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Thanks to the trade deadline, Josh and I didn’t have time to give P.O. Sox its due in podcast form, so here’s the mailbag for your reading pleasure instead.
Do y’all feel like the White Sox inability to add without borrowing heavily from the future ( *cough cough* Colson Montgomery *cough cough*) was easy to predict? The farm system didn’t get bad overnight, which made buying talent/depth in free agency before the season with the Machado/Harper “money” vitality important… and they just didn’t. The White Sox leveraged this entire season very badly, didn’t they?— Rob
It’s an especially timely question given that Jon Heyman said the White Sox tried to acquire Shohei Ohtani, who would basically solve all of the White Sox’s biggest issues with one player. Alas.
This rock-and-hard-place situation is why I’m so fascinated/preoccupied with the pre-MLB extensions that Rick Hahn signed Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to, paired with the not-cheap extension for Yoán Moncada. When he stopped short on adding a Manny Machado/Bryce Harper/George Springer type, he and Kenny Williams claimed that doing so would hamper their financial flexibility, and their ability to retain the players already on the roster. Williams made it sound like a threat, in fact.
The further removed we are from those offseasons, the more it seems they erred in assuming that every key player in the organization would be worth keeping. They undercut their flexibility in being able to reshape their roster by locking them into non-negligible salaries, which is a little bit ironic.
This is the 20th year of the White Sox being run by the combination of Williams and Hahn, and this intense priority on long-term flexibility is a byproduct of such unwarranted stability. Most other front offices wouldn’t worry about the long-term implications of signing Harper because they’d probably be overhauled well before it was over. Williams and Hahn conduct business as though they’ll be required to clean up any mess eight years from now, because they probably will be. The depth chart is convoluted, but the messes on the payroll can be waited out, and I think they’d rather have it that way than a great roster that could get ugly three years from now.
Eloy seems to be hitting better of late. Would you use him as a headline piece to get a starter or a real right fielder?— Andrew
Jiménez probably has the most important two months remaining of anybody on the roster, because a productive last 60 games open so many courses for the White Sox. As you mention, he could be traded, because the Silver Slugger version of Jiménez would be worth two years and $26 million, or four years and $59 million if his club options are exercised. The White Sox could also choose to retain him over José Abreu, and roll with him, Andrew Vaughn and a left fielder to be determined.
But we also know that it’s a fool’s errand to project a Jiménez hot streak for any meaningful amount of time, because he’s prone to ground-ball ruts, injury, and ground-ball ruts because he’s coming off an injury. So I’d rather hold off on this question until the end of the season, because it’s probably worth knowing where the Sox are selling on the high-low spectrum. They could have the opportunity to capitalize on a Jiménez who’s finally figured it out, or they might have to flip him for whatever they can in order to back out of a dead end on the roster. That’s not much of an answer, but this is how I’m thinking while watching him.
With all the 20 something’s on this roster who can’t seem to play more than a game or two in a row, do you blame that on the inability of our training staff to keep players healthy or the front office for their inability to scout injury prone players?— Joe
I’d add a small third slice on the pie chart for bad luck, just for honest accounting’s sake. You can’t overlook the pandemic, especially COVID-19’s impact on Moncada’s career, and between that and the lockout, I’m open to the idea that months of separation between players and the training staff in consecutive seasons/offseasons didn’t help. But every team has had to deal with that kind of uncertainty, so that argument only goes so far.
I’m more inclined to pin it on the training staff, because Jiménez seems like the only one who’s more nature than nurture, although Moncada has a case as well, because there’s a line of demarcation with his illness. But then you have Robert going from getting hurt on impact plays to being required to withhold routine efforts, while Tim Anderson hasn’t played close to a full season in four years.
Andrew Vaughn’s management is also telling from a training perspective. He hit .242/.281/.407 in July around a number of days off for maintenance purposes. If his back and legs betray him for another second-half swoon, then I think it’s fair to wonder if the Sox failed to prepare his body for a six-month grind while rushing him from A-ball to the majors.
With Moncada’s slow start, Roberts recent injury and Eloy’s injury riddled recent past do you think the white sox have a guy on the roster who could win a future MVP? I thought at different points in the rebuild and recent years that these guys could have a chance but what about now?— Benny
Luis Robert’s on a 5 WAR pace over a full season despite a season with COVID, leg issues and now lightheadedness/blurred vision, so I think that’s the kind of floor you want to see from an MVP candidate. He’s shown the ability to produce when he’s not his best self, and Statcast’s recently unveiled bat speed metric shows that Robert has the physical gifts to make a reliable offensive impact around his lack of patience. He just has to play 150 games. That’s not a challenge to be understated, which everybody knows full well by now, but at least he’s improving as a player around that particular hardship.
There’s a lot of talk about TLR leaving starters in too long. My question is what is the alternative? If Gio, Lynn, and Kopech can only give you 5, and Cease doesn’t give more than 6, how do you fill in so many innings from a bullpen that’s hardly ever available? My only thought is an opener, and then maybe you steal an inning by having the starter face the bottom of the order one more time instead of the top.— Adam
I think the criticism stems from how he presents the mental calculus. When Lucas Giolito or Lance Lynn stay in several batters too long because he determined the whole seventh inning to be theirs, or because they’ve earned the chance to exhaust themselves, it’s reactive and retrograde. Perhaps he’s shielding his relievers from criticism about their lack of availability or success on consecutive days, but then the starters have to face questions about why they can’t finish outings, and so that’s zero-sum.
I dunno, I still think the starting pitching woes are overstated. The White Sox are seventh in innings from starting pitching, so La Russa isn’t facing an inordinate challenge from a workload standpoint. It’s more the lack of big nights from his offense building the opportunity for low-leverage coasts to the finish line. The White Sox have thrown 111 innings in save situations, which is the fourth-highest total in baseball. Two of the teams ahead of them are the Yankees and Braves, who have win totals in the 60s.
We’ll see if Hahn provides any offensive depth over the next two days. If close games are still an ongoing concern — and if neither Giolito nor Lynn find their old selves — then I’d welcome more creative management of their starters. That was my biggest problem with Rick Renteria, but alas, I don’t think the hiring of La Russa improved the outlook in that regard.
Fun time: all time roster of players named Jim/James vs Josh’s (names like Jameson definitely count). Who’s on the rosters and who wins.— David
The Jims have it because the pitching staff has four Hall of Famers (Palmer, Hunter, Kaat and Bunning), plus a whole bunch of great fifth-starter candidates. Josh Johnson and Josh Beckett are as good as it gets for the other team.
In fact, Josh Gibson is the only Hall of Fame Josh, and while he’s a hard one to top, he’s backed up by the far more fleeting greatness of Donaldson and Hamilton. Historically, it’s no context.
That said, this could change in time, at least if we limit it to this century. The Jim talent has dried up since Thome, Edmonds and Rollins retired, while Hader and Bell offer a couple of Joshes who are peaking.