The out-of-options White Sox compromising this spring’s roster decisions

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:

Position players

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.

Pitchers

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.

Now, if Minaya finishes the spring with a 21 ERA, I’m guessing the Sox will carry somebody like Dylan Covey or Ryan Burr instead and take their chances sneaking him to Charlotte:

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.

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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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BeefLoaf108

When there is a roster crunch in late April, demoting Adam Engel (provided the appropriate conditions precede, Leury & Jay stay healthy, Engel continues to flounder at the plate, no other injuries to the position player side) should be one of the viable options. He’s probably best suited as a “break glass in case of fire” type option in AAA anyway. And don’t give me the Jay stinks in CF takes, I get all that, this team is cruising for 90 plus losses, so lets just retain as much talent as possible in the process.

Josh Nelson

As long as this means more time in CF for Leury Garcia, I’m OK with it. I think Jon Jay should stay in a corner where he can provide positive value.

Yolmer's gatorade

If Leury is the everyday center fielders, then the Sox can keep Rodon and Palka even when Eloy comes up.

calcetinesblancos

The Sox love position players who can’t hit. See Sanchez, Yolmer.

Josh Nelson

Yolmer Sanchez OPS+ was 88 (12% below average). The same as DJ LeMahieu, Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier. 1% better than Ian Kinsler and 3% better than Jonathan Schoop.

Yes, Yolmer Sanchez is not a great hitter, but having him be the White Sox starting second baseman is fine. Hell, he might be an above average MLB second baseman this year. And the White Sox could use as many above average major leaguers as possible this year.

Yolmer's gatorade

Yolmer’s defensive value will translate to 2nd base, and his bat is probably either league average or above league average for the keystone. So, I agree, Yolmer’s is going to be an above average position player for the 2019 Sox.

Trooper Galactus

To piggyback on Josh’s comment, Yolmer’s produced 6.1 bWAR in the last two seasons. On a team where almost nobody is projected to post even two wins, I don’t get why Yolmer is a guy anybody harps on.

phillyd

Not everyone uses, or likes, bWAR. Over the same time he has produced 2.3 WARP which is fine for this team but, meh.

Trooper Galactus

WARP tends to assign lower values on average, from what I’ve noticed. And I certainly don’t buy that he’s been a sub-par fielder for his career. Regardless, Yolmer has proven himself to be an MLB caliber player at a minimum, and I don’t get why he gets this denigration when he’s not even a problem.

Trooper Galactus

To wit, even BP’s valuation of Yolmer’s 2018 season at a lowly 0.7 WARP made him the fourth best position player on the team (behind Timmay, Abreu, and….Kevan Smith). Which brings me back to my original point: why rag on him when there’s a roster full of far more deserving targets? Given he’s a fun, personable player, plays outstanding defense, gives top effort at all times, and is an actual useful product of our farm system, I’m amazed anybody bothers to complain about his presence on the roster.

phillyd

I would rather he not be an everyday player, but otherwise I’m fine with him on this and future rosters.

Trooper Galactus

I think we all would. He’s a passable starter, but ideally is a utility infielder on a contender. I mostly took umbrage to somebody bothering to take a moment to criticize a perfectly good player on a roster full of disposable ones.

gibby32

Irritating.

gooch

I am with Fegan here. The one thing the White Sox have this season is time. So why not send a lower-upside player with options back to AAA and a higher-upside player without options to the big leagues.

As Cirensica

…. higher-upside player without options to the big leagues….

Such as who exactly?

gooch

I would say Minaya definitely falls into that category, and maybe Banuelos too with his strikeout potential.

As Cirensica

Banuelos is 28 years old with unremarkable workload in the minors.
Juan Minaya is also 28 yr old.

I don’t see too much upside there. I agree with Josh, Dylan Covey might have a better upside

gooch

Minaya is only 1 year older than Covey. He had a slow start last year, and then went on to pitch great. While I think Covey will end up being the better reliever, we could easily have both of them next season by keeping Minaya and optioning Covey.

Josh Nelson

If given the choice between Juan Minaya and Dylan Covey – I can’t believe I’m saying this – I’d go with Covey to pitch out of the bullpen.

But I wonder no matter how good Ryan Burr looks this Spring, he’ll be sent down to AAA while Minaya gets the nod.

gooch

I could easily see Minaya, Covey, and Burr all making the roster. But I don’t see a point in risking losing Minaya, who has shown his potential, for Covey, who I think can be a very good reliever but can be sent down and brought up later if something happens with the opening day bullpen.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That Kahnle for Rutherford deal is looking pretty good.

Considering we sent away two pretty good (if well-compensated) players with him and the rest of the players received are no longer in the organization, I’d say the Yankees are probably ahead in it. But, like any veterans-for-prospects trade, it’s about the long game, and Rutherford still has a couple years to start banking some value for the team. The fact the organization got zero value out of Polo and Clarkin certainly hurts our side of the ledger.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I don’t think there was much of a market for those guys. I didn’t see Robertson and Frazier adding too much value to that deal; in my mind it was really Kahnle for Rutherford.

I liked the way Jim broke it down before: Kahnle for Rutherford, Robertson for Clarkin, and Frazier for Polo, with Clippard mostly as a salary offset for Robertson and Frazier. Obviously, as you said, the Kahnle/Rutherford part is going pretty well for our side, but the rest of that trade’s been a disaster. Frazier and Robertson both produced well for New York, even in relation to what they were paid, while we got nothing from the other three except ten innings from Clippard and some cash.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I guess you’re right, but IIRC Frazier was a rental for NY, and as you said, Robertson was making big money which limited what you could get for him. So I wouldn’t call it a disaster, in that I didn’t really expect too much from either guy (though I did think they would turn out better than they did).

I mean, it’s not an epic disaster, but they gave up productive players and got literally zero value out of Clarkin and Polo. It’d be one thing if they could have at least flipped those guys for somebody else, but neither provided any value whatsoever to the club. I know their salaries limited what we could get for Frazier and Robertson, but basically coming up empty so soon after the trade is pretty disappointing. Also consider that if the White Sox had been willing to eat some of Robertson’s salary, a lot more teams probably would have been in the market for a top-tier reliever.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That’s an entirely different frustrating aspect of it. They also should have been trading for overpriced veterans the past few years packaged with good prospects, but that didn’t happen either. They have to save money to re-sign Dylan Cease someday.

Yeah, I know Clarkin and Polo had good upside and all, but was that seriously the best we could do? A pair of out-of-options/oft-injured prospects?

Trooper Galactus

My mistake, but still, in hindsight it kinda feels like Hahn bailed the Yankees out of that problem then fell prey to it himself this offseason. At the time of the trade I guess I was under the impression that we’d be controlling them for more than one full season. Granted, they underperformed and fell off the 40-man, but dang, that whole deal just feels worse and worse to me in retrospect, but I can’t tell if it’s just more my faith in Hahn being completely disintegrated by this offseason.

phillyd

You are assuming we could have gotten Rutherford straight up for Kahnle. Yes, what Jim wrote makes sense from a logic standpoint, but it is also likely Rutherford is not on the Sox without the inclusion of the others.

tommytwonines

And the Sox wouldn’t have traded Kahnle straight up for Rutherford, not the way he was pitching that year and with some years of club control still ahead. You want Kahnle? You gotta take Robertson’s contract/money and Frazier’s, too. They were salary-dumping, paving the way for more losses and a better draft pick, as much as acquiring Rutherford and some throw-ins.

Trooper Galactus

No, I wasn’t assuming that, that’s the reason I brought up the other pieces of that trade in the first place. We are by no means “winning” that trade right now, and Rutherford will probably have to become at least an average regular for it to even be a wash.

tommytwonines

No, I don’t think we are winning the trade at the moment, either. Rutherford’s shine was waning before the trade, although he’s in the “best shape of his life” now!

They dumped some cash and lost another few games. Now they have money to spend on… oh, wait, never mind.

lil jimmy

Well, those players were going, for sure. So What was the alternative? Was there a better deal? I’m guessing not. Getting the better end of a deal with the Yankees is hard to do.

tommytwonines

They sold very high on Kahnle, give the Sox that. No one thought they were getting a top-100 prospect back with their remaining trade pieces, but the package deal got it done.

John SF

@RightSizeWrongShape

This is the unrelated issue I get most inflamed about.

For example, we could have added Justin Verlander in 2017 at the waiver trade deadline. We were ahead of the Astros in ability to pick.

Which means either
1) the Tigers have to pull back Verlander and not get those prospects.

2) . Or we would have gained Verlander and his what-was-considered-at-the-time slightly underwater contract.

In the first situation that’s a win. (Slowing the Tiger’s rebuild is obviously a win for the Sox).

In the second situation, we could then just eat most of Verlander’s contract and trade him for premium prospects that winter! It’s not like we had any significant salary commitments for 2018-19 to worry about!

—-

It’s been like 18 months and two world series since that mistake and I’m still angry.

PauliePaulie

Verlander’s no-trade protection included waiver claims.

Trooper Galactus

So, if he absolutely refused to be traded to the White Sox they could have basically blocked the trade in perpetuity?

Lurker Laura

I think 50% of relievers in baseball at any given time are in the “Have Been Good, But Might Now Be Bad” bin. It’s a big bin.

knoxfire30

Minority opinion but I really cant stand the trend of baseballs bullpens going to 8. 13 freaking pitchers baffles me. Jose Rondon may have had a fluke 2018 especially in the power department but I cant risk losing him so ricky can have 6 freaking options from the right side out of the pen on a team that is gonna lose 90+ games

HouseOfTheRisingSox

I’m with you, but the flip side is with our starting rotation I have a feeling we’ll be going to the bullpen early and often.

knoxfire30

Right, we have to protect some of the young assets, Im not saying lets have a 9 man staff but 11 or 12 should be fine especially when the guys who fail in the 5th starter jobs may make the squad as long men.

knoxfire30

Looking at the schedule it seems they will have to deploy that method pretty quick. They have 3 off days to start the season up until an off day on april 11, but then they play all the way to may 14 with just 1 off day. They could always get lucky with rainouts, but thats going to be an exhausted staff during that stretch. Also, figure Eloy gets thrown in the mix April 15th or so…. and they are down another roster spot.

PauliePaulie

Imagine if rosters get expanded to 26. Ricky had 8 relievers last year and still had to use a position player twice in 10 days.

gooch

If the rosters expand to 26, I would fully expect Ricky to use 14 pitchers.

yinkadoubledare

If rosters expand to 26 I fully expect them to put a limitation at 13 pitchers.

If they add a rule that you have to pitch to at least 3 batters or an inning end in order to be taken out, a 12 man pen should be enough anyway.

As Cirensica

I am with you 100%. Teams are using too many different pitchers per game. The highest rate ever.

lil jimmy

Says the Blue Jays fan

Patrick Nolan

Agree wholeheartedly. 8 relievers is a little ridiculous.

PauliePaulie

Is there any chance at all the Sox use Giolito’s final option when breaking camp?

calcetinesblancos

I swear this team is run by idiots. Penciling a bad hitter like Yolmer Sanchez in as a starter on a rebuilding team is asinine. Having one old catcher and one bad catcher on the MLB team is asinine. Letting Sanatana start over Banuelos and Roach is also asinine. The way this front office has wasted the rebuild years on bad and washed up players has been nothing short of astounding.

Lurker Laura

Santana isn’t blocking anybody; Banuelos and Roach are nobody’s long-term answers to the starting rotation. I would have preferred they sign a starting picture who could actually start (Gonzalez comes to mind), but Santana edging out Banuelos and/or Roach bothers me not at all.

calcetinesblancos

I don’t have any fantasies that either one of those guys are going to turn into amazing starters, but could they become serviceable back of the rotation guys? Quite possibly yes, and what is Ervin Santana pitching on our team accomplishing? If we can give a guy like Palka who can’t play D or get on base a chance to grow, why not Roach or Banuelos? I don’t get this at all; at least give one of those guys a chance to fail at the MLB level to start the season.

Lurker Laura

They might yet, considering Santana hasn’t even pitched in a game to this point.

Trooper Galactus

Santana isn’t even on the 40-man and doesn’t have a guaranteed contract. The only way he makes the roster is if he actually looks notably better than Roach and Banuelos, and I’m pretty sure the White Sox are in no rush to pay him $4.5 million.

Trooper Galactus

Yolmer is arguably the least asinine use of a roster spot on this club. Focus your attention on the center fielder who can’t hit, the right fielder who can’t field or draw a walk, the fourth starter who got shelled all last season, or any number of other far more serious issues. You’re literally attacking one of the maybe three or four players on this roster who is starter quality.

Patrick Nolan

We have found the internet’s only Donn Roach apologist.

Trooper Galactus

That’s “Orix Buffalos ace starter Donn Roach” to you, good sir!

That said, Roach’s career MLB line kinda looks like what would happen if Spencer Adams won the fifth starter spot out of spring training.