Following up: Dallas Keuchel’s DFA shifts all attention to offense

On Saturday, the White Sox designated Dallas Keuchel for assignment. Today, Lance Lynn will make his first rehab start for the Charlotte Knights.

These developments are related, in the sense that Lynn’s firmer timetable added to the bulk of fallbacks that created a few lines of defense against the chance Keuchel could be missed. There’s Vince Velasquez on the 26-man roster, Davis Martin on the 40-man, and Reynaldo López in the bullpen. If Lynn makes his three starts without setbacks — and Eloy Jiménez is a cautionary tale against assuming smooth sailing — that puts him back on both rosters around Father’s Day. The Sox are banking on not needing to blow through all their options by then. And even if they did, the way Keuchel had pitched meant he might not have fared better than the standard call-up.

This is all why Rick Hahn said he felt like it was time to move on, although he tried to leaven the comments about Keuchel’s steep decline

“We certainly got what we expected in 2020 and in the first half or so in ’21,” said general manager Rick Hahn, who spent the early portions of his Saturday media session lauding the first half of Keuchel’s tenure. “Unfortunately the latter half of his White Sox career didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. With any free-agent signing, there’s a certain level of expectation, but there’s also reasonable projections involved on our end at least in terms of potential decline. In this case, I’d say the decline occurred a little more precipitously at the end than we anticipated.”

… with an appreciation for the first half of his White Sox tenure:

Before taking questions from the dozen reporters circled around him Saturday, Hahn contextualized Keuchel’s contributions to the club over the last three seasons.

Keuchel posted a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting. The Sox made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, the first time they’ve done that in franchise history.

“And that very likely doesn’t happen without Dallas’ contributions over those two seasons,” Hahn said.

That’s true enough, and it might be easier for everybody to compartmentalize Keuchel’s ups and downs were the White Sox otherwise in sound position. The DFA does address the biggest issue on the pitching side, but it does nothing to solve the team’s persistent offensive problems, which dragged into the opener of this weekend’s two-game set with the Cubs.

There are smaller tweaks that can be tried — less Gavin Sheets and more Jake Burger, less Josh Harrison and more Yolbert Sánchez? — but the shortest distance to an average offense from whatever the White Sox are doing now relies on Yasmani Grandal and Yoán Moncada providing production from the left-hand side.

That concern is heightened by Moncada’s unavailability, which is stretching to a third consecutive missed game.

Hahn said it’s a quadriceps issue for Moncada and it won’t force him to the injured list. Moncada’s track record is checkered enough for that claim to require verification, but beyond that, it fails to reassure at a time where Moncada is hitting .136/.177/.254. If his condition is “trying to stay off the injured list,” then the upside over somebody like Jake Burger is lacking.

After this series, the White Sox head to Toronto, but the entire roster won’t be making the trip. Hahn said two players will have to go on the restricted list because they’re unvaccinated, and we’ll see what kind of impact that has come Tuesday.

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Jim Margalus
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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asinwreck

Graveman was unvaccinated last year, so there’s a good chance he’s one of the two.

soxygen

If so that would make the decision to try to get 7 out of Cueto rather than going to the bullpen even more ridiculous. The off-season was about building a bullpen. There is an off day on Monday. Use your damn relievers.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
metasox

If the idea is to preserve the best relievers for when the team has leads, it would work better for a team that actually has a lot of leads.

MrStealYoBase

Grandal has been bad. Abreu hasn’t been himself for most of the year.

But to echo a point made in the Twitter space yesterday: when those guys signed their new deals in December 2019, how many people projected the Sox offense to hinge on those two guys in 2022, in the back half and final year of their contracts respectively? It’s okay to expect more from them while also recognizing that these are two guys in their mid-30’s who shouldn’t have to shoulder the load anymore.

The problem has been that pretty much nobody except for Tim Anderson has made meaningful steps forward since then. Eloy and Moncada are less productive than they were during that 2019 season when the deals were signed. Robert has been mostly good, but he probably needs at least another season to smooth out the inconsistencies that keep him from being a legit MVP candidate. Any value that Andrew Vaughn provides with the bat is almost completely negated by his horrendous defense. The prospects on the back half of the depth chart/Charlotte all provide similar profiles of bad defense and underwhelming bats.

The plan as it was set out in the 2019-20 offseason was sound. It produced two seasons of very good to excellent offensive production. But the writing was on the walls: the team needed to get better against RHP. They needed to get better on defense. They needed to reconfigure their player capital to address the fact that they have half a dozen players with no defensive home and the same offensive vulnerabilities.

They were in no way proactive about any of this. Now they need to be reactive. The roster as it is constructed makes no goddamn sense and AJ Pollock was never going to solve all the problems it has.

Last edited 3 months ago by MrStealYoBase
As Cirensica

100%

metasox

Am not as excited as some about Yolbert as a mid-season upgrade. If he was a power bat, he at least might have a good power run in him before the league adjusts. Might be better off hoping Harrison’s numbers normalize.
Would not be surprised to see a move involving Sheets though I would not have expected it to be Burger as an answer against right handers.

Last edited 3 months ago by metasox
jhomeslice

Harrison has had a WAR over 1 only once since 2017. There is a reason he cost 5M and everybody that could have made the team better 9 figures.

I’ll save you the suspense. If Harrison is even with the team by year end, nobody is going to be grateful for that.

metasox

bref has 2.5 offensive war last seaon. I’ll take that. They may change, but the analyses of Yolbert coning into the seaon said utility infielder. If the Sox has eyes on a serious bat, that would be something. But you won’t find much for 2B

Last edited 3 months ago by metasox
soxygen

Hahn’s framing of the issue really irked me. The rebuild was never supposed to be about 2020, it was about success in 2022-2024. Sure, Keuchel had good results in 2020. On the other hand those results were against a VERY easy 60 game schedule comprised entirely of teams from the central divisions. The strength of schedule contributed to the Sox success and to Keuchel’s success.

Hahn figured out how to make it sound like he can’t be blamed for how things turned out. Very lawyerly. But he still hasn’t explained how this team will ever be a championship team if it can’t learn from its mistakes. So, not very leaderly.

It wouldn’t have been hard to simply say “we want to win championships, and like any team that wants to win championships we are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our decisions – this will be no different.”

dwjm3

“But he still hasn’t explained how this team will ever be a championship team if it can’t learn from its mistakes. So, not very leaderly.“

I’m not sure why you are interested in this explanation. It is pretty clear Hahn doesn’t have the skill set to build a championship team so any explanation he would give would largely be nonsense. The odds that we see another title under this ownership is really small.

soxygen

I’m interested in an explanation because I want to feel optimistic about this ballclub! But yes yes yes to everything you said.

Trooper Galactus

2020 was probably this team’s best chance at winning a pennant and Hahn punted every offseason leading up to it and made no improvements to the team in-season when it was clear they needed another starter.