Cautiously Optimistic

PREAMBLE

The White Sox have officially entered a 3-5 year window to compete for an AL Championship after the success in 2020. The veterans proved themselves as steady & reliable players while the young kids showed that they can play in the MLB at a high-level. There’s still room for upside on the existing roster – Moncada, Robert, Madrigal, Kopech, etc – but the team needs to add without subtracting in the offseason.

The minor league system looks top heavy and needs to have some breakout seasons from prospects outside the top 5 – Thompson, Dalquist, Kelley, Bailey, Beard, Gladney and perhaps a resurgence from Burger -would be the most helpful for the system. Not to mention the top prospects – Vaughn, Kopech, Crochet, Dunning- need to prove that they deserve the consensus ranking they’ve received across the industry. I’m banking on the top 5 prospects being as advertised.  

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

Write “tender,” “non-tender” or “rework/extend” after each player and their projected 2020 salaries, arranged by the three calculation methods described by MLB Trade Rumors. Feel free to offer explanation afterward if necessary.

  • Nomar Mazara: $5.6M | $5.9M | $5.7M – Non-tender. Rough season. I think it was worth the chance when the Sox traded Steele Walker, but sometimes risks don’t work out. Best of luck to Nomar.
  • Carlos Rodón: $4.5M | $4.5M | $4.5M – Non-Tender. Would he be willing to come back cheaper as a reliever? I’m going to guess no.
  • Lucas Giolito: $2.5M | $5.3M | $2.5M – Tender / Begin extension negotiations
  • Reynaldo López: $1.7M | $2.2M | $1.7M – Tender. There’s talent here, but I don’t think it’s as a rotation piece on a championship contender. Keith Law has been saying he’s a bullpen arm for years and while I applaud the Sox giving him every chance to succeed as a starter, it’s time to move him to relief. He could be a high-leverage 98mph arm in one-inning stints or a long-reliever, but I think he finds success in the ‘pen.
  • Evan Marshall: $1.3M | $1.9M | $1.4M – Tender. He’s been a very competent and reliable arm.
  • Adam Engel: $1M | $1.4M | $1M – Tender. 4th OF with exceptional defense that showed pop especially against lefties. Late game OF of Robert + Engel takes a lot of pressure off.
  • Jace Fry: $800K | $1M | $800K – Tender. I understand he didn’t have a great season, but it’s hard to find a guy for $800k that has his potential. Championship teams find relievers from their system and don’t overpay free agents.
  • Yolmer Sánchez: Uncertain – Minor League camp invite. I root for Yolmer every chance I get, he’s got great energy and is a fun player. But he’s not a rosterable on a championship level team.

CLUB OPTIONS

Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.

  • Edwin Encarnación: $12M – Decline. Good gracious was he bad in 2020.
  • Gio González: $7M ($500K buyout) – Decline. Glad he finally got a chance to pitch for the big league club after being drafted by the Sox, but I think there are internal options that fill this role for a lesser price tag.
  • Leury García: $3.5M ($250K buyout) – Pick-Up. $3.5M is a light number and the Sox know what they get from Leury. He’s a good Utility bench player with a high floor and showed that he could play SS in 2020. He was hitting great before the injury – can he maintain that growth next year? If he’s a 109 wRC+ player, that changes his usage, but he is 5’8″ 180, so I’m not banking on it.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Try to retain, or let go?

  • Alex Colomé (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) – Let go. He had a great stint in the south side and routinely outperformed his peripherals (similar to Keuchel), but I believe the money required to pick him up is best spent in other places and find an internal replacement for Colome during the 3-5 year window.
  • James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) – Let go. I think this is going to be the toughest offseason decision for the front office and they need to make an offer. When you have a clear advantage over the rest of baseball – the White Sox outperformed the second best team by 25% in terms of fWAR – you should do everything you can to keep that advantage, especially when it’s a known commodity. I think to keep McCann the Sox need to offer a 3/$36m deal, he needs to take a hometown discount, he needs to be okay with being a backup/getting some abs at DH and the FO probably needs to push payroll to $155M-$160M. That seems like a lot of things to need to go “right,” but I’m saying there’s a chance.
  • Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) – Let go. Seems like a good dude, best of luck to Jarrod.

COACHING STAFF

Here’s a first: Pick your manager and pitching coach, with any elaboration.

  • Manager: AJ Hinch – I want the White Sox to win and he’s the best option to accomplish that goal. He comes with some baggage, but he has a clear formula and is a proven winner. Sam Fuld is also intriguing and would be my second preference.
  • Pitching coach: Matt Zaleski – seems that the Sox have a rising star in Zaleski. Let’s see what he has to offer. He also could be a solution for team manager down the road – get him in the majors to get some experience as soon as possible.

FREE AGENTS

List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.

By my math, the Sox have about $50M to spend if they make the moves above. If they miss on players below, I’d like to see them reshuffle and attack top of the market options.

No. 1: Starting Pitcher Solution: Trevor Bauer. 1/$30M with player option or 6/$180M. It seems like he may want the Lebron contract special with one-year deals and player options. If he wants that, fine. If not, lock him down for the duration and $30aav gets him into the top ten of SP contracts in 2021. Does he need more aav – I think he’s worth it up to $35m aav.

The Sox need a #2 premier starter, its that simple. The opportunity cost of a high end starter replacing Cease (-0.4 fWAR in 2020) is massive. Even more so than a high-end outfielder. Bauer is coming off a season where he is firmly in the CY Young conversation, uses data to get better (which should work well with Zaleski/Hinch/Hahn), seems to love baseball and I think is clearly the best FA SP on the market. He has a strong personality and it’s hard to forget his bullying of that gal on social media, but that’s something I need to figure out how to reconcile, not the White Sox.

If they miss on Bauer, they need to find a way to repurpose the money earmarked and go after George Springer hard (see below). Then the SP solution becomes Marcus Stroman (5/$100M) or, less ideally, James Paxton, Chris Archer, Kevin Gasuman on short contracts in the neighborhood of 2/$30M. All of those tier 3 SPs have warts, some more prominent than others, but you’re betting on upside with a short contract. The problem on missing on Bauer is that it puts a lot of pressure on Kopech reaching his ultimate potential and if you can add Bauer and Kopech reaches his potential, watch out.

No. 2: RF Solution – Michael Brantley – 3/$48M – It was painfully obvious that the Sox need to invest in an OFer during the Nomar Mazara experiment and Brantley provides a high OBP bat with pop and a capable defender in the OF. He’s making $16M now – would he require a raise to $18M/$20M aav (?), how much is the covid market going to affect players like Brantley (?) or is the length of contract entering his age 35 season more important to him now? SP solution is the most critical, but if the Sox miss on Bauer, I would like to see them reinvest in the RF position and go hard after Springer (5/$150m). And if they need to find ways to lower payroll, I would prefer a look at Joc Pederson (2/$20) even after a down year who would pair as a strong side platoon with Engel in certain circumstances. Ultimately, the Sox need a guy with high OBP and good defender as a solution. All three of those guys – with varying success – possess those skills.

No. 3: Back-Up Catcher Jason Castro2/$10m. As I mention above, would prefer to hold onto McCann, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen. Castro is a nice player that can fill the role and won’t break the bank. Zack Collins is not a catcher.

TRADES

Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them. A good example of a bad idea:

No. 1: None. I am a huge proponent that adding through Free Agency only costs money and trades cost prospects + money. The White Sox don’t have the system depth that allows for a lot of trades and need minor leaguers beyond the top 5 to perform in 2021 – not to mention if they have another nice draft in 2021, it will go a long way.

Pivoting quickly, the Sox have a lot of players that are growing in live time as opposed to players that have fully matured. They still have a wide range of outcomes and making any major trades before the season doesn’t allow for the FO to get more information in 2021. When they get more information, make moves at the deadline in 2021 to augment the roster.

Lastly, I did see one Sox Machine reader mention a trade for Joe Musgrove which I think is really smart. If you could run out with a rotation of Giolito, Bauer, Keuchel, Musgrove, Kopech, that’s a wow rotation. But what would it cost

SUMMARY

If you finish up with a fairly firm 26-man roster — assuming rosters are back down to 26, anyway — roll it out here. If you don’t, at least offer a sense of the payroll required, but more detail is always welcome.

Starting Batters $75M – C- Grandal, 1b – Abreu 2b – Madrigal 3b – Moncada SS – Timmy LF – Eloy CF – Robert RF – Brantley DH – Vaughn.

Bench Hitters – $10.3M – Catcher – Castro, Utility – Leury, Bench 4th OF – Engel, Hitter – Collins. Until the service time manipulation is finished with Vaughn, start Eloy at DH, Engel in LF and Mendick as the last man on the bench.

Starting Pitching$53.1M Giolito, Bauer, Keuchel, Kopech, Dunning.

Relief Pitching$8.6M , Fry (L), Cease (long guy), Cordero, Foster, Rey Lopez (SU), Marshall (SU), Bummer (L SU), Heuer (CL)

Total Spend (ex retained salary) – $147M. If it needs to be closer to $140 – move from Brantley to Joc. If there’s more room to spend, prioritize the resigning of McCann.

Overall: The Manager-less White Sox are in a position to compete for the next 3-5 years and need to add aggressively in free agency to plug a top-end starter and an outfielder with a high OBP and can defend. The Sox need to see continued development from Robert, Madrigal, Eloy, Kopech, the young bullpen arms and continued success from the vets to be as successful as we all think they can be next year. That said, the Sox aren’t in a perfect situation. Eloy probably should be a DH, but there’s a logjam at the ML level (Abreu, Vaughn, Eloy) due to the drafting/acquisition style of Hahn over the last several years. Crochet begins 2021 in the minors to see if he’s a viable starting pitcher, but makes his way up to the majors for a playoff run in the ‘pen. Beyond Vaughn/Crochet/Dunning, who are you excited for in the next couple of years as impact players from the minors? The Sox need another strong draft in 2021 & performance in the minors from their more unheralded prospects in order to expand the championship window from 3-5 to 5-7 years.

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pedemangonz

There is no chance that Bauer will be a Sox (think Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets or Phillies). Nor should he be. $30 M for 5 0r 6 years guarantees a Cubs situation in 2 or 3 years. As to McCann or Colome, both will come back on 2 or 3 year deals using the money from cutting EE, NM, GG and CR. What’s left of the $25M from the four cuts should go to a decent left handed hitting outfielder. There are going to be good players cut in the Spring because a lot of teams’ salary budgets are going to be pared by ownership because of the huge loses they all had this year. I won’t speculate who they will exactly be but there will several left handed hitting outfielders who will get a chance to play 100 games against all the right handed pitchers the Sox are going to see because their power is all right handed. As to pitching, cut GG and injury prone CR, stick with the 15 arms that they have now and enjoy watching some of the first year players that came up last year develop without worrying about Tommy John that seemed to be inevitable when Don Cooper was the pitching coach.