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In Monday’s discussion about Josh Osich, the LOOGY acquired by the White Sox off waivers from the Orioles, Trooper Galactus noted one reason to suppress enthusiasm: The Orioles are the worst team in baseball, and they didn’t want him.
Another reason why he’s more likely to serve as veteran ballast in Charlotte than Chicago? He has an option remaining.
Around the midpoint of March, minor-league options are a luxury for teams and a curse for players, because they often serve as a tie-breaker for the last spots on the 25-man roster. If they look like they have a similar chance of providing major-league value, they may as well audition the guy they have the risk of losing in order to get two cracks at it. If a lack of options didn’t force Osich out of the picture, then perhaps they were resigned for different reasons.
MLB Trade Rumors released its annual out-of-options post this week, and the lack of them could come into play with shaping the White Sox bullpen more than anything else. Let’s get the other ones out of the way first:
Rondon is the only one who isn’t guaranteed a roster spot, but he hit 24 homers during his age-24 season after topping out at seven in his career to date. Those homers — 18 in Charlotte, six in Chicago — came with a sub-.300 OBP, but Daniel Palka was the only player in the entire organization to out-homer him and Rondon adds capable defense around the whole infield.
If the White Sox are carrying eight pitchers, they’ll only have three bench spots to play with. James McCann tackles one as the backup catcher, and Garcia and Rondon can handle the other eight. That seems like the way to go, at least before the Sox are done manipulating Eloy Jimenez‘s service time. Then it probably comes down to Rondon or Palka, and if both are performing well, the Sox might want to think about carrying seven pitchers, because that’s a decent bench.
The only question with Colome is whether he will close, so let’s focus on the others.
The Sox are grooming Banuelos as their fifth starter until Ervin Santana is ready to face big-league hitters in Cactus League action. If Santana throws the way the Sox think he can, Banuelos can still slide down to occupy the long-relief spot, because the Sox will need immediate rotation depth. After Banuelos, Jordan Stephens is probably the most qualified sixth starter out of the chute. (OK, that’s probably Dylan Cease, but the Sox will likely want to conservatively map out what’s potentially his first six-month season.)
Minaya is the tougher call, although not for the sizable segment of the White Sox fan base that hates him for reasons I don’t quite understand. He battles bouts of awfulness — he’s going through one right now — but he also posted a 2.70 ERA with 53 strikeouts over 43 innings spanning the last four months of 2018, and stranded 80 percent of inherited runners to boot. You may say that’s only fourth months, but think of it instead as Nate Jones’ last two seasons.
If he steadies himself like he did in the past, others may have to wait. James Fegan’s view?
Minaya couldn’t find the zone at the start of last season, he got optioned to the minors in an absolute hurry, and is certainly in a similar funk at the moment. In between, he rewarded the White Sox’s patience in his high-caliber stuff with a strong second half. So it would be surprising to see them pull the plug on a project they’ve been fairly committed to by placing him on waivers because he’s not entering a rebuilding season on top of his game.
On the other hand, if the Sox are in the position of most teams at the end of March where everybody’s reluctant to add yet another pitcher to the 40-man roster, then Rick Hahn might be able to outright somebody like Minaya and get away with it. Perusing the list of other OOO types, Minaya has company in the bin marked “Relievers Who Have Been Good But Might Now Be Bad.”
For example, the Yankees might have to carry Tommy Kahnle, who required his last option last season after major velocity loss contributed heavily to a 6.56 ERA. Kahnle is doing what he can to hold onto the job so far — he hasn’t been scored upon in the spring and he’s shed his a lot of his “Tommy Boy” traits — but he’s also topping out at 96-97 instead of 99-100, so the question is whether he’ll be better equipped to deal with less.