Jeff F’s Offseason Plan – Lynn, Bradley and Yawns – The Realism of a YAY Internal Improvement Plan

PREAMBLE

Well…

That was fun.

I certainly hope it doesn’t get lost on everyone what an absolute blast the 2020 season was even with the whole pandemic sweeping the world and the significant warts that remain on the roster. It’s just nice to have a season that doesn’t end in one of two things: 1) waiting for the next step in the rebuild or 2) falling significantly below expectations.

I mentioned to Josh Nelson on Twitter that this was the most I was looking forward to the Offseason Plan project since the fellas rolled it out awhile back. Last year, I had five different versions and then took so long I didn’t submit in time because I couldn’t make up my mind. This year, while there is still work to do, we can see the finish line. Progress has been made. Progress is still needed. But World Series expectations are not too much.

Let’s go…

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.

USING METHOD 2 FOR SAKE OF CONVERSATION

  • Nomar Mazara: $5.9M – NON TENDER

I, for one, have been tantalized by Mazara’s potential since he was hitting bombs into the upper deck against the Sox in Arlington. But after this season, I’ve seen enough. During the last part of the season, it was argued that Adam Engel should have been playing every day in Mazara’s stead. Yes, that would have been a better option, but I don’t see it as a better option going into next year. There’s no time to wait anymore for players to produce. I’d much rather throw a developmental prospect in there to play (That’s Blake Rutherford’s music! I’m kind of joking) sub replacement level than waste money on Mazara. With that being said, I see this as a spot they look to upgrade this offseason.

  • Carlos Rodón: $4.5M – NON TENDER

Carlos Rodon. Ah, what could have been. It’s been six seasons. All six under 10 wins. (I know wins don’t matter). 41 starts over the last 4 seasons, only 1 with more than 12. I’m not doubting Rodon could still contribute and I really wish things could have worked out for him in Chicago, but at this point in the team’s competition trajectory, I would rather allocate $4.5 M toward a player with more certainty.

  • Lucas Giolito: $5.3M – TENDER

I feel like it’s going to be blasphemy to say this, but as much as I love Rick Hahn buying out arbitration years for the team’s young core, I don’t think it’s going to happen for Giolito. From the Sox perspective, its not just that they got burnt with Danks, but Giolito has had Tommy John and to this point, only 1.5 seasons of All Star performance. From Giolito’s side, he has shown the willingness to bet on himself before and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it again.

I want Giolito pitching in Chicago for as long as possible. But I see both sides having reasons to wait before making that commitment.

  • Reynaldo López: $2.2M – TENDER

For some reason, in my mind, this came down to do I want to pay Lopez $2.2M or Rodon $4.5M? Lopez, although struggling the last two seasons, doesn’t he have more of a chance of performing better and staying healthy than Rodon? Maybe that’s just me. But I’m willing to take a relatively small $2.2M gamble that he can pitch out of the bullpen, be a long man, or compete for a rotation spot.

  • Evan Marshall: $1.9M – TENDER

When you’re seeing a whole lot more Steve Cishek then you’d like, you realize how much you miss Evan Marshall. $1.9 M seems like an easy decision to me.

  • Adam Engel: $1.4M – TENDER

Finally, four seasons into his career, Engel found the role he was born to play. After being shoe-horned as an every day starter and sometimes leadoff hitter out of necessity in previous seasons, Engel proved himself what a valuable piece he is as the baseball equivalent of a role player.

  • Jace Fry: $1M – TENDER

Cheap, young, lefty bullpen arm. Done.

  • Yolmer Sánchez: – NON TENDER

Parting is such sweet sorrow…again. Miss ya Yolmer.

CLUB OPTIONS

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

  • Edwin Encarnación: $12M – DECLINE

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that thought this was a bad signing at the time. And now, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would be willing to pick up his club option. Getting old sucks. Other than running into the occasional fastball, Encarnacion is a shell of his former self and with guys on base in front of him, the home run or nothing proposition he brings to the table is too costly.

  • Gio González: $7M ($500K buyout) – DECLINE

Again, loved the idea of Gio at the time, but the third time around was not the charm. The injuries made it hard. But with so many arms on the team still with some meat on the bone as far as potential, it’s not worth it to pick up this one.

  • Leury García: $3.5M ($250K buyout).- PICK UP

I can’t believe Leury has been on the White Sox pre-Jose Abreu era and lived to see their current success. I love the flexibility he brings to the table and while he’s not an everday starter, can fill a role in a pinch, put the bat on the ball when necessary (unless he’s called in to start after sitting for a few months) and provide speed on the base paths.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Try to retain, or let go?

  • Alex Colomé (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) – LET GO

I could see a scenario where the market isn’t what Colome would want given all that has gone on this year and the loss of revenue for teams. Viewing the situation in a vacuum, I don’t think spending the money on Colome instead of throwing that money at other holes on the roster and placing one of the younger arms in the closer role is worth it.

  • James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) – RE-SIGN 3 YR/$33M

This decision was the hardest part of this process for me.

I understand McCann’s possible desire to find his own starting gig, but are we sure the market will be there. McCann has had a pair of good seasons in his career and will be 31 during next season. There remains a significant possibility that McCann is far more valuable to the White Sox than how the market actually values him. That’s just one man’s opinion.

But that is the very reason I would re-sign him if I were the White Sox. He’s a respected guy in the locker room and is a big reason for Giolito’s improvement. He’s a better pure catcher than Grandal. And he essentially functions as a DH/C split. If Vaughn is the DH this coming year, the breakdown would look conservatively like this, figuring about 650 PA per position (going to be more) between C, 1B, DH

C – Grandal = 325 PA, McCann 325 PA

1B – Abreu = 450 PA, Vaughn = 100 PA, Grandal = 100 PA

DH = Vaughn = 300 PA, McCann = 150 PA, Abreu = 100 PA, Grandal = 100 PA

TOTALS – Grandal = 525 PA, Abreu = 550 PA, McCann = 475 PA, Vaughn = 400 PA

$48M is a big spend for four players, but not when a number of key contributors are already signed to below market contracts. And for McCann, why leave a place you’re so appreciated as the team being their ascent. Ultimately, money will talk. In this case, I made it to speak loudly.

  • Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) – LET GO

I really do wish we got to see Dyson on the basepaths in a late game World Series scenario. Alas…

COACHING STAFF

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

  • Manager: AJ Hinch

I really wrestled with this one because I know the controversy that Hinch’s name brings. If hired, the level of scrutiny will be high. Though he didn’t necessarily mastermind the Astros scandal, he didn’t prevent it from happening. Right now, only he knows how much control over the situation he really had, given Jeff Luhnow’s involvement, but he will need to be honest with the White Sox front office in the interview process and with the media and fans when the tough questions are asked.

The one thing you can’t argue with is that Hinch is hands down one of the smartest baseball men out there. He fits Rick Hahn’s qualifications he mentioned in his postseason press conference by having extensive, recent postseason experience. Dallas Keuchel’s cryptic message after Rick Renteria’s “mutual separation” with the Sox seemed to signal something he was excited about. Does that mean Hinch is on the way? My guess is yet.

  • Pitching coach: Matt Zaleski

Something else Hahn referenced in his postseason presser was that there were internal candidates to consider for the pitching coach position, but it will ultimately depend on what the next manager wants to do. With the number of young pitchers the White Sox could be counting on for next season, it may be best to have a candidate who a) knows the organization and the personnel while b) bringing a new perspective and potentially new approach.

FREE AGENTS

OF Jackie Bradley Jr. – 2 yrs/$24M

I’m very light on the free agent in my plan because I just don’t know how much the team is going to be willing to spend given what transpire with the loss of revenue last year. In this scenario, the White Sox finally get a guy that’s been bantered about in rumors with them for a while.

Bradley is a glove first guy, who despite his occasional struggles at the plate has been a dependable, reliable and well-respected professional with postseason experience throughout his career with the Red Sox. He provides a left-handed bat that is more of a certainty than whatever production you get from Nomar Mazara. Sure, the ceiling isn’t that high. But when he’s hitting 8th in the lineup, its more about not having a huge hole in the lineup while simultaneously kicking the ball around in the outfield. I hate that we’ve set the bar that low.

I obviously would love George Springer, but would be surprised if that happens.

TRADES

TEX sends RHP Lance Lynn to CHW for RHP Jonathan Stiever

I like the idea of Marcus Stroman and recognize the need for a top flight starter if the White Sox want to solidify themselves not only as a contender, but a legit candidate to capture the World Series. I also recognize the time and effort they’ve put into acquiring and “developing” young pitchers still waiting to prove themselves like Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and Dane Dunning (not to mention Garrett Crochet whose table is ready as far as I’m concerned and Reynaldo Lopez who for some reason I can’t quit).

Trading any of those young guys at this juncture might prove foolish because there wouldn’t be one you’d necessarily be selling high on. In fact, you could argue you’d be selling low on each of the first three I mentioned. With Kopech taking a year off, Cease still struggling with consistency and commany despite tantalizing stuff and Dunning still a short time removed from surgery, why not give each of them another opportunity to prove themselves, especially while relatively cheap, under team control and with a new pitching coach. That’s why as you’ll see in the my final lineup and rotation, the group of them will be having an Anchorman fight to the death for the final two spots. Remember that going into last year, a rotation of Giolito, Keuchel, Cease, Lopez and Gio Gonzalez was thought to be an upgrade.

Enter Lance Lynn. Lynn has one year left on his deal with Texas at a relatively inexpensive $9.33 million. Lynn is a dependable workhorse as he’s started at least 29 games every year since 2012 and registered at least 2.0 WAR in each of those seasons save for one. He’s two years removed from a 7.5 WAR campaign and was well on his way again last year. He’s basically a two-pitch pitcher with a heavy fastball and a cutter, but he’s in control and effective. Most importantly for this iteration of the White Sox: his extensive postseason experience. Trading for Lynn allows for ultimate flexibility. If one or two (or more) of the young guys breakout, great. A surplus. Also, with Lynn’s contract coming off the books after 2021, that leaves more flexibility for the free agent market and/or contract extensions. It also doesn’t lock you into a 34-year old pitcher who may lose a little steam, though you hope that’s not the case.

Given Lynn is in the last year of his contract, I don’t think it would take a lot to acquire Lynn. And that’s good for the Sox because with all of the recent promotions, the minors are relatively bare. With no season last year, there also won’t be a lot of information for other teams to go off with regards to deals. Jonathan Stiever would be a nice return for Texas. It’s not that I don’t like Stiever, especially when I reference not giving up a lot. I just think at this juncture, Stiever might be the best fit in this deal. With Stiever appearing to be major league ready despite his struggles in his first appearances last season, he would give Texas a young starter under team control for a number of years at the cost of Lynn’s expiring. This move also doesn’t prevent the Sox from going out to find another pitcher at the trade deadline, if that were needed.

SUMMARY

Listen, pretty boring with not many moves, but isn’t there a chance that’s what this offseason brings? With so much uncertainty hovering over the game of baseball, I would be shocked if this was the time the team decided to say, “OK, let’s throw cash at it!”

In the lineup, while a regression to the mean could happen for Abreu following his MVP 2020 season, you’d still expect a majority of players in the lineup to improve on their 2020 campaign. Grandal, Moncada, Jimenez, Robert and Madrigal all fall into that category. With Bradley and Vaughn, you’re asking them to replace two players who had a combined -0.8 WAR.

I know it would be nicer to have more of a known commodity slotting into the 4th spot in the rotation, but I think that’s what a 162-game season gives you with these young starters as opposed to the 60-game season of this past year. With a number of pitchers vying for those spots, you have the luxury to try a few things over the course of the slog. And if nothing strikes your fancy before then, address potential needs at the deadline.

I’m going with a relatively young bullpen because frankly, I didn’t want to lay out any cash to free agents with the volatility of the bullpen market. I think the young arms they have down there will flourish and that a pen comprised of Heuer, Bummer, Marshall and Crochet will be deadly.

Position BO Player Salary
C 5 Yasmani Grandal $18.25
1B 3 Jose Abreu $17.67
2B 9 Nick Madrigal $0.70
SS 1 Tim Anderson $7.25
3B 2 Yoan Moncada $6.80
LF 4 Eloy Jimenez $4.33
CF 6 Luis Robert $3.50
RF 8 Jackie Bradley Jr $11.00
DH 7 Andrew Vaughn $0.70
C James McCann $11.00
MI Leury Garcia $3.50
CI Danny Mendick $0.70
OF Adam Engel $1.40
#1 Lucas Giolito $5.30
#2 Dallas Keuchel $18.00
#3 Lance Lynn $9.33
#4 Cease/Dunning/Kopech $0.70
#5 Cease/Dunning/Kopech $0.70
CL Codi Heuer $0.70
RRP Aaron Bummer $2.00
RRP Evan Marshall $1.90
LRP Jace Fry $1.00
LRP Matt Foster $0.70
RP Garrett Crochet $0.70
RP Jimmy Cordero $0.70
RRP Reynaldo Lopez $2.20
Gonzalez Buyout $0.50
TOTAL SALARY $131.23
BUDGET $135.00
BUDGET REMAINING $3.77

 

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