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For most franchises, the Eloy Jiménez contract extension would have bought a front office enough flexibility to be aggressive with other areas of their payroll.
For instance, when the Cubs acquired Jose Quintana from the Sox by dealing Jiménez, Theo Epstein said the deal gave them 1) an above-average pitcher who is 2) on a contract small enough to allow them to pursue other big-ticket pitchers.
“When we acquired Jose Quintana, we made the point then that acquiring him with the great contract he had might allow us at some point to bring another pitcher with him,” Epstein said at the Cubs’ spring training home in Mesa on Tuesday. “We almost felt like we were acquiring one-and-a-half pitchers in that deal, because it would go halfway toward acquiring someone else. I think today is that day when you bring in a Yu Darvish.”
Around that same time, Kenny Williams warned fans against a Manny Machado-like contract because it would prevent them from retaining players who are already underpaid. But that was before Jiménez capped his earnings by signing an extension, so maybe the Sox would feel a little more comfortable going out on a limb even with their balance sheet hanging out when the next round of such decisions arrived?
Goodness, no. Once Robert wasn’t called up in late July, it was pretty clear that Rick Hahn would spend August seeing if an injury might provide a convenient excuse. Failing that, he would just lie about motivations.
The Sox proved secondary concerns were a charade with Jiménez, as he suddenly became ready for the majors upon signing the contract. All the talk about Robert’s fatigue is just cover for an attempt to strong-arm Robert into signing an extension. Assuming that doesn’t happen, the Sox will see him in April or June, and hope that he doesn’t break his collarbone running into the learning curve while everybody else is theoretically trying to win.
Maybe this is what you’d expect an MLB team in the White Sox’ position to do, as we’ve seen with Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr., not every team does it every single time. Good faith occasionally exists, and considering Hahn has long acknowledged/groused about the fans who believe he lacks the desire or ability to pay good players what they’re worth in order to improve the team, you’d think he’d want to start deviating from his previous track record at some point, especially when it doesn’t take two to tango.
As for the players actually called up:
Dylan Covey: There might be an MLB pitcher in here, but the Sox keep asking too much of him to know for sure. We’ll see if the White Sox can avoid putting him in positions to fail.
Zack Collins: He’s back to show that his attempts to develop mechanical keys to resist/fend off high fastballs in the minors will work in the majors. One game in, he’s 1-for-3 with a triple, a walk, and more importantly, no strikeouts.
Danny Mendick: It’s cool that a 22nd-round senior signing from an area (Rochester, N.Y.) and a school (UMass-Lowell) not known for producing baseball players resulted in a deserved cup of coffee. The Mendick promotion is the kind that garners headlines from his hometown paper as a high school alum first, complete with photos from his high school days.
We had a good discussion on Tuesday about whether he can/should be considered a Yolmer Sánchez replacement considering they’re the same age, and Sánchez has had a good August. I just want to know if there’s an MLB player here at all before forging ahead — the Sox could use somebody like him regardless, for play or trade — so here’s hoping Mendick gets a generous number of starts.
That said, Hahn also used Mendick in an attempt to further obscure his rationale with Robert.
Daniel Palka: His call-up is either an exercise in generosity or cruelty, as he went 0-for-4 with two more strikeouts in his first game back to run his line to 1-for-49 on the season. Until he pulls the ball in the air, I’m only interested in what kind of benchmark he’ll set for futility.
As for the players not called up, Yermin Mercedes is the biggest casualty that has nothing to do with service time. Hahn cited difficulty in finding him at-bats, which is probably true. One could find at-bats by designating Welington Castillo for assignment, but if the Sox want to ease up on James McCann’s workload while not abandoning their pitchers, two poorly regarded rookie catchers might do more harm than good at this point, even if Castillo is one of baseball’s worst receivers himself.