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The White Sox have one more day game in Cleveland today, the home opener on Thursday and an off day on Friday before the season actually hits its stride, which is when we can start taking their catastrophic defensive struggles in earnest, rather than merely an omen.
In the three games against the Royals, the Sox were charged with four errors (two throwing by shortstop Tim Anderson), and all nine players were involved in at least one of the following: throwing error, fielding error, bad throw, bobbled ground ball, miscommunication on a fly ball or pop-up.
But until we get daily exposure to this ugliness, let’s continue pulling at some threads from the last month of the offseason.
More contract extensions
*Ronald Acuña Jr. became the latest pre-arb player to sign an extension, and his might be a bigger source of labor irritation than others. Coming off a season in which he hit .293/.366/.552 with 26 homers and 16 steals as a 21-year-old, he signed an eight-year, $100 contract with the Braves.
It illustrates better than any other deal the tension between life-changing money and maxing out value. Acuña signed for only $100,000 and made the league minimum last year, so this contract will go a long way. That said, as a Super Two-eligible player, the Braves will come out way ahead if Acuña is merely good. Factor in the buyout at the end of his deal, and Acuña signed for eight years and $90 million. Over the same period, Eloy Jiménez could make $77 million without a single plate appearance in the minors.
*German Marquez will get his own extension from the Rockies, agreeing to five years and $43 million. Blake Snell had recently set the standard for such players by signing for $50 million over five years. Marquez didn’t win a Cy Young, but he did strike out 230 batters over 196 innings while posting a 3.77 ERA at Coors Field last year.
Chris Sale’s velocity
Sale also signed an extension to remove himself from any potential free-agent discussion, but given the shoulder issues that cost him 50ish innings in 2018, I didn’t think he could do a whole lot better on the open market than his $145 million. If Bryce Harper and Manny Machado couldn’t get more than two or three genuinely interested teams — especially Machado at the height of his powers — I thought Sale’s free agent reception could be even more hostile.
The way he’s opening the season has invited more questions. He struck out just one batter over his six innings against Oakland on Tuesday, with a fastball that struggled to stay above 90.
The velocity never jumped up Tuesday, and Sale almost ditched the fastball altogether. He finished with just 25 four-seamers averaging 89.1 mph, the lowest velocity of any of his 289 career major league appearances. Not once did he generate a swing-and-miss on his fastball. Catcher Christian Vazquez started calling a heavy dose of off-speed pitches instead.
That said, he gave up one run over those six innings. We’ve seen Sale be effective with far from his best stuff, but we’ve also seen him go on the DL after those velocity drops. Nobody on the Red Sox’ side is expressing concern.
Star players doing cool things
Now that free agency is busted for teams seeking outside help for the foreseeable future, one can only stare from the outside at things like Harper locking horns with his former team at Nationals Park on Tuesday.
It’s a reminder to White Sox fans that baseball can be theater, and not just pathos.