The best free agents remaining 10 days before spring training

In the end, the pandemic didn’t really alter the winter all that dramatically. With Trevor Bauer signing with the Dodgers and Marcell Ozuna returning to the Braves, the market’s best pitcher and best hitter found homes with time to spare before spring training.

They’re both weird deals, but not necessarily because of the league’s economics. Bauer had talked before about signing one-year deals, but Bauer says a lot of things. He’s just … a lot … in general, in ways benign and not-so-benign, which is why I didn’t really care that the White Sox never seemed involved. The courtship of Bauer was exhausting to the end, as he pulled a rope-a-dope on the Mets to sign a three-year, $102 million contract with the Dodgers. He’ll make $40 million in 2021, $45 million in 2022, and $17 million in 2023. He has opt-outs after every season, but the one after 2022 looks like the one that matters.

Atlanta’s signing of Marcell Ozuna seemed like a bigger missed opportunity at four years and $64 million, which would be right in the neighborhood of the Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel deals that were supposed to maintain such flexibility.

Of course, Ozuna wasn’t a perfect fit. He can’t play right field, Eloy Jiménez is probably better in left, and both would block Andrew Vaughn at DH.

Counterpoints:

No. 1: Four years for a hitter who nearly won the Triple Crown, only paying him through his age-33 season? That’s hard to beat.

No. 2: Ozuna at DH would’ve justified the corner-cutting move of signing Adam Eaton right field, because all of a sudden his production becomes a bonus, rather than a necessity.

No. 3: I wouldn’t consider the blocking of Vaughn a problem in a go-for-it season. Hell, I considered it sort of a goal. The Dodgers make their top prospects earn it year after year, as we’re seeing with the Bauer signing knocking Dustin May out of the rotation. Whether Vaughn knocks down the door anyway, or whether the Sox engineer a trade that diversifies their talent, there are plenty of ways out of that situation.

The White Sox have a good rotation and a good lineup. They passed on the opportunity to make either great, or at least deeper. Vaughn is the offense reserves, and Michael Kopech the pitching version, with more volatility in his profile than anybody. It could be plenty if most things develop in even a mildly encouraging fashion, but if the postseason is restored to five teams, leaving wins on the table becomes a little more costly.

* * * * * * * * *

The offseason isn’t yet over. A number of free agents who can help a team remain available. However, if you assume Justin Turner is going to remain a Dodger and they’re just trying to arrange the books to avoid the next level of luxury tax, there aren’t much in the way of impact players. Here’s where they rank on MLB Trade Rumors’ top 50:

  • Jake Odorizzi (11)
  • Justin Turner (14)
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. (21)
  • James Paxton (22)
  • Taijuan Walker (23)
  • Trevor Rosenthal (27)
  • Yadier Molina (32)
  • Rick Porcello (46)
  • Cole Hamels (47)
  • Mark Melancon (48)

Individually, I’m most curious about Bradley’s market. The Mets seemed like a reasonable landing spot, and while it’s hard to believe Scott Boras still maintains these kinds of demands …

… the Mets just signed a different Junior (Albert Almora) to handle center field, so perhaps Bradley’s camp is holding out.

As a group, I’m wondering how the eventual signings of Odorizzi, Paxton and Walker stack up to the White Sox’s settling for Carlos Rodón. All of them have injuries in their past that make them less than locks, but they lack the number and severity of Rodón’s scars. If they wanted depth for depth’s sake, it seems like the Sox could’ve done better for a similar amount. They seem to want Rodón, for better or for worse.

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

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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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HouseOfTheRisingSox

Obviously impossible to know if Bauer would have taken similar deal with Sox, but that contract’s structure would have fit in perfectly with this roster. I was really hoping they would be more creative with heavily front loaded deals or ridiculously high AAV short term deals to land a real difference maker. Can’t wait for season to start so I can stop thinking about the off-season.

denny

Y Molina rejoining La Russa as a player-coach caught my interest but reports are Molina prefers St L and Narron signing solves the coaching aspect part of it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Sox brass and their evaluators may feel like with the hiring of both Katz and Narron, the in-house candidates for the remaining spots on the starting rotation have the same or better chance for success as the FA’s you’ve listed above. They certainly have a higher ceiling. It’s Cease’s turn to step up and claim the 4th spot and Kopech-Lopez-Rodon may finally put it together under Katz. Some project Crochet as a starter also, but that may come after Lynn’s one-year contract expires.

I’m excited to see how these options develop and play out. The W Sox have a bit of competition for the 13-man staff. I don’t want to give-up on any of these yet.

And they still need to extend Giolito BTW.

HallofFrank

I’ve cooled on the idea of Ozuna at DH. He was a beast in 2020, but that looks like SSS weirdness in the context of his career. He had one other great season (2017), but the rest of his career would be very uninspiring as a solution to DH. If he could play RF, then it’s a different story.

denny

With McCann leaving and Eloy as DH doesn’t seem to be the plan, the window’s wide open for Vaughn / Abreu as a 1B/DH combo. Then occasionally mixing in Moncada, Eloy, Grandal, et al at DH for a ‘breather’. The flexibility is appealing.

metasox

Mixing guys like Moncada, Eloy and Grandal into DH sounds appealing until you realize who then has to play 3B, LF or C. That flexibility works if there is depth to take advantage of it.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox
asinwreck

Imagine a 2021 undone because there was no money to pay Marwin González.

Oddvark

I have to say that while I am generally in favor of some depth signings, I have absolutely no interest in Marwin Gonzalez, who was only really good in 2017 with the Astros. And while I don’t put too much weight on 2020 numbers, his .211/.286/.320 season last year was pretty bad.

LoveLittleLouie

metasox, you blew me away with your coherence. Best point I have read in a blog.

Qubort

Having less talent doesn’t increase flexibility.

mikeyb

I wouldn’t mind kicking the tires on Yadier Molina. He probably has little interest in leaving St. Louis, but maybe at his age, his knees wouldn’t mind only having to catch about 60 games. Grandal can DH the days he doesn’t catch. Probably not the most efficient use of funds, but getting another leader in the clubhouse who has been to the playoffs numerous times (and can maybe relate to the young Latino players a little better than somebody like Keuchel or TLR) wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Might be a guy and contract you can convince Jerry to get on board with.

As Cirensica

Another pitcher depth that I have given some thoughts are two Mikes: Leake and Fiers. I have a feeling they can be signed at Rodon’s money (maybe even less). Leake is incredible durable while averaging 190 innings in the past 6 seasons. Fiers is an interesting option, not as durable as Leake, and not as predictable as Leake, he can throw a gem followed by a dud. Leake can throw 5 innings more often than not while keeping the team within winning distance. These are not pitchers to build a playoff staff (although the A’s tried with Fiers), they are depth. Capable inning eaters that probably cost nothing and will sign 1 year deals..

As Cirensica

Ohhh. And for 3.5 million (Like I said, Rodon’s money). I rather have Fiers than Rodon TBH.

asinwreck

Most of the remaining pitchers have had serious, recent health issues. Paxton and Corey Kluber had showcases around the same time and Kluber signed 2-3 days later. Paxton? Silence.

Much in baseball will change between now and 2023, but I’m fascinated to see how the Dodgers will work to avoid repeater penalties that year. Hard to see how Justin Turner wanting four years fits into that team’s future; though Bauer and Price come off the books that winter (unless things go seriously wrong for Bauer), will they let Kershaw go? Buehler and Bellinger will be due big raises, and if they are interested in retaining Seager, he’ll be expensive.

Greg Nix

I know it’s folly to have any hope of it happening, but signing Porcello would make me feel a lot better about rotation depth. Probably the most durable pitcher this side of Mark Buehrle.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I know he was bad last year, but does anyone know why? Something physical, or just bad luck? If I remember right he’s usually on the Saberhagen up-and-down plan.

peanutsncrackerjack

The White Sox roster while very good, is paper thin, and with a history of repeat IR trips. It astounds me that after all these years of preparing for this window, the decision maker(s) are leaving so much to chance. It would not have taken a fortune for insurance at key position, yet here we are combing through the trash pile hoping for some reason to believe JR didn’t really say that 2nd place is better.

dongutteridge

I’m still in disbelief that they signed Carlos Rodón instead of a real starting pitcher – and with sooo many on the market.

Of course, I’m also still in disbelief that TLR is the new manager. This feels like me trying to work out with my junior high gym uniform on.

asinwreck

Give it a shot. You might be the Opening Day DH.

christmastime

Puig

shaggy65

We’re into the grab-bag portion of the offseason. All the guys we really wanted are gone, so just put the names of the top 10 remaining bats and the top 10 remaining starters into a hat and pick out one of each.

At this point I don’t care who–I just know that we need more.

Last edited 1 year ago by shaggy65
Qubort

They essentially swapped Colome for Hendriks and added Lynn. This team is very reliant on internal improvement. They’ll need a lot of good breaks in health and player development to win the division. Seems Jerry really does like to shoot for second place.

hitlesswonder

I think it’s generous to say they are shooting for second place. I don’t think they have a concrete goal like that in mind.

This offseason has been a debacle. They totally misallocated resources. They subtracted a pitcher under control for 6 years from the major league roster to acquire Lynn for one year and that was the best move they made.

They replaced Colome with the vastly more expensive Hendriks who at best will generate the same production they got from Colome last season. And sure, Colome would likely be worse this season, but you could have taken that money saved from Hendriks and allocated it to a position with more impact like RF or SP or even DH.

This is the offseason you sign Ozuna and/or Bauer and/or Springer and try to win a world series. This is the time you trade a prospect like Andrew Vaughn for someone that is currently playing at an all-star level in the major leagues.

Honestly, with the hiring of TLR and putting Eaton in RF and no one at DH and relying Cease and Lopez in the rotation this season is likely to implode spectacularly.

Oddvark

I know I’m much less pessimistic than most who comment here and I have been advised that I might not fit in with the community here, but I’ll say my piece nonetheless.

I see the White Sox as mostly improved since last season:

  • Gonzalez/Dunning has been upgraded to Lance Lynn (coming off of two straight years in which he received Cy Young votes and 7 of 8 seasons of a 175+ inning pace).
  • Colome has been upgraded to Liam Hendriks (who is widely considered one of the very top relievers in all of baseball right now and who ZiPS projects to have a 2.73 FIP in 2021 compared to 3.92 projected for Colome).
  • Mazara/Delmonico has been upgraded to Adam Eaton (who before 2020 had 6 straight years with an OBP of .361 or higher and a wRC+ of 108 or higher including 3 years of 121+).
  • Encarnacion has been upgraded to Vaughn/Mercedes/Adolfo* (who almost cannot do worse than Encarnacion did in 2020 and who have each shown varying levels of batting prowess and will be able to battle it out during Spring Training, allowing the team to choose the best option right now with the flexibility to switch between them if there is a lack of production during the season, without feeling obligated to stick with the putative starter because of a $12M contract).
  • Cishek/Herrera/Detweiler will be upgraded to a healthy Aaron Bummer (who was on the IL for much of 2020) and full-year availability of Garrett Crochet (who didn’t join the team until mid-September last season), knock on wood.

There are also reasonable expectations for internal improvements from Dylan Cease (who still hasn’t pitched a full season’s worth of starts), Nick Madrigal (at least on defense/baserunning), Yoan Moncada (assuming he is recovered from COVID), Luis Robert (hoping he can adjust to how pitchers started attacking him in September), and even Eloy Jimenez (who is just getting started, IMO), while Reynalod Lopez and Carlos Rodon really can’t do any worse than they did in 2020. Plus Michael Kopech should contribute in 2021, too.

The only clear downgrade is from McCann to Zack Collins. But Collins has shown the ability in the minors to at least take pitches/walks and hit a few dingers (.244/.385/455), and he provides a left-handed bat that the line-up could use, so the offensive drop-off might not be all that bad (though Collins has not demonstrated success at the major league level, and it might never come). I am also heartened by the addition of “catching guru” Jerry Narron to the staff, who might be able to help Collins improve his defense, at least to passable.

There is also a realistic possibility that there will be some negative regression from Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Adam Engel, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, and Dallas Keuchel. Each of them have solid skill bases, however, and there is no particular reason to fear massive drop-offs from them, even if they don’t reach the same levels of production as 2020.

Finally, while there are multiple reasons to be unhappy with the hiring of Tony La Russa, he has lead multiple teams through World Series Championship seasons.

There is no question that the Sox could have made bigger and better upgrades this offseason. And there is no question that the team lacks significant depth at most positions and will be in bad shape if multiple injuries strike.

That being said, the team looked quite good most of last year, until they basically clinched a playoff spot and took their foot off the gas. Overall, per the above, they look better going into 2021. They just do.

In comparison, at least through my “rose-colored” lenses, Cleveland looks worse and Minnesota looks about the same as last year, when the three teams ran neck-and-neck. As such, while it won’t be a cake walk, I think the Sox will be favorites to win the division, and I suspect most prognosticators and betting markets will agree.

None of that really matters, of course, until the games are actually played. But there truly is reason for optimism for the season, despite reasons for disappointment from the offseason. Unless you prefer to feel bad about it all, I encourage you not to forget the many positives for the White Sox heading into 2021.

*In previous comments, I had mostly been suggesting Mercedes-then-Vaughn at DH was the likely outcome. Recently, after noticing that Adolfo is out of options and would have to be DFA’d and placed on outright waivers before being sent to the minors, I’ve started thinking that the Sox will give him a real shot at competing during Sprint Training for the Opening Day DH spot.

Eagle Bones

I know I’m much less pessimistic than most who comment here and I have been advised that I might not fit in with the community here, but I’ll say my piece nonetheless.

I’m not sure if this comment is aimed at our conversation from a week or two back, but I want to make sure I clarify. My comment at the time (that there are other places on the web that have far more pro-Sox content that people could consume, if that’s what they’re looking for) was absolutely 100% not meant to turn you or anyone else away from SoxMachine. If that was the way it came off, I sincerely apologize as that was not my intent. While I don’t agree with some of your posts, I certainly welcome the opposition opinion and discussion. My point was simply that I’m seeing a lot of posters who are annoyed by Jim and many posters here being critical of Sox ownership, FO, etc. and if that is indeed annoying to them, there are other options that are not at all critical of the team. I can certainly see being annoyed with the posters (myself among them) as we can be prone to hyperbole, but Jim’s writing is so comprehensive, nuanced and thoughtful. He’s so often the voice of reason, it seems worth re-examining one’s thought process if even he is coming off as “complaining”.

Hope that helps clarify and, again, I apologize if offense was taken. I look forward to continued debate and hopefully a meeting of the minds between these two divided factions of Sox fans.

whitesox67

With regard to a predominantly negative tone in the post-article commentary, I think that it is symptomatic of the value of the post-season in today’s game. As the post-season is now more accessible, and so much more important than it was when I was young (only one team in each league partipated), the ethos of the sport is now to either go “all-in,” or tank for 5 years. Specifically, the value to go all-in causes one team to aspire to multiple 60 win seasons and 100 losses, in hopes of creating a window of multiple 90 win seasons later.

The problem is that when all-in finally arrives, it can lead to reactions where some people become apoplectic over the back-up catcher or 6th starter position. The fan has sacrificed so much to finally reach the window that they feel betrayed, if value is not expended for every half win that season. After all, the stakes were that we traded off so many miserable 60 win seasons for wins five years later.

Not often, but sometimes, I miss the era when only one team per league played in October. I know that there was a downside that only one team in each league would go to the post-season. Further, for most of those years, the one team was one franchise in the AL. However, I do love how it imparted value on the number of wins during the regular season every season. Terrible losses in one season were not the bargain to be paid for victories years later, for a couple of post season runs.

I miss the notion that, at least as a goal, a successful franchise would fluctuate between 78 and 85 wins every year, instead of trading off victories one year, so you could have them several years down the line. Somewhere, I read or heard that the Sox won about as many games as the Yankees between 1951-1967, even though they made the post-season just one time. The daily grind of the regular season is more like real life to me, even though it lacks the the colusseum drama of football. I strongly prefer the ethos of baseball.

Regarding the negative tone of the post-article commentary, I think that people hold Reinsdorf personally responsible for every win, because they willingly sacrificed several seasons of watching a team that provided intentional losses to rebuild. Now, they want the full payback. I understand it, but I am not sure that it is actually attainable.

jhomeslice

I don’t disagree with all valid reasons to be more optimistic than myself and others have been. However I feel that on the subject of Rodon/Lopez being their choice to backup their starting pitching, I think that even slight optimism for those two is almost ridiculous at this point. We have seen enough of both of them to know what to expect, and I feel like they betrayed fans by not choosing better options that they could have had for a few million more. They are paying those two 5 million, taking up 2 roster spots, and could have had Quintana for 8, who is immensely better than either of them has any realistic chance of being. Rodon is not just injury prone. He has gotten hurt EVERY year for the past 4 years. He has also gotten worse every year and was absolutely awful last year. Even in the incredibly unlikely event he is healthy, he is probably a good bet to be close to terrible. Lopez the past 2 years has been very bad, with his 3 innings per start last year. If anything goes wrong with their rotation, they are counting on two guys who have not been good in 3-5 years, entering the prime years of their rebuild. I consider that unacceptable, and just stupid. Perhaps Kopech and Cease will work out, and are solid/healthy 4 and 5 starters for most of the year. But they put themselves in a position where they are totally relying on them to be, because they cannot afford to literally give away games like they did last year when those other two guys pitched.

Anyway I’ve come to some level of acceptance that the offseason is what it was, and they left a lot of room for improvement on the table. Pretty much anything short of representing the AL in the World Series would represent a failure to me, especially because we will be able to point to what they could have done differently, which is mostly about money. Most posters here who are critical are not doing so for the sake of being negative but are simply pragmatic and logical. It can’t be ignored that their payroll is still 14th, and that no team with a payroll lower than 12th has won it in the past decade. If they spent a little bit more (wisely), they would have a better team, there can be no doubt. We will see pretty soon whether criticism or optimism is justified, but won’t really know until October. Maybe it will turn out that they did not need someone like Qunitana after all. I sure hope Lopez and Rodon do not play roles of any importance, or I think it’s a safe bet how this will all end.

Having said that, I hope Kopech and Cease are decent, which is reasonable to hope for and is all it would take to make Lopez and Rodon insignificant. In that case we have a pretty good season to look forward to. There is also a chance Kopech is better than decent, maybe even very good. People may be underestimating him quite a bit, he may be one of those guys who makes a big impact without a lot of experience. In which case the naysayers like myself may be happily proven very wrong about what we think this team needs.