Hunt for a cheaper new core

Reassuring or frustrating depending on your perspective or relative sense of exhaustion, the possible/likely/implied White Sox move toward a rebuild has opened general manager Rick Hahn to discussing the team’s situation in more frank terms.

From Dan Hayes:

“When you look at the top end of our roster, arguably we could measure up against anybody. The middle and bottom part of the roster is where we’ve had some issues and certainly from a depth standpoint in being able to fill when something goes awry from a health or performance issue in Chicago.

It’s a matter of taking this premium core and being able to fill in around them both at the big league level as well as from a depth standpoint. How much does that cost?”

To parrot Nick Schaefer, the White Sox have done the hard part as well as anyone, but find themselves unable to polish off the easy stuff of building a team. If cost and a lack of prospect resources is holding them back from completing a contending roster, the Cubs rebuild may not be the best comparison, since it’s unlikely that the spending is going to open up in the same way once the theoretical new core becomes productive.

Something more recognizable might be the Astros, who have still yet to eclipse a $100 million payroll since Jeff Luhnow took over as general manager in 2011. Despite seemingly experiencing a breakthrough in 2015, they grew conservative after Colby Rasmus surprisingly accepting a qualifying offer, Dallas Keuchel‘s large arbitration figure, and the final years of Carlos Gomez and Scott Feldman‘s contract spiked their Opening Day payroll to $96 million; their highest since 2009. That figure came even after shedding Chris Carter‘s salary to the Brewers and staying extremely quiet in free agency save for an unsuccessful buy-low bid with Doug Fister. The 2016 team was not without promise, including near MVP-caliber work from Jose Altuve, but the Astros ultimately stagnated.

Now, they’re doing this:

As Morosi alludes to, the Astros have essentially waited out their budget opening up. Now that they have only $38 million committed before arbitration, they can continue to chug forward, which they already started to do mid-season when they brought in Yulieski Gurriel from Cuba.

There are dueling reactions here, between appreciation for the deftness at which the Astros have stripped nearly everything from their roster but functional core pieces (they just shipped out reliever Pat Neshek to get rid of $6 million), but also shock. The Astros, the team what underwent possibly the most brutal rebuild of the past decade, the team that reduced its opening day payroll to $26 million in 2013 and struck the deepest nadirs of unwatchability while they purged everything of value from the major league roster, still basically had to punt away a year of contention to stay under budget. And Sportrac only had them at 24th in payroll last year.

The Astros are shaping up to be good in 2017, and with a dearth of free agent pitching available, the Sox could really making a killing if they follow the Astros’ scorched earth model, but the restrictions are…restrictive. Even the most heartless rebuilds produce limited windows if there is not room to be aggressive spenders at some point in the contending cycle. While everyone can get excited for the prospect hugging portion of the rebuild, how the team will work when everyone is ready is the question. Aggressive pre-arb extensions for players like Tim Anderson, or Carlos Rodon if he would ever agree to one, might be necessary to keep everyone who actually does stay affordable.


Lead Image Credit: Thomas Shea // USA Today Sports Images

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8 comments on “Hunt for a cheaper new core”


Good article!

My feeling is the Sox, from a business perspective, might as well go through the rebuild now. The Cubs are hot and spending money to field a competitive team for 2017 isn’t going to get them a lick of interest from the casual fan unless they are in first place by 5 games come June 15. The odds of that happening even by expanding payroll to $160M are low, so it’s just throwing money away. If you’re going to be ignored, rebuild and be ready when the Cubs core starts aging or leaving.

Nick Schaefer

Has there ever been any evidence that White Sox attendance had any relationship with how well the Cubs are doing?

Nick Schaefer

I don’t have any evidence for this either, but one could equally posit that if the Cubs and White Sox are both good at the same time it will generally raise the level of interest in baseball across the whole city.

Daniel Rivera

Sox should not base their decisions on another baseball teams success.


Given the assets the Sox have to deal, the state of their division, and their revenues, I don’t see any reason why a rebuild can’t be done in short order.

One thing that I’m sure makes ownership hesitant is a rebuild puts the front office squarely on the hot seat. If they can’t get this right it will shatter the “Jerry really wants to win” narrative. It will prove that it was more important for Jerry to have people he liked running his team than people who are competent.


So they should ignore Cleveland’s success in putting a winning roster together with farm system depth?

Cleveland made no eye-popping FA transactions in the last 3 years. Prior to that they wasted money on Swisher and Bourn. But they stopped doing that dumb stuff and started drafting better. Heck, they still blew (lesser) money on Byrd and Uribe but they had the farm depth to cover for those failures.

They should be looking to move Frazier, Robertson, and Cabrera. All over 28, all with contracts expiring in a year or two. They set themselves up for winning by 2016 and it didn’t happen. Trying to squeeze one more year out of this is like an alcoholic taking just one more drink – it isn’t going to do them any good.

They shouldn’t squander any top 100 draft picks by signing FA’s, it will only retard the rebuilding of the farm system. If 2016 was a good draft, then let 2017 and 2018 drafts be as productive as possible and you can start thinking of winning in 2019 when you can then decide to extend Sale and Rodon if it is worth it.

If you want to win sooner, you either have to sacrifice the farm rebuild, or you have to trade one or two of Sale/Quintana/Eaton/Rodon/Anderson to get enough capable talent (capable, not comparable) in return to cover multiple lineup holes.


Prospects are just prospects. There is no guarantee of their success. Let’s get rid of Sale or Q or anyone else who has a team friendly contract for some guys we don’t even know if they will pan out. I have witnessed too many “can’t miss guys” end up missing horribly. We have a core. Now we just need to put on our big boy pants and stop being a major market team acting like a small market team. Oh wait, I am talking about the Sox right? They don’t think they are a major market team. Let’s face it is this an organization you want to trust with a rebuild, or an organization you want to trust with a reload? What makes anyone confident either direction is going to work. Either way we could end up losing. Might as well just pick your poison. ….my preference is build around the core….but then again maybe that is just my poison.


They announced their player development staff today. The list is littered with former players, starting with Chris Getz at the top of it. I guess when it comes down to it, you have to pick your poison because Jerry takes care of his own when it comes to hiring people to run his teams. You would think he’d try to find people off of the Cleveland, Boston, Houston, etc. trees because those guys have seen success by using Sabermetric methods. Only Boston has a fat checkbook of those three.

I don’t know what to say about that anymore. There isn’t much White Sox supporters can do. I personal preference is they start over. Sale and Quintana would yield the most in return to try. Prospects don’t always pan out, yes, but you have to at least try something different. What they’ve been doing hasn’t worked. Doesn’t mean this will work either, but you have to change course.

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