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Approaching last year’s non-tendering deadline, Avisaíl García looked likely to get spurned by the White Sox due to an arbitration projection that turned out to twice as much as any other team was willing to guarantee him.
That decision looked like a given, so I instead turned my eye to Leury García. The White Sox were going to tender him a contract, but with his arbitration projection approaching $2 million and a resume full of incomplete seasons, I could see more ambitious uses of the roster spot.
Of course, Leury García only ended up making $1.55 million last year, a less daunting figure. He answered one question affirmatively by playing 140 games, although it fell a little short of starter quality. His 1.5ish WAR doesn’t quite capture his entire value to an organization due to his ability to cover outfield and infield positions, as well as his ability to reach on errors, but his lack of plate discipline, home-run power and standout defense is going to lower his ceiling.
Those thoughts about García returned when reading the latest batch of arbitration projections from MLB Trade Rumors. His projection jumped a few integers, as did those for a few of his teammates. At the same time, that projection could end up overestimating his earning potential. For additional context, I’ve listed how close MLBTR came last year in between the salary figures.
|Player||2019 salary||Net diff.||2020 proj.|
Sánchez looks like the odd man out under any model. A guy who needs every inch of his glove to get to 2 WAR over a 150-game sample is only worth $6 million in a bidding war between two contenders who are desperate for his brand of adequacy. That sort of environment doesn’t exist anymore.
On the flip side, McCann and Marshall look like automatic tenders under the most aggressive mindset. One may fear that the White Sox will overpay McCann in 2020 for underpaying him in 2019, and a team like the Rays might have the gall to walk away and cash in their winnings, but the Sox lack the starting catcher depth and the bargain-hunting acumen to give them such confidence. Marshall was one of Rick Renteria’s three most-trusted relievers, so it’d be weird to dismiss him for such a paltry sum, even if the Sox need strikeouts from some spots in the bullpen. The hope is that the Sox will find other guys to make Marshall less necessary in high-leverage situations.
For the players in between, it depends on how much time you want to spend filling in the back halves of the 26- and 40-man rosters, as well as your risk tolerance for thinking the Sox could find better.
I’m thinking of this list in terms of tiers, and the courage it would take to open roster spots to uncertainty. (Note: You may be inclined to tender a contract and then cut the player loose for a fraction after of what he’s owed before the season. Either way, the argument is more about whether a better player could be found for that roster spot and that amount.)
Safety First: Non-tender Sánchez and Goins ($7.1M)
We’ve already talked about Sánchez, and players like Goins are widely available on minor-league contracts, especially given the way Goins finished the season. With him, it’s not the dollar figure as much as it’s the 40-man roster spot.
A Little Less Conservative: Non-tender Sánchez, Goins and Osich ($8.1M)
Osich led the White Sox in relief innings, standing out in some extended emergency outings after the rotation unraveled late in the year. If you’re bullish on Osich, you look at his last 16 outings. The 2.41 ERA is strong, and so are the peripherals (20 strikeouts, four walks, .465 OPS allowed, 10-for-12 stranding inherited runners). If you’re looking at the full-season numbers, you’ll see the reason why the Sox were able to claim him on waivers, and could do the same thing again after 40-man questions are answered. He’s worth a deeper dive.
Some Ambition: Non-tender Sánchez, Goins, Osich and García ($12.6M)
If García again comes up a half-mil short of his projection, there will be no argument against him. If he goes a half-mil over it, he edges closer to Sánchez territory, where he’s getting paid a little too much for the level of impact he makes as an everyday player. He offers the ability to cover three positions as a second-division starter (he’s overextended at third and a corner outfield spot), but if major-league benches regain a player when rosters expand to 26, his versatility may not be as prized as it was before. If you think his 140-game availability is an aberration, you may be even more inspired to reach this tier.
Sending a Message: Non-tender Sánchez, Goins, Osich, García and Rodón ($17.1M)
Familiarity may breed contempt with Rodón, who only made seven starts for the White Sox in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and might be lucky to make seven appearances for the White Sox in 2020 due to his health luck and the White Sox’ struggles with that particular procedure. I’m guessing the White Sox will tender him a contract and treat it as if they’re spending that money on a trade deadline acquisition, but I can see a Nate Jones-like situation occurring where he never meets even lowered expectations for availability. Parting ways with Rodón would definitely signal a new level of determination.
Scorched Earth: Non-tender Sánchez, Goins, Osich, García, Rodón and Colomé ($27.4M)
There are so many reasons why the White Sox will tender Colomé a contract without thinking twice, but if you approach this exercise as “What would the Rays do?”, Colomé is in an even more precarious position than McCann. His second half:
- 25.1 IP, 27 H, 20 R, 11 ER, 13 BB, 28 K, 3 HR
Some regression was expected, and combined with an impending eight-figure arb projection, it would go a long way to explain why no teams appeared willing to offer much in the way of value for his services at the deadline. Perhaps the power on his cutter will return, Kelvin Herrera will summon his full post-peak powers, and the Sox will be more or less spending market rate for two decent late-inning options. If Colome’s 2020 is a continuation of his second half while Hererra’s reflects his first five months, that’s going to be much more difficult to stomach.
The question to ask at the end of these tiers is, “Could the White Sox replace X for the money?” It’s a lot easier to contextualize cleanly replacing Sánchez and Goins, but by the end, it comes down to whether you think the White Sox could replace two decent stopgap position players, a second lefty, a second-half upgrade and an incumbent closer for $27.4 million, or whether attempting to upgrade all of those spots of the roster would even be worth the effort expended. I expect the Sox to stop on either side of Osich, but as we gear up for the Offseason Plan Project, some of our madder scientists could be willing to go all the way.