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The Sox Machine Podcast returns on Monday, Oct. 19, as Josh and I will discuss the postseason and preview the Offseason Plan Project.
In the meantime, for every non-podcast Monday, I’ll be opening up the P.O. Sox mailbag to Sox Machine supporters for as long as interest supports it. This one is free for everybody to read, while subsequent ones will be exclusive to the Patreon folks. Thanks to everybody who supports Sox Machine, and for those who may consider doing so.
Andrew asks: If the Sox need to move major league talent in order to fill the holes in right field or add an additional starter, whom do you see as expendable? Cease? Madrigal?
In terms of meaningful returns, I’d say those two guys, along with Michael Kopech and Codi Heuer, are MLB-caliber players the White Sox might be able to live without, although two of them are selling a little low. Reynaldo López and Zack Collins might qualify as major-league talent, but they’re also change-of-scenery candidates before anything else. The remaining moveable players are depth.
We might see bolder moves in the Offseason Plan Project — Eloy Jiménez is a future DH and injured too often, sell high! — but as the postseason shows, he’s a difficult figure to replace in the middle of a lineup. The ceilings of Cease and Kopech are hard to find, and Madrigal’s profile is even more unique, but I can see them all being part of win-win deals. The Cardinals traded a Madrigal-like player when they dealt Placido Polanco, but they got Scott Rolen in return.
Mark asks: Jim, with the truncated season limiting starters logging innings 1/3 of a typical full season, what does the minimum number of starters needed to get thru 162 look like for ‘21? While the days of 200 inning starters has been eroded with increased bullpen usage, it seems to me a even more arms are a necessity next year to mitigate against extended arm fatigue or injury. Is Tampa the template? Thanks for a great year of Machine content!!
I hope Tampa Bay isn’t the future, mostly because it’s good when rosters are recognizable outside of a team’s own fan base, and I don’t think I can ever name more than two Rays relievers at a time with any confidence. I think pitching plans will heavily depend on whether the 28-man roster hangs around for another season, because it’s a lot easier to arrange bullpen games and tandem work without having to shuffle pitchers on and off a roster.
If the roster opens or draws down to 26 players as originally intended for the first two iterations of the 2020 season, I imagine a conventional team will probably feel comfortable with eight starting options, while unconventional teams will probably want four non-roster relievers it can cycle in.
Alec asks: What becomes your main hobby in the offseason?
Curling fit the shape of the offseason so perfectly that I didn’t need anything else to fill in the baseball months. I’m going to miss that, but so will most curlers, I imagine (my old club will stay closed for at least the first half of the season). The combination of a full-time job and curling was the reason I stopped writing White Sox Outsider, and the absence of both is why I’ll be bringing it back.
This is the first time I’ll be spending a whole winter in a non-oppressive climate, and I’m moving to a neighborhood that’s hospitable to cyclists and close to the greenway system, so the goal is to find a bike. Recommendations are appreciated.
Dr. Bo asks: Pitching, pitching, pitching. That’s what matters. Three pitching questions: Non-tender Rodon? Try to keep Colome or spend the money elsewhere while letting Bummer or Heuer close? And (assuming health), what role for Crochet next season? More time in pen or work at becoming a starter?
I’ll abstain from delving too deep into the first two questions because I’m kinda fascinated by how those issues will be weighed in the Offseason Plan Project, and I’d rather not put my thumb on the scale. I’ll also be covering some Rodón-specific implications from his performance in a post on Tuesday.
Regarding Crochet, I’m guessing we’ll learn more about his status whenever Rick Hahn holds his end-of-season media conference (Theo Epstein just gave his today). Let’s say Crochet indeed experienced standalone forearm discomfort with no long-term ramifications. I’m guessing the White Sox will roll with the Chris Sale plan for the time being, giving him a full season of relief work. Between having many uses for him in games that count, the uncertainty of the farm system and the expiration of the CBA after the season, it might be hard to see gains from holding him back, especially if he can be a part of the team taking its next big step forward.
Erik asks: Other than the minor factor of a global pandemic, how have you enjoyed doing Sox Machine full time this year? Are there any goals (besides safely seeing a ballgame in person again) you have for the site next year?
It wasn’t how I drew it up, mostly because the season felt tenuous during the first half, and by the time I felt confident in the completion, only a few weeks remained. The compromises made to stage the environment also tempered my takes more than usual, as I could easily pull from a bucket full of applicable reactions to any poor performances:
- “This is basically his rehab stint/extended spring training.”
- “How much could we expect Schaumburg to help?”
- “Who knows what else he’s dealing with.”
- “At least he’s getting reps.”
I also missed the hell out of the minor league season. For one, being a reasonable drive from all the affiliates inspired some grand plans, and the pandemic prevented them from coming to fruition. More than that, having four-plus affiliates operating underneath the big club for five months gives a season a lot more depth, and alternate means of enjoyment when the White Sox aren’t delivering.
And in terms of workflow, I used the Minor Keys posts as a way to shift into whatever I wanted to do that day. Oftentimes the hardest part of writing is starting, so looking at box scores and blasting out bulleted lists saying “Ti’Quan Forbes went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and strikeout” put me in a writing position without having to think about it, and I’d just continue from there.
So the return of the minor leagues is really what’ll make this feel like a fully functional operation again, although…
Ed asks: Outside of White Sox roster moves what MLB off season storylines interest you the most with possibly virtual GM and Winter meetings (If any), an expanded instructs, the minor league/MLB PBA negotiations and possible reshuffling of affiliates and leagues, etc…?
… the shape Minor League Baseball takes after the lapsing of the PBA could change everything we counted on a farm system to deliver on a daily basis. I’m resigned to a virtual meetings or a virtual SoxFest not generating the big news cycles we treat as winter oases, but depending on what happens to the White Sox’s affiliates, that could have huge ramifications for the entire way we process prospects and player development starting next year.
The White Sox would be in great shape if they could retain Charlotte, Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis, given how all of them now have terrific facilities. I’m not sure if that’ll be possible, like if the Dash and Cannon Ballers get condensed into the same league. However it shakes out, I’m hoping a White Sox affiliate will play Nashville.
Chef Eric asks: What does the offseason look like for the entire league in general in relation to this 60 game season and the CBA expiring at the end of 2021?
That’s yet another element. Given how the pandemic crushed whatever resistance Minor League Baseball could mount against looming contraction, I’m guessing Rob Manfred sees similar opportunity in playing hardball with the MLBPA, and I’m fearing it could get messy. On the other hand, the league and union had to continuously cooperate to stage, adjust and complete the 60-game season, so it’s possible relations won’t be as hostile as they were.
I’m expecting cost-cutting pinned on world events and griping about offers, but both sides will want to make permanent agreements as far into 2021 as possible, when there’s a better sense of how revenues rebound. These are all complete guesses.
Rob asks: Was it White Sox serendipity that the season came down to the discount bad idea right fielder?
I’d say no, only because Mazara played reasonably well at the very end of the season, and I actually thought he gave the Sox a better chance at Liam Hendriks than others. I’d say there’s more poetry in the season being decided by one Rick not finding extra pitchers at the trade deadline, and the other Rick being forced to try a bullpen day after avoiding any alternate-starter strategies the whole time.