Extension or not, Andrew Vaughn allegedly set for White Sox Opening Day roster

It’s only spring training, but Andrew Vaughn looks like he belongs. And because the White Sox didn’t add a more proven bat to take up plate appearances at designated hitter, it appears they’re bringing him along for Opening Day, regardless of immediate service time concerns.

So says Bob Nightengale, who couldn’t get an on-the-record quote making Vaughn’s spot official, but did quote his friends — Kenny Williams and Tony La Russa — by name to give the assertion some heft.

If spring training performance informed the decision, it’s good information. Vaughn’s hitting .289/.396/.489 with two homers, a triple, a double and seven walks to a respectable nine strikeouts over 53 plate appearances. There’s no better candidate for the at-bats at the moment, so it’s worth giving him a shot. The Sox can always send him down if it’s not time.

Of course, the White Sox and Vaughn could still come to an agreement between now and Opening Day, making this moot. And of course, because it’s Nightengale, he maximizes the flattery for the White Sox front office in the meantime.

The Chicago White Sox were hoping to lock up prized prospect Andrew Vaughn to a long-term contract before he makes his major-league debut.

Talks have cooled.

The affection and enthusiasm for the first baseman/DH has not.

The White Sox refuse to follow many other teams and play the service-time manipulation game by keeping Vaughn in the minors. Now barring injury, Vaughn is expected to be on their opening-day roster as the primary DH.

Indeed, the White Sox are avoiding the temptation to suppress the speed of Vaughn’s earning potential, unlike those miserly White Sox, who did it with their previous three position-player prospects of note.

Get a load of how credulously Nightengale quotes Williams.

“We understand the service-time issue that plays here,’’ Williams said, “but our feeling is that when you’re ready to help the major-league club, there’s a spot for you. We’re trying to put the best team out there. We have proven that over and over again.

“I think there is a residual effect if you play those type of service-time games. As a former player, maybe I’m a little more sensitive to it than others. If you do that, the player and the agent don’t forget any time soon. Should you want to negotiate a contract down the line, or the guy becomes a free agent, I think that works against you.’’

Nightengale goes on to draw distinctions between’s Vaughn situation and those of George Springer and Kris Bryant. He does not mention Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez or Nick Madrigal, all White Sox prospects who were stiff-armed from the roster until it became economically advisable. The first two signed extensions, while Madrigal had to bide his time at the alternate training site until the Sox stopped pretending Cheslor Cuthbert was more useful.

Robert and Jiménez signed considerable extensions that no team has matched with their pre-MLB prospects, so perhaps all’s well that ends well there. But, still. Come on.

PERTINENT: Andrew Vaughn’s first home run could be a harbinger

* * * * * * * * *

There’s an old, odd bit from the early years of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” that has stuck with me, and maybe only me. I can’t find any evidence of it online, so it’s entirely possible that I have warped the original material into something completely different for my own purposes.

But here’s how this guy remembers a 25-year-old gag he never saw a second time.

Conan had an interstitial two-minute segment where he’d take live reviews from the home audience over the phone, the sole purpose of which was to fill an awkward amount of time between guests. A guy calls in and says he’s enjoying the show so much that he doesn’t want to get up to get something to eat. So he comes up with a solution, enthusiastically telling Conan, “I’m going to peel my head like an orange!”

Then you hear a sound of ripping and tearing, followed by anguished screams.

“THERE’S NO FRUIT INSIDE! LEARN FROM ME! LEEEEAAAARN FROM MEEEEEEEE!”

I think of that quote a lot when an ostensibly terrible idea has no payoff. The White Sox have made me think of it plenty. I’ve somehow managed to avoid writing it, probably because of all the track-laying required to get everybody on the same page.

The idea of holding back prospects to get an extra year isn’t as dumb as peeling one’s head like an orange, because the team does gain that extra year. But we’ve argued that the benefits dry up shortly after that, and it can end up hurting more than it helps.

There are the relationship/reputational aspects that Williams refers to. There’s also the idea that players who put themselves on healthy Super Two tracks make so much in that previously prized seventh year of team control that teams often try to get out from under paying that fourth arbitration-eligible salary. Nightengale mentions Bryant. He could have also mentioned Francisco Lindor with Cleveland, or Mookie Betts with the Red Sox.

Even if players sign extensions to rein in earnings for the first six-plus years of their career, “problems” remain. These same White Sox stopped short of beating their payroll record set 10 years ago because various Sox personnel have dutifully, somberly mentioned that even their cost-controlled players grow more expensive each year.

Whether a player is promoted on time or late, whether he signs an extension or bets on himself, it can be framed as financially disadvantageous for those so motivated, and the White Sox are often so motivated. The more examples of service-time manipulation I’ve seen, the more convinced I am that there’s no fruit inside. By letting Vaughn earn an Opening Day assignment, it seems like the immediate stakes are finally high enough for the White Sox to admit it as well.

Or maybe Vaughn will sign an extension over the next week, and everybody can call themselves a hero.

But should the White Sox roster Vaughn without him signing anything, good for them! And good for us! We all get to avoid having the argument that’s the worst thing about following baseball online, and we all get to watch the most meritorious White Sox lineup from Day One. It’d be a win-win, and the best way of racking up the wins that count.

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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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HallofFrank

I guess because of the bold, my eyes jumped down to the first quote before I read the set-up. Without seeing his name, I actually chuckled at the “White Sox refuse” line and thought, “must be Nightengale.”

MrStealYoBase

Is a Vaughn extension advantageous for the team? Genuine question here.

If hes a top-5 bat in the league type, the fact that he is limited to DH or 1B caps his free agency earnings at ~70% of what a similar, non-defensively challenged player would make. (JDM comes to mind here) Is that the type of player that is so onerous to re-sign that it would financially cripple a team to do it?

Meanwhile, is it worth taking on the risk of injury or underperformance? Especially since you are sacrificing the ability to pay Vaughn practically nothing for the next three years during the heart of a competitive window, for the ability to pay him close to (or even above) market value in 2027?

I guess the White Sox place a value on cost certainty that’s probably higher than most teams. But it still seems goofy to me.

MrStealYoBase

Yeah I agree. I guess I should have prefaced my comment with the fact that I’m assuming the guaranteed money + number of options is more in line with the Eloy deal than the White deal. I think the recent discussion around his deal with the Mariners makes anything like that a non-starter.

Eloy will get $6M + signing bonus money for his pre-arb years, compared to ~$2M without an extension and just going through the pre-arb process like normal. Is the right to pay Vaughn market value for one year in 2027 worth more than $4M in savings during the heart of the contention window? Especially with how we know this team operates under a strict budget? Also accounting for the fact that injury and/or underperformance could mean that budget is hindered by not-insignificant amounts of dead money in 2024-2026 in the worst case scenario?

Last edited 1 year ago by MrStealYoBase
jorgefabregas

I’m assuming the anticipated savings would come during the arb years. I also think Vaughn needs to be very careful–as a slow slugger, if he signs away a couple of free agent years, the extension has a decent chance at being the last significant contract he signs.

HallofFrank

We talked about the possibility of the “swell-opt” for a Giolito extension, but I actually think it makes more sense for Vaughn. So, offer him 6-years, $30m guaranteed with 2 team options at, say, $18m each (so slightly better than the White deal). After year 5, he can opt-out, but if he does the Sox can opt-into a 5-year, $95m deal (just off the head estimates).

It only puts the Sox on the hook for $30m. If he is a masher, the Sox could keep him for what would end up being around 10 years, $120m. That seems like a good situation for team & player.

raylewis67

My optimistic take, despite having every reason to believe otherwise, is that the team may actually be more willing to spend in FA if Vaughn is locked up because, like you say, the cost certainty has value–perhaps the cost ‘uncertainty’ handcuffs FO when it comes to 2022 or 2023 FA because they don’t know what will be committed to Vaughn down the road.

calcetinesblancos

No.

Right Size Wrong Shape

The chronicling of the bits on Conan’s old Late Night show are severely lacking. I can never find evidence of one when I need it. The most recent was when he had a character who was a Robert Plant impersonator in the witness protection program singing Immigrant Song with one of those voice modulation things. You bring these things up and people look at you like you’re crazy.

joewho112

What did she think?

Just John

Looking forward to this future spare part:

“Eager fans arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field 30 minutes before the first pitch on Monday anticipating the celebratory ceremony of rings, only to witness the players’ reception of Jerry’s commemorative 2021 White Sox portable meatball holders.”

calcetinesblancos

Amar

Joe Cowley and Bob Nightengale are fairly similar in their approach to reporting

polishwith

Hey Jim, are there any specific historical events or trends that led to the perspective that players are being “greedy” in terms of negotiations? I don’t quite know how to word it, but the stereotypical view that The Team (a.k.a. the owners) is being hurt by the players (aka “getting paid too much to play a game”) is confusing to me. I know it’s a balancing act, but I always sense an underlying tone that we want the team “to get a good deal” during negotiations. Shouldn’t we want the players to get the good deals? Are fans just manipulated to side with the team? Is this a consequence of free agency and player unions?

asindc

As someone who is pro-labor, I feel odd saying this: If a team can sign its best 20 players to contracts that are at 50% market value, then it can more easily fill out its roster with the best available FAs. Extreme example, of course, but it might explain fans’ odd desire for the FO to get the best deal possible for the organization.

By the way, don’t think for a second that the fans’ desire for a best deal for the team is lost on the players. Even though most players I’m aware of (a friend played for the Miami Dolphins, so I have spent time around former NFL players) appreciate the fandom (they don’t have a career without it), they also see some fans as being weirdly selfish in this regard.

polishwith

I totally get the economics of this. Of course, the teams wants to pay less…but is there any evidence to suggest that they DO (or don’t) sign more players to fill out the roster when they get a “good deal”. I’m admittedly a homer when it comes to baseball, and don’t know if other teams are different, but it sure doesn’t seem like this is true for the Sox. I think your second paragraph is more what I’m wondering about. Why do we have this cultural tendency to side with the team and not the player?

Kittles on a Rooftop

I think it boils down to the fact that most fans are fans of a team, not individual players. I know that there are certainly exceptions to this rule and as fans of the White Sox, our favorite players tend to be White Sox players, but we stay with the team (not player) when there is roster changes.

So from that perspective, we want to have the most competitive team possible. If that means that we get some good deals for individual players so that the whole roster is better, than so be it.

Kittles on a Rooftop

I think most fans also agree that these guys make way too much money (owners and players) and we are the ones getting screwed by the insane prices for tickets, food, drink, parking, merch, etc.

texag10

I don’t agree that players make too much money. We are talking about tangible skills that a very very very small percentage of the population have and are useful in an entertainment setting. I don’t hear anyone complaining about how much Robert Downey Jr made off Avengers Endgame.

HallofFrank

The reason fans default side with the team is simple: fan loyalty is primarily to teams, not players. I’m sure we all like Yoan Moncada, but if he walks after his contract chances are he’ll fall off all of our radars and we’ll still be following the White Sox every day. We may wish him the best and be happy to see him succeed, but it will be different than when he was on our favorite team.

As said, in theory the less you spend on one player means you have more to spend on others. You asked whether there is any evidence that it works like that. I’m not sure what evidence like this would even look like, but it has to be true. No matter what the number is, I’m certain every team works with some kind of budget. The more space in the budget, the more you can add.

The ideal situation, of course, is when a team fairly compensates players and fills out a roster. Unfortunately, that’s really difficult to do in today’s game where the name of the game is spending $ as efficiently as possible. As things stand, teams really need surplus value in order to be successful, but by definition this means not compensating players fairly.

polishwith

I think your first comment about team loyalty makes the most sense. Humans are tribal and the team banner is what we flock to. However, I’m not so sure on the rest. I don’t recall it being common for a team to publicly establish their payroll limit. It may not be a hard limit anyways, but there must be some zone they are shooting for. If a team completes a roster using only 50% of the payroll it expected to spend, there is absolutely no guarantees that they will reallocate those cost savings to other players. They could easily just take the position of “more money for us!”. I don’t know what the evidence would look like either, but look at the Sale/Quintana contracts. Did the Sox make any huge signings? Maybe this is just a White Sox/JR thing, but at this point I’m hoping the players can get every penny they can.

HallofFrank

Shortly after the Sale/Quintana/Abreu signings was the year the Sox supposedly “won the winter” by signing Robertson, Melky, and others, so that’s at least anecdotal evidence.

The reason the evidence you seek is so elusive, however, is that team friendly extensions are actually likely to suppress spending in the short term since they usually involve immediate pay bumps to players.

So, for the sake of argument let’s assume the Sox have a hard payroll cap of $140m for 2022. Extending Giolito & Vaughn actually tightens the budget for ’22 because those guys get more $ than they otherwise would have. The benefit for the teams is really felt in the extra year or two (or three) of control at, if the player succeeds, below market rate.

I agree with you that payroll caps are likely not hard caps. But I’m quite sure every GM knows what they are working with in terms of what they can/can’t spend in the offseason and they have to figure out how to best allocate it in a way that balances the team present & future success. The more the team spends on one player, the less they spend on another.

Kittles on a Rooftop

Manipulated?

Why would you want a handful of teams to have all the talent? That is the downside to the MLB’s player friendly, non-salary capped rules. A handful of teams can afford to pay whatever they want for talent, while most teams have to draft/sign, develop, and trade away talent in order to compete.

We can’t have it both ways. There is no way to pay players “market value” without a league-wide cap and maintain that teams can be competitive. There either needs to be a hard cap (and floor) and thus setting a more regular “market” for players from year-to-year, or there needs to be a MASSIVE contraction of the league so that each franchise has similar resources and the talent pool is larger, and thus, making each team more talented.

But in reality, either of those options will lower salaries for players. I think we are seeing a natural leveling-off of salaries after rapid expansion for ~20-25 years.

polishwith

Good point on the salary cap. I see the purpose in that.

Amar

“but I always sense an underlying tone that we want the team “to get a good deal” during negotiations.”

I don’t have any data to support my assumption, but I speculate that this specific sentiment has only grown among the fanbase via its embrace of sabermetrics. Speaking for myself, I know I was guilty of that in the past.

Now I celebrate the fact that Abreu is getting paid what he is worth.

lifelongjd

Hahaha…..this very site trashed the Abreu extension as an overpay.

We’re all guilty of being more loyal to the team over the players, even though we want to get paid a maximum amount for our skills whether if we’re a baseball player, engineer, or garbage man. I think we all believe that if there’s a savings in a contract or overall payroll, the team will spend it. But that is simply not the case, especially when it comes to the Sox.

roke1960

I think having Tony as manager helps Vaughn’s situation. If Tony wants Vaughn on the roster opening day, Jerry, Rick and Kenny will have a hard time telling him no.

polishwith

My question is really not specifically about Vaughn, but the bigger picture. I know that each team’s finances are private, but the Miami Marlins sold for $1.2B, so owners gotta be making money. I know that they don’t have an unlimited amount of money, but they obviously could be paying out more. Why are we, as fans, always worried about how much the payroll is?

polishwith

Oops. Sorry, Roke. I mistook this for a reply.

Michael Kenny

Because we know that the Sox have some limit beyond which they’re not willing to spend, so we hope for “deals” to keep them further from that threshold so that they have more money to spend later.

I think what we’ve learned this offseason is that we shouldn’t assume that the “extra” money will be spent at all.

raylewis67

A couple of theoreticals for everyone that I’m curious to survey.

How do you think the Vaughn situation would be different if

  1. You change four of his walks and one of his HR’s to strikeouts
  2. The Kevin Mather nonsense never happens
  3. Both of the above
shaggy65

The front office has been hinting since Sept that Vaughn was major-league ready. I think he’d have really had to look in over his head to stay off the roster

Kittles on a Rooftop

I think they may be at a point where they have about three years to try to raise the spending floor and ceiling.

What do you mean exactly? That you expect Renisdorf to start spending wildly in his most twilight of years or that the core costs more so the ceiling will have to increase to fit the core and even minor additions?

Kittles on a Rooftop

Woof, so White Sox-y (really just Chicago-y) of there to be no fans in the stands during this time…

Ah get what you are saying now though and it makes sense. I guess we will find out. I am guessing that 2022 will shatter attendance records for them. The combo of cabin fever and a good squad.

mikeyb

Be aggressive to win now, while the “window” is wide open, and you hopefully draw a mass of fans to the stadium. With more attendance comes more revenue, which theoretically allows for the payroll to rise. This becomes especially beneficial if the Cubs begin to see their window close and locals start to spend more of their dollars on the Sox.

Wait too long to make this move, and maybe a Giolito gets hurt, an Abreu starts to age, and an Anderson wants superstar money/market. Maybe the Cubs hit on a few high draft picks, make 2-3 great free agent signings, and sneak back into a World Series. All of a sudden, you’ve missed your opportunity to push the White Sox into a new stratosphere of revenue, and consequently, ownership cuts payroll to get back to making money.

Kittles on a Rooftop

This is what bothers me about said ownership…

As Cirensica

Maybe the Hahn/Williams/Reinsdorf think tank originally thought something like: Do we pay free agency money for a 1 year DH risking another EE fiasco or we eat 1 year of control of Vaughn. Maybe the costs/benefits are comparable.

MarketMaker

perhaps the vaughn situation is dictated by external factors that make an extension less palatable to the white sox FO.

if the union attempts to amend the arb process to better recognize how players are valued these days, that would likely benefit players that didn’t traditionally benefit in the current arb process. for instance, perhaps a nick madrigal makes considerably more money if we consider baserunning, defense, etc and care less about HRs, RBIs, etc. on the other hand, couldn’t this dynamic potentially flatten the salary growth for someone like vaughn who might be the beneficiary of the current system? if he puts up good counting stats under the current system, he could be making a ton of money in the arb process by his 2nd, 3rd (and suppressed 4th) seasons. perhaps more than he’d get on the open market, which could even turn him into a potential non-tender candidate.

tldr: i wouldn’t be surprised if the sox are willing to roll the dice with vaughn because they believe the next arb process will be less beneficial to him.

oldtimer

Put simply things/times have changed for the Sox. In previous years an incremental win didn’t help the team but rather hurt your draft position and cost a year of control. 4 years later incremental wins are important hence we should now see the best players start the season with the club. One minor defense of Hahn is with the Eloy situation. He really really did need to work on his defense. Also I have yet to see him execute a good crow hop throw something that is taught at the high school or American Legion level of play.

mikeyb

Weird that as soon as he signed his extension, his defense was good enough to make it to the majors.

oldtimer

Not so weird. My point was you would no longer lose a year of control. Once that extension was signed let him play at the MLB level. We will never know if the plan was to have him start the year with the MLB club. Hahn had a valid argument to keep him down. I think we can all agree he was going to run into walls and misplay flyballs whether it was AAA or MLB. His defense has gotten a bit better but I still hold my breath on flyballs over his head. Wins and losses didn’t matter at the time. Since he signed an extension it all became moot.

WestEddy

The potential of his bat made his defense palatable. His defense was not major-league ready when he was promoted.

theSKOT

In case anyone was curious where Liam Hendricks was, he was dealing w/ kidney stones

dansomeone

Too much Dr. Pepper.

calcetinesblancos

Vaughn is lucky there was no minor league season, both from a development standpoint it sounds like but also because he didn’t have to go to AA or AAA and look completely overmatched. He could be wishing he took that extension if he doesn’t live up to the hype, or if he plays so badly that he gets sent to the alternate site.

lifelongjd

The Bryant situation is maybe the best example of what manipulation can achieve and what it doesn’t. The Cubs were able to push him one year and won a World Series, but technically having this season as a “bonus” isn’t really providing any value. The team couldn’t trade him, they pissed him off so much he wouldn’t consider an extension (maybe a mistake there by Boras), and now will watch him hit FA this season. Ricketts is probably a little miffed he has to pony up $19.5 million this season where he’s looking to save money.