Spare Parts: Liam Hendriks, of all people, encourages White Sox’s defensive improvement

Just like Dallas Keuchel talked to the White Sox beat reporters a day after he won his Gold Glove, Liam Hendriks took his victory lap after winning Reliever of the Year for a second consecutive year.

Hendriks remains conversational and candid in his interviews, and he used his amiability to encourage the unlikely return of Craig Kimbrel. Yet I thought his most interesting answer had to do with what he saw as the team’s chief decifiencies:

“I always break it down into the top three, with pitching, defense and offense,” Hendriks said. “Our offense was great. Our pitching was great the entire season. Defense is the one — it’s always that motto that defense wins championships, and unfortunately, you look at the playoffs and we had the lowest defense in the playoff group.

“That’s something that I think a lot of the guys, over the course of the year, they got depicted in a poor light defensively. I think that we’re a lot better defensively as a team than what was depicted in the standings or the stats or whatever.

“Making a couple of adjustments there, and bringing some guys in that are more glove-first guys, can really make a huge difference down the stretch.”

PERTINENT: Liam Hendriks named American League’s top reliever once again

The White Sox indeed need some help in this department. I picked up The Bill James Handbook 2022 yesterday and will spend some time going through it this weekend, but I’ll start by noting that the White Sox finished with the third-worst team defense at -40 Defensive Runs Saved, ahead of only the Yankees (-41) and Phillies (-54).

It’s just a little odd to hear the criticism coming from the pitcher who is the least reliant on his defense, and it brings the odd construction of the White Sox roster and its bottomless supply of first basemen to the fore. Hendriks isn’t wrong, which is why Rick Hahn might feel liberated to trade his way out of some dead ends. Now we just have to see when baseball will conduct business as usual, because as some of the below articles highlight, everything could grind to a halt.

SPARE PARTS

As Ted mentioned in the comments a couple days ago, Jay Jaffe did Minnie Miñoso justice with a detailed overview of his Hall of Fame case, with a lot of attention paid to pioneer status that has historically been overshadowed.

In Dallas Keuchel’s post-award Zoom call, he said the Twins “fell flat on their face” to open up the division for the White Sox. The spirit of his opinion turned out to be more generous than that phrasing, as he characterized Minnesota’s mess of a season as a lucky break, and not some fatally flawed enterprise. James Fegan and Dan Hayes heard the same from the division’s GMs, making the disparity between the Twins’ best- and worst-case scenarios the AL Central’s biggest variable.

Jeff Passan says that there’s a bit of a stand-off before a potential lockout. Teams are saying that players need to sign before the lockout or wait until February, while agents are taking the opposite tack by insisting teams pony up now, because a February stampede could get crazy. Some players might be able to spur action earlier than others:

The fallout is a sense that Corey Seager, the magnificent Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop, and Marcus Semien, the dynamic Toronto infielder, are increasingly likely to sign before Dec. 1, executives interested in the players told ESPN. Both are clients of Scott Boras, who two winter meetings ago fetched more than $800 million guaranteed for Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon over three days. With the rhetoric that the sides treated this week like that time of year, teams and players making surgical free-agent strikes — even on projected nine-figure deals — feels like more of a possibility, though not a certainty, than it did even a week ago. It’s not just Boras’ clients, either. The starting pitching market, sources said, is expected to have multiple big-name pitchers get pre-lockout deals.

Major League Baseball’s updated proposal still doesn’t seem to be that serious, because instead of salary arbitration, players would instead be judged by FanGraphs WAR, adjusted for how long the player has been in the league. The gaps are obvious:

Using fWAR would create its own biases. The metric likely would hurt relievers, as the market has always valued them higher, though on shorter deals, than fWAR suggests it should. Some strong defenders would be helped by the defensive component of fWAR, but the potential will exist for teams to game those numbers, which currently do not account for defensive opportunities in extreme shifts. Pitching fWAR, meanwhile, is mostly based on strikeouts, walks and homers, potentially hurting pitchers who thrive on soft contact.

Tim Anderson was the only White Sox nominated for a Silver Slugger, but Xander Bogaerts ended up getting the nod among American League shortstops.

Dayn Perry takes a look at what would actually jeopardize Rob Manfred’s commissioner status, and precedent comes down to losing a work stoppage, or otherwise costing teams money. Neither seems especially likely, especially since he’s a product of the league office, not an outsider who may not have curried sufficient favor from owners.

(Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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Wayne

Don’t read ESPN, so thanks for that tidbit about free agency.

metasox

The notiont that free agents may be waiting around until Feb may have affected the thinking with Rodon. Perhaps he was more likely to accept a QO than risk sitting around.

But with possible delays to both free agents and trades, there is something to be said for a contending team to at least lock down something now

calcetinesblancos

Yeah I don’t believe Boras. I think they would have absolutely considered the QO if it were offered. Double his career earnings while setting up another trip to free agency starting in his age 30 season with another year of success under his belt? Look at what Wheeler got.

Trooper Galactus

I know Wheeler had his own share of injury struggles, but in the two seasons leading up to his free agency he pitched 182.1 innings (29 GS) and 195.1 innings (31 GS). He also pitched 185.1 innings before he missed the next two season due to injuries. Even with all that time missed, he had a track record of durability that Rodon simply does not.

roke1960

If Rodon had a big year this year on a 1-year deal and remained healthy (a very big if), he would hit the jackpot next year.

Last edited 7 months ago by roke1960
Trooper Galactus

If Rodon had at least managed another four or five starts and 30-40 more innings then, sure, somebody woulda thrown a pretty good multi-year deal at him. But he both missed significant time and spent over a month throwing garbage.

HallofFrank

I think Roke is talking about if Rodon signed a 1 year deal this off-season, then turned in an excellent, fully-healthy season. In that case, I think he’d surely be $100m+.

Rodón did still deal with fatigue this year, but so did the rest of the league. In a season where Lance Lynn doesn’t even make it to 160 IP, Rodon getting to 132 is darn near beat case scenario.

Trooper Galactus

In that case, maybe, but kinda depends what the bar is for a “healthy” season from Rodon. 160+ innings seems to be about his limit in even a best-case scenario, but these days that’s not an insignificant number for a starter. I’m very curious to see how the market values him.

shaggy65

Re: The 2022 AL Central:

  • Twins – I hope they spend money trying to get back to contention and end up stuck in averageville for the next decade. The Sox have already learned the lesson that you are more or less as good (or bad) as your record. Hopefully MIN wasn’t paying attention the last 15 years.
  • Tigers – Should take a big step forward in ’22 as they combine their wave of young talent with some shiny new free agents.
  • Guardians – Teams that get no-hit 5 or 6 times in a season aren’t built to contend the next year. Their pitching will continue to be a thorn in our side, but they’ll just hang around .500, right? My worry is that their payroll is SO low that they almost have to invest in free agency. The looming negotiations will force them–either with a formal salary cap or behind-the-scenes pressure–to up their spending.
  • Royals – The only team that doesn’t scare me at all, which means they’ll finish in 1st
  • Sox – For a team with World Series aspirations built around a bat-first lineup, it sure isn’t a good look to end up with just a single Silver Slugger nominee (and just a single Gold Glove nod, to boot). 2022 had better look a lot different or we’re going nowhere…
roke1960

Agree with your take on the other 4 teams. But as for the Sox, define”going nowhere”. They will be prohibitive favorites to win the division. And as the Braves proved, once you get into the playoffs anything can happen. I don’t think anyone saw the Braves ripping thru the Brewers, Dodgers and Astros like they did. The key is getting into the playoffs. Once there, then you just need a 3 week hot streak to win it all. And the Sox certainly have the horses to do that. Of course, adding Semien or Castellanos or Conforto or another good starter (or a combination of those), certainly won’t hurt.

jhomeslice

That seems like a “hope we get lucky” excuse/copout for not upping the payroll. Sure the Braves won this time. But there have been what, two or 3 times in the past dozen years or so that a team with a payroll as low as 12th has won? And never one below 12th I believe (could be wrong on that). Sure they are a good bet to win the Central again and there is a chance the Sox win in October without changing the roster, I guess. But it’s pretty damn small, basically hoping to play way above their regular season play at exactly the right time. The Astros have been in the ALCS the past 5 years with a payroll way the F above the Sox. That’s the team they should be looking to emulate and gain ground on, not the Braves. The Sox won’t be the only team trying to improve this winter either.

roke1960

I agree with everything you said, which is why I closed with adding one or two high quality pieces would help. I was responding to the “going nowhere” comment. Making the playoffs and winning the division isn’t going nowhere.

jhomeslice

True. I hope you are right and they add a couple big pieces. As someone else said, maybe the sudden excitement with the Bulls will make Jerry want the same for the Sox. That, plus his windfall the past year… could happen.

roke1960

I’m cautiously optimistic that they will add at least 1 big ticket item…probably not two. But one big ticket item and a few smaller pieces would be ok. Conforto/Castellanos/Marte and then Escobar for 2nd and a couple of good bullpen pieces would be fine. Or Semien and a mid-grade outfielder. But we’ve been burned by Jerry before, so it would probably be best if we prepared for the worst and then can be pleasantly surprised if he does spend.

Trooper Galactus

I’m prepared for the big piece to be Escobar.

Trooper Galactus

The Tigers can’t be overlooked. With Mize, Manning, and Skubal, they have three super-young rotation stalwarts who could each have big breakouts. Akil Baddoo showed promise on the position player side, and Torkelson and Greene are on the cusp of making their MLB debuts. If they’re aggressive in free agency they could add a dozen wins in Shortstop and Right Field alone given how woeful those positions were for them in 2021. They may also have to seriously consider eating the remainder of Miggy’s contract after he reaches 3000 hits for the sake of competing.

metasox

If Detroit shows it is serious – e.g., signing Correa – I just have to hope it shakes more cash loose from the Sox.

Trooper Galactus

Doubtful.

burning-phoneix

I’m not too worried about the Tigers just yet, they have too many holes in their team atm. Their young starters have poor peripherals and will need to show improvement in the 2022 season before I’m worried they become a threat. Akil Baddoo is a decent player but he would a 4th OF at best on most contending teams and the rest of the outfield and infield (Candelario the exception) is uninspiring. Outside of Riley Greene and Tork they need more prospects to shore up the team. Torkelson looks a special player but he’ll supplant the Tigers best current player, Candelario, unless they shift one of them to 1st base.

HallofFrank

A Kimbrel for Kiermiaer deal seems to be popular among the MLBTR writers—that is, they think it’s a good idea, not that there’s any real traction towards it. That’s interesting to think about in light of this.

I know it wouldn’t be the normal OF alignment, but a Kiermaier-Robert-Engel OF would be soooooo fun.

To Err is Herrmann

I will be glad if the White Sox get back a player with as much value and ability to contribute as Kiermaier. I have to admit that no issue in current events — not even climate change, inflation, supply-chain issues, political polarization — interests me as much as what the Sox will get in exchange for Craig Kimbrel. I do care a lot about these other issues, I teach about them, I donate to causes, but Kimbrel’s trade value interests me more at the moment. I am either a shallow, depraved person or too Sox-mad or both.

HallofFrank

I would be fine with a Kimbrel for Kiermaier swap because Kiermaier is just fun to watch, but I think there are better moves out there. I’d probably prefer a Kimbrel for 40-45 FV prospect (for example) trade because then you can direct all of Kimbrel’s $16m elsewhere. I think they could spread that $ around in a way that helps the ’22 team more.

ParisSox

I think you just defined what it is to be a Sox fan.

calcetinesblancos

What hole would that deal fill?

HallofFrank

That deal frees up the salary to adequately fill another hole. It’s the opportunity cost of Kiermaier and his $11m that I’m thinking of. I’d rather put Kimbrel’s $16m toward a bigger ticket item that may not be possible with Kiermaier’s contract.

But, like I said, I’d be fine with Kiermaier, too. He’s just fun to watch.

Trooper Galactus

The problem is, their bullpen sucks balls without Hendriks.

HallofFrank

Are you saying they should keep Kimbrel?

Addressing the bullpen could be a part of that $16m. I do think they need another bullpen arm, which is another reason to trade Kimbrel for a cheap return rather than someone like Kiermaier.

Trooper Galactus

Sorry, I had a total brain fart here. Trading Kimbrel is not only advisable, but imperative given the likely spending limits for this season. For some reason my brain flipped to Hendriks, who they absolutely can’t trade.

Trooper Galactus

This is what’s infuriating about picking up Kimbrel’s option; they now HAVE to trade him to free up salary, which other teams know.

HallofFrank

Eh, you’re probably right, but if they get *anything* of value for him, then the option was worth picking up.

And while I do think trading him is the best option, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to keep him. I’ve seen plans guarantee Tepera $10-15m—I’d rather keep Kimbrel. They’ll need to add an arm (or two) if they trade him, anyway. Having that much tied up in the bullpen would be a *wildly* inefficient use of funds, but I still think the Hendriks-Kimbrel idea could work. Especially if they adequately address needs elsewhere—but maybe those things are mutually exclusive.

Trooper Galactus

The plans for Tepera had him for multiple years for less than what Kimbrel is getting. Keeping Kimbrel only works if money is no object, but it always is.

And yeah, if they get something of value, sure, that’d be great. I just don’t see them getting anything worth the risk, and the idea that they’ll have to pay part of his salary to even get a middling asset seems another wildly inefficient use of resources.

HallofFrank

Right, but my point is that $16m for Kimbrel in ‘22 is a better use of funds than $15m for Tepera spread out over the next three seasons. Or, to put it another way: I prefer one year of Kimbrel + two years of this bullpen spot being filled by whoever the best league-minimum, internal option is to three years of Tepera.

Either way, I think we’re still on the same page: trade Kimbrel and allocate that money elsewhere now.

itaita

The thing that was even double frustrating about the Ceasar trade is you figured even if the power bat regressed he would at least provide above average defense. But he sucked at that too.

GrinnellSteve

I’ve been fantasizing that the Sox can ship Keuchel to St. Louis so he can take advantage of their 3 Gold Glove infielders (plus finalist Molina) and 2 Gold Glove outfielders. On a team like that, he might be a useful rotation piece.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I’m not suggesting the Sox should keep him, but I do think Keuchel will have a better year. He was very good in 2020 and is certainly not too old, my guess is he performs somewhere between 2020 and 2021 level. If they trade him, I hope they do so only if they do not need to pay more than half or a third of his salary.