The most profound difficulty with assessing anyone’s mock offseason plan is determining where they chose to place themselves in the divide between what the White Sox would ideally do, and what they will likely do. Especially for a franchise that has struggled as much as the Sox have, provided as much frustration with regards to their larger direction and apparent unwillingness to invest, picking a path that resembles the same old business as usual might take us away from everything that is supposed to make this exercise fun and enjoyable.
For example, while stripping salary or even rebuilding is possible for a team resistant to spend and seemingly as far away winning as the Sox were in 2016, and looking for a fair trade for Chris Sale and Jose Quintana might be the most challenging direction we could take this in, it would be a betrayal of everything we have argued for in writing for the last few months, and would entertain a total waste of the Sox resources as a viable path forward.
So, with $102 million baked in from the players we kept in part 1, we set about building a winner, because that seemed like the best use of the talent the Sox already have at hand.
Sign OF Dexter Fowler for four years, $68 million
One such restriction to shrug off is being loath to admit the previous mistakes of Sox leadership. The White Sox could have had Fowler last year for two-thirds of this rate, yielded the 26th overall pick instead of the 12th, and been rewarded with a great 2016 that he went and had elsewhere instead. That doesn’t mean they don’t still need an outfielder and a major offensive addition, and Fowler still enables Adam Eaton to remain in right field where he can remain an elite defender, and his proficiency against left-handers (career .302/.392/.442) will complement other moves down the line very well.
Losing such a high pick stings a lot, but they have to sacrifice something to win now, and the alternative to steering clear of any free agent worth a qualifying offer is trading prospects already in the organization. This is backloaded to run $15 million in 2017, followed by $17 million, and two years of $18 million.
Sign 1B Pedro Alvarez for one year, $10 million
One way to get a power bat and not pay a ton for it, is to just buy half of one. Alvarez is a career .246/.321/.480 against right-handed pitching, and should pretty much never face a lefty ever. He thrived as a DH with the Orioles in 2016, and could spell at first base if need be, or if that was ever allowed by Jose Abreu. His days of usefulness at third are probably long past, not that they are particularly needed with Brett Lawrie and Tyler Saladino both on the roster to cover Todd Frazier if needed.
Alvarez had to wait until nearly Spring Training to get $5.75 million last year, and there’s a possibility he could get an ever larger raise than what is being offered here. Two years wouldn’t be the worst thing to commit to the 30-year-old at all, even if there’s some potential to block Zack Collins at that point. Alvarez won’t provide any fix to the Sox on-base issues here, but they also finished in the bottom third of the league in ISO in 2016, and Alvarez can help that. Getting on base is what Fowler is for, anyway.
Sign 1B/OF Steve Pearce for one year, $8 million
Here’s the luxury purchase. $8 million for short half of DH platoon is how the rich live, but Pearce, who filled in at second base, third base and both outfield corners in 2016, is a competent bat that go almost anywhere, and most importantly provides insurance against a collapse from Melky Cabrera, Alvarez, Frazier, or injuries to anyone.
Primarily, he’s paid to continue upon his career .269/.353/.499 line against lefties, and will DH while Alvarez sits against southpaws and pinch-hit to protect against LOOGYs, but he could also allow for Cabrera to DH more as well.
Or, if Pearce is too luxurious, the Sox could roster Charlie Tilson as a pinch-runner/defensive reserve, DH Cabrera against lefties, and farm super utility man Saladino out to the outfield corner, where he strangely has accumulated some experience. Saladino, after all, has a career .277/.333/.401 line against lefties.
Sign LHP Boone Logan for two years, $10 million
The White Sox inability to internally produce a LOOGY has been a peculiar source of torment, and without Zach Duke to throw around anymore and with Dan Jennings‘ neutral splits, they need to go grab another one.
Old friend Boone’s time in Coors didn’t lend itself to a gorgeous ERA, but he struck out of a third of the left-handers he faced and allowed them to hit .139/.222/.255 against him in 2016. That will do the job.
Sign C Nick Hundley for one year, $2.5 million
I’m not the ultimate man’s man, or someone who thrives on conflict, or enjoys inflicting pain on others, nor having it inflicted on me, but perhaps, I don’t know, a week–maybe two weeks!–in the Cook County Jail in exchange for the promise that I never to consider or even discuss this catching market ever again in life…that would be an offer I would take back to my family and consider if it worked for us.
The BP South Side crew started out this whole process by joking about trading for Tyler Flowers, then it became Option 1 for a horrifying six-hour period. The heart and soul of this team will remain the top of its starting rotation, and last year showed that punting catcher framing entirely was not the best way to maximize that. Matt Wieters and Jason Castro could offer that skill, but in a depressed catching market suddenly missing Wilson Ramos, they could come at a steep price with little hope of meaningful offensive contribution. Flowers is coming off a nice year at the plate and would enjoy being reunited with Sale, but was a total sieve against the running game in 2016, and the Braves are not in a position to be motivated sellers. Rather than send Spencer Adams and Adam Engel to Atlanta for a possibly very meh catcher–my long-term hope would be to move Fowler to a corner after Cabrera leaves and hope Tilson, Engel or Carlos May can be a glove-first centerfielder–we resigned to just being affordably bad at catcher.
Hundley is an awful framer, didn’t throw out runners well in 2016, and while he’s had some nice offensive years in the past and hit .301/.339/.467 in 2015, albeit in Coors, he cannot promise offensive brilliance. But he’s a veteran, he’s right-handed, and certainly won’t impede Omar Narvaez if that guy can actually be something.
Barnes will be 27 shortly after this Christmas and has never turned his repeated dominance of PCL pitching into major league production, but has also taken all of 74 major league plate appearances. There is a reason he has not gotten a longer look, but he’s a lottery ticket to keep in Triple-A for a catching crop that needs lottery tickets.
Some call McGuire the best defensive catching prospect in baseball. That we are acquiring him for just Danish should tell you what you need to know about his bat. He is going to be perfect for that one year where the White Sox have a juggernaut offense that can afford to punt a lineup spot. One year, it’s coming, I swear.
James Shields is likely extremely bad, still, and he cannot be traded unless we want to pay his full salary to get him out our sight and get next to nothing in return. It’s a consideration, but we’ll pass.
Failing that, $10 million is a lot of sense of obligation to let him earn a spot out of Spring Training, but the Sox need options for who they should actually allow to make starts after they put Shields on the disabled list for a sprained beard, or something. Signing someone worthy of a guaranteed major league contract to battle it out with Shields in camp will be pretty tricky, so they will need to dumpster dive and hope they happen across another Miguel Gonzalez. Another wrinkle worth mentioning is that the Sox do not want to block Carson Fulmer too much here, so some burnt out finesse lefties can do the trick. Henderson Alvarez‘s empty husk is also a candidate. There’s always Brad Penny!
So, here goes:
SP Chris Sale – $12 million
SP Jose Quintana – $7 million
SP Carlos Rodon – $530K
SP Miguel Gonzalez – $2.6 million
SP James Shields – $10 million
SP Carson Fulmer -
SP Tommy Milone –
SP Jon Niese –
Took the liberty of outrighting Anthony Ranaudo. Hopefully we don’t need to go into detail about why.
RP David Robertson – $12 million
RP Nate Jones – $1.9 million
RP Zach Putnam – $900K
RP Boone Logan – $5 million
RP Dan Jennings – $1.2 million
RP Jake Petricka – $900K
RP Tommy Kahnle – $520K
RP Zack Burdi –
Someone emerging to look like they want to contribute to a major league roster beyond just Burdi would be a necessary development for this group. Robertson is a oft-mentioned trade candidate, but this is a bullpen already light on elite arms worthy of high-leverage situations.
Dealing Robertson would free up money, but create a new void that the Sox do not have internal resources to fill, and given that it would likely be necessary to eat salary to clear out Robertson’s contract, it probably would not be any cheaper to find a replacement in an already light relief market. Betting on Robertson having a bounce back season at 32 after a season where he still posted a 28 percent strikeout rate doesn’t feel too dumb to try at all. Maybe Burdi makes this more realistic of a path after 2017, when moving a single year of Robertson would be simpler.
RP Chris Beck -
RP Juan Minaya –
RP Matt Purke –
RP Blake Smith –
RP Brandon Brennan –
C Nick Hundley – $2.5 million
C Omar Narvaez – $510K
C Austin Barnes –
C Reese McGuire –
C Kevan Smith –
C Alfredo Gonzalez -
Ok, guilty, made all these plans without considering the future of Kevan Smith. Maybe he can drag the Birmingham Barons to a championship.
1B Jose Abreu – $12 million
1B Pedro Alvarez – $10 million
IF Brett Lawrie – $5.1 million
IF Tyler Saladino – $520K
IF Carlos Sanchez –
SS Tim Anderson – $510K
3B Todd Frazier – $13.5 million
3B Matt Davidson –
IF Leury Garcia -
OF Dexter Fowler – $14 million
OF Melky Cabrera – $15 million
OF Adam Eaton – $4 million
OF/DH Steve Pearce – $8 million
OF Charlie Tilson – $510K
OF Adam Engel –
OF Jason Coats –
Comparing their recent rates stats, there could seem to be a lot of potential for Pearce to steal playing time from Cabrera if he can hold up his production and stay healthy in the field. Ideally, the offensive depth here would allow for a lot of rest, a lot of flexibility and keeping a lot of guys below 140 games played, but the more likely case is that there will be some offensive collapses, and having extra bats could protect against being dependent on someone who can’t get out of a funk for the whole season. With the Sox luck, it will be both Anderson and Saladino at the same time and they’ll just be stuck with it, but we can dream for now.
Because I cannot count, and made an entire roster plan with just 24 players, Tilson and Sanchez get to battle it out in Spring for a roster spot.
In all, this is a $140.7 million Opening Day payroll, give or take several thousand dollars. That would be the largest in White Sox franchise history by roughly $13 million, making it by one standard unreasonable and bloated, and if they broke camp with that payroll last season, they be in a virtual tie for 12th in baseball for Seattle. 12th.
If it is truly beyond the White Sox resources or temperament to have an above-median payroll in a year allegedly dedicated to competing and winning, they should indeed fire sale strip down all they have and remodel themselves as an extreme bargain hunting, Andrew Friedman-style Tampa Bay Rays-type franchise–of which the current state is hardly a source of encouragement–or seriously question whether they can compete at all with their current financial resources.
We dipped heavily into free agency, because major trades are hard to pin down with any reasonable accuracy from the outside, but also because the Sox simply lack the prospect resources to land premium talent. Trying to trade mid-tier prospects for significant major league pieces is how you wind up taking risks like “Maybe Jeff Samardzija’s mechanics are fixed for good now” or “Why can’t Todd Frazier just hit like the first half of 2015 all the time?” Since the biggest signing here is a fringe All-Star role player to lead a class of platoon bats, specialists and stopgaps, this very much feels like how a team with humble resources would look to compete, if they were finally going to get serious about it.
Lead Image Credit: Mark J. Rebllas // USA Today Sports Images