Grading the White Sox 2021-22 offseason

With the season fast approaching and most consequential free agents signed, it’s time to look back on the White Sox offseason and grade their transactions. This will be my eighth annual installment of the series.

I’m going to provide an individual evaluation of every move involving major league players or major league commitments. I’m excluding minor league signings and waiver claims from the individual move assessments because even though some may have a some real impact, they generally boil down to either “no risk, but with upside” or “a little extra depth can’t hurt.” The next minor league signing that deserves an “F” will be the first. However, I will take these moves into account for the final grade.

Here are broad definitions I’ll use for the various letter grades. The rationale for the scale as a whole is that most moves that major league teams make are helpful to their goals and have a good deal of logic to them, so a particular transaction needs to be special in some way to push it above average.

For some orientation, I would consider a perfectly average move to be somewhere on the C+/C borderline.

Grade A – This includes moves that either are extremely significant in pushing a team toward its goals, involve “beating the market” (i.e. fleecing another team in trade, signing a key free agent at a very noticeable discount, etc.), or are otherwise brilliant for their fit or use of resources. For example, the trade of Chris Sale earned an “A” for both being the most critical trade of the rebuild and accomplishing the difficult task of attaining fair value for one of baseball’s most valuable assets to ever be on the block.

Grade B – Like an “A” move, but less superlative. “B” moves represent above-average decisions and are generally remarkable in some way. I put the signing of Dallas Keuchel in this range, which we were all a lot happier about a year ago.

Grade C – This includes moves that are helpful to a team’s goals, but relative to other moves, are not notable for their scale, brilliance, fit, or cost-effectiveness. They are generally reasonable decisions and preferable over doing nothing. The trade for Ivan Nova prior to the 2019 season is a good benchmark for this range.

Grade D – While not all-out blunders, Grade “D” moves are not obvious steps in the right direction. This section of the scale includes either moves with questionable strategic fit, moves with a difficult-to-accept risk/reward ratio, moves with preferable and seemingly feasible alternatives, or total nothingburgers. The acquisition of Nomar Mazara prior to the 2020 season fell into this range due to its inadequacy to address a position needing major attention.

Grade F – “F” moves are actively harmful to a team’s goals, even if the degree of harm is small. The most prominent example of an “F” is non-tendering Tyler Flowers to sign Dioner Navarro, which would later demonstrate the cruel intersection of an awful thought process and unfortunate results.

Decisions to tender or non-tender a player, give a player the qualifying offer, and choosing whether to pick up a team option are binary decisions, so they’ll be evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

Let us begin.

No. 1: Option decisions

For quite some time, it looked like the Sox shot themselves in the foot by picking up Kimbrel’s option, but the Sox were eventually able to trade him, so they get a pass for that decision.

No. 2: Qualifying offer decisions

Only one of the eight White Sox free agents merited much consideration for the qualifying offer:

  • Declined to give LHP Carlos Rodon the one year, $18.4 million qualifying offer – FAIL

The White Sox did Carlos Rodon a big favor by not attaching a qualifying offer to his free agency, but in doing so, they cost themselves a draft pick at the end of Competitive Balance Round B (between the second and third rounds of the draft) when Rodon signed a two-year, $44 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Rodon’s contract would have been less lucrative had a team needed to forfeit a draft pick to sign him, but coming off of a 5-WAR season, there should have been a market for him nonetheless.

The “risk” in giving Rodon the qualifying offer was the possibility that he might accept it, adding a large salary to the 2022 payroll. However, looking around at the players the White Sox chose to sign instead, I am struggling to understand why it was a concern. Rodon’s upside makes him a preferable use of free agent dollars to setup men and utility guys. Unless there’s a health problem we don’t know about, the decision to withhold the qualifying offer was a mistake.

No. 3: Non-tender deadline decisions

Non-tendered (outrighted):

Tendered contracts to:

It was really easy this year.

No. 4: Acquisitions

With Michael Kopech entering the rotation, Ryan Tepera walking in free agency, Codi Heuer sent to the North Side, Evan Marshall no longer an option and Craig Kimbrel just generally unwanted, the White Sox saw a need to reinforce the bullpen and swooped in on Graveman in November. Graveman was arguably baseball’s best reliever in the first half of the season before control problems rendered him merely “good” after a midseason trade from Seattle to Houston. He has only one season of relief success, but a velocity spike and adding an effective slider that hitters don’t square up makes that not feel like too much of a fluke. Clearly, the White Sox agree.

In a vacuum, this is a fine signing. However, as the biggest single expenditure in an offseason when the White Sox had holes at second base, right field, and the starting rotation, it’s perplexing. The White Sox relief corps finished second in baseball in fWAR last season but 22nd in Win Probability Added, suggesting that even a bullpen loaded with talent wasn’t effective at turning strong peripherals into wins. Here, the Sox are betting on the bullpen yet again, despite the likelihood that they’d get more expected wins for their buck elsewhere. Doubling down by signing Joe Kelly (see below) lowers the grade of this move.

GRADE: C

Garcia’s services are certainly worth $5.5 million per season as a guy with extreme positional flexibility who can admirably fill in for a couple of weeks when a regular goes down. His return is only frustrating when viewed through the lens of what the White Sox didn’t do. Paying a $5.5 million salary for a premium supersub feels like a quality supplement to an otherwise complete team, but the White Sox never fully solved their issues at second base or the starting rotation. This is the largest free agent contract shelled out by the White Sox to a non-reliever in a year they’re supposedly pushing for a championship. Barf.

GRADE: C

Kelly is a pretty good reliever who is coming off two excellent seasons in Los Angeles. Between Kelly, Graveman, and Aaron Bummer, the Sox have three setup men who should be able to keep the ball on the ground ahead of Liam Hendriks, which is particularly useful for a team playing its home games at Guaranteed Rate Field.

However, when following the offseason in real time, this is where things started to feel like there was a budding resource allocation issue. The White Sox had signed three players to multi-year deals, none of whom were starting pitchers, starting second basemen, or starting right fielders. There’s no such thing as having too many good relievers, but with the similarly right-handed Graveman already in tow, the Sox may have been better-served to focus their resources away from the bullpen.

GRADE: C

Were they bidding against themselves? Nothing about Velasquez’ last three seasons screamed “major league deal,” particularly his last one, which featured an ugly home run rate and an ERA and FIP close to 6.00. A primarily fastball pitcher, Velasquez could theoretically have more success in the bullpen, where a limited arsenal is less likely to get exposed, but 29 games of relief work in his career thus far have not borne fruit. The White Sox’ nominal rotation includes Michael Kopech, who’s a bad bet to throw more than 160 innings, and Dallas Keuchel, whom the Sox don’t want throwing more than 160 innings (because his 2023 option will vest). Particularly with Lance Lynn now out, the rotation figures to have its depth tested, and barring a miracle Ethan Katz turnaround, Velasquez looks more likely to pour gas on the fire than put it out.

GRADE: D-

The best-case scenario for Harrison is that he can hold his own as a league-average regular, allowing Leury Garcia to play the supersub role for which he’s most suited. However, Harrison has a rough recent injury history and is short on secondary skills, making him overly reliant on batting average for productivity. That can lead to barren slumps, such as the .254/.296/.341 line he posted with Oakland after a midseason trade in 2021. The free agent market wasn’t flush with great second base options beyond Marcus Semien, but with Garcia already in tow, Harrison feels more like depth than an upgrade.

I fully expect Harrison to play watchable baseball with an energy that makes fans love him. Hell, I’m going to love rooting for him. But fun should not be mistaken for production, and Harrison’s an uninspired solution for a team with World Series aspirations. Maybe I’ve just watched too many fringe starters around his age (34) sign a one-year deal with the White Sox only for their careers to be effectively dead before the end of it.

GRADE: C-

Just like that, what had been a supremely disappointing offseason turned around, and the White Sox finally addressed one of their three primary needs. Pollock is coming off of consecutive seasons with an OPS very close to .900 and he has relatively balanced productivity against righties and lefties, giving the White Sox a plus everyday option in right field. The main concern with Pollock is health, but with Adam Engel and Andrew Vaughn around, the Sox have interesting secondary options to plug in should Pollock have to miss time.

As for Kimbrel, his velocity had declined over the course of 2021 and this could very well have been an underlying cause of his struggles after coming over to the White Sox. His fastball was sitting around 93-94 mph in camp, and while he may not have been maxing himself out, it certainly wasn’t reassuring. Especially given Kimbrel’s high salary, I’m amazed Hahn was able to salvage this kind of value out of the 34-year-old.

GRADE: A

While less significant than issues with the starters, backup catcher was certainly a target for improvement in 2022 and Hahn delivered by bringing in Reese McGuire. McGuire is relatively punchless at the plate, but gets strong marks for throwing and framing, That should make him a good complement to Yasmani Grandal, who can more than carry the offensive load at the position. With McGuire out of options and Collins with one remaining, this was an opportunistic play by the White Sox to get some value out of a former first round pick who had hit a wall. The Sox acquired a guy they were ready to plug in immediately in exchange for helping the Blue Jays retain some catching depth (note: term used loosely).

GRADE: B

Overall Evaluation

The White Sox entered this offseason needing significant help with right field, second base, and the starting rotation, with secondary needs in the bullpen and at backup catcher. By the end of the offseason, they addressed all of these to some extent. Pollock is a good plan for right field, the bullpen has been significantly reinforced, and McGuire should be a capable reserve catcher. That leaves second base, which is in the hands of two utility players in Garcia and Harrison, and the rotation, which was only bolstered by a late minor league deal to Johnny Cueto. Cueto should help, but with Lance Lynn opening the season on the injured list, Michael Kopech unlikely to contribute bulk innings, and Dallas Keuchel trending toward washing out, the rotation enters the season on shaky ground.

After the lean years the Sox have had, it’s perfectly fair to want Jerry Reinsdorf to go all out on payroll. However, for the first offseason since the beginning of the rebuild, there’s been more issues with how the money was spent than how much of it was spent. This winter would have been an excellent opportunity to take a big swing at a star player. With a barren farm system and key players set to depart over the next few years to free agency, payroll flexibility four or five years down the road shouldn’t be a concern. The time to win is now.

The market had no shortage of premium options for the White Sox to choose from, and they passed on all of them, instead spreading their available dollars around to set-up men and scrap heap signings. Paying $25 million per year to an MVP candidate like Marcus Semien sounds like a lot, but when you see the team allocate $8.5 million to Kelly, $8 million to Graveman, $5.5 million to Garcia, $4.2 million to Cueto, $4 million to Harrison, and $3 million to Velazquez, one wonders why it wasn’t a possibility. The Sox could have accommodated a star free agent, Pollock, and one or two of those minor additions, all on the same payroll.

Still, Hahn did very well to salvage this offseason over the course of the last week. The Pollock trade was a legitimately great move, and bringing in Cueto and McGuire addressed the team’s needs for innings and someone (anyone!) who can hold their own behind the plate. This offseason could have been better, but thinking back to where we were at the end of March, we know it could have been much worse.

OFFSEASON GRADE: B-

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Patrick Nolan
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roke1960

10 days ago, the offseason was definitely an F. I really thought that the only way to solve right field at the end was to trade Kimbrel to someone who would take his salary, even if that meant getting no one in return, then using that money to sign Conforto. But Rick pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the Pollack trade. Getting Pollack, McGuire and potentially Cueto to offset the loss of Lynn saved the offseason. I’d still like to see them go after Montas, Mahle or Castillo to bolster the rotation. Not sure if Keuchel has anything left, and it sure seems like Kopech is nowhere near where he needs to be. I would headline the deal with Montgomery if necessary. To me, only Vaughn and Colas are off limits.
Both are potential middle of the order bats.

Last edited 1 month ago by roke1960
ForsterFTOG

I hope everyone’s right about Vaughn.

jhomeslice

They are better off than they were a week ago, and I’m more optimistic than I was. But losing Lynn and Crochet really hurts. On grading their offseason, I can’t get past them not getting a single FA who will make as much as 10M in 2022, or getting a real 2b.

I think a pretty fair take on their acquisitions, which to me is the primary metric to evaluate. If you take the average of those like a GPA, you get just above a C, which may seem a bit harsh but is what I would give them. It would have been a D if not an F prior to the Kimbrel trade, for me.

Last edited 1 month ago by jhomeslice
Trooper Galactus

You’re a lot kinder than I am about the Kimbrel/Pollock trade. Yes, it was great to get that sort of value out of a dead asset like Kimbrel, but picking up that option was still a mistake, and there were plenty of better options available for that money in free agency than a 34-year old injury-prone outfielder, which just seems like the sort of acquisition that blows up on Hahn’s face every year.

You summed up my feelings on Leury perfectly. Like, sure, great to have him back, but to have him be their bigges positional signing? JFC, that’s just depressing. And it’s made all the more frustrating because the one thing their system seems to have more than enough of is competent utility players. I think Romy Gonzalez got kinda screwed, because his clearest path to significant MLB playing time is now taken for the next three seasons.

jhomeslice

I’m optimistic about Pollock, since he is coming off a pretty damn good year where he was healthy for most of it. You’re right though, that was certainly not the best they could have done. But much better than nothing, which is what they had done prior to April 1.

Trooper Galactus

I really like Pollock, but this does not feel like something that will turn out well for us, and there were simply far better uses for that money.

phillyd

They got an above average RF on a 2 year $20 million dollar deal. That was a pretty darn good use of that money if you ask me.

Wayne

Pollock is only 2 years for $21.5M if he is terrible this year. We are hoping he is 1 year, $11.5M player who is good enough to take his $5m buyout to go make more money in 2023, for a total cost to the White Sox of $16.5M. If he is terrible/injured, he opts into that $10M next year to get to that $21.5M level for 2 years. His opt in for 2023 escalates with plate appearances, but if he is doing that well to hit those, he will opt out.

Trooper Galactus

Are we seriously ignoring Pollock’s injury history and that he’ll be in his age 34-35 seasons? Like, how often does this sort of thing work out?

ForsterFTOG

Except for the steroid era, not very often.

texag10

I don’t think anyone’s ignoring the injury risk. If that didn’t exist, there’s no way we could have traded Kimbrel straight up to acquire him. Even if he only plays in 110 games this year, that trade is still an A.

As for the age issue, he has put up his best offensive numbers in his career the past few seasons and it doesn’t appear to be luck driven so I feel confident in saying he’s not going to all of the sudden become a below average batter this season. I was never expecting gold glove defense or 30 stolen bases so I don’t really see the age issue as being a big detriment for this season.

Trooper Galactus

I get that, but we’re kinda assigning peak value to him and the likelihood is he’s nowhere near that. Maybe I’m just over-pessimistic, because this is definitely better than Kimbrel, but it still strikes me as a non-ideal option borne of a bad decision.

texag10

Define “peak value”. I’m looking at him as a bad defensive RF who will most likely play 110 games with a 120 wRC+. That’s probably good for about 2.5 fWAR with Engel/Vaughn/Sheets/Leury picking up the remaining 50 odd games. My biggest concern with Pollack is not if he’s going to get injured but when.

phillyd

I agree with texag10. I was thinking we would get 2-3 WAR for a short term low-ish cost contract. I think that is a good way to spend Reinsdorf’s money.

Trooper Galactus

I think 2-3 WAR is the best case scenario, though, and this doesn’t exactly seem like a good bet for that. Hope I’m wrong, because I’ve always liked Pollock and had him in my offseason plan when he was a free agent.

soxygen

I largely agree – the Dodgers FO didn’t value AJ Pollock as highly as White Sox fans do. LA ‘s FO has a good track record, and was in a better position to understand his value than either the Sox FO or Sox fans.

HallofFrank

What would be a “far better use” for $16m than Kimbrel? There are some $16m AAV signings out there, but we know that’s not the same as $16m. I truly don’t think there was a better way to use $16m.

I don’t think picking up Kimbrel’s option was a mistake. I defended the move all winter, and I was always confident they’d get something of value for him—but I will say my confidence greatly wavered when Kenley signed for 1-year, $16m. Still, the fury over the Kimbrel signing always felt like some combination of recency bias and frustration over so clearly losing the Kimbrel/Madrigal deal.

Trooper Galactus

I don’t care if they were only taking on short-term salaries, I still maintain picking up Kimbrel’s option was beyond stupid. As nice as it was to get Pollock in trade for him, to me it’s just damage control and Hahn was lucky that the Dodgers were willing to bail him out.

peanutsncrackerjack

That’s because he looks a lot like Adam Eaton in that photo above.

GrinnellSteve

Your B- grade will jump when you see what magic Hahn conjures in an Adolfo trade today…

dwjm3

“After the lean years the Sox have had, it’s perfectly fair to want Jerry Reinsdorf to go all out on payroll. However, for the first offseason since the beginning of the rebuild, there’s been more issues with how the money was spent than how much of it was spent. This winter would have been an excellent opportunity to take a big swing at a star player. With a barren farm system and key players set to depart over the next few years to free agency, payroll flexibility four or five years down the road shouldn’t be a concern. The time to win is now.”

Cosigned

Augusto Barojas

Pollock was a nice addition, but is nothing to brag about if he is the best addition of the offseason. I think an overall C is generous, considering all the other options they could have chosen. They would have to get a multi year legit FA position player for me to give them a B or an A. Their choice at 2b as lame as it gets.

HallofFrank

The White Sox previous “solutions” for RF should be evidence enough that their choice at 2B is most definitely not “as lame as it gets.” I grant that it was uninspiring. But I’ve seen some industry folks praise the Harrison signing (including over at Fangrahs) as a sneaky good move.

Augusto Barojas

If he is as good as he was with the Nats, signing Josh won’t turn out to be a bad move. If he is as bad as he was with Oakland, it is indeed in the “as lame as it gets” category.

Last edited 1 month ago by Augusto Barojas
HallofFrank

Well, sure, like all moves, it could turn out poorly. I’m saying that as an idea and without the benefit of hindsight: Sox fans should know better than anyone that it could get a lot more lame.

calcetinesblancos

Any chance Rick trades Engel and keeps Micker?

jhomeslice

I sure hope not. I expect Engel will be healthier, and is such a good defensive replacement on a poor defensive team that they should keep him.

calcetinesblancos

I love Engel but can he be counted on even as a part-time player?

tbsoxfan

At least Engel will produce value when he is healthy (which he currently is). Keeping Adolfo as your 4th OF may give you zero defensive value and a guy who can’t make enough contact to produce at an average level with the bat. Engel is probably worth more in 40 games than Adolfo would be in 100

a-t

Zero reason to do that. They need a real backup CF a helluva lot more than they need a backup RF/DH who probably K’s too much to hit much above league average.

calcetinesblancos

Pollock can play CF, and he has a way better record of staying healthy recently than Engel has.

a-t

Pollock missed time last year due to hamstring strains in both legs, and he really does not have near the defensive chops in CF he did in his prime. He’s always been injury-prone and he’s several years older than Engel. Anyways, Adolfo also has a long injury history himself… there’s nothing to suggest that he would be better than Engel in any way whatsoever.

texag10

Like, if the Padres came calling and offered Gore or Morejon for Engel, sure. I just don’t know what we would realistically get back in a trade that would offset the loss of Engel. Sure, he’s only played in 75 games the last two seasons but he’s been pretty damn good for those 75 games.

knoxfire30

Definitely could of been an F a couple weeks ago, the accumulation of better moves late in the offseason have me at a C-. I can’t get over the lack of shopping for 1st tier or even 2nd tier free agents at need positions after spending years of rebuilding and recalibrating the payroll.

No Giolito extension and worse yet they pissed him off over pennies during the arbitration process.

No excuse for not offering Rodon arbitration and losing out on compensation.

No addressing of needed power from the left side of the plate, although Pollack does have ok splits.

Overpaying Garcia and spending money on Harrison avoiding spending for a higher end player is a foolish allocation of resources when the added benefit of a star in the lineup would be a lot more then the loss of production in using a Mendick or Gonzalez at the expense of losing Garcia/Harrison type.

jhomeslice

Well said, could not agree more.

shaggy65

I’d grade the catcher swap as an A. McGuire could well be our backup C for the next 4+ years, he’s as good for what the Sox need as any other available option, and we got him for a lower price than any of us expected.

I might also give Graveman a B because he’s good and we clearly needed a RH set-up man, but generally your grades are spot on.

texag10

I just don’t see how it’s not an A. The White Sox got the younger player. McGuire is worlds better than Collins defensively. Both of them aren’t good offensively. Add all that up and it seems like a textbook definition of “fleecing”.

jorgefabregas

I pretty much agree that it’s an A, but bringing up the age difference is odd. Their age is only separated by 20-some days.

texag10

That’s the point though. If I tell you that I can replace Zack Collins with a better defensive version of him at no cost to you, 9 times out of 10 that means the replacement is either significantly more expensive or a hell of a lot older.

dongutteridge

Excellent analysis. Thanks, Jim.

I was thinking C+ but B- works.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Yes! “Thanks, Jim” is back!

Last edited 1 month ago by Right Size Wrong Shape
dongutteridge

Oops! Sorry, Patrick!

Just to add, the Rodon decision could still turn out to be a good one if he spends much time on the IL.

BenwithVen

The offseason was a mixed bag for me. Love the Kimbrel and Collins trades. Signing Kelly and Graveman looks like a solid idea considering the losses of Kimbrel and Crochet.

I think the big criticism from me is not signing another SP, especially since they’ve been calling it an area of need for the entire offseason. Not even an ace, but someone like Kikuchi/Pineda/Gray that can give you innings from the bottom of the rotation.

HallofFrank

I’m not convinced the Rodón decision was a mistake. Even knowing what we know now, we can’t be sure he would have turned the QO down (no matter what Boras said). I mean, MLBTR predicted he’d get 1-year, $25m in the open market. He obviously did better than that, but he likely wasn’t heading for a massive deal—especially with the QO attached. If the Sox had offered, I think he’d have thought long and hard about accepting it. It would have made some sense for him to accept it, to be sure: if he shows he can stay healthy for another year, he’d have really cashed in without the QO next season.

So, the Sox FO should have only asked themselves one question: is Carlos Rodón worth $18m to us this season? I think “no” is a reasonable answer—even if not obviously the correct one—so I don’t count this decision as a mistake. But I do grant: they should have allocated the resources better.

tbsoxfan

The answer to that question to me depends on Hahn and Co.’s blueprint at the beginning of the offseason. If they set out knowing that they weren’t going to spend on a big free agent, the answer to the $18 million question is unequivocally yes, especially because there’s a built in chance he rejects and they get a draft pick anyhow.

Given they weren’t planning on acquiring a truly bankable SP (unsure if this is the case of course), they had zero reason not to extend the QO to Rodon

HallofFrank

Well, not necessarily. I’d certainly rather them spend that $18m on Rodón than no one. But if you think he’s going to miss significant time with an injury or you have doubts that his arm will last through the playoffs, then it’s reasonable to spend that money elsewhere—even if it is on relievers and utility men. I don’t think it’s unreasonable, for example, for Hahn to think that Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman will be more useful in the playoffs than Rodón. He may be wrong, of course, but that strikes me as plausible.

Alfornia Jones

Not giving Rodon the QO was clearly the wrong choice and at minimum they lost a draft pick. The larger issue is that their front office doesn’t know how to value players properly. Rodon was the reason the Sox won the division easily last year; at $3million he wasn’t even expected to hold down a full time SP role. While its debatable whether he can hold-up to a full season, his perceived value by the league is/was not debatable: he was always going to get a 1-2 year deal worth $18-25 million per. They chose exercising Kimbrels option over Rodon. Ownership set the artificial ceiling on payroll, and Hahn was allowed to choose only one of Kimbrel or Rodon. The question now is who performs better: Rodon or AJ Pollock? A 5 war SP or a 34 yr old OF? The odds are probably pretty even given Rodon’s injury history, but the Sox are still short a SP.

You sign players to get you through the regular season, the playoffs is always a bonus and shouldn’t be factored into signing/not signing someone.

Further to how the FO values players, Hahn has seemingly built a great post season bullpen at the expense of providing depth to the starting pitching. When your #1/2 guy now goes down for 2-3 months, the shaky depth prior is now an immediate crisis. The Cueto signing is not awful, but its a panic move. Expecting any of Velasquez, Cueto, Kopech, Keuchel or Lopez or Lambert to go longer than 3 innings the first month or two of the season is gambling. Starting Pitching gets you through the regular season, and they don’t have enough horses. The allstar bullpen will be in heavy use early and often, hopefully they aren’t spitting oil by July/Aug.

HallofFrank

You’re making loads of assumptions here that are far from sure things. You’re assuming, for example, that the Sox “at minimum” lost a draft pick by not offering the QO. But that’s not true. He might have accepted the QO and in that case the Sox wouldn’t have received a draft pick. Instead, they’d be paying Rodón $18m and their entire offseason looks different. Maybe it looks better, but maybe not. I’m making the case: it’s far from obvious to me that it would have been better.

I completely disagree that you should only sign players to “get you through the regular season” and the playoffs “shouldn’t be factored into signing/not signing someone.” I agree that you can’t take the playoffs for granted. But that’s different. Suppose player A helps you more in the playoffs but less in the regular season, while player B is vice versa. In the White Sox current situation and all else being equal, I’d prefer player A for the White Sox.

Calling the Cueto a “panic move” is one strange opinion.

Trooper Galactus

I do not understand how you can simultaneously defend both declining Rodon’s QO and picking up Kimbrel’s option. The only reason I thought not giving Rodon a QO was if there was such a cap on spending that it wasn’t worth even the minor risk or there was a plan in place to re-sign him somehow. It was hard to gauge his market value given his history, but they clearly whiffed on that. But to pass on taking that financial risk while handing nearly the same amount of money to Kimbrel? Sorry, that just defies all logic.

HallofFrank

It doesn’t defy *all* logic. The logic is pretty simple: the White Sox *should* have picked up Kimbrel’s option *if* they planned to trade him and we’re confident they could get anything of value for him. Likewise, the Sox should *not* have picked up Rodón’s if they wanted to spend his $18m elsewhere and they thought there was a risk he’d accept the QO.

I’ll add: I’m only defending the Rodón decision in the softest possible sense. I’d say it more like this: offering the QO or not offering the QO to Rodón each had their benefits and risks, and I think the Sox could have gone either way on it and made an okay decision. It just strikes me as wrong to call it an outright mistake on the assumption that the Sox would have certainly received a draft pick. If the Sox had offered, things may have turned out very differently.

soxygen

They also should have asked themselves if Velasquez is worth $3 million to them this season. Clearly they forgot that step at least once!

HallofFrank

Yeah. Weird move.

As Cirensica

This is well done Patrick. As always, a joy to read your articles.

One of the moves that I still cannot understand is how Hahn declined Cesar Hernandez option at $6M and signed utility man Harrison for 5.5M when we already had Leury for that. Harrison can’t play 2B with the quality Cesar has (former gold glove winner). Harrison is also 4 years older and with injury history. Cesar is a switch hitter to cap it off, and he can play everyday at 2B and not embarrass himself with the glove. This move baffles me.

I know Cesar was dreadful in his short stint with the White Sox. By looking at how steady his production has been over the years, I’d think a positive regression is in the horizon. If I am a betting man, I will say that Cesar will have a better season than Harrison.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica
dongutteridge

But, that’s assuming that Hahn wasn’t considering other options at 2B that just did not come to fruition. I don’t think Harrison was his 2B plan from the beginning.

As Cirensica

You give Hahn too much credit.

jhomeslice

If Hahn is forbidden from taking on multi year contracts with legit good players, then there are not a lot of other plans he could have had that would have been much better. No multi year deals = no good free agents.

I’m still bummed they couldn’t get McNeil from the Mets, some upside, power, and is a lefty hitter. He was my highest hope that they could get for Kimbrel, or even someone else. I have a feeling they might be in the market for a 2b at the deadline again, we’ll see.

texag10

“If Hahn is forbidden from taking on multi year contracts”

Where the hell is this even coming from? We know he won’t play in the deep end of free agency but its not like the man only shells out 1 year deals to dumpster dive players.

jhomeslice

Where is that coming from? I think the point about them not giving out the multi year deals it would take to get any really good free agents has been beaten to death by many people on here, Trooper, Knox, etc. It ain’t the GM.

Harrison was their choice because Reinsdorf never allows them to give the contracts out it would take to get someone better. 15 of the top 20 FA’s this winter got bigger deals in total dollars than any in Sox history. Nobody other than Hendriks that the Sox signed the past 2 winters will make even 10M in 2022, or has a total contract value bigger than 25M. That leaves slim pickings among free agents.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

But Harrison and Velasquez are “just like” Semien and Ray.

jorgefabregas

Fangraphs Depth Chart projections (combination of Steamer, ZiPS, and FG’s playing time projection):

CH 115 games, 1.3 WAR 93 wRC+
JH 94 games, 1.0 WAR 93 wRC+

Seems like six of one, half-dozen of the other.

As Cirensica

Except one is 3 years younger (I previously said 4, but it is actually 3), and it is a better bet to play all season (Cesar has 2 season he played in 161 games). Like Jomeslice said above, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Sox on the market for a 2B at the trade deadline. Maybe even trading for Cesar again!

jorgefabregas

The projections take aging curves into account.

As Cirensica

Yeah I know, and projections can be wrong too. I think we’re splitting hairs here. If health accompany both Harrison and Cesar, the difference in production for either one should be small. To paraphrase Archer, a little bit in Column A and a little bit in Column B.

The only quiver would be that there is a greater chance Cesar remains healthy all season than Harrison, and that risk apparently is worth 500K to Hahn.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica
Trooper Galactus

They also are based off multi-year performance leading up to the projection year, and don’t really account for any signs that a guy is about to fall off a cliff (or perhaps already has). The fact that Harrison ended last season a total train wreck doesn’t seem to really carry any weight in projections. I’m pretty sure Adam Eaton was projected to be around a 1-WAR player last season, and there were plenty of people who foresaw him being released by midseason like he was.

HallofFrank

It makes good sense to me. Harrison had a better 2021, has more positional flexibility, and is cheaper.

That said, who had the better ’21 depends on the metric. Fangraphs likes Hernandez a lot, but the gap between Harrison and Hernandez for BR is immense: 2.2 WAR to 0.4 WAR. I suspect MLB teams have their own complicated systems for evaluation. But I don’t think it’s hard to see why they might prefer Harrison.

Trooper Galactus

I like Harrison to a point, but as a player whose value is derived primarily from contact and defense, those aren’t skills that tend to age well, and the guy’s in his mid-30s.

HallofFrank

Yeah, fair. Hernandez could’ve been the more stable option. But—if they weren’t going to supersolve—I don’t mind rolling the dice with Harrison, because there are a few interesting internal options at 2B if he ages out.

Trooper Galactus

Harrison was disappointing, but was defensible in the context of other moves in the offseason. Signing him AND Leury was weird, though.

Jeff

I like the article and the grade seems fair to me. The highish grade mostly relies on the Kimbrel for Pollock trade. Critics of the trade seem to think the Sox could have done better declining Kimbrel’s option and spending the $15 million savings in the free agent market. I wasn’t in favor of picking up Kimbrel’s option either, but I’m curious to hear what better value than Pollock people think the Sox could have gotten for $15 million this winter. As far as I’m concerned, all’s well that ends well, at least until Pollock gets hurt.

As Cirensica

I think the answer is always Conforto. The 2022 season free agent fetiche for many fans.
Has he signed yet?

soxygen

I think the response to that was really well stated by P Noles in the article.

“ The market had no shortage of premium options for the White Sox to choose from, and they passed on all of them, instead spreading their available dollars around to set-up men and scrap heap signings. Paying $25 million per year to an MVP candidate like Marcus Semien sounds like a lot, but when you see the team allocate $8.5 million to Kelly, $8 million to Graveman, $5.5 million to Garcia, $4.2 million to Cueto, $4 million to Harrison, and $3 million to Velazquez, one wonders why it wasn’t a possibility. The Sox could have accommodated a star free agent, Pollock, and one or two of those minor additions, all on the same payroll.”