — Nightengale saying the Sox will trade Kimbrel over the course of the winter — up in the air.

It’s banal to take a wait-and-see approach to this move, saying that we can only reach a verdict of this decision if the Sox can move Kimbrel without paying a chunk of money that prevents the Sox from acquiring players who can help more, but allow me to offer a couple of benefits for banality:

No. 1: I advocated for a similar delay in reacting to José Abreu’s contract extension, which probably prevented me from writing something that Abreu’s subsequent MVP would make me regret.

No. 2: Kimbrel seems like somebody who might have unique value if the next collective bargaining agreement includes a salary floor.

I mentioned this in our discussion of Dallas Keuchel’s Gold Glove nomination, but if a team like the Pirates needs to spend $20 million to meet a certain requirement, an erratic closer with elite potential at one end of the spectrum is probably one of the better ways to cover the bill. If he returns to form, that team would be happy to offload him at the earliest convenience to a team in need of bullpen help for a prospect of any intrigue. If Kimbrel’s decline is for real, well, that money still had to be spent.

That said, it’s worth keeping some healthy skepticism on your person, just because the White Sox are coming off a winter where they invested in the back end of the bullpen at the expense of position-player solutions. Sometimes their spending doesn’t reflect the healthiest set of priorities, and it’s fine to say so.

* * * * * * * * *

The return of the coaching staff — including hitting coaches Frank Menechino and Howie Clark — generated some discontent among those who feared the White Sox wouldn’t be able to outrun their alarmingly high ground-ball rate well into October, and thus are wary of the plot repeating itself in 2022.

Menechino in particular drew attention to himself for a quote that carried an immediate risk of aging poorly.

Anybody who has followed baseball closely over the last decade knows that the home run can’t be dismissed so bluntly. The team with more homers in a game went 25-2 this postseason, including a 3-0 record in the ALDS between the White Sox and Astros (they each hit one in Game 4).

I also think there’s limited use in harping on individual quotes, especially one like the one above in which Menechino is trying to not ask more of a hitter who didn’t get any reps at Double-A and Triple-A before assuming regular duty at a defensive position he’d never played with any regularity. Outside of Jeff Manto eschewing OBP in favor of his own metric that added runs and RBIs, it’s hard to fault hitting coaches for what they say, especially when they’re defaulting to positive reinforcement.

The offseason is a good time for a verbal resetting. As Menechino, Clark and the rest of the White Sox’s hitting apparatus lurches forward, it would be helpful to hear a renewed awareness of the teamwide offensive shortcomings, and Rick Hahn did that in his media conference on Monday. The White Sox never shared the audio, so I’m once again grateful for James Fegan providing the context.

The news that Hahn was ready to discuss Friday was revealed earlier in the week: Tony La Russa’s entire uniformed coaching staff will return. And with that comes a tacit, and eventually overt, endorsement in hitting coaches Frank Menechino and Howie Clark’s ability to reverse those trends with a talented core group of hitters. In doing so, Hahn showed the willingness to not equate disappointing on-field results with a flawed approach or to discount track record for a group that engineered a number of individual turnarounds. Adam Engel’s shift from automatic out to viable hitter, and Luis Robert going supernova with a few leg load adjustments stand out.

“This was a coaching group, or coaching approach, that also led in 2020 to us having three silver sluggers,” Hahn said. “The ingredients are there. Despite the injuries, they still held their own in terms of production. But there’s room to improve. I assure you, no one is instructing anyone to hit the ball on the ground. That is not happening. Obviously with the fair amount of roster turnover and some young guys, we were hard-pressed at times to go to any port in the storm. And perhaps the profiles were a little different of that group than what we envision going forward. I don’t think that the groundball issue, per se, is one that necessarily is going to persist going forward. It’s not, again, anything that’s being taught or anything that’s being emphasized.”

Hahn could merely be offering his own kind of positive reinforcement to get through the initial reaction phase, but that rhetorical approach does put the onus on the front office to acquire some hitters who might be able to offset the incumbent issues with getting the ball in the air. That just means we’re left to hope the obligation to Kimbrel that reestablished itself on the White Sox’s books won’t get in the way of that.

(Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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vince

My question on Kimbrel is – even if he had performed, was the plan always to trade him in 2022?

If not, was the plan really to have $29m tied up in two relievers?

peanutsNcrackerjack

I think the plan was for the White Sox to get to the World Series in 2021 with the best innings 6-9 bull pen in baseball, even if it cost prospect capital and an extra $16 million. For that I admire the effort. 2022 probably wasn’t a big part of the decision process at the time.

jhomeslice

I agree, was not a bad trade at the time. They traded someone who could not help them at all in 2021, for the top guy that Hahn and Williams agreed they should go after. It just didn’t work out. We’ll see soon enough hopefully if there is a market for Kimbrel. I’m sure they are anxious to move him, probably not a good sign if he is still with the team when the Dec 2 lockout starts.

As long as they don’t use as an excuse not to spend if they can’t move him. Reinsdorf’s net worth supposedly 1.7B compared to 1.5B in 2020, a net increase of 200M. How much money is enough? He could up the payroll by 50M, just a quarter of that, to put a real World Series caliber team on the field. No. More. Excuses. Reinsdorf is rich because loyal fans have supported his teams, and made him rich. It’s the fans money, and he owes all of us a lot more than he’s given over the years. About freaking time he grows a pair and spends seriously this winter instead of hoarding like a cheap, joyless bastard and whining that they can’t spend like a big market team. They were near last in payroll a few years ago, no reason at all they should not have a payroll close to 200M for a couple years.

Last edited 9 months ago by jhomeslice
Trooper Galactus

Actually, fans of the White Sox are probably one of the lesser reasons that Reinsdorf is rich. The money he makes off fan attendance and other fan related revenues probably pales in comparison to the value of his team rising commensurate with growth in the league (while the White Sox brand faded somewhat into irrelevance), income from his various other business endeavors, and, most of all, from a Chicago Bulls franchise that spent the better part of two decades as a global brand before GarPax finally drove them into the dirt.

Bottom line, Jerry could probably give fuck all about the fans, and he certainly doesn’t feel like he owes us anything.

jhomeslice

You are certainly right that he does not give a f about the fans. But fans have certainly contributed to his wealth over the years. Most loyal Sox fans have spend hundreds of dollars if not thousands attending games over the course of many years. Multiply that by a million or so people, that is certainly significant money even if he has other sources like you mention.

Bottom line is all of us who have attended games have supported his franchise as a business, and he’s given all of us next to nothing in return aside from 2005. The last game I attended was Konerko’s final game actually. I have no desire to attend another or give him another dollar until they put forth a good faith effort to win, which he most certainly has not come close to doing yet, even as his wealth has grown enormously. If he doesn’t this winter, I’ll probably withdraw my attention from this team entirely. If each season likely to end in frustration and disappointment because of a cheap owner with boundless greed… waste of time. I do think there is the potential for him to spend though, honestly… 200M is a big increase in net worth in a year. We’ll see what he does. I wouldn’t bet a lot on it but I think he might surprise all of us cynics, because even a complete scrooge like him wants to have some fun.

AshnodsCoupon

Nah. Trading Madrigal for a player who was not a 2B or RF was always a big mistake.

itaita

I think being able to turn a game into a 7inning affair is worth that. I know its an unpopular opinion now especially in hindsight, but i think the Kimbrel trade was a good gamble at the time. Of course there was going to be some regression but nobody could’ve predicted he would’ve completely flipped the switch to useless as soon as he crossed town. Also might’ve helped if Ceasar had any power or much of anything to bring to the table as we thought.

In typical White Sox fashion the trades they made looked nice on paper but played out in the worst case scenario possible.

And on the topic of Hahn i really wonder how much power he even has atm. The way TLR was hired out from under him last winter and the way (to me) this all sounded i really wonder how much Tony is just being allowed to do his own thing.

Trooper Galactus

It’s great that Hahn won the trades he absolutely, 100% could not afford to lose (Sale, Quintana, Eaton). The problem is he’s gotten virtually nothing, and in some cases cost the team heavily, in almost every other trade around that. Building a core doesn’t do any good when you can’t effectively smooth out the rough edges.

Willardmarshall

How much Kimbrel market testing might Hahn have done?

Trooper Galactus

I’d hope he’s already received more than one inquiry, because if he’s going into this offseason with blind faith he can offload Kimbrel for something of value, I’m not optimistic.

mikeschach

It’s such an un-Whitesox combination of moves, cutting the low-cost, probably good-enough option at second base while signing the very expensive, essentially redundant closer that it feels like something else must already be in the works. Maybe something like they trade Kimbrel to the Mets for Conforto after he accepts his QO.

PauliePaulie

Can’t trade for Conforto if he accepts the QO.

Trooper Galactus

Why not? I haven’t seen a rule that prohibits trading a player who accepts a QO. At it’s core it’s just a one-year contract at a league-determined rate. I think the problem is that players have ten days to see what their market is like, so if any team wanted to sign them, they could easily match the QO or exceed it as needed without having to resort to parting with other players in a trade.

Last edited 9 months ago by Trooper Galactus
Joliet Orange Sox

Players who accept a qualifying offer cannot be traded until after June 15 of next year. This has been mentioned in several MLBTR articles recently.

Trooper Galactus

Okay, I read MLB’s own blurb explaining the QO on their website and that limitation is never mentioned.

Joliet Orange Sox

I just looked at the MLB glossary explaining qualifying offer and I agree with you that it says nothing about not being able to trade a player who signs a qualifying offer.

However, MLBTR is very reliable and I trust they are right on this.

Trooper Galactus

I’m not disputing it, just saying why I wasn’t tracking on it.

knoxfire30

Said from day 1 I fully expected the sox to pick up the option. They likely have already laid the groundwork for a trade. You have good options with the Phils, Dodgers, Padres, among many other teams. Add in that if some type of floor gets created in the new CBA Kimbrel would represent a very good buy low sell high at the deadline player for teams way under the projected salary floor which would open up 5 to 10 more teams as options.

GrinnellSteve

I don’t think we’ll see a salary floor. If we do, it will likely happen late enough that it won’t influence a Kimbrel trade (unless we’re unable to find a trade partner in a reasonable amount of time).

metasox

It is also conceivable not all changes are effective immediately. Could be the ’23 season to give everyone a chance to adjust

Trooper Galactus

I don’t know what it is in Hahn’s history or the recent history of the White Sox in general which instills this blind faith that they’ve already got deals lined up. I would have figured their severe miscalculation of Viciedo’s market a few years ago might have made people a bit more skeptical about how forward thinking they were for these things. Then again, maybe their non-tender of Avi a couple years later was an indication they’d learned a lesson from that after all.

knoxfire30

Rodon did not get the qualifying offer…. very odd maybe he is really hurt otherwise this makes little sense.

Foulkelore

Ugh, that’s probably not a good sign. There’s only one way that makes sense (other than injury that you mentioned), and that is that they are going to have a very tight budget and didn’t want to risk having to afford the $18.4 million if he accepted and didn’t get a long-term option he liked. I guess there’s a slight possibility that they are doing him a solid by not offering it as to not deflate his market, but that’s more doubtful. It’s going to be really interesting to see what they end up getting for Kimbrel and what Rodon ends up signing for, because those decisions cost close to the same amount, and some here would have done the opposite by letting Kimbrel go and giving Rodon the qualifying option.

knoxfire30

One of those problems solves the other though… if he isnt healthy they shouldnt have offered him the QO, if he is healthy they should have because he is easily worth 1 year 18.4 mil, or he also would be to another team and if your worst case scenario is you have to trade him so be it… or if the budget is tight maybe you move kuechel and eat a little bit of his money to make room for Rodon. Im gonna go with the assumption he is hurt otherwise I dont see the logic from the sox on this one.

PauliePaulie

If Rodon accepted the QO, they would not have been allowed to trade him during the offseason.

Trooper Galactus

Availability is a skill, one that even in his best season, Rodon did not very well provide.

peanutsNcrackerjack

Rick Hahn’s comments about how solid the pitching was this year seemed to suggest no $$ going to starting pitching is the plan. Move Kopech into Rodon’s slot, and payroll goes down. Kimbrel and Kuechel contracts are keeping Jerry up at night.

metasox

And it is a good offseason to find pitching. But that certainly doesn’t mean they won’t take a half-assed approach

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Rodon has not been healthy enough to finish a season in 6 years. He didn’t go more than 5 innings in a start after the middle of July, was shut down a couple times including 2 weeks prior to his playoff appearance, and still could barely go 2 innings. No matter how good he can be when fully healthy, what are the odds he is healthy enough to start a playoff game next year? Makes sense that they would not want to spend 18M on a pitcher who almost undoubtedly can’t help them win a playoff series.

Foulkelore

I don’t mind the decision that he isn’t someone they want to count on. I just wonder about the calculus in not extending the qualifying offer. They wouldn’t extend the qualifilying offer necessarily to keep him, but to get compensation if another team is going to give him a decent, multi-year deal. Time will tell if they were a good judge of his market value.

Trooper Galactus

I think the potential to get an additional post-second round pick is nice, but probably not something the team is willing to risk over $18 million on. Stacking up prospects isn’t a priority right now and they have to be smart with their resources, given their typical limitations.

burning-phoneix

More likely, they think they can get a better deal on the open market. Either with Rodon or another SP. It’s a buyer’s market for SP this offseason and Rodon isn’t likely to get more than that in AAV from anyone, especially with his injury history.

Trooper Galactus

I think GMs are going to be VERY skeptical of Rodon’s health history. That’s not to say pitching starved teams like the Angels won’t make a strong offer, but given that Rodon is exactly the sort of guy who’s led them to be pitching starved in the first place, they’re just as liable to hedge their bets on him.

metasox

I really hope the plan is to add starting pitching. But this org was happy to go into last season without good depth anywhere on the roster. Am prepring myself to see the same this time around

HallofFrank

Who knows what they’re thinking, but one possible contributing motivation (i don’t think this would be their only one) is gamesmanship. A QO would suppress Rodón’s market, but not nearly as much as if the league has a reason to think he was so injured as not to be worth 1 year, $18m. I know if I were another team, the White Sox not extending the QO would certainly give me pause before pursuing him. So, it could lower the price.

Trooper Galactus

I mean, maybe, but any team would have him pass a physical before signing any contract, wouldn’t they?

metasox

Not receiving an offer from the only team that has known him isn’t the boon it might be for another player. But not likely gamesmanship if what Nightengale tweeted is literally true – that the Sox decided they weren’t bringing Rodon back. That comes down to money or not wanting the uncertainty and health of Rodon

Last edited 9 months ago by metasox