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Eloy Jimenez and Zack Collins have been promoted from High-A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. While there are only a few weeks left in the minor league season, players are human beings and when you excel in superlative fashion at your job a promotion is in order. There’s also reason to believe that they have mastered the level and are ready to be promoted. Jimenez has hit .345/.410/.682 in 122 PAs since arriving in Winston-Salem. As Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada have demonstrated, elite hitting prospects can move really quickly, and Jimenez will therefore start next year in Double-A, and if these trends continue this time next year he could be a candidate for a September call up.
It speaks to the expectations for Collins’ bat that as a 22-year-old catcher in his first full pro season his .808 OPS is viewed as a disappointment. If you are of the opinion that he will not remain as a catcher, then it is a troubling offensive output for an advanced college bat in the low minors. However, he has devoted a lot of his time and energy to developing on the defensive side of the ball and catchers tend to take a long time to figure things out, if they ever do at all. It’s an arbitrary endpoint, but dating back to a doubleheader on July 30, Collins has hit .342/.490/.658 and walked more than he has struck out. There’s no specific reason to believe he’d be overmatched at Birmingham or that he’s being moved too quickly, although per James Fegan over at The Athletic, there are still mechanical changes he wants to make to shorten his swing this offseason.
The promotion to Double-A also means that we will finally have some pitch framing data for Collins, although it isn’t quite as precise as at the major league level. The general sense is that Collins has made a lot of defensive improvements since becoming a pro, but with something like catcher defense the more information we have, the better.
The White Sox also announced that Dylan Covey would be promoted from Charlotte having completed his rehab to take Tyler Clippard‘s spot on the 25-man roster. It looks like the White Sox will be able to keep the Rule V pick on the roster all season, which means he’s theirs permanently if they want. I am curious to see what he can do in relief, as I’m not sure there is starter’s durability there, regardless of stuff.
On Free Agency…
There is something of the magical when thinking about free agents. As opposed to draft picks, where you have to wait years and years for likely disappointment, or a trade where you have to give up something to get something. Free agents can just be shoved into the roster. Instant gratification.
A byproduct of the White Sox rebuild, where you are theoretically building as much of a contender as you can from within, is that the roster should be cheap, composed of a higher percentage of players being paid the league minimum, or suppressed salaries through the arbitration process. Therefore, such a team should have a surplus of money to allocate to free agency. The Cubs, for example, were able to sign Jon Lester (nice!) and Jason Heyward (whoops!) to huge contracts to supplement their homegrown core, and have made deep playoff runs including a World Series win, as you may have heard.
And, given that Rick Hahn has floated 2019 as the first year he foresees the White Sox potentially contending again if everything breaks right, some have noticed that syncs up with the 2018-2019 free agent class. For reference, that class projects to contain Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Pollock, Charlie Blackmon, Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Andrew Miller, and more.
A lot of teams with bigger budgets than the White Sox have been obviously targeting this free agent class for a long time. The Red Sox and Yankees have made conspicuous efforts to remain below the luxury tax threshold of late, and the Dodgers have to be on the short list of favorites for basically any player they would want to sign, just to name a few.
In addition, the White Sox have never signed a free agent to a contract of more than $100 million. Jose Abreu’s deal remains the biggest in franchise history, and not since Albert Belle has the organization really gone out and grabbed a splashy, top of the class free agent. So, until they do, I will assume that that trend will continue.
But, for all that I would bet all kinds of money against Harper or Kershaw playing for the White Sox until maybe their early 40s, some of those names further down the list could fit really nicely to help push a young White Sox core over the hump and into the postseason. And, speaking of Lester, the Cubs signed him slightly earlier than when people believed the Cubs would be ready to compete. That type of move makes sense, given that it is difficult to assemble a whole roster all at once, and that free agency doesn’t always provide the player you want when you want him. To that end, although this winter’s free agent class pales in comparison to the subsequent one, it may be worth monitoring to see what pieces–if any–the White Sox add this offseason to see if they too make “early” moves in advance of their contention window opening.
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