PREAMBLE

Let’s keep this simple.  The White Sox enter the 2020 offseason with an amazing young core in place and only a handful of real needs.  The biggest single priority this offseason should be adding a true TOR starter to anchor a young staff and increase our chances of an extended post-season run.  There is only one free agent starter that qualifies and we’re going all out to land him even if it means lesser upgrades elsewhere.

Also, let the record show that I’ll be assuming a $150M payroll for this exercise.  I had been projecting a $140M payroll for quite some time, but with the Sox actually pursuing “name” managers I think we might have a bit more financial flexibility than most people believe.

 

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

  • Nomar Mazara: $5.9M = non-tender (his acquisition last year was questionable at best and while his 2020 season was clearly impacted by strep / COVID, we can’t afford to risk league worst production out of RF for a third straight year)
  • Carlos Rodón: $4.5M = non-tender (if he had another year of team control or a lower arb figure I’d consider bringing him back to see how looks coming out of the bullpen, but neither is the case and I’d rather use these dollars elsewhere)
  • Lucas Giolito: $5.3M = tender (obviously a no-brainer here, but I’m pushing for an extension this off-season and given all the uncertainty in the game from COVID and potential CBA issues Lucas may be more receptive than ever)
  • Reynaldo López: $2.2M = tender (the arb figure is low enough to bring him back one last time and see if our new pitching coach can unlock his potential or at least turn him into a useful reliever)
  • Evan Marshall: $1.9M = tender (no-brainer whether we get the elite performance we saw in 2020 or simply a solid middle reliever)
  • Adam Engel: $1.4M= tender (excellent value for a guy who has matured into a very nice 4th OF and who will serve as the weak-side of my RF platoon)
  • Jace Fry: $1M = tender (barely above a minimum cost guy and still has two options left, so no-brainer bringing him back and seeing if can magically return to 2018 form)
  • Yolmer Sánchez: Uncertain = non-tender (I respect what Yolmer brings to the table, but I prefer Mendick and we don’t need both guys on the bench)

CLUB OPTIONS

  • Edwin Encarnación: $12M = decline (the Parrot looks like his career will be coming to an end soon and we have Andrew Vaughn to take these at-bats)
  • Gio González: $7M ($500K buyout) = decline (he also looks cooked and there should be better, cheaper swing-men available in this economic environment)
  • Leury García: $3.5M ($250K buyout) = decline (he did everything he could to warrant this option being picked up, but I have other plans for our utility spot)

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

  • Alex Colomé (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) = let go (his peripherals always scared me, but he consistently got the job done and deserves a multi-year deal; unless he’s willing to take a very team friendly deal I’m going with a cheaper bullpen solution)
  • James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) = let go (obviously I’d love to keep him around, but we simply can’t afford a ~$10M backup catcher under any scenario)
  • Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) = let go (seems like a good clubhouse guy but there is literally zero role for him in 2021 and this is an easy decision)

COACHING STAFF

  • Manager: A.J. Hinch – Look I hate the Astros as much as anyone and I find it a bit cowardly that Hinch was unable to stop his team from cheating if he was truly against it, but from all accounts he is an incredibly smart baseball guy with extensive post-season experience, a player development background (which is nice when you have a young team), and who will partner with the front office to ensure the best in-game decision-making (i.e. will actually leverage analytics).  He obviously needs to be vetted quite a bit through the interview process, but if Hahn feels he’s the best man to lead this team to October glory then I’m willing to give him a second chance.
  • Pitching coach:  Matt Zaleski – To me this is an absolute no-brainer.  Matt is an innovative young mind who has been responsible for most of our minor league success stories alongside Evan Teaford.  His promotion would further modernize our pitching capabilities at the major league level, which is exactly what’s needed after Don Cooper failed to develop many prized young arms.  And in all honesty, Matt is a candidate to get poached if we hire someone else and block him.  The time is now to make Zaleski our pitching coach.
  • Bench coach:  Sam Fuld – A true up & upcoming talent in major league coaching circles, Sam has already interviewed for manager jobs and may even be a candidate for our open position.  Given his lack of coaching experience, he may find it challenging to land one of the handful of open positions.  However, I really do think the Sox might consider bringing him on board to be their bench coach next year.  As we’ve seen in the past, bench coaches from playoff teams are typically hot commodities and Sam could set himself up for a one & done scenario similar to what Alex Cora did with the Astros.

FREE AGENTS

  • No. 1: Trevor Bauer (6/$210M with opt-out after year 2).  My offseason plan centers entirely around this one move.  As implied in the preamble, Bauer is a legit ace who changes the entire complexion of our rotation by moving everyone down a spot and gives us a dangerous 1-2 combo with Giolito come playoff time.  Yes, this is a ton of money to spend on one player (let alone a pitcher), but Trevor is still technically on the right side of 30 and is a guy that is constantly leveraging data & analytics to improve his game.  Short of a major injury, he should age better than most pitchers.  That being said, to avoid going beyond six years, Bauer would receive an opt-out after the second year of his deal when a new CBA is in place.  Regardless, we get an ace for the next two years at minimum allowing us to take our time with Kopech & Cease.
  • No. 2: Keone Kela (1/$6.5M with $10M team option for ’22).  Addressing the bullpen was tough for me, but ultimately I felt we should add one high-upside arm to the mix that can challenge Bummer for the closer role with Col0me now gone.  Given the limited resources remaining after signing Bauer, anyone with upside would likely come with some question marks.  When scrolling through the list of options, the one name that stood out was Keone Kela.  Still just 27 years old and immensely talented, Kela basically missed all of 2020 due to injury and comes with some baggage, both of which should keep his price reasonable.  No doubt he’s a risk, but one I’m willing to take with an established manager in place and the upside of that 2022 team option.
  • No. 3: Marwin Gonzalez (1/$3.5M).  As I mentioned previously, I have other plans for the utility spot and that’s signing Gonzalez.  Long considered one of the most versatile players in the game, Marwin is coming off a tough season with the bat that should keep his price down.  Given the unusual nature of the 2020 season and the fact he was returning from a knee injury, I’m willing to gamble his bat returns to form next year.  While Leury is also a very versatile player, I do like Marwin’s track record with the bat better and prefer him as a multi week fill-in at both 3B & LF in the event Yoan or Eloy goes down with injury (which happens a lot).  He also is a great defensive LF and can be a late game replacement for Eloy.  Hopefully the outlook of our team and his past connection to Hinch make us an attractive destination for him.
  • No. 4: Brad Peacock (1/$2.5M).  Looking at our 2021 schedule, we have seven off-days in April & May which means we can get by with limited starts from our #5 starter until one of Kopech or Cease is ready come June (my plan is for both guys to start 2021 in AAA).  Again, we don’t have a lot of money to work with here, so I’m going with a guy who has long been a reliable swing-man but who should come cheap given his injury concerns.  Admittedly, it’s still unclear if he’ll be ready for opening day after having exploratory shoulder surgery a few weeks ago, but assuming our team doctors feel good about the health of his shoulder, then I’m all for reuniting Peacock with his former manager.  If not, I’d look for a similarly priced swing-man who can move to the bullpen once the young arms are ready to go.
  • No. 5: Oscar Colas (remaining 2021 slot).  While not a typical free agent, the addition of Colas is critical component of our near-term plan.  With our young core quickly becoming more & more expensive, an influx of young cheap talent will be essential in the coming years.  Colas is a left-handed RF prospect who possesses elite speed, power, and arm (he’s technically a two way player).  Currently involved in a contract dispute with his former Japanese League team, the 22 year old is one of two big Cuban OF prospects still available in the 2021 signing class.  With very few teams having enough slot to sign either guy at this point, the Sox are in a great position to land whichever player they prefer.  If Colas can get out of his contract situation, I think he will be the preference given his left-handed bat and our ties to his agent.  He’d likely spend 2021 in AA and/or AAA, but would be a legit RF option for the Sox as soon as 2022 at league minimum dollars to boot.

TRADES

No. 1: Anderson Comas and Isaiah Carranza for Kole Calhoun.  Common theme but with very little money left, I had to get creative with RF.  Of all the options I looked at, including Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson, & Jackie Bradley Jr., I felt Calhoun provided the best mix of value and certainty.  I really like Brantley as a player, but am concerned about his ability to play RF and he had some red flags with his batted ball profile this year.  I also think he could get a multi-year deal and I want no part of that.  Bradley’s 2020 season seems too fluky from an offensive perspective so he’s also a pass.  Joc is definitely interesting and he’d be probably be my fall-back plan, but given his horrible 2020 season I’m going with the safer option in Calhoun instead.  My assumption is Kole would more or less be a salary dump given where the Diamondbacks are headed and the current economic environment.  Yes, we’d be giving up a fringe top 30 prospect in Comas (BA has him ranked #26) and an over-slot signing from the 2018 draft coming off TJS, but I’m not losing sleep over either.  And Calhoun is no doubt a boring addition, but we just need a place-holder who can play a solid RF and be an above-average bat against RHP to platoon with Adam Engel.  That’s exactly what Kole is going to give you with the outside chance of offering a little bit more like we saw in 2020.  Long-term this would likely be Colas’ job assuming he develops as expected.

SUMMARY

Overall this team comes in with a payroll of ~$150M and would project to win 103 games next year based on my internal projections.  More importantly, the team has a rotation that could be incredibly dangerous come October and has maintained nearly all of it’s prospect currency to serve as potential reinforcements or address any needs at the trade deadline (bullpen, backup catcher being the most likely).  The addition of Colas provides a possible l0ng-term solution at RF, which is arguably our only major hole.  Again, some of the lesser names in this plan may not overly excite the fanbase, but this is all about adding Bauer who is the one free agent who can be a legit game-changer for the franchise going forward.

Lineup:

  1. Anderson, SS (7.3)
  2. Moncada, 3B# (6.8)
  3. Abreu, 1B (17.7)
  4. Jimenez, LF (4.3)
  5. Grandal, C# (18.3)
  6. Robert, CF (3.5)
  7. Vaughn, DH (0.6)
  8. Calhoun, RF* (8.0)
  9. Madrigal, 2B (0.6)

Bench:

  • IF: Mendick (0.6)
  • OF: Engel (1.4)
  • UT: Gonzalez# (3.5)
  • BC: Collins* (0.6)

Rotation:

  1. Bauer (35.0)
  2. Giolito (5.3)
  3. Keuchel* (18.0)
  4. Dunning (0.6)
  5. Peacock (2.5) **eventually Kopech or Cease**

Bullpen:

  • CL: Bummer* (2.0)
  • SU: Kela (6.5)
  • SU: Crochet* (0.6)
  • MR: Marshall (1.9)
  • MR: Heuer (0.6)
  • MR: Foster (0.6)
  • MR: Fry* (1.0)
  • LR: Lopez (2.2)
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iamkarnold

This is the first long term Bauer contract I could see him actually signing. Good on ya for taking into consideration the CBA deal expiring. My only concern is the lineups 5-9, that is a group that could go REALLY cold REALLY quick and that concerns me. Personally I’d rather spread the money around as opposed to getting a big fish like Bauer but I could actually see this going down.