PECOTA can Suck an Egg Part V: Houston, You Gotta Problem?

In space, no one can hear you scream about PECOTA. Or bang a garbage can. No matter how intensely you listen. (C) Universal Pictures

PECOTA put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. The projections say no playoffs. Predicted to still compete hard in the AL West and take that particular enchilada whole are the Houston Astros. A year past the garbage can scandal and now without Justin Verlander and George Springer, the Astros are still a solid team, albeit one that has youth in key roles. Previously we looked at the Jays, The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, the St. Paul-adjacent Twins thems what bombs from the Bronx, and the non-deviled Rays showing that the Sox have better talent at enough positions that they should beat out the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage easily and do no worse hang evenly with the Twins in the AL Central, whilst being better setup overall than the predictably unpredictable Rays, the oddly-rotationed Yankees and the still-building Jays. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders stack up against the oddly-projected California LA Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland A’s, being among the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA you may devil your eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Astros.

Spring training game 1 results not considered.

Ranking the trash can rocket brigade and the White Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Astros. Zack Greinke is fading, ’tis unknown whether Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers are for real, and the duo of Christian Javier and Jose Urquidy are as unknown a quantity as Dylan Cease and eventual starter Michael Kopech. In reverse, though, Kopech and Cease are/were better prospects than Javier and Urquidy, Lance Lynn and Dallas Kuechel are for real, and Lucas Giolito is rising. This could be even if everyone is at their best, but while ‘Stros the backend may outperform the Sox early, the Astros might lack the true ace that Giolito has become. Just barely, but tipped towards the White Sox.

Bullpen: White Sox over Astros. If you’ve been reading this, I’m pretty much sticking the Sox bullpen towards the top of the MLB while giving even good pens like the Astros little to no chance at catching them. Ryan Pressly is projected to close for the Jetsons’ dog, and while he’s slated to be decent he isn’t Liam Hendriks. Pressly will be joined by a few fun arms, but he’s also projected to be joined by Steve Cishek. The Astros are patching holes while the Sox are likely filling slots by who has options. Sox have the better relief.

Outfield: White Sox over Astros. Michael Brantley would have been a more welcome sight in the Sox lineup and outfield than Adam Eaton, but he’s back in Houston. Kyle Tucker is a good young player that isn’t quite what Luis Robert should be, nor quite what Eloy Jimenez is. The Astros are replacing George Springer with speedster Myles Straw, who can be summed up as Nick Madrigal with a lousy batting average. Unlike the Sox with Adam Engel, there’s not much behind Straw. In fact, there’s Straw and sucking? If Springer wasn’t sprung to the Jays, this would be a tie at best or possibly titled to the Astros. But with a big question mark in CF, there’s no doubt it’s a Sox winner.

Shortstop: White Sox over Astros. Carlos Correa is not as good as he gets credit for. TA is better than he gets credit for. I’m not going to belabor this one, Correa doesn’t hit enough to match TA. Case closed. Sox take it.

Third Base: White Sox over Astros. Yoán Moncada can out sing Alex Bregman, I’m like 99% sure. Bregman was caught up in the can banging but he’s still a really really good 3B who walks a lot, strikes out a little, but had power during the happy funball era when his team was cheating. Moncada should be better than Bregman’s non-cheat years, even though both had down 2020s. This is a narrow one if Bregman shows that the cans were irrelevant, but he has more to prove than Yoyo. Put this one on the board. Yes.

Second Base: Astros over White Sox. Jose Altuve had a bad 2020, but he also had a bad knee and rebounded at the end of the year in a big way. He’s also a can-bashing question mark, but unlike Bregman has a longer track record that suggests he’s in the upper end of keystoners. Nick Madrigal will be great in his own way, but Altuve remains a more rounded bat. Less rounded garbage can. Still, Altuve has the edge.

First Base: White Sox over Astros. MVPito! Yuri Gurriel is simply not on Abreu’s level, and is almost at first by default. Good bat, garbage cans, yada yada. Abreu is just better.

Catcher: White Sox over the Astros. Jason Castro and Martin Maldonado are all glove and no stick at this point in their lengthy careers. Yasmani Grandal is entirely another level. This is comparing apples and armpits. Both can be warm and soft but only one smells better when that happens. So Grandal smells better. And is the better catcher, more importantly.

DH: Even. Yordan Alvarez and Andrew Vaughn are both youngsters who need to show that their pedigree is indeed translatable to the Big Show. And as any HHH can tell you, it certainly can be. Both guys are expected to hit, though Alvarez may have the advantage in power. After 2021 we should know. If either fails, the remaining options are probably better for the Sox, as the Astros bench is thin.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, bullpen, outfield, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and catcher, but are behind at second base and tied at DH. The Astros will be there at the end, and if they have their youth advance the way the Sox want their to advance, the match up should be fun to watch.

Without delving deep into analytics, PECOTA projecting the Astros to finish higher in their division and win the AL West is at least partly a good bet. They should take their division and win a bunch of games in the process. But we’ll see that on the Southside too…and the Sox are certainly equipped to take out the trash.

GMs Who Don’t Know What’s Known

I’m not even going to put a picture of Rick Hahn with a pithy caption. Last week Rick Hahn gave an interview where he basically said that fans don’t get how this works. He’s only saying what Gar/Pax, Ryan Pace, Jed Hoyer and Stan Bowman and their predecessors have basically told us all in the past as fans: we know what we are doing and you just need to sit there, buy stuff and cheer.

I’m paraphrasing, of course. But in a Traveling Wilburys-esque kind of way, Chicago pro GMs have always sung this harmonized tune in a town where fans are both diehard and disappointed simultaneously for decades at a time. We’ve watched the Blackhawks dynasty get dismantled for lack of cap space, but watched Bowman bristle when asked why he can’t find enough Defensemen. We are still waiting for Ryan Pace to explain how he whiffed so badly scouting Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, and how he went from drafting a QB every year at his first presser to drafting just Trubisky in his entire tenure. The smug cloud coming off Halas Hall about the state of the team and the fans not understanding it is astounding. Jed Hoyer won’t call a rebuild a rebuild when he traded his best pitcher for prospects that are years away, even though we know what the Cubs are doing. Enter Rick Hahn last week, who ignores Sox Twitter but hates Sox Twitter’s hot takes about his work, or something to that effect.

Guys, fans are smarter now. We are. We are way better informed than even 10-15 years ago. We know all the Sox prospects and the projections. We see the payrolls. We see the draft projections. We see how the team fares against the rest of the league. The information is free and plentiful. We know things. And many of us drink and know things, because as fans we care and we get obsessive. This is our hobby and escape from the otherwise unremarkable lives we lead. It gives us things to talk about with friends. And those friends are sometimes people we only know through social media and You Tube. And guess what? Through being with other fans, getting the info online, talking it out, we have opinions and context for those opinions. And the opinions are not wrong. Neither are the facts. Since we can go back and read quotes from years ago, in context, when the quotes are thrown back in a GM’s face it isn’t from slack-jawed ignorance.

As a pro GM, there will information given to you on things that go on behind the scene that fans are not privy to. Like the Sox budget. We don’t know it, but we have their payroll for 2021 so it isn’t hard to guess. Entering this off season, fans knew where the holes were that needed a free agent or a trade. We were able to look at the Padres off season and understand that they have more prospects to trade or get that the Mets and Dodgers have more money. But to get mad when fans question why ‘the money will be spent’ didn’t translate to a veteran DH and another starter? That’s not a stupid question, and in the context of failing to sign Manny Machado, fair to ask why that statement means we still have to put faith in youth like Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal or rebound candidates like Reynaldo Lopez when there were established starters and hitters that could be here. Or why 2019 and 2020’s pursuits of high-end free agents became a bargain-bin hunt in 2021. The quote isn’t being taken out of context, the moves simply stopped backing up the quote.

GMs, you get scouting reports on players. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You know their agents. You know their schools, academies, amateur leagues and histories. You get detailed financials from the team and the league. You know what the money is and what can be spent. You know the market. You get scouting reports on the league. You know what has been successful in the league and what hasn’t. You spend hours on this stuff.

So do we. And we are the ones paying the owners to pay you. And we are watching. We were here before you, we’ll be here after. Don’t tell us what we don’t know, and don’t tell us we’re ignorant. You don’t want to explain yourself? Don’t. You don’t have to explain yourself, but only because as fans we have no choice but to put our hopes into you, not because we don’t know or understand.

Chicago White Sox: When should we expect Andrew Vaughn?
Those eyes know the second pitch’s location and spin rate before the first one is thrown. Also, I think he just psychically told me to bring him a burrito.

First Game, First Impressions, Random Thoughts.

Jason Bennetti made me laugh when he said on Sunday’s broadcast of the first spring training game that with a walk in his first AB that Andrew Vaughn secured the DH job. Vaughn had two walks in the game and barely took the bat off his shoulder, admittedly not swinging at some real garbage pitches the way you’d want. Hopefully that isn’t a sign of passivity, just selectivity, and also that when he gets a strike he can hammer it. He did not do so yesterday. But then, the entire lineup kinda did nothing, totaling four hits and only two after the first inning.

I said in a prior post that Bennett Sousa is the type of NRI that can surprise and make a team, as a lefty reliever with solid minor league stats. He did not do so yesterday.

Adam Engel was merely growing on me last year but now I’m becoming a fan. There isn’t much wasted effort in his swing and he was quick and to the point in hitting that ball out of the park. I actually found myself expecting him to hammer Eric Lauer because Lauer is a lefty with middlin’ stuff and that seems to be Engel’s happy place at the plate. The fact that this thought happened before Lauer threw a pitch…I would not have had that thought before last year and I will continue to have it into this year.

Jake Burger looked over matched. He clearly needs some games played under his belt.

Zack Collins doesn’t look like a major league hitter at the plate. His swing just screams easy flyball out and in the at-bats I’ve seen him, I don’t recall hard contact. I want to see more of him to be proven wrong or so as fans we can move on.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, The Sox ran out pitchers that are of little consequence to their season and near future, while the Brewers used guys that could be of consequence. The last two, Ethan Small and Aaron Ashby, are prospects that will vie for starts sooner or later, while the first three to appear in Eric Lauer, Angel Perdomo and Justin Topa all pitched for the Brewers last year, albeit poorly.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  2. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  3. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  4. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Spring Training Edition).
  5. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  6. Lucas Giolito extension discussions equivocating to the Allen Robinson extension discussions.
  7. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  8. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  9. That Vaughn will really earn the DH role, but the Sox will play the time game with him and cause a distraction.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal! But we’ll read too much into too little…

PECOTA Can Suck an Egg Part IV: Nerds In Love

Nerds love small market teams? The Rays are nerds? I’m not sure what I was going for. Images (c) Fox and The Rays

PECOTA put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. The projections say no playoffs. Similarly dropping but still ahead of the Sox, the reigning AL Champs in Tampa…the Champas? The Rays are projected to finish behind the Yankees but ahead of the Jays in the AL East. Criticized and yet adored for their advanced stats -happy and unique handling of pitching and platoon-happy lineups, the Rays are quite a hard team to predict. Previously we looked at the Jays, The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, the St. Paul-adjacent Twins and the Yanks showing that the Sox have better talent at enough positions that they should beat out the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage easily and do no worse hang evenly with the Twins in the AL Central, whilst being better setup overall than the oddly-rotationed Yankees and the still-building Jays. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders stack up against The Houston Astros, The oddly-projected California LA Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA select your chicken embryos and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Yankees.

Also, I guess I’m saying the Rays are baseball nerds. That’s cool though.

Ranking the former Devil Rays and the White Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Rays. Inconsistent, Old, Lost, Fine and Meh, aka Tyler Glasnow, Rich Hill, Chris Archer, Ryan Yarbrough and Michael Wacha. Gone are Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, replaced by Rich Hill and Michael Wacha/Chris Archer. Wacha and Archer are reclamation projects, with Wacha’s Cardinals success seeming like an outlier while Archer is trying to go home to rediscover his glory days. Glasnow has been up and down in his career, and is hardly the legit ace that Giolito is. The Rays have promising arms standing by, but their immediate impact is questionable. The Sox’ top 3 are way above the Rays, and even though Cease, Kopech and the rest are unsettled this is still a pretty big win for the White Sox.

Bullpen: White Sox over Rays. The Rays have talent and use guys well, typically getting a solid group effort. They pioneered, sort of, the creative usages that the Sox will supposedly employ with Michael Kopech this year. The Rays’ relief are projected by Fangraphs to be decent if not plain old good. The Sox ‘pen could be elite and just being solid won’t beat the stuff that the White Sox will run out there. Nick Anderson/Diego Castillo as closers vs. Liam Hendriks is a definite tilt in the Sox favor. Even if Blake Snell return prize Luis Patiño joins the pen it won’t be enough. This isn’t as far a gap as the starters, but still a White Sox winner.

Outfield: White Sox over Rays. Both teams really can claim four starters, the Rays with post-season beast Randy Arozarena, the solid but underwhelming Kevin Kiermeier, the solid Austin Meadows and the underrated Manny Margot. The Sox have the better talent in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, and the Adams Eaton and Engel are better than Kiermeier and Margot. Arozarena will likely regress as his career numbers aren’t as good as 2020, but if Robert really breaks out he could be better than Randy at his 2020 best. Two pretty solid foursomes…still chalk one more up for the Sox.

Shortstop: White Sox over Rays. This is harder to handicap than it seems because it’s hard to say who the Rays SS is. Willy Adames is underwhelming at best and is penciled in as the starter. Ubër Prospect and oddly specific command Wander Franco waits in the wings. But Brandon Lowe can slide around the infield and so can Mike Brosseau. Assuming it’s Adames, Tim Anderson’s bat is way way better. Franco might be better down the road but he’s still an unknown. The other guys? Lowe is real good and Brosseau a good utility guy. Unless Franco comes up and lights the league afire…TA for the Sox winner.

Third Base: White Sox over Rays. Yoán Moncada, recording star and former top prospect who is looking to improve on his breakout 2019 and forget the Covid-19, versus Joey Wendle or Yandy Diaz. Diaz hits the ball stupid hard but never stays healthy for long, and Wendle is the guy I literally forgot to include in the SS breakdown a paragraph ago. Neither of them are in Moncada’s league as a player. I’ve never heard either of them sing but let’s assume they can’t touch that level of fire either.

Second Base: Rays over White Sox. Nick Madrigal is our special little schmoo, but he’s a one-ish trick pony in terms of getting on base and running. Lowe has power, and will K more than Madrigal, but still gets on base decently though he’s no thief. So power or just getting on and being a pest? Madrigal has to prove it a little more than Lowe at this point. Next year is a different story. Because Lowe will probably be playing 3B.

First Base: White Sox over Rays. MVPito! The Rays traded Nate Lowe to the Rangers, evidently committed to Ji-Man Choi, a useful but not particularly great bat, and one who will share duties with Yandy Diaz. Choi is simply not on Abreu’s level, but he’s good enough to man the position on a winner. Abreu doesn’t need to repeat MVP to be the better bet.

Catcher: White Sox over the Rays. Mike Zunino is a human glove that occasionally runs into a baseball with his bat. Francisco Mejia, once the top catching prospect in baseball, is on his third team trying to prove he can do it in the majors. Yasmani Grandal is entirely another level from the ideal backup and the draft bust. This isn’t even close.

DH: White Sox over Rays. The Rays seem likely to try and rotate at DH, using the OF depth and getting Brosseau starts in a platoon with Yoshi Tsutsugo. Yoshi hit under the Mendoza line last year, with a weak OPS. Vaughn or whoever starts the season at DH should be better, in Vaughn’s case it better be better by a bunch.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, bullpen, outfield, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, DH and catcher, but have a little catching up to do at second base. The only thing worrying about the Rays? They always have players waiting to step in. What kind of nerds plan ahead like that??

Without delving deep into analytics, PECOTA projecting the Rays to finish higher in their division and win a few more than the White Sox is not logical. Perhaps PECOTA is aping Mr. Spock in finding that the having is not so great a thing as the wanting, because the Sox have the talent and the Rays are wanting.

Depth Charges

Abbott and Costello ask a very interesting question that hopefully won’t need answering.

José Abreu tested positive for the ‘rona and immediately there was panic in the streets, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that Pito would go the way of Yoan Moncada and have a down year trying to get over Covid. Not much mention of who would cover first in his absence, because fortunately the games are over a month away.

But…injury is part of the game and the budget conscious Sox should expect that every key player will miss time. Let’s check in real quick to make sure they are adequately covered if there’s another Covid-19 scare or an injury.

Best Coverage:

OF: Adam Engel and Leury Garcia could start if needed. Luis Gonzalez, maybe Yermin Mercedes or Gavin Sheets are in the minors and looking to make the jump soon.

Bullpen: with the additions of Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet to the relief corps., the Sox won’t need to tap into their upper minors pitching depth to start the season. Bummer and possibly Heuer or Marshall could close if Liam Hendriks good the shelf. Obviously if 3-4 guys are out at once it’ll be bad.

Barely Adequate Coverage:

C: Jonathon Lucroy is a former all star and maybe gets a little magic back. Zack Collins or Seby Zavala playing daily would be an issue, though Collins would likely do better with a starting role and regular at-bats.

2B/SS: Leury again, although Danny Mendick would be problematic in long stretches.

Rotation: if the Ethan Katz mechanics massacre works with Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo Lopez, having them return to the major league starters they were supposed to be, the Sox have a 6 man rotation. Add in that sometime this season Michael Kopech is supposed to return to a starting role, plus guys like Jonathon Stiever and Jimmy Lambert in the minors, there are options. But that all still starts with Rodón and Lopez. If they resemble their 2020 selves, the Sox have a rotation depth issue.

DH: You can rotate guys, primarily the OF crew. Less of a worry, but a likely dropoff.

Naked:

1B: Last year, Yasmani Grandal was effectively the backup at first. This year, James McCann isn’t here, meaning that moving Yas out from behind the plate isn’t as easy. Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn and maybe Jake Burger would have to fill in. While Vaughn is expected to be the DH, the other two are slated for AA/AAA. Zack Collins might make the move, but that’s still a guy who has a lot to prove in the majors. Anyone else is playing out of position. This is where signing Mitch Moreland would have been useful. There’s no plan b.

3B: Yoan or no one. Effectively it’s Danny Mendick. Jake Burger has next in the minors, but just like with first he’s in need of seasoning in Charlotte (sorry). Last year the non-Yoans were Yolmer Sanchez, Cheslor Cuthbert and Ryan Goins. They all Goins away this offseason (so sorry). Ti’Quan Forbes, Zack Remillard and former Star Trek character Damek Tomscha manned 3B between AA and AAA in 2019. There’s no one in particular in camp that would serve as a long-term 3B. Andrew Vaughn? He took reps at third in Single A…that’s…that works?

So…in case of emergency…who’s on first? I don’t know…wait…that’s third base…

Wait…what?

I stumbled across a video of all eight inside the park homers from 2020 whilst having a, umm, quiet moment. Private moment, mostly quiet. The first highlight was Diamondback Kole Calhoun getting a wicked ricochet in the right field corner and the Astros getting unlucky. The fourth was Phillies CF Roman Quinn diving and having an Austin Hays liner just skip under him, the next video a Trea Turner ball over Quinn’s head caroming into left off the wall. The seventh? George Springer gets a lucky bounceinto center after sending a fly off the left field wall. The last one was Mets 1B Dominic Smith playing left field and getting hurt hitting the wall, letting the ball trickle away. All variations on bad luck with one bad gamble.

The three I didn’t mention? Pure comedy of errors. In the sixth highlight, Byron Buxton crushes one to center and the CF leaps, falls on the landing and the ball goes over his head, bouncing past him off the wall. The fourth highlight? JaCoby Jones of the Tigers lines one to center, and the CF just flat misses the catch. Right through him. Ball to the wall. The second highlight? Easy fly to left, LF misses it, crashes into the seats on the left field line, gets caught in the net, but recovers too late to get Christian Yelich.

In case you don’t recall the last one, it was Eloy Jimenez. More worryingly? Buxton victimized Luis Robert and Sizzle Jones’ liner featured Adam Engel with le whiff.

I remembered Eloy, forgot Luis and Adam, and in juxtaposition to the other parkers…let’s just say I’m glad I was sitting where I was sitting.

Yikes.

PECOTA Can Suck an Egg Part III: Can You Take Me High Enough?

Tommy Shaw evidently took too long in the shower and almost missed the shoot. Can’t blame him. Hair like that, it takes time.

PECOTA put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. The projections say no playoffs. So Where You Goin’ Now? To compare the Sox to the Damn Yankees. Not the circa 1989 rock supergroup, the circa 2021 Bronx Bombers. Previously we looked at The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage and the Twinkie Weiner Sandwiches, showing that the Sox have better talent at enough positions that they should beat out the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage easily and do no worse hang evenly with the Twins. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders stack up against The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA git them suckin’ eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Yankees.

I am also not taking into account injuries or early spring training ravings.

Ranking the Yanks and Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Yankees. If the Yankees rotation was a band, they’d be Gerrit Cole and The Flyers. Jordan Montgomery, Cory Kluber and Jameson Taillon are all returning from injury and the 5th spot will be a rookie or a guy that just served the longest domestic violence suspension the league has ever doled out. Eventually, Luis Severino will come back…from injury. Assuming the best doesn’t help here because Taillon has very little in his track record, Montgomery the same, and Kluber is 34 and regression could be hitting him. Cole and Giolito are both legit aces, with Cole being the more established. Dallas Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner and Lance Lynn has very recently received Cy Young votes. The Sox top 3 are solid, and even though Cease, Kopech and the rest are unsettled the margin is still in favor of the White Sox.

Bullpen: Pick ’em. Aroldis Chapman vs. Liam Hendriks at closer are decently comparable to each other, though Hendriks is the top guy at the moment. The Yankees pen is veteran and very solid, the Sox pen is young and potentially electric. One could regress from age and use, the other from age and inexperience. I think in terms of stuff, the Sox could be running out an all-timer but there’s something to be said about having been there and struck that out.

Outfield: White Sox over Yankees. Aaron Judge and Eloy Jiménez both mash and are qualified to wield The Staff of Cork and Kerry. Luis Robert is way better than Aaron Hicks, who is also not as good as Adam Eaton, or maybe even Adam Engel. Clint Frazier looks like a good player, but he’s unproven and any advantage he has over Eaton is swallowed by Hicks’ deficit. Even at the fourth OF, Brett Gardner is on the downslope and Adam Engel would probably start over him or at least platoon with him…on the Yankees. If Frazier really breaks out and Eaton slumps, this is closer to even. But if Robert really breaks out…this is well ahead for the Sox.

Shortstop: White Sox over Yankees. Tim Anderson’s bat vs. Gleyber Torres’ bat. Torres was a monster in 2019, launching 38 bombs after sending 24 long distance the year prior. Last year he projected to hit somewhere around 10 taters. That’s not a lot of taters. Torres doesn’t run and carries a career .271 average, so without power he’s awfully pedestrian. TA, meanwhile, was batting champ in 2019, and nearly so in 2020; he also runs more and has some power as well. Torres going back to 40 bombs narrows the gap but Anderson is more dangerous at the plate more often.

Third Base: White Sox over Yankees. Yoán Moncada, a good defender who might just be the White Sox best all-around player versus the incredibly solid Gio Urshela is pretty close. But Urshela has a lower floor and we may have seen his ceiling, a nice 10′ without the popcorn crap on it, but Moncada is getting better and his ceilings are at least 12′ and vaulted.

Second Base: Yankees over White Sox. DJ LeMahieu has become something special in the Bronx. Nick Madrigal is also special, but in his own way. Why do I feel like I’m trying to pick my favorite kid? LeMahieu is up there in the best 2B conversation, Madrigal has a lot to prove, no contest here.

First Base: White Sox over Yankees. MVPito! Luke Voit is expected to have a monster season, but he is also hoping that projection means that he is Jose Abreu when he grows up. Abreu is already himself all grown up, and the work ethic and attention to his craft means that he isn’t likely to regress below Voit’s ceiling. Also, fun fact, Voit’s 30 so he’s entering that decline phase too.

Catcher: White Sox over the Yankees. Gary Sánchez went from the best offensive catcher in baseball to his stats being offensive…smelling. There’s talk he’ll be platooned with Kyle Higashioka. Yes, THAT Kyle Higashioka. Yas Grandal is clearly the best catcher in baseball, with JT Realmuto being hurt. This isn’t even close.

DH: Yankees over White Sox. Giancarlo Stanton is one of the biggest power hitters in the game and paid like it too. Andrew Vaughn projects to have a higher average but nowhere near the power. Also, Vaughn hasn’t done it yet at the major league level and Stanton has, and boy howdy has he.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, outfield, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop and catcher, have a pretty equal bullpen, but are well behind at second base and DH. In a playoff series, especially a short one, there’s little chance the Yankees can hang in based on the pitching deficit.

Without delving deep into analytics, what PECOTA says about the Yankees being the better team doesn’t ring true. Damn Yankees a supergroup? Didn’t even rank in the Top 10-20.

Michaeleen Oge Flynn has set the ground rules. If you please.

Position Fights to Watch: Now and All Season

We talked a little about actual position battles in spring training, and there will be some that carry over into the season and beyond. Sit back and watch the fights unfold. But…if you please, these are private fights. The Marquis of Queensbury rules will be observed on all occasions. Non-belligerents will kindly remain neutral. Now, shake hands and come out fighting. I thank you.

Backup catcher:

Spring Fight: Jonathon Lucroy as a veteran makes sense as Grandal’s backup, and he’ll get slack for a weak bat in spring as a receiver first, bat bonus guy. If Zack Collins was ever going to make the team, his time is running out. Yermin Mercedes’ bat tends to outweigh his glove behind the plate, while Seby Zavala might have the inside track to unseat Lucroy if a youngster is going to do so. Mind your nose, Squire.

Season Fight: Figure Mercedes to try and win a different fight, and Zevala’s abilities behind the plate to fall short of Lucroy. If Collins doesn’t win another battle he’ll have to find a way to reinvent himself at Charlotte.

Fifth Starter:

Spring Fight: Carlos vs. Reynaldo vs. Bernardo Jr. vs. Jonathan vs. Jimmy vs…it feels like the Royal Rumble. Oddly, Michael Kopech is probably a non-belligerent remaining at neutral this spring. Ethan Katz is overhaulin’ the veterans’ mechanics, getting Rodon to cross his body less and compacting Lopez. But the real difference maker is who can swing the best…take that were you want but in this context it means who can transition to the ‘pen best. That might be someone like Lambert or Flores.

Season Fight: It is Kopech’s job come the second half. Who stays in the bullpen or forces a tough choice will come down to performance. Lopez and Rodon have had their chances, if one of the kids lays claim they could make things interesting.

Right Field:

Spring Fight: Wait, what? Adam Eaton, right? Engel is the 4th outfielder, anyone else is slated for the minors. Is this a courting or a donnybrook?

Season Fight: Engel, Gavin Sheets, Luis Gonzalez and Adam Eaton are all trying out for next year and the future of the position. Sheets’ showing in spring will be especially interesting, as he profiles to what the Sox want in RF, a lefty power compliment to to Eloy Jimenez. Gonzalez will be trying to prove that he can be the good all-around OF prospect, in particular to take Engel’s place as the fourth in the trio if Engel takes his game up a notch too. All of them are gunning to send Adam Eaton out of town, and Eaton should be trying to stay.

DH:

Spring Fight: Andrew Vaughn versus whoever comes at him. No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats. Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes in particular are looking to take the position and send Vaughn into AAA. Gavin Sheets, Nick Williams, Adam Engel, Jake Burger…anyone not in the starting 9 really…but those six are the ones that seem to have the most fight in them. Vaughn may not start the season with the big club regardless. If Vaughn rakes in the spring, you’ll see Engel and Garcia rotating into the lineup and once Vaughn’s called up DH will be his.

Season Fight: If Vaughn wins the battle, he has to perform all year. Bottom line. If, say, Zack Collins comes out hitting or NRI Nick Williams regains his form from the pre-Bryce Harper Phillies, or Gavin Sheets outhits Vaughn, then they have to keep it up all season. Basically, one small misstep and the next guy is coming in. There are no non-belligerents.

Second base:

Spring Fight: Wait, what? Madrigal!! Nick Magical!! Yeah, except Tim Beckham and Leury Garcia are there if LaRussa isn’t convinced that the rookie is ready. Shouldn’t we put a stop to it now? Ah, we should, lad, yes, we should, it’s our duty!

Season Fight: There really isn’t one. Madrigal will take the gig eventually, but he needs to show health and brains right out of the gate. If he’s making errors on the basepaths or in any way injured in the spring, figure Leury to man the position until Nick’s ready.

Bullpen:

Spring Fight: Hendriks, Bummer, Crochet, Marshall, Foster, Heuer are all givens, except that Codi and Matt have to show they still belong. The long relief spot seems answered with the news that Kopech will be used “creatively”, meaning he’s probably carrying a pen spot, although he could just be an opener for Crochet, Carlos or Reynaldo, or Lambert, or…the list goes on. There is still at least 1-2 spots open, with Jace Fry out and Jimmy Cordero underwhelming last year. Figure NRIs and unheralded youngin’s to come looking for their chance. Cordero will get first crack at keeping a spot, with Lopez and Rodón the leaders in filling it out.

Season Fight: Bullpens are always in flux, never as solid as “When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey; and when I drink water, I drink water.” That Cordero spot and the long relief spot are probably going to be used to bring guys in and out for spot starts and fresh arms.

Closer:

Spring Fight: It was cute of Liam Hendriks to say he hadn’t earned it yet, but really…uhhh…could Aaron Bummer take it from him? No, right? No. No. He can try. He’ll regret it til his dying day, if he lives that long.

Season Fight: Bummer will close a game here and there and you might see others get one but you don’t sign the best closer in the game and have him not close the game.

Well it’s a nice, soft night, so I think I’ll go and join me comrades and talk a little treason. That’s enough fighting until next spring.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Dylan Cease being declared a Cy young candidate, World Series or bust, the hyperbole better just be confidence and not hubris.
  2. That PECOTA measures hubris.
  3. Ethan Katz’ lone talent being “changing _______’s mechanics”.
  4. New mechanics=no change in results.
  5. Adam Eaton being viewed as a tough leader after Drake LaRoche.
  6. I can’t keep Nick Williams’ name out of my mouth. It’s becoming the new ” if Giolito blows his arm out” crutch.
  7. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (For all seasons).
  8. That the movie I quoted above has such a cringey view of marriage and domestic life, that it shouldn’t be referenced in 2021 without a Disney+ style warning that it shouldn’t have been ok then and it isn’t now. They put that on the Muppet Show.
  9. That Vaughn won’t really earn the DH role, but the Sox pot-committed and he’ll be in there ready or not.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Spring Training! Everything is awesome for the next few weeks!

PECOTA Can Suck An Egg Part II: Twinkies and Anger

A Twinkie Weiner Sandwich. Because why wouldn’t I post this…and because I can’t bring myself to post an actual Minnesota Twins picture.

Here we are, continuing to rail against PECOTA puttting the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Previously we looked at The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, showing that outside the rotation the Sox have better talent at every position, assuming Andrew Vaughn is better than Franmil Reyes. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders attack up against The Minnesota Twins, The New York Yankees, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA grab another dozen eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Twins.

I am also certain that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. I’ll get grumpy about that below.

Ranking the Twins and Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Twins. José Berrios, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker are a veteran group, with Happ and Shoemaker being reclamation projects after a bad 2020 and a slew of injuries, respectively. Up until the Shoemaker signing, the Twins were headed to a fight amongst a few guys for that fifth spot, and since Shoemaker is made of spun sugar they’re still looking at Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer anyway. Also, actual German person Max Kepler might drive Happ crazy by pronouncing his first name phonetically as “Jyahh” like the dude’s name is Yes Happ. Happ is at the twilight of his career and was good for the Yankees in 2019 but struggled in 2020. Shoemaker is good when healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy in years. Still, he’s a better gamble than Carlos Rodón. Cease might be better than Happ, but maybe not. Where the Sox tip the scale however slightly is in the top three. Berrios and Giolito are both legit aces, with Giolito maybe having a next gear. Maeda was a boss last year in his first with the Twins, but so was Dallas Keuchel in his fiirst with the Sox. Difference is Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner and Maeda was the Dodger’s swing man, so take your pick. Lance Lynn is much better than Pineda. Those top 3 are more important than the back end, and given the unrest in both back ends, the narrow margin is still in favor of the White Sox.

Bullpen: White Sox over Twins. Taylor Rogers or Alex Colomé vs. Liam Hendriks at closer is no contest. Colomé was jettisoned for Hendriks and Rogers’ grip on the job is such that Colomé is now a Twin. The rest…well, other than Rogers no Twins reliever is projected by Fangraphs to have an ERA under 4.00, which is not good. By comparison, the only Sox relievers expected to be over 4.00 are basically rookies in Codi Heuer and Matt Foster, joined by Jimmy Cordero and Reynaldo Lopez who don’t have guaranteed spots. Foster and Heuer may not be high-leverage guys all the time, either, and the well-projected foursome of Hendriks, Bummer, Marshall and Crochet make this a Sox winner.

Outfield: White Sox over Twins. Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez are matched in talent on the Twins maybe by Byron Buxton, who makes Matt Shoemaker look like Bruce Willis in “Unbreakable”. Eddie Rosario is a Clevelander, leaving LF open to top prospect Alex Kiriloff, who is ready; topish prospect Trevor Larnach, who is not; and perennial fourth OF Jake Cave, who just kinda is. Kiriloff projects as “good Andrew Benintendi”, which is “not as good as Eloy Jimenez”. Adam Eaton has less power than Max Kepler, but Eaton has the better all-around game and track record. Max Kepler fell into some bad old habits in 2020, making his breakout questionable. Even if Kiriloff arrives, Cave and Larnach will get too much play in this OF unless they can bubble wrap Buxton. Luis and Eloy are on the way up still, and the sky’s the limit. Plus, Adam Engel should be better than Jake Cave, even though both sound like frontmen for a 90’s one-hit-wonder.

Shortstop: White Sox over Twins. Tim Anderson’s bat vs. Andrelton Simmons’ glove. Simmons was a really nice grab for the Twins, and makes them a much better team than Jorge Polanco at SS. But Simmons is a good bat/great glove versus Anderson as a great bat/good glove. TA isn’t as terrible as his early reputation in the field, making the fielding gap closer, and he’s the far better hitter at this point. To tilt this to the Twins you’d have to dig pretty deep into the metrics to see if Simmons can save more runs than Anderson produces.

Third Base: Pick ’em. Yoán Moncada vs. Josh Donaldson. I’d take Moncada for a number of reasons, mostly that Donaldson seems like a headcase, but Donaldson is undeniably a monster at the plate. If you compare their careers at the end, Moncada will likely have the better one, but for 2021 they both suck to pitch to.

Second Base: Twins over White Sox. Jorge Polanco had a breakout 2019 but has had ankle issues fixed two off-seasons in a row, which hampered him in 2020 and the fear for the Twins is that it’ll slow him down in 2021. Option B is Luis Arraez, who is Nick Madrigal-esque in being a high-contact, no-power, speed guy. Madrigal is considered to be the better of the two prospect-wise, and Arraez couldn’t hold the gig last year. Polanco has more power, Madrigal at this point might be the better runner. If Polanco is fully healthy, he would have a slight edge as more of an all-around bat.

First Base: White Sox over the Twins. MVPito! Abreu is a better hitter than Miguel Sanó, who has power but not the overall ability. Fangraphs projects Sanó to out-bomb Abreu 42 to 33, but Abreu is projected to have a higher average and an OPS that’s a mere 0.1 lower. The added ten taters, in other words, don’t mean all that much and you can’t argue with the reigning MVP.

Catcher: White Sox by a metric tonne over the Twins. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Twins have the duo of Ryan Jeffers and the enigma of Mitch Garver. Jeffers is not known as a particularly good receiver, but a decent bat. Garver was a breakout hitter in 2019 and a total disaster in 2020, and unremarkable to below average before 2019. If Garver goes back to his 2019 production he gets closer to Yasmani Grandal, but Garver’s 2019 seems like a fluke, and Jeffers is now the guy.

DH: Twins over White Sox. Nelson Cruz is ridiculous. He’s about to turn 41. Three years ago when that was me, my knee gave up just pushing a stroller around the Milwaukee Zoo. Cruz just keeps launching. Until further notice, Cruz is probably the best DH in the league (stuff it Giancarlo Stanton). Andrew Vaughn does not project to have the power and average combo that Cruz has had and Sox fans should hope Vaughn has Nellie Cruz’ career.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, bullpen, outfield, first baseman, shortstop and catcher, are tied at third base, and are just behind or tied at second base, with only DH as a clear victory for the Twins. It is pretty tight all around though, meaning that the Twins are going to be an issue for the Sox all season.

Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what PECOTA says about the Twins being the better team is plausible, but still seems wrong. If everything goes right on the Twins and things go poorly for the Sox, sure. If both teams are at full strength? The Sox have plenty of edge on the Twins. PECOTA, I’ll let you skip sucking an egg because this is close, but you can’t enjoy that Twinkie Wiener Sandwich either. Maybe just take a nose full of Cheez Whiz on this one.

10 Guys that if signed by the Sox for what they got elsewhere would be better use of $3 Million than on some guys. Ok, one certain guy. One that I’m no way mad about the White Sox signing when they have a budget issue and he solved no issues for them. Not mad. Nosireebob.

Yeah, don’t hide or pretend you don’t know that I’m talking about you. And…are…are you pooping on the mound? Photo from NBC Sports

So, in a year where the Sox could stand some new tools in their quest to build a championship team, a familiar tool in Carlos Rodón was re-signed for $3 million for the 2021 season. I’ve gone over it before, but the returning lefty starter seems even more superfluous now. Michael Kopech’s impressive workouts have become a throwing session that impressed Tony LaRussa on day one, and add that to louder rumblings of what we already knew: that the Sox expect Kopech to be a key starter this year and sooner rather than later. So why sign a guy to start only 5-10 games who struggles from the bullpen? Even starting Kopech at AAA, April (and even May) could be covered and patched by any number of guys that either have better track records or might have better flexibility than someone who was seemingly out of the plans when he was non-tendered. While that list of guys certainly could include what the Sox have on hand, the budget-strapped Rick Hahn chose Rodón over other help. Let’s not forget that the open and obvious anointing of Andrew Vaughn as the DH could still go south, especially with no one of note competing with him. As teams report and spring rosters are finalized, it turns out $3 million could have been spent on one or both of a DH and a swing man/5th starter. White Sox fans, you’ll be right to be angry if these players succeed where they landed, and/or if Rodón doesn’t beat out Reynaldo Lopez or one of the kids and the DH solution is Leury Garcia. Warning, the following list may cause irritation, sleeplessness, eye twitches, screamers lung, restless lung, the yips, “backne”, suggestive fingers, a pox upon ye, mild depression, nostril fatigue and excessive stool. All these are one-year deals picked for likelihood to help the Sox, and sorted by cost high to low.

  1. Rich Hill, $2.5 million. Old, yeah, but really good since 2017 for playoff teams including the Dodgers, Twins, and now the Rays.
  2. Brett Anderson, $2.5 million. Finally in good health after some lost years, he was a key starter on a good A’s 2019 club before toiling in a lost Brewers season last year. A solid 4 being asked to be a 5 by the Sox, he could be the Brewers’ 3.
  3. Mitch Moreland, $2.25 million. The guy can still hit and would be a good DH candidate for a contender. A contender like the A’s. The A’s who just signed him. Why not let Vaughn try to hit his way past Moreland’s lefty power bat? The lefty power bat that the Sox were at one point clamoring for? That lefty bat is Adam Eaton I guess?
  4. Matt Shoemaker, $2 million. Often hurt, but has had better seasons than Carlos Rodón when healthy. Don’t forget that Rodón has been hurt quite a bit too. Both physically and statistically. We will get to see Shoemaker when healthy, as a Twin. Anyone taking odds on these two starting against each other and how that goes?
  5. Collin McHugh, $1.8 million. An actual accomplished swing man that could have held the 5th starter spot to let Kopech get some AAA reps before hitting the pen when Kopech returns. And McHugh would do so without his wife Tweeting comments.
  6. Asdrúbal Cabrera, $1.75 million. The guy can hit and play several positions, and if Vaughn were to stumble this spring, there’d be worse DH candidates than Cabrera.
  7. Jay Bruce, minor league deal. Power hitting lefty bat that could DH until Vaughn is truly ready, or just get released if Vaughn is truly ready.
  8. Derek Dietrich, minor league deal. The guy can play several positions, and hit double-digit HR every year since 2017, projecting out his 5 last year in a part time role. Another lefty bat on the cheap to compete for DH at no risk.
  9. Mike Montgomery, minor league deal. An actual accomplished swing man that could have held the 5th starter spot to let Kopech get some AAA reps before hitting the pen when Kopech returns. And Monty would do so without his wife Tweeting comments. And he’s a lefty.
  10. Renato Nunez, minor league deal. Whacked 43 homers over the past two years. And I don’t mean he whacked 43 versions of the animated fat guy. He hit 43 Homeruns wherein he struck the ball with adequate loft and velocity to clear the outfield fence with a fair ball, allowing him to touch all four bases unimpeded. He’s a legit DH that cost basically nothing. For the Tigers.

Just…ugh. My lungs feel weird, I’m not sure what my fingers are doing and my nose is oddly tired. If you need me I’ll be in the can.

PECOTA CAN SUCK AN EGG: Part I

I don’t think you’re happy enough. That’s right, I’ll teach you to be happy! I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs! – Your Old Pal Stinky Wizzleteats

So last week the revered PECOTA deigned to release their preseason projections and put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Obviously there’s a flaw in the machinery and I’m not going to delve into a rant about believing in my team when no one else does. Instead, over the next six posts I’ll compare the Sox, in order, to: The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, The Minnesota Twins, The New York Yankees, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. I did a similar comparison to The Toronto/Buffalo Blue Jays last week. I don’t know that the revamped Royals, or the Mariners, Angels, Red Sox, Rangers are going to contend for wild card, and the Tigers and Orioles…further we sayeth naught. I’ll tackle the NL contenders at playoff time if Chris hasn’t fired me. So without further ado, PECOTA grab an egg and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Indians. Yeah, I’ll call the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage “Indians” for this exercise.

I am also assuming that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. Right now there are starting pitchers that the Sox could use (Taijuan Walker, Brett Anderson, a few more) and only a couple bats (Mitch Moreland. Now.) that would change the demeanor of the White Sox.

Ranking the teams by position:

Rotation: Indians over White Sox. It isn’t that great a divide, but the Indians are only choosing a fifth starter between former Padre Cal Quantrill, who pitched well after the Clevinger trade, and the likes of LHP Logan Allen who was at one point a decent prospect (a la Reynaldo Lopez). Otherwise, they have Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and solid a 2-3 of Zac Plesac and Aaron Civale, with the potentially outstanding Triston McKenzie fourth (he showed way more than Cease last year). The Sox match up well with the top three in Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, but have issues at both 4 and 5. If, and maybe that oughta be IF, Dylan Cease fixes his command and Michael Kopech returns and both deliver on their high-end prospect status, the gap is closed. If they don’t, it could widen.

Bullpen: White Sox over Indians. Liam Hendriks is the best closer in the game, with “old man” Evan Marshall (31) and the young and trending up Bummer, Foster, Fry, Heuer, and Crochet. The Indians will try James Karinchak at closer (think Codi Heuer) and fill in decently around him with youth, but they just aren’t as good.

Outfield: White Sox over Indians. Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez are top end talents and should continue to produce as such. Eddie Rosario is a wash or at best a touch better than Adam Eaton, with Rosario having more power but Eaton the better all-around game. Each has a career WAR that averages around 2 wins above per season. The Indians will run Oscar Mercado out in center, who was serviceable in 2019 and a disaster last year, and at best nowhere near Luis Robert. The Indians RF is yet to be decided but unless guys like Jordan Luplow and/or Jake Bauers and/or Daniel Johnson have naked pictures of you, no one has much positive to say about them.

Shortstop: White Sox over Indians. Tim Anderson won the batting title in 2019, came close in 2020 and the Indians have Andrés Giménez. He might win in diacritical marks in his name, but he won’t touch Anderson in production as Giménez has a minors career .278 average and .761 OPS. They could go with Amed Rosario, he of the career .268 avg. and .705 OPS. If they had kept Smiley Lindor, this might be tipped the tribe’s way but they didn’t, so the gap is massively in favor of the Sox.

Third Base: Pick ’em. Yoán Moncada is a complete hitter and José Ramírez was Yoán Moncada before Yoán Moncada. They even are close in diacritical marks. You could give Ramírez a slight edge for being more established, but Moncada has a chance to be better than him. Frankly, if the Indians want Nick Madrigal for Ramírez, I’d move Ramírez back to 2B in a nanosecond. But that’s not important right now. Or..is it?

Second Base: White Sox over Indians. César Hernández is one of those really solid players that good teams have as glue and bad teams treat as top players. He’s also not as potentially good as Nick Madrigal in that Madrigal should be able to steal more with a much higher average and OBP. Neither should have much power. I’m projecting Madrigal a bit, but he has some pluses that the Indians options lack.

First Base: White Sox by a country mile over the Indians. MVPito! The Indians have…Josh Naylor penciled in. Other than having a contender for the best porn name in baseball, Josh Naylor is not the answer to a question anyone is asking.

Catcher: White Sox by a couple country miles over the Indians. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Indians have the duo of Roberto Pérez and the accounting firm or shrubbery warehouse Austin Hedges. Combined, the Indians catchers can’t hit anything and wouldn’t be able to unseat Zack Collins let alone Jonathon Lucroy as the backup on the Sox.

DH: Indians over White Sox (for now). Franmil Reyes isn’t great, but he’s pretty damn good. He’s a typical high power/low average/high K slugger. Vaughn should be the better of the two in short order, but Reyes is established as that prototypical DH that the Sox presently can only speculate that they have.

Position by position, the White Sox have the best bullpen, outfield, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and catcher, are are just behind at starting rotation, and tied at third base. Where they are behind, using 2020 WAR for both projected rotations, the Indians are at 7.3 combined (Quantrill 5th) and the Sox are at 5.3 (Cease 4th, Kopech 5th using his 2018 WAR of 0.1). That number should get closer with improvements to Cease and Kopech, and maybe McKenzie or Quantrill drop a bit. Meanwhile in the field, the Sox 2020 WAR is 10.8 (with Leury Garcia as the DH!!), versus a 6.9 with the best lineup for the Indians.

Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what the absolute hell is PECOTA doing here? There’s no way that the Sox are worse than the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Go suck that egg. Bring some grandmas too. We can teach them.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. PECOTA has been right at times.
  2. My 5.3 combined WAR for the Sox rotation up there becomes 4.6 if Carlos Rodón is the 5th starter.
  3. If the Sox had Rich Hill and Collin McHugh at their combined $4.3 million instead of Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease at their combined $3.575 million, the collective WAR for the Sox rotation up there becomes 6.3. (I’d still keep Cease though.)
  4. Andrew Vaughn’s WAR is projected to be negative by Depth Chart, Steamer and ZiPS.
  5. Fans will be in the stands at spring training, and the State of Illinois will declare that fans can attend sporting events on a limited basis in March, but the collective head-up-the-assery of the governments of Cook County and the City of Chicago will keep G-Rate, Wrigley and the UC closed until August.
  6. That we got mildly excited at Connor Sadzeck signing a minor league deal.
  7. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Spring Training edition).
  8. Nick Madrigal’s stunning lack of power after they re-deaden the ball.
  9. That I’m actually irritated that the Sox didn’t sign Rich Hill because he’d be under budget.
  10. And warming up in the pen: 1,438 stories about Codify by next weekend. Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday!

THE SERENE SCENE THAT IS YOUR 2021 WHITE SOX

Image result for serenity now
Frank Costanza…Sox Fandom incarnate.

Serenity Now?!?

We’re trying to stay positive. Really. Super positive. The Sox are a good team. Really good. They have very few holes in their lineup. They have rising stars in LF, CF, 3B, SS, 2B; one of the top two catchers in baseball and the reigning AL MVP at 1B. Their RF and DH are human persons who have played baseball, with decent success and not enough to be sure, respectively. They have a very solid bullpen with best closer in baseball. They have a great set of top three starters, and two-three guys behind them with potential. These are good things!!

And yet…moves get made by other teams and one can’t help but feel the White Sox missed a chance to get better.

We’re at the time of the off-season where teams are grabbing vets on minor league deals. These are risk-free deals essentially because the players are not added to the 40-man roster and generally have to figure their way on. The Sox signed one guy early on, former Phillies OF Nick Williams. As I wrote at the time, he’s a candidate to take DH at-bats if Vaughn doesn’t, or take RF at-bats in the event of injury. They also have IF Tim Beckham…because he must have pictures Rick Hahn didn’t want to come out.

But the Sox let a few others slide by this week that makes you wonder if they aren’t just being too positive about the team as it stands.

Jed Lowrie signed with the A’s. He spent 2019 and 2020 hurt, but the switch hitting 2B, when healthy, isn’t far off of what Tommy LaStella would be. If he isn’t healthy…buh bye. If he’s healthy…he’s maybe the A’s starting 2B. And they’re a contender.

Adam Duvall reinvented himself as a Brave, mashing taters at a solid clip in a part time roll. He was signed for $2 million with a team option. Cheap power that lets Andrew Vaughn marinate in AAA or best Duvall in spring and send the guy out elsewhere.

Renato Nuñez. I had suggested Renato back when we were still coming to the conclusion that maybe the money wouldn’t be spent. Sure enough, the Tigers grabbed the DH/alleged infielder on a minor league deal. Nuñez launched 43 bombs as the Orioles DH in 2019-2020. Had 2020 been a full year, that might be over 60 dingers, 31 in 2019 and 12 over 52 games in 2020. Why he’s not worth bringing in as competition for Vaughn is astounding.

Lastly, the Red Sox traded Andrew Benintendi for Franchy Cordero, a 26-year-old OF with a checkered MLB career but potential still there, and the Royals 8th best Prospect. That would translate to roughly Adam Engel and Micker Adolfo. Benintendi was really good in 2017 and 2018, decent in 2019 and hurt in 2020. To hear the Red Sox side of things, Benintendi is Nomar Mazara levels of bad. But the numbers suggest he’s a good guy to have at the bottom of a lineup and possibly better.

But positivity is the word this week, right? So there’s upside in standing pat on these guys, right? Yeah, sure. Lowrie hasn’t played in a couple years, and might need more than spring training to get back to anything useful. Duvall and Nuñez are limited as right-handed, middlin average guys with power, and that’s an easy find. That’s a bench spot that could easily be Yermin Mercedes, or Jake Burger, and veteran or not they certainly don’t profile better than what Andrew Vaughn should be. Benintendi might not return to form. He’s also probably in need of playing daily; Adam Eaton is a better option because he isn’t in such a funk and Adam Engel might be a better fit in this team right now as the fourth OF.

Staying positive on staying in-house, the biggest issues facing the Sox are whether their best hitting prospect is ready to contribute and whether they will get growth from their fourth starter and find a reasonable fifth starter. But there are candidates in-house and NRI guys to fill both beyond the expected Andrew Vaughn and Carlos Rodón.

DH candidates: Gavin Sheets is trying to play his way into Adam Eaton’s job, and while his numbers aren’t awe-inspiring as first basemen go, his career .280 average and .766 OPS over 301 games in the minors coupled with some added flexibility as he converts to an OF might make for an interesting case if he out-hits Vaughn in spring training. I mentioned Nick Williams above and made my case for him earlier, but if he gets back to 2017-2018 he’s a nice option too. Yermin Mercedes was a guy that pre-Covid shutdown people thought had made a case to be on the 2020 roster, has a career .302 average and .857 OPS in over 600 minor league games averaging 21 homers per 162 games. If he mashes in spring training maybe he gets the first crack at DH, even as a third catcher. If you ever think Zack Collins will hit, he really has this year to show it, even if that means he’s a third catcher. NRI MATT Reynolds has never done anything in the majors but has better minors numbers and maybe he shows something. For those worried about Vaughn, the competition he faces isn’t sexy or big-name, but there are guys that are legitimately gunning to wield The Staff of Cork and Kerry as the DH. See? Positive!!

What about the 4th and 5th starters? Dylan Cease is changing his motion to get more control, and trying to repeat exactly what Lucas Giolito did in his turnaround. Time will tell, but Cease has a great set of footsteps to follow and appears to want to follow them precisely. Let’s say that Reynaldo Lopez was a victim of the weird start and stop and start again to the 2020 season and never got his arm right. Let’s say that he and Ricky and Coop never quite got on the same page in 2019, but his head is more tuned to Tony LaRussa and more importantly, Ethan Katz. Let’s say we get 2018 Reynaldo…with the 3.91 ERA, 1.272 WHIP and 9.7 K/9…that’s not a far cry from 2019 Lance Lynn, he of the 3.67 ERS, 1.219 WHIP and 10.6 K/9. There’s also Jonathon Stiever, who had two bad games with the big club last year but is a legitimate prospect who has a career 10 K/9 versus a paltry 1.9 BB/9. And…Michael…something. Co-Pet? Korpit? Coatitch? Whatever the guy’s name is he hasn’t pitched in a bit after TJ, but when it counts, down the stretch, he could be ready to roll and be rolling like the presumed ace he was before he was hurt. In the early going they may not even need a 5th starter all the time, but when they do, there are legit options! Positivity!!

NRI’s on which to keep an eye

This is Connor. He is from Crystal Lake, IL and does a puffy cheek thing when he pitches. Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The White Sox have 21 Non-Roster Invitees and very few of them are of any consequence, but here are the ones that you might hear tell of by the start of the season.

Jonathan Lucroy, as we discussed on the podcast, is a former all-star catcher who is perpetually traded at the deadline. That at least means that his skills are perpetually valued by contenders, always a good sign. He won’t be used as much as James McCann (at least you’d figure) and will be hitting primarily in favorable matchups. The question will be less about his bat and more about whether he’s better behind the plate than Collins, Mercedes or Seby Zavala. Lucroy is reportedly a fan of the coaching staff and his buy-in and experience probably makes him the opening day backup catcher. Watch whether he gets matched up with Giolito and/or Lance Lynn, who threw regularly to backups James McCann and Jeff Mathis.

Connor Sadzeck (pictured above) is a reliever that has a career 2.18 ERA in 33 games (33 innings) for the Rangers and Mariners. His 34 career strikeouts make him intriguing, his 26 career walks make him a project for Ethan Katz. If he finds command in the spring, he could sneak into the pen as a middle reliever.

Bennett Sousa sounds made up but he’s a lefty reliever with 63 games in the minors and a 2.06 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP built on a 10.25 K/9 over 1.8 BB/9 stat line. Another guy who could sneak in, especially if he gets righties out.

Tim Beckham is an infielder who you will be told was the #1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, eight picks ahead of the unrelated Gordon “The Savior” Beckham, who himself was 31 picks ahead of Lance Lynn, who was eight picks after the clearly fictional Tulane pitcher Shooter Hunt (really). You’ll also be told that Beckham (Tim) has never lived up to the lofty status of a #1 overall guy, even though he was pinched for PEDs and served an 80-game timeout. And he’s Danny Mendick’s problem now.

Emilio Vargas won’t make the team in all likelihood, but during one of his starts if it is broadcast, you’ll hear that he cleared waivers and came back to the Sox after being let go to make room for Carlos Rodon. What they won’t mention is that this Sox prospect was therefore unwanted by every team in baseball. Shoot, that was kind of negative.

Andrew Vaughn…evidently the guy can hit a baseball with repeated success. Feels like he could be a good story to watch. The fact that there are only his fellow prospects, Nick Williams and Matt Reynolds as competition makes me think we already know the ending. But since when is having your best prospect make the team a bad thing??

PECOTA can suck an egg: Future Positivity

The PECOTA projections came out and have the Sox third in the AL Central, finishing around .500. I declare shenanigans on that and you, the person, artificial intelligence or undefinable creature reading this can look forward to this here Blog breaking down the position-by-position matchup between the White Sox and other contenders, starting with the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage on the next entry. I’m positive this will go well and my analysis, whilst lacking the science and mathematics of others, will definitively prove the Sox are even with or ahead of their peers. Positivity!!!!

(gulp)

Comparing Contenders’ CA$H and More FOMO

Surely the Padres are the spending model for the White Sox? Padres Logo Tm The San Diego Padres, cash Tm The United States of America.

Last Shots at Jerry’s Budget

“Aren’t payrolls down across baseball?” was a question on Twitter in response to the February 6 Sox In The Basement episodic rant against Jerry Reinsdorf going cheap on the off-season. Payrolls are not universally is the answer, and comparing the White Sox to some teams is comparing apples and ass holes (being holes dug expertly by Donkeys). But there are a few teams to look at, and when the Sox are compared in the right context, the frustration at Jerry becomes evident.

Among the AL contenders, Toronto added $29 million coming out of a rebuild, the Twins added $8 million, and if you want to give them contender status, the Angels added $2 million. The Yankees (-$45 million), Astros (-$28 million), A’s (-$9 million), and Rays (-$3 million) all dropped their payroll from last year. The Sox are more or less neutral. The rest of the AL is either actively shedding salary (i.e. The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage), adding but not competitive (i.e. the Bahwstan Red Sawks) or in a haze of perpetual suckitude (i.e. the Baltimore Orioles). All numbers taken from Fangraphs and obviously barring any new contracts that haven’t been announced.

The NL, per Fangraphs, is the same mixed bag. Among actual contenders, the Dodgers are up $23 million and San Diego is up…only $3 million awaiting some final arb figures. Among teams that might not contend, the Nationals added $13 million (to finish 4th?), The Phillies are up $6 million (to finish 5th?) and the Rockies somehow added $34 million by trading their best player away. Everyone else dropped payroll in the NL.

Comparing the White Sox to the Dodgers and Yankees is a little unfair because those two teams tend to not have budget restraints like the rest of the league. They seem to try and stay within the threshold of avoiding the luxury tax, but beyond that they will spend large when needed. See Bauer, Trevor and his insane $40+ Million AAV. Looking at how the Dodgers did it, they dropped high priced depth like Joc Pederson and Kike Hernández, among others, and so far haven’t reunited with Justin Turner’s high salary, but then spent crazy on Bauer. The Yankees dropped high priced rotation members JA Happ and Masahiro Tanaka for the cheaper Cory Kluber and Jameson Taillon.

Comparing the White Sox to the small market Rays and the smaller-market-than-Chicago Astros is more historically where the Sox sit, but not where as a fan you want them to be. The Rays dropped their two best and most expensive pitchers in Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, replacing them with Michael Wacha and Luis Patino, who are not as good. The Astros basically subtracted pricey OFs George Springer and Josh Reddick, replacing them with no one from a free agent standpoint. The Rays have half the Sox’ payroll while the Astros are well above the Sox.

Really, though, the Rays are perpetually low payroll and the Astros are paying for their recent success with high priced veterans. The two teams that should be of interest to Sox fans are the Blue Jays and the Padres.

Why those two teams as a metric? They too are adding to a youth movement to try and compete for a playoff spot and ideally a championship. The Blue Jays are building around a core of legacy players in Cavan (Craig) Biggio, Bo (Dante) Bichette, and Vlad (Vladdy Daddy) Guerrero, with young guys like the awesomely named Rowdy Tellez and the enigmatic Teoscar Hernandez joining the fun. The Padres are building around youngsters like Fernando Tatis, Jr. (also a legacy) and Trent Grisham, while adding superstars like Manny Machado and spinning off prospects for veterans.

Neither team is close to the media market that Chicago has, but both teams also do not share their city with another MLB team. In fact, the Padres are San Diego’s only major sports franchise. In person the Padres attracted 29,585 per game in 2019, The Jays drew 21,606 and the Sox 20,622 per game. All three were below league average for total attendance, each by under 500,000 butts. We have yet to see what the attendance policies will be in Chicago, Toronto and San Diego due to Covid, and “Toronto” may be Buffalo, NY for the time being for in-person attendance (that stadium holds 16,600). In spite of being a smaller media market and potentially having to play in a minor league stadium, The 2021 Blue Jays are already outspending the 2021 White Sox. The 2021 Padres with a smaller TV market and better 2019 attendance are as well.

The Blue Jays are handling their rebuild more like Rick Hahn has handled the Sox rebuild. Rick is keeping his young guys and putting them in the lineup to do their thing. He built up a farm system that became top heavy, then tried to add veterans to plug the holes. The Padres have been using their youth more like the Cubs did before their 2016 Series win. The Padres have kept a few choice prospects that are now in or about to be in the majors, and traded a bunch to add veterans in key places, while signing some of the best free agents available.

So is the Padres method better? Well, in a sense it could be, but by Fangraphs measurements, they have the 9th highest payroll in the MLB compared to the Blue Jays at 14 and the Sox at 16. The Padres have 22 players currently on their roster age 27 or older, The Blue Jays have 17 such players and the Sox have 13. So the Sox are the youngest team, which would lend themselves to being less expensive, but we also know that there are question marks on the Sox that free agents would have answered. Let’s look at the holes on the other two.

The Padres will have a lineup of Austin Nola (C), Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth or Ha-Seong Kim (2B), Manny Machado (3B) Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS) and an outfield of Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham, and Wil Myers. If they use a DH, it could be Kim or Cronenworth, or Jurickson Profar. Their starting rotation of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack is bolstered by a veteran bullpen with Drew Pomeranz set to close. The question marks there are Pham and Myers, Pham because of injury and Myers more for under performing his contract. Their ‘pen, while experienced and good, isn’t big name and Pomeranz has all of 9 career saves.

The Blue Jays will have a lineup of Danny Jansen/Alejandro Kirk (C), Vlad Jr. (1B), Marcus Semien (2B), Cavan Biggio (3B), Bo Bichette (SS), an outfield of Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and George Springer with Rowdy Tellez as the primary DH. Their rotation is Hyun-Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Tanner Roark, Stephen Matz and Robbie Ray. The bullpen is also veteran, but not very good until you get to Kirby Yates as the closer (if Yates is healthy). If Yates is 100% the ‘pen is still a question mark but with a top end closer, and the rotation lacks a true ace unless Pearson progresses or your opinion of Ryu is exceptionally high compared to reality. Robbie Ray kinda sucks. The lineup has a hole at catcher, where Kirk is supposedly the better offensive player but limited defensively by what we’ll call an “every man” physique; Jansen can catch but so far hasn’t hit.

Let’s assume the Sox start Vaughn at DH, joining Yasmani Grandal (C), Jose Abreu (1B), Nick Madrigal (2B), Yoan Moncada (3B), Tim Anderson (SS), and an outfield of the Adams Eaton and Engel, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. The rotation will be Lucas Giolito, Dallas Kuechel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease and for the moment, assume Carlos Rodón. The ‘pen is the youngest between the three teams by a mile, and the only one with two bona fide stud relievers in Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks. The rotation is headed by a current ace and a former Cy Young winner, with back end questions answerable in whether Cease progresses and whoever is 5th being at least serviceable. The other question is youth not having a track record, that really applies to some of the pen, Nick Madrigal, Luis Robert and…Andrew Vaughn.

Let’s rank the three then by position and cost:

Rotation: Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays. The Padres are wondering what Chris Paddack is, but barring injury they have a pretty good idea of the rest. Darvish, Snell, and Limet are all recently the legit aces of their 2020 teams and Joe Musgrove is a veteran who should get a bounce up just by leaving Pittsburgh. The Sox having some issues at 4-5 is mitigated by Cease being a high-end prospect and Kopech being their best pitching prospect, but the Padres have that depth too. It’s close. The Jays? Way behind but at the highest cost. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Blue Jays, Padres, White Sox.

Bullpen: White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays. The Southsiders have the best closer of the three, and youngsters on the way up rather than the mid-level vets in San Diego and Toronto/Buffalo. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): White Sox/Padres (basically a tie), Blue Jays.

Outfield: White Sox, Blue Jays, Padres. I’ll assume that everyone is at their best; Robert and Eloy are the best of the young guys (Grisham and Gurriel are very good though), Springer is better than Eaton, who is at least on par with Pham, and both are better than Myers. Hernandez’ potential in the Blue Jays OF could make this closer but his history suggests that he’s more Wil Myers (power, low average) than Springer. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Padres/Blue Jays (basically a tie), White Sox.

Shortstop: Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays. I’d take any of the three but Tatis became something special after he got to San Diego. Bichette’s really good, but TA7 might win a few more batting titles before he’s done. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays.

Third Base: Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays. Manny Machado until proven otherwise, but Moncada is a complete hitter not far off from Machado’s level, and both are better than Biggio. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays.

Second Base: Pick ’em. If Marcus Semien is his 2019 version, he’s better than Madrigal because of Madrigal’s complete lack of power. But Semien hasn’t always been that guy, and has been not good at all in the past. Madrigal could be better than Cronenworth or Kim, but none of them have a track record long enough to know for sure. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Blue Jays, Padres, White Sox.

First Base: White Sox, Blue Jays, Padres. MVPito! Vlad Jr. still has potential but hasn’t reached it. Hosmer is expensive but nowhere near Jose Abreu’s level. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays.

Catcher: White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays. This is the best or just about the best catcher in baseball for the Sox versus a late-breakout guy for the Padres and a two-headed/two-and-a-half-bellied monster in Toronto. No competition. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays.

DH: Blue Jays, White Sox, Padres. Rowdy Tellez isn’t great, he’s a typical high power/low average/high K slugger. Cronenworth, Kim, and Vaughn are unknowns, with Vaughn having the best pedigree. Profar…meh. Spending rank (Hi to Lo): Padres, White Sox/Blue Jays (pre-arb tie).

Among the rebuilding teams that are opening their World Series window this year, the White Sox have the best bullpen, outfield, first baseman and catcher, are are just behind at starting rotation, third base, and shortstop. They’re chasing the Padres for the best rotation, the best third baseman and best shortstop. The Jays have the best DH more or less by default and possibly the best second baseman. The Jays, having committed a huge new amount of dollars to their 2021 payroll, have a very mediocre pitching staff with little upside, and lag behind in just about every category on the field. The Sox have it over the Padres in a few areas at far less of a payroll, and the gap in the areas where they are behind the Padres isn’t as wide as where the Padres are behind the Sox.

Each of the teams did what the Sox did too, ejecting some salary to add some salary, but the Padres and Blue Jays both added impact players and long-term commitments to their overall payroll instead of trying to stay balanced. With the estimated arb figures remaining, the Padres will be $11-$12 million over last year and the Blue Jays jumping to almost a full $40 million increase. But the Blue Jays have spent really poorly, and are still just above the Sox in payroll. Then again, Sox jumped $40 million between 2019-2020, so let’s say the Jays are a year behind the other two teams in this comparison. The Sox don’t need to add $40 million this off-season.

But if the Sox added $12 million like the Padres, they could still add a DH and a 4th/5th starter as fans want. The results vary but it’s worth a look.

Would they be better than the Padres with Mike Fiers ($2.5 million) and Eddie Rosario ($8 million)? Fiers isn’t as good as Musgrove and in a past post I noted that Rosario is what Vaughn would be if he repeats what Gordon Beckham did as a rookie (got that?). Would you believe staying with Vaughn and adding Cory Kluber ($11 million)? Kluber at his best is an ace…the Sox rotation would then be better than the Padres, but he has to make a comeback at 34. Carlos Santana ($8.75 million) and Michael Wacha ($3 million)? Wacha is mediocre, Santana might be Encarnacion part 2. They’d help at their best but no one is sure that they still have it. That’s an example of moves for the sake of moves that aren’t needed.

Or, since they can’t sign guys that are already signed, see if Josh Reddick and Brett Anderson would each take $6 million? Reddick might not be an upgrade over Vaughn, but Anderson would be a good add. Or Mitch Moreland for $2 million and “The Big Maple” James Paxton or Taijuan Walker for $10 million? Well, there you’d feel pretty damn good.

So the frustration and fury if the Sox don’t add to the payroll isn’t that all other teams are adding, or that they need to be the Yankees or Dodgers. If they added…and added as smartly as Hahn has done so far…they’d be the best team coming out of a rebuild and their championship window would look like a large bay window with nice treatments. But unlike their closest peers…they are sitting still instead of taking that next step and it is legitimately frustrating.

NO MO’ FOMO, yo.

Poor photoshop by Fox11 Los Angeles. Maybe Trevor can pay for a new guy to do these things.

A couple names left the market this weekend that Sox fans might lament. Don’t.

TREVOR BAUER. Holy underwear that’s a lot of money. For a guy that baseballreference.com has most similar to Chris Young. Remember him? He was a guy. Not a hall of famer or even the best on his staff…ever. Just…a guy who had a decent run. Bauer was pretty good in 2018, a 2.21 ERA, 1.089 WHIP before struggles in Cincinnati in 2019 caused his numbers to regress to his pre-2018 mediocrity of ERAs in the 4.40 range and a WHIP around 1.35. No doubt he was great last year, but only over 11 starts. Prior to 2018? Just a guy who might have a decent run. Sox fans, he hasn’t justified that contract yet. he was not a fit. Nothing to lose sleep over.

MIKE FOLTY…neveritch? Ehh…whatever. He’s a Ranger at $2 million..cheap as free. Like a lot of Sox fans, I knew the name because of his stellar 2018 with the Braves, and didn’t realize that he’s a 29-year old with an MLB career 4.93 ERA in years that aren’t 2018 (when he was good) and 2020 (when he lasted 3.1 innings before the Braves dumped him). He’s actually not good.

JOC PEDERSON. It came out he turned down the Sox offer and ended up taking less to be a Cub. No loss there because the guy would have platooned with Adam Engel; Pederson is awful against lefties. No loss there.

MARCELL OZUNA. Not the best fielder but at $16 million I think he’s pretty fairly priced, although a 4-year commitment with a 5th year option isn’t ideally where the Sox like to go. Still, if I was Jerry this was the type of guy you splurge on and then convince J.B. Pritzger and Lori Lightfoot to open the park. I wasn’t high on Ozuna coming here but he would have put the Sox over. Ok…you can have one FOMO. Now go to bed.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. It is there for the taking, does Jerry want it?
  2. That there really isn’t enough to worry about with this team and I’ll have to kill the bit. Maybe when the playing starts…
  3. I have to admit the attendance figures were depressing to look at. Go to the games as soon as we can.
  4. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Stay on the grass buddy).
  5. “The team is on the floor”…but no one is available if the floor has a crack and trips someone.
  6. That we got mildly excited at Jonathan Lucroy signing a minor league deal.
  7. Carlos Rodón was the best at that budget..and that was the budget.
  8. Nick Madrigal is overhyped.
  9. That this team still has me looking forward to minor league deals at all.
  10. And warming up in the pen: a repeat of 1994.

Addition Only By Subtraction and Reopening New Wounds

Parrot Rides ain’t cheep…uhh..cheap, but was losing Edwin’s salary among the only things that Rick could use to get off-season cash?
Picture stolen from Diamond Digest but they didn’t say who they stole it from or who did the Photoshop job.

Does Chris Lanuti Hold Water?

I don’t ask that as a question of whether the Sox in the Basement birth father needs to pee often. I am asking that as a person testing out Chris’ favorite theory of this White Sox off-season, that Rick Hahn only had the amount to spend for 2021 that he had been able to subtract from the 2020 payroll. I fear my friend may be wrong…because in in fact it might be worse than that.

Here’s who came off the payroll after last season:

Edwin Encarnacion, $11 million; Alex Colomé, $10.5325 million; Nomar Mazara, $5.56 million; James McCann, $5.4 million; Gio Gonzalez, $4.5 million; Jarrod Dyson, $2 million, Dane Dunning $563,500. Carlos Rodón took a $1.45 million reduction from last year, and $5.82 million in retained salary (i.e. guys like Steve Cishek and…Yonder Alonso? Really?) is gone from this year’s payroll. So all told, $46.826 million came off the books, per the reporting on Spotrac.com, using base salaries. If Chris is right, the Sox should have that $46.826 to spend adding to this year’s team.

Well, before we add guys, let’s hand out raises: $5 million more for Jose Abreu; TA is up $3.25 million; Yoan Moncada is up $5 million; Eloy gets $2 million more; Robert also $2 million more; Giolito $3.5 million; Reynaldo is up $1.5 million; Engel is up $500,000; Bummer is up $1 million; a few others are not notably higher. $23.75 million in raises have been issued to players carrying over from last season. That leaves a hair over $23 million to spend on new guys.

Added thus far? $8 million for Lance Lynn, $7 million for Adam Eaton, $11 million this year for Liam Hendriks. Oh, dear…that’s $26 million spent. $29.25 million if you include minor league deals with OF Nick Williams ($900K) and IF Tim Beckham ($1.35 million). They aren’t on the major league payroll so let’s hold them aside. Also, recall that I count Carlos Rodón as coming off the books to the extent that he took a pay cut coming back.

Was that a condescending “oh, dear” because the Sox actually outspent what they dropped off and Chris is wrong? No, because if he’s right, it’s worse in that Hahn has extended the budget to bring back Carlos Rodón. Take his $3 million off and Chris hits on it the head, the team adding based on subtraction only (assuming the Sox had the raises figured in plus or minus a million or so).

Going into the off-season the mantra fans had in mind was “The Money Will Be Spent”. But that has been put into a death match vs. “The Team Is On The Floor” after only a handful of moves, three of which filled the team’s five needs and one of which maintained some status quo to fill a 4th need. The unfilled hole is DH, where Andrew Vaughn seems to be anointed whether you like it or not, with someone in the system or non-roster invitee to challenge him. This suggests that the money…was spent last year when Grandal and Keuchel joined the team. Assuming that butts are in seats this year, maybe the money will be spent next year. Regardless, breaking down the numbers Chris Lanuti definitely holds water, so here’s raising a full glass to the hope that there’s one more pool to drink from. Wait…ew. Here’s raising a full glass to the hope that the budget has room for just a bit more.

Let’s Do a Redo of What the Sox Done Did Do

If Cher, an incredibly wealthy immortal, cannot actually turn back time I have no chance. But let’s play pretend, like pretending I’m not wearing the same thing writing this as Cher did as this iconic video. Photo from the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time” (C) 1989 Geffen Records and taken from cherworld.com

As noted above, there’s still a chance the Sox aren’t done adding to the team as they are roughly neutral from last year’s payroll and had low payrolls during the rebuild, suggesting some savings should be there to tap into. However, the current rumors are sparse, and this is the time of the off-season that teams bargain hunt and the deals sort of appear without much warning. The White Sox Twitterverse is presently lamenting that Trevor Bauer’s admiration of the Southsiders isn’t mutual and noting that some close to Andrew Vaughn have him being promised the DH spot in 2021. But instead of wondering if Rick Hahn has more in the budget, let’s focus on a Hot Stove season where in addition to a closer and RF, the Sox also focused on getting DH depth and adding two starters instead of one with the money they’ve spent. Armed with what the market has already done, grab a cannon to sit on, put on your fantasy baseball GM thong onesie and let’s turn back time.

Instead of Adam Eaton ($7 million, 1 year with a club option), Robbie Grossman ($5 million, 2 years). Eaton has the better overall career, but Grossman has been more than servicable in recent years for the A’s, with numbers that are not as good as but at least comparable to Eaton. Grossman is a switch hitter and has been more durable in his career, but not as often a starter. He got one of the rare multi-year deals this off-season. That’s ok here because the Sox could bring back Eaton for nearly $9 million next year; and Grossman as a replacement-level starter and solid backup OF spending 2 years as a White Sox is fine. He saves $2 million…so far.

Instead of Liam Hendriks…Liam Hendriks. No money saved but that’s because the $500,000 difference between Hendriks and Brad Hand’s 2021 salaries isn’t enough to overcome Hendriks’ superiority on the field. What of the $6.5 million for Alex Colomé? Chances are the Sox re-signing him would not have gone as cheap as the Twins got him on the open market. Colomé made $10.5 million last year and it wasn’t until the market basically said “meh” that his price dropped. Figure he’d want to maintain that salary or take a raise to stay. Hendriks was a needed move and the right one. Still at $2 million savings.

Instead of trading Dane Dunning and Austin Weems for Lance Lynn ($8 million, 1 year), trading Dunning, Weems, Luis Gonzalez, C Zack Collins and maybe a player to be named for Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher Joe Musgrove ($4.45 million, arb eligible through 2022). Let’s assume that Dunning is a headliner enough for the Pirates and makes up for some lesser valued players than the Padres were able to give overall. Gonzalez is not a better CF prospect than what the Pirates received, the young pitchers are comparable with Dunning being better than what was traded by the Padres, and Collins at least more proven than the catcher that was received. Its…possible..ish. $3.55 million is saved in the transaction, with Musgrove being a lesser pitcher stats-wise than Lynn, but younger and a guy who will be around at a reasonable rate beyond this year. We’re up to $5.55 million in savings.

Instead of Carlos Rodón ($3 million, 1 year), Anthony DeSclafani ($6 million, 1 year). Disco Fever comes to the Southside for the first time since July 12, 1979. Also the last time a Dahl was allowed in center field (see below)(no relation). DeSclafani has had some injury history but otherwise has been a middle of the road starter with decent but not killer stats. As a one-year fill in at 5th starter, he gives Kopech some space to get restarted and be monitored, doesn’t have the Sox relying on reclaiming Reynaldo Lopez or rushing another prospect, and opens the door for Lopez and others to be depth. You could stretch for Chris Archer or take the Jon Lester intangibles just as easily here, with similar reasoning although less consistent numbers for both. Archer is a reclamation himself, and needs an extra $500,000 to land here. Lester’s decline is a concern but he’s not being used as an ace, and his $5 million price tag actually keeps this under budget further (and a net savings overall with the next move). Sticking with Disco, it’s a net $3 million drop in the savings tally, leaving $2.55 million for a DH.

For the DH depth: David Dahl ($2.7 million, 1 year). The former Rockies OF is a lefty bat and when not plagued by injuries, a decent one. Dahl’s biggest knock has been staying on the field, and as a DH he doesn’t need to actually be on the field. In this scenario, Grossman and Adam Engel are ahead of him as actual outfielders. Also if he gets hurt or sucks, then current presumptive Day 1 DH Andrew Vaughn steps in. If Dahl hits well, and stays healthy, then you can look at where he fits beyond 2021, and if he’s able to play RF leaves Robbie Grossman as a good depth piece. Or, if Dahl is good, possibly flip someone like Engel for help elsewhere, or just let Dahl walk after getting a good year out of him. I’m going to call it a nice flyer and the $150,000 ($650,000 with Archer) overage simply not enough to be worried about. The budget can’t be THAT tight…can it?

Is this a better off-season? Grossman and Dahl replacing Eaton as hitters is neutral to better, with Grossman being a slight downgrade but Dahl potentially improving the team’s overall depth and being a possible upgrade over Eaton, but maybe not over Vaughn. Joe Musgrove is no Lance Lynn, but he would still slot nicely into the third starter spot. If he breaks out once he’s away from Pittsburgh it is a better deal, but the cash savings aren’t necessarily worth the possible downgrade if Musgrove isn’t better than what he’s been. Adding Anthony DeSclafani, Chris Archer or Jon Lester potentially makes the rotation a deeper, stronger group, unless Carlos Rodón finds another level. The case could also be made that the Lynn deal and the Rodón reclamation project are no different than Musgrove and any of the three others. Essentially no one signee/tradee here is better than what was actually brought in, but maybe on the whole the money being spread further with only slight downgrades makes the team better.

Of course, all these guys are on other teams and Eaton, Lynn and Rodón are here. There’s no way to actually have this happen, so maybe instead of worrying about what could have been, we get excited for what is? And appreciate any further moves the Sox make understanding that we are not owed any particular players, even if they would improve the team? We take the Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves we have? Do we Believe? Say I Got You Babe to this White Sox squad, not lament lost opportunities, And The Beat Goes On?

Yeah, right…and Cher might deliver my next pizza.

Rodón Returns: A Completely Unnecessary Sequel

I know this is not Rodón the pitcher (first name Carlos), but Rodan the Kaiju (first name Gary, of all things). Gary T.K. Rodan would be a better Sox signing. Picture taken from Toho Studios 1956 release Sora no Daikaijū Rodan (空の大怪獣 ラドン, “Giant Monster of the Sky, Rodan”).

Rick, I Think I Hate This.

The Sox re-signed Carlos Rodón to a one year deal worth $3 million. He represents another candidate for the backend of the rotation, and hear tell that he might be a swing guy even though his wife adamantly disagrees with Carlos as a pensman. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, from my initial negative response to trying to figure out if I’m missing something to trying to find the positive. Here’s where that journey took me:

KNEE JERK NEGATIVES – I found out when my Sox in the Basement cohort Chris Lanuti sent me a text. “Rodon is back. What the F**k.” He spelled the word out, but this is a family blog so we’ll assume he could have meant funk instead of fuck. My response, paraphrased, was that a minor league deal was ok, but when I saw it was a guaranteed major league contract it was infuriating. And I was furious. Why spend precious dollars on this guy? I don’t really care that $3 million is less than the $4.5 he was estimated to get in arbitration before he was non-tendered. If the Sox wanted him here, that $1.5 million is nothing. But we hear they’re broke, so why spend it on this guy at all?

Look, I understand his draft status and what he was supposed to be. But objectively, he’s not the second coming of Chris Sale or John Danks. He’s not Jon Garland or Tommy John. He’s not even Damaso Marté. Rodón has put together a 97 game MLB résumé and has a 4.14 ERA, a 1.379 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.8 K/9. His ERA+? Average, dead on average at 100. Factor in that he’s 5 years on from his career high in starts, 28 made in 2016, and you have, at best, an average pitcher who can’t stay healthy. His best weapon is a slider, but the eye test over his 97 games is that his fastball is hittable and lack of a third legit pitch makes his slider too easy to sit on. Per Fangraphs, generally his career K/9 is above average bordering on great for a starter, but his BB/9 is 0.1 away from awful. He’s a project. He’s been a project since he was drafted in 2014 and made his Sox debut in 2015. So what’s infuriating about giving that project guaranteed money? He does not improve the 2021 White Sox over the 2020 White Sox. There are free agents with better histories that would give the Sox rotation a guy to take the pressure off the young starters. That means letting Kopech work his way back in actual games. That means letting Cease or whoever act as a 5th starter, with less pressure because the veterans in front of him are steadier and less taxing on the pen than a guy who needs to be possibly protected against a third trip through the lineup. Rodón is not such a veteran, because he couldn’t do that when he was given five years of chances to do it. If guys like Brett Anderson, Anibal Sanchez, James Paxton, Rick Porcello or Mike Leake, all of whom are veterans that can at least eat innings and/or have ample past success (and all better career WAR) sign for around $3 million, then Rodón is a waste of precious resources on a team with a self-claimed tight budget.

TRY AND SPIN IT POSITIVELY – After the deal was announced, Steve Stone pointed out that Ethan Katz is a potential difference maker for Rodón. And I can accept that Katz, having the same access to video and info on Rodón that allowed him to make tweaks to Cease and Lopez this off-season, might have seen something in Rodón that makes him think he can change him for the better. Maybe Katz can help him take stress off his arm to stay healthy, or fix his mechanics to give him better action on a third pitch, or has Codify-type info that suggests Rodón’s arsenal has been misused by previous coaches. Ok. It’s like getting a change of scenery without leaving town. The “change of scenery” move has worked well for many a player, like Sonny Gray leaving the Yankees or DJ LaMahieu going to the Yankees. I also saw a suggestion that Rodón is the best pitcher available that fits the budget, meaning the guys I listed above and others are too pricey. Considering the Sox might try to sign Lance Lynn’s caddy Jeff Mathis and a DH type, not overspending makes sense. Sure it does, we don’t need Jake Odirizzi for 3 years $36 million. Plus, below Rodón it gets pretty ugly, even the rumored signing of Mike Foltynewicz is a shaky dart throw. If $3 million is the pitcher budget, teams would take Rodón as an average guy for a 4th starter. Fine. Ok, in that light it’s a move that at least provides competition for Kopech, Cease, Stiever and others. A devil you know instead of trying to solve someone else. It’s at least not much different than a Yankees team pinning hopes on rebuilding Jameson Taillon into a starter on a competing team, except that Taillon has been an above-average pitcher when healthy. *Sigh*.

SPUN INTO TOTAL POSITIVITY? – Well I guess…I mean it is a, ummm, thing where he, uhh…I can’t. I can’t pretend that there is a fully good take on this, because it isn’t a good move on its own. Compared to the other moves the Sox made, Adam Eaton was a controversial signing, but when he’s healthy he’s a good all-around RF. One year of Lance Lynn costing Dane Dunning and a prospect raises eyebrows, but at least comes with a guy who received 2020 Cy Young votes and is the innings-eating, bulldog starter the Sox need in the middle of the rotation. Hendriks is expensive but the best at his job right now and market priced. Conversely, Rodón is a draft bust who wasn’t the answer a year ago when he was needed. You can’t spin this to make it a good signing at that point. Even a polished turd (and Mythbusters proved you can do it) is still a turd.

FINAL TAKE – Incomplete, but more leaning more bad than good. If other veterans sign for less, or if Rodón remains hopelessly average and doesn’t bring anything new to the table, or is left at AAA, or if this $3 million is all the Sox have left to spend and it costs them a bat, or any combo thereof, this is a really bad move. Then again, if Katz has a key to get more from Rodón, and/or if spending only $3 million on a 4th starter candidate means money for other help, and if the remaining free agents sign for more, it’s fine. Not great, but…fine that the Sox settled on familiar mediocrity. What has me skeptical about the budget savings being spent elsewhere is that the same day Rodón comes back, seemingly good DH/OF fit Eddie Rosario signs with the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage for a reasonable $8 million and one year. I’m also skeptical about the best at budget; Rodón didn’t seem to have many other suitors, making a major league contract seem like the Sox bid against themselves a bit, with other guys still out there. It is also becoming a concern that 40% of a supposed championship rotation is based on Ethan Katz fixing somewhat obvious mechanical issues that Don Cooper didn’t see or couldn’t communicate. I know the game had maybe passed Coop by, but Lopez’ arm slot and Cease flying open seem like rudimentary issues and Cease could still have control problems while Lopez’ still-diminished velocity causes him to serve up more meatballs than a cheap Italian restaurant. His ability to rescue Rodón is not a given. Overall, using money on Rodón is more bad than good for a team with supposed championship aspirations, because this isn’t a move that clearly pushes the Sox closer to the trophy. They need moves that elevate them, not keep them the same.

Whither the Bandwagon

I didn’t draw this and the person who did is/was talented and smelled nice, Copyright them.

Just a thought or many as we approach what will certainly be a bandwagon season.

For years, White Sox fans have been treated as an afterthought. The 2005 World Series is scarcely mentioned even though the team went 11-1. The Cubs are beloved for losing and getting sloppy seconds on Harry Carey singing the 7th inning stretch. Manny Machado is a Padre even though Kenny swears the Sox had the best offer, and Zack Wheeler is a Philly even though the Sox really did have a better offer. Carlton Fisk spends more of his various Sox careers in White but the Cooperstown cap is Red. In 3rd Grade a friend of mine suggested I wear my jacket all day since I was wearing a Sox shirt in a Northside school, lest I get beat up. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield: ‘No respect, I tell ya…’, and it would be easy to resort to very sour grapes. Resist! Resist I say! Resist the grapes as though you were a 3 year old demanding chicken nuggets and chocolate sauce with no time for fruit!

Look, the Sox didn’t get much bandwagon action in 2005, their success being met with a “huh” instead of a “heyyyy”. The Sox of 2021 and perhaps beyond are different, as they are young, exciting, have a national face of the game in Tim Anderson and possibly guys like Lucas, Eloy and Luis as they continue to make waves. The game should also become less regional in order to keep its place in the national entertainment conversation, but that’s perhaps another topic. Nationally, though, is where the bandwagon is really filled while locally you’ll actually have the bulk of your bandwagon interaction. Here’s types to watch out for:

Fairweather Fans: Yup, the chief bandwagoneers. They loove a front runner and to be seen where they think it’ll get them the most points in social media. Often the best you can do is high five them and make them buy the next round for the aisle. In Covid restrictions that’ll be harder. Better, though, is to welcome them, educate them on why they should have shown up sooner, and realize that they are not going to be lifelong companions so use them as you can. After all, Jerry can spend their money too. He won’t, but he can.

Hardcore Baseball Fans: Kinfolk to the Fairweathers, these guys tend to hit teams when the team becomes interesting and entertaining. Welcome these for they are our brothers and sisters, come ’round because we’re henceforward the good party. Unlike the Fairweathers, who only do sports when its fashionable, Hardcore Baseballers will actually be conversant on topics like 2005 and 1983, and know the players on the current team. They’ll also know about the other contenders and be generally a good conversation, though a bit arrogant if they feel they know the game better than you. And they might.

Da Noobs: Never before fans of the sport, or perhaps no allegiance to a prior team, these are creatures to be suckled as they are wobbling into a new world. Offer a nurturing teat (virtual or real, I ain’t judgin’) and hand (virtual or real, I ain’t handy) to bring them along into full-fledged fandom. They will be the first to bail at a bad experience, be it a slog of a loss or having a drunk woman claim you threw a cup at her when your hands were full (true story). You need to be friendly and inclusive, protect them from the bad experiences, don’t condescend their lack of knowledge, and they will eventually stand on their own as full-fledged fans. Also, I’m 99% sure that woman who accused me of throwing the cup claims she stormed the capital, but just peed herself a little yelling in a Baltimore Arby’s and couldn’t tell the difference. Also, there is no punchline where it turns out that I threw the cup.

Trolls: Fans of other teams who are self-styled scouts for their teams and say “we” as though they have a role in the organization (ya know, idiots who blog and podcast about teams like they know stuff). They are trying to clandestinely get info on the Sox (in this case) and will try and blend in, but get really obviously blown out of shape if you say the Sox will beat their real team. So, a Cardinals Troll (trollieus redbirdius) will get openly agitated if you say TA is better than Paul DeJong (bonus if you pronounce it “Powell Dijon”); a Cubs Troll (trollieus annoyinus) will bristle if Dallas Keuchel is stated to be a more masterful artist on the mound than Prof. Kyle Hendricks; while a Yankees Troll (trollieus yankinhimselfalrightii) will simply yell at you if you suggest that any Sox are better than the Bombers, even if you said you like Hanes socks better than Bombas. Feel free to throw a cup at them and mock them like 10 years later in a blog.

With all of the above, newly purchased swag and a dead-eyed stare at the concessions are the most obvious signs that they are at the game straight from the Bandwagon. Online, they will misuse Hawkisms and not understand when you reference The President of the Drake LaRoche Fan Club manning RF. Treat them kindly until they reveal themselves, then act accordingly.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing.
  2. That the Kaiju Rodan is real and mad that I referred to him as Gary T.K. Rodan, or that Australian academic Garry Rodan thinks I’m mocking him and simply can’t spell.
  3. Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing…?
  4. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Even in the shower, somehow).
  5. “The team is on the floor” meant 2020 team member Carlos Rodón too, so he is the last notable signing….
  6. Is Ethan Katz really this good?
  7. Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing, but his wife thinks he’s better as a Pirate.
  8. Tim Beckham, DH. Yeah that’s right, I didn’t forget he signed for $1.35 million too. I’m counting the damn dollars now Jerry, Kenny and Rick.
  9. Eddie Rosario gets to take his vengeance tour at-bats as a Cleveland Assemblager instead of putting the Twins out of our misery as a White Sox. Not that worried, though. Bet he’s a wee bit upset if he stayed in the division.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Carlos Rodón.

THE CHIPS ARE FALLING

These particular CHiPs started falling in 1983…aaannd here’s a link to the theme song just for the funk of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2xwLJQGdho

Hurry Rick! Limited Quantities?

I woke up the morning of the latest Sox in the Basement Episode, fresh off of David Kaplan coming on the show and suggesting that Jerry isn’t done spending because he wants to win it, and I see that free agents are indeed falling off the market like a bowl of chips knocked asunder from the table.

While J.T. Realmuto got a contract that only the Phillies would have offered because literally no one else was publicly offering him a contract, he was of no matter to the Sox as Realmuto is the 1a to Yasmani Grandal’s 1b. Except when Grandal is 1a, then Realmuto is 1b. They are the various 1a’s and 1b’s of MLB catchers. So whatever, but that’s a big free agent off the board and to the extent teams were getting a notion on him, they can move on.

But Andrelton Simmons is now a Twin, which makes sense because the Twins had no great SS options. Solid grab at $10.5 million for the Twins, which leaves them really looking for a DH and a LF, although one of those should be their top prospect Alex Kirilloff.

Freddie Galvis is an Oriole, nice knowing you Freddie. Cesar Hernandez re-signed with the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage because they are building a team of nothing but starting pitchers and middle infielders.

Marcus Semien is a Blue Jay..? Ok…that makes…sense? I guess Cavan Biggio or Semien are now manning 3B? Where he fits on the field is of little import to the Sox, but as an AL contender suddenly their lineup is deep, although the rotation isn’t impressive and the bullpen rides on Kirby Yates’ recently repaired elbow.

But to the sound of Sox fan hearts breaking all over before they immediately declared him overrated, Tommy LaStella joined the San Francisco over-30 baseball club known colloquially as “The Giants”. I’ll toot my own horn as I predicted in last Thursday’s blog that LaStella was going to nab a multi year deal that the Sox don’t want to give out for a DH (more on that below). LaStella will join “Donny Barrels” Donovan Solano, forever ago AL ROY Evan Longoria, the somehow only 33 years old Brandon Crawford and the underrated Brandon Belt in an infield where Tommy will get playing time because one of the incumbents will break a hip in the shower.

There was also more news that Masahiro Tanaka, a very viable fourth starter candidate, might return to Japan. While there are concerns that he has a torn ligament in his elbow, he’s had that pretty much his entire Yankee career and has still been reliable. Really, though, if the Sox are just looking for a stopgap, and Tanaka can go home to finish with a multi year deal, you’d suspect he’s going home vs. coming to Chicago.

So what chips are left on the table? Plenty, really. There are 11 of MLB.com’s top 25 left, including intriguing options like James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Nelson Cruz; some possible guys in Jake Odorizzi, Justin Turner and Joc Pederson, and names that the Sox are probably priced out of in Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna. Guys like Kolten Wong, Didi Gregorious and Jackie Bradley Jr. don’t make as much sense for the Sox but they are there. Expanding that, there are 18 of the top 60 free agents on CBS Sports, adding in possible fits like Mitch Moreland, Adam Wainwright, C.J. Cron, Brett Gardner and Brad Miller. MLB Rumors’ top 50 has 19 guys left with names like Rick Porcello and Chris Archer still out there.

Blockheads need not apply

This well-known blockhead won’t be the Sox 4th starter because he’s a drawing of a notoriously bad pitcher. Copyright United Features Syndicate

Nothing gets my Sox in the Basement co-host more annoyed with me than when I suggest a prospect is blocked by a major league player, especially when that player is not great. In Chris Lanuti’s mind, you prove your worth on the field and play your way into the lineup and past that veteran. It is the circle of life, the way of all things, and if you say different you get to watch Chris throw his hands around like a wacky waving inflatable tube guy while he loudly expresses his contrary opinion. He’s like a loud Kermit the Frog celebrating special guest star Dom DeLouise. We got into the disagreement off air in the last show, but trust me he hates the concept.

I don’t disagree with him, except in one area: high priced free agent signings. That is a definitive block to the players in the system, and at a minimum a statement that the team will not consider playing that youngster in the majors anytime soon. So I agree that the Sox remaining youth need to prove it rather than be handed it, but that’s not the point. Spending considerable dollars and committing multiple years to a free agent is not something you do if you expect to have to walk it back.

Cases in point:

Adam Eaton will be the Sox opening day Right Fielder. It will not be Luis Gonzalez, Blake Rutherford, the newly slimmed down OF-wannabe Gavin Sheets, Micker Adolfo or any other young OF besides Adam Engel, who might be his platoon partner to a degree. Eaton was signed because the Sox do not think that any of their OF prospects are ready to play everyday at the major league level, and contribute to a championship team. But Eaton is here for a year guaranteed, two tops if they grab his option. The Sox think they will have a younger, cheaper and better option in 2022, and they’re likely right. None of those prospects is really blocked, because Adam Eaton is fairly disposable as a 1-year guy. Frankly, if he’s hurt or ineffective, Sheets, Gonzalez or Engel could take his place if they’re ready.

Yasmani Grandal is blocking Zack Collins. First, there’s no real comparing the two right now in terms of being a starting catcher; Grandal is the best or right at the top of the heap for MLB catchers and Collins is a prospect who has gone kinda suspect defensively and offensively. But Collins could hit .750 with an OPS of 1.358 in the spring and start of the AAA season with top-end framing and defensive metrics and at best, he’s a DH and backup catcher. Grandal is in year two of his very expensive deal and if he’s healthy and playing at his regular level, he’s the Sox catcher. Collins will need to wait until Grandal is gone from the team to take that starting job. No team in the league would do any different. Even if the Sox traded Grandal this spring to make way for Collins, you’d wonder why they didn’t just spend that cash on another player, like adding a George Springer or Michael Brantley this year, or last year Hyun-Jin Ryu or Nick Castellanos.

As we look at the White Sox’ last two holes…they can’t be blocks to what’s coming up. At DH, Andrew Vaughn is a top prospect not just for the Sox but for the MLB in general. He will hit. Is he ready now? His small sample of pro ball makes that hard to say yes. But he could be there raking on Opening Day. Signing Marcell Ozuna to a multiyear deal makes no sense…you’re blocking Vaughn in 2021 and possibly beyond unless you think Eaton would be expendable, with Ozuna playing right. That’s possible too, but then why was Eaton signed? Just sign Ozuna at the start of the offseason. As I mentioned above, Tommy LaStella taking a multiyear deal with the Giants is something the Sox couldn’t really do. LaStella’s fit is as a backup IF and DH. If Vaughn outhits LaStella, LaStella becomes an expensive Danny Mendick. If the Sox committed to getting LaStella regular at-bats, you’re choosing to let Vaughn, Madrigal or Moncada sit more to make space.

If you are signing a guy to a multi-year deal, it better be because he has a place to play that you aren’t going to fill. Joc Pederson (sigh) could merit a few years from the Sox because he would be doing for them what he did on the Dodgers: messing up righties and getting semi-regular at bats between OF, 1B and DH. He’s a platoon/backup to Vaughn, Abreu, Jimenez, and in 2021 Robert where Eaton plays center. He can do that next year and the year after, as long as he mashes right handers and is productive in a bench role where he has versatility. So it also has to be the right price. Eaton is getting $8 million, which isn’t much in the grand scheme and writing off a prorated part if you drop him this year wouldn’t be a killer. But if you sign Joc to 3 years $39 million, you’re saying he’s a true starter and will be going forward, because eating that in 2021 or 2022 would be insane for a team on such a tight budget. And because hitters are less of a commodity, you gamble that there’s no secondary market for a DH if Vaughn hits his way onto the team.

So if the Sox were to commit to a DH long-term or sign a DH to a large one-year deal, the goal would be to make Vaughn/Sheets/prospects outhit Adam Eaton. It only makes sense if the DH is someone like Ozuna taking a deal below his market value to join the Sox, but that’s not happening with a top end free agent hitter. I would be baffled if the Sox engaged in blocking their young hitters with a high-priced free agent, instead of pushing them with a mid-tier guy that can be expendable or a bench luxury.

Conversely, the Sox aren’t blocking their pitchers if they were to sign a longer deal or sign a high-priced veteran. Multiyear deal candidates like Taijuan Walker or Jake Odorizzi would have value if Lance Lynn leaves after this year, or as trade bait in the off season if Lynn extends and the Cease/Kopech duo arrives. Pitchers are always a commodity, so a proven starter under contract is always a trade possibility. Kopech earning innings in AAA this year is not a failing on the Sox’ part or his part; the guy hasn’t thrown a game pitch in almost 3 years. So if pie in the sky stuff happens and Trevor Bauer descends with ice cream and sprinkles from on high into the Sox rotation, you simply let Lynn walk next year if Kopech and Cease (or Stiever or whoever) each establishes himself in the rotation. And this year, you go six-man or wait for the inevitable IL stint for one of the starters.

So if Dave Kaplan is right and as he said on the show Jerry wants to win, and that means Jerry will still spend, expect the hitter(s) signed to be underwhelming but don’t be shocked if a pitcher is here to stay.

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