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Negotiating Breakdown: Who Has The Power?

Whoda thunk that the band Snap! would be relevant to White Sox internet babbles? Should I have gone He-Man? Album cover Logic Records 1990.

The free agent market was stagnant until George Springer signed with the Jays, though arguably the market started to open up with Liam Hendriks becoming The South Slydah. As fans and pundits we have fun speculating on the next moves for Rick Hahn, but often those moves are oversimplified by just saying “he’s exactly what we need and it’s just money”. In reality, every transaction is much more nuanced and no negotiation is as simple as tossing the most cash someone’s way.

This is not just professionally, either, where I have 15+ years of experience of deal making in the legal realm. In every negotiation there’s a mutual need that brings the parties to the table, but their ability to control the negotiations varies. In negotiations that I’ve conducted in litigation settlements or transactions between businesses, the power dynamic depended largely on who would lose in court, or who needed to reach a deal because they had it worse. In the most grayish situations, it was less about leverage on the losing side, and more a mutual need to just be done with it because no one wanted to expend more time or energy than needed. The key there was always to understand the other side’s strengths and weaknesses position-wise, and understand where we can fill holes that they had, while maximizing what they could give my side. In other words, try and be fair by being able to satisfy the other side too.

As a consumer things aren’t much different, but the power dynamic is rooted in the ability to say no. Last time I bought a car I got a great deal because I didn’t need to buy the car. I could have walked easily, because my car was fine. Granted, my butt would currently miss the heated seats I now have that my old car lacked, but my old solution of eating gassier foods was just fine thank you. If the price was right, the car was an upgrade and worth it. If not, I walk. In fact, I literally got the deal after saying no to a similar car from another brand that was the wrong price. I had the total power.

Buying the services of an MLB player is not like buying a car or a TV. Trevor Bauer is not the same as Garrett Richards, in the way a Ford and a Honda might have similar specifications or two TVs might have the same resolution. George Springer and Adam Eaton are not equivalent right fielders for the Sox; so going into the off season when everyone knew there’d be a new guy in right there wasn’t the power dynamic for Rick Hahn to just walk away from every deal and make the player make it happen. It’s like trying to buy a car when you had to Uber to the dealership, it’s harder to (literally) walk.

Truthfully with pro sports, it’s a mix of the above dynamics. Hahn could walk away from George Springer in that Hahn didn’t need that particular guy at the price the Jays gave him. Hahn’s risk is a less dynamic player but still getting a productive one. If Springer really wanted to be in Chicago, his risk in not taking Rick’s price would be not being here and whatever happens if he’s turned loose on the market. It turns out when he does get turned loose he does very well in Canadian dollars and what I assume are very polite groupies. The reality is Springer wasn’t desparate to sign with any particular team. He, like most players, just wants a contract befitting his talents and would play just about anywhere that paid him what he wants.

Closer to the Basement, you see what happens when a player does fancy a certain team. Liam Hendriks made no secret at the end of last year that he liked what the Sox were doing. He knew, as we all did, that there was a Southside closer opening with Alex Colomé being out of contract at season’s end. Rick Hahn knew a closer would cost at least $10 million per year, since that was what he was paying Colomé in 2020. Rick also knows his budget…so would Hendriks have the power in negotiations or the Sox? Hendriks could take whoever gave him the most money and years (he wanted four years at market price) or take what the Sox offered. The Sox knew they needed to offer a reasonable rate to fill their closer hole with a certain level of player, whether that was Hendriks, Brad Hand or Colomé. But the Sox knew Hendriks liked them, so they could get him without having to grossly overpay. Hendriks wanted a certain amount of money and years, and the Sox had that in their budget (albeit creatively), and both sides knew that they were a fit. There was very little by the way of a power dynamic being flexed because neither side needed it worse than the other…they both wanted it and knew they could meet each other’s needs.

So do the Sox have any negotiating advantage left? Depends on the player. Let’s take a look at four pitchers who are similar: veteran former top end starters who have fallen to back end rotation types and took 1-year deals. Three lefties, JA happ, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, and one righty, Garrett Richards. Richards got the highest amount at $10 million from the Red Sox, Quintana and Happ both took $8 million from the Angels and Twins respectively, while Lester got $6 million from the Nationals. If each one wants a better contract in 2022, they all have to prove themselves for various reasons. Why then if they are so similarly positioned, are they so disparate in the contract amounts? THe answer: Different power dynamics.

Jon Lester didn’t have many suitors due to his age and declining performance, and possibly his beer choice. He’s the same age roughly as Happ, but wasn’t as good in 2019 so he appears more worn out. Assuming the Nats’ offer was his only offer, Lester either takes it or makes nothing in 2021. If he has other, lesser offers or non-guaranteed offers, that’s the same flavor in a different bag. The Nats had a take-it-or-leave-it dynamic to flex on Lester, who had little to no leverage.

Happ and Quintana both went to teams that were starved for pitching, as the Twins and Angels both realistically had only 2-3 major league starting pitchers without getting into fringe guys and not-ready prospects. Both pitchers are declining from their peak. Happ’s peak was longer ago with 2019 a possible dead cat bounce, and Quintana’s decline starting slowly a couple years back.

The way the market had developed, Quintana lost leverage because his then-signed comparables in Drew Smyly at $11 million per and Anthony Desclafani at $6 million set some bookends for better or worse. Smyly was wildly overpaid and Disco probably took too little. The Angels represent a good fit for Q, and he’s a good for for them, but at the time he signed the market still had Richards and Happ, and still has Taijuan Walker, Brett Anderson, and other comparable players. Q wasn’t getting the aberrant Smyly cash, but he could walk away from the Angels if they undercut him too far because Boston and the Twins both had similar openings. The Angels were in a more exposed position than Q, so they gave him a deal like the younger, better armed but not quite as successful Robbie Ray or the Q-similar Mike Minor. Q used his slight leverage to get a deal where he can reclaim his mojo for a better deal next year, doing so in a better 2021 setting for him than in Minnesota or Boston, and gets a decent market price.

After Q, Happ signs an identical deal with the Twins. The market has now really spoken as Q, Robbie Ray and Mike Minor, all similar back end lefties like Happ, have taken $8 million (Minor $7 million this year, average $9 million per on his deal). Happ doesn’t have any power to flex, other than the Twins can’t undercut him because he could still walk away to Boston or Toronto, for example for the market price. The Twins need and want to wrap this up because they have other problems, so they sign the deal at market value. Gray areas abound, so it gets done because Happ understands the Twins issues and the Twins know Happ has to make the market level at least.

So how does broken-down right hander Garrett Richards get $10 million from the Red Sox? He’s not as valuable as a lefty overall, but he’s also the only one of our four that could regain ace status since it’s injury and not wear that caused his numbers to drop. Mainly, though, the Red Sox have a worse power dynamic than the Twins, Nationals or Angels. First, Boston…fun town to visit as a civilian, I suppose, but tough crowd as a sports figure. The laid back Angels fans and easy to outrun Twins fans are far less of an issue. Second, The Angels have Mike Trout and a chance at doing something, the Twins have been at or near the top of the AL Central for years now, but the Red Sox are stuck in nowheresville in a “rebuild or not” mode, and aren’t going anywhere over the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays soon. And, for a guy that might be a bit more gas can than he’d care to admit, Fenway isn’t a great rebound park for a pitcher. Given the bleh picture they paint, the Red Sox need to overpay pitchers. They dangled an overmarket price at Garrett Richards, who needs a deal, so foot meet red sock. Good for Richards, but an overpay.

Back to the White Sox and the fans wallet thumping for a fourth starter and a veteran DH. Popular theory is that as spring training draws nigh, the teams have the upper hand as more players are Jon Lesterized. So if no one offers Trevor Bauer what he wants, the Sox get him cheap, right? Yeah no. Dallas Keuchel signed after spring training in 2019 and still got $21.1 million. Craig Kimbrel is currently eating well as a Cub after the same wait. So the start of the season won’t create extreme bargains.

The Sox power dynamic is (and has been all off season) that they offer a legitimate chance to win, for a hitter a good park and lineup around him, for a pitcher the comforts of a good offense and pen behind him, and for the Sox right now they hold an advantage in that they don’t need to sign anyone. None of the benefits is enough to make a player go way undervalue, but maybe it is enough to tip the scales in a competitive bid. So for someone like Adam Wainwright, who was going to be Lesterized this off season no matter what as he’s at the end of his career, choosing an offer from the White Sox over the Red Sox is easy unless the Red Sox wickedly overpay. And assuming the White Soxd are his only real offer, they can undercut him a bit. But for Trevor Bauer, taking a budget offer from Rick Hahn vs. a market offer of his sought-after $30-ish million from the destined for 3rd place Giants is a no-brainer, and the Bauer Outage is headed west.

What this all means as we wrap up the Hot Stove and pitchers and catchers reporting acts as the amuse-bouche for the meal said Hot Stove produced is that the Sox still have to have room in their budget for these players and pay a fair rate, but a few guys might jump to the Southside over other opportunities. Unless Jerry has another $20-$30 million he wants to spend, don’t expect a premium DH and starter.

The Alternate Sight vs. The Minor League Season, an Andrew Vaughn Tale

Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, where Sox DH candidates are forged into legend, like noted weapon The Staff of Cork and Kerry. Google Maps.

At Sox In The Basement, we have noted a very key stat when discussing Andrew Vaughn: 55 professional games played. Seems a tad low when discussing the Designated Hitter of a championship team. At least former Sox “Savior(?)” Gordon Beckham had played 77 pro games before he turned out great.

Beckham hit .270 with an .808 OPS and 106 OPS+ in 103 games for the 2009 Sox. While that would have bested Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnacion last year, it’s hardly a difficult find to get a guy to hit that level overall. In 2019, that was Twins OF Eddie Rosario and Pirates SS Kevin Newman, at 77th and 78th best hitters. In 2018, that’s Oakland 2B Jed Lowrie at 63rd…and Eddie Rosario at 62nd.

But when the league figured out Gordon Beckham, he never recovered. As was discussed on the Podcast, that seems like a Gordon issue. He felt the weight of some headline stupidly calling him a franchise savior, and seemingly never got over it. Vaughn could fall into that well too, but he also arrives with other highly touted youngsters and not alone like 2009 Beckham joining a veteran squad. Besides, Vaughn is the better hitter, right? NCAA career .357 hitter with a 1.183 OPS? Beckham was what, an NCAA career .333 hitter with a 1.047 OPS? Oh. Uhh…

Look, the argument is that Vaughn is not ready because he didn’t play any games last year in Birmingham hitting off of some team’s #7 overall prospect or in Charlotte off a guy on the fringe of being in the bigs or who failed to get back there. Except he basically did just that. He faced the Sox equivalents in Schaumburg, which isn’t as much of a bandbox as the pictures would make you think. Compared to Comiskey/G-Rate Field, Boomers/Wintrust Field is longer down the lines by a bit (25 ft. to left, 15 ft. to right), Schaumburg is shorter in the alleys by 7ft., and both fields are 400 Ft. to center. It turns out the Schaumburg baseball facility was originally designed to mimic…Wrigley Field when the Cubs were rumored to be moving to the ‘burbs. And dimensions-wise, the field does mimic Wrigley. Of course, Boomers/Wintrust doesn’t have the height or stands that you’ll find at 35th and Shields or 1060 W. Addison, but it isn’t a little league park. It’s also in between Birmingham and Charlotte in terms of field size, and has the benefit of being the same weather as Chicago.

So let’s say that Vaughn virtually in 2020 got in roughly the amount of games against AA and AAA pitching that Nick Madrigal did in 2019, when he played 71 games. The main difference is lack of variety…you see one Jose Ruiz outing you’ve seen them all…and possibly the stakes being lower. The stakes in the minors are to impress the big club, which was the goal in Schaumburg too but in a more training camp sense. Regardless of the diminished variety and competition, assuming Vaughn showed a good approach, could handle the stuff that was thrown at him, then it really is just a question of doing it when you don’t know the pitcher as well or at all, and with game intensity. Vaughn will face all new pitchers in the majors anyway, with a few familiar faces sprinkled in. If he wilts under competitive stress, he could hit off a tee and it wouldn’t matter. Madrigal handled all of that in 29 games last year, and well. Beckham handled it in 2009…to the tune of possible DH free agent candidate Eddie Rosario.

The White Sox will have Andrew Vaughn as their primary DH this year, for at least the second half. There’s every reason to believe that he has more valid experience under his belt than cautionary tale Gordon Beckham, and not that much less than penciled-in 2020 starter Nick Madrigal. This year, he should be fine. Whether he gets crushed under a savior complex or he and Madrigal torture the MLB for years to come remains to be seen, and mentally at least is up to Andrew Vaughn. And Nick Madrigal. I don’t think Vaughn controls him.

Still…Eddie Rosario is just sitting there. Give the guy a 1-year deal, fellas, and let Vaughn hit his way up through the system.

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

  1. Whether the team being outmatched on the trade market now means outmatched at the deadline too.
  2. I just legitimately compared Andrew Vaughn to Gordon Beckham.
  3. The Twins signing JA Happ to hahahahahaahaha just kidding. Thanks for the fading lefty, dontcha know.
  4. I just roundaboutly compared Nick Madrigal to Gordon Beckham.
  5. “The team is on the floor” when help is literally standing floor adjacent.
  6. That Jose Ruiz continues to be a legitimate White Sox reference.
  7. Gordon Beckham’s hair. Never was quite able to fully comprehend its majesty.
  8. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Even as a DH, somehow).
  9. I just traded for Dylan Cease in a fantasy league and I don’t want that pressure.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Gordon Beckham’s hair, DH.

Lamenting Lost Loves and Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places

Sox rumors, like this album, are handed out like samples of Tide in certain places.
Photo by Herbert Worthington, owned by Fleetwood Mac or their owners, and irreparably damaged by Sox in the Basement

The Moves that should have been?

The Hot Stove Finally reached actual cooking temperatures this week, with signings including George Springer, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kirby Yates, and for a shiny moment in Blue Jays fandom: Michael Brantley, before he went back to the Astros. Toss in the trade of Joe Musgrove to the Padres, and the market place is thinning under the heat like so much gravy. No, gravy thickens. Like butter? No…that’s melting rather than thinning. Uhh, ok well regardless of the lack of metaphor (simile?), as things heat up, the market has fewer options. This is a source of White Sox-related consternation. Like all of us have lost loves, did the White Sox let “the one” get away?

The biggie for Sox fans of course was Joe Musgrove. With an apparent hard budget being reached, Sox fans at least had trades as a possibility, with Musgrove a good get. We’re left wondering how the Padres continued to throw players at trades and have amassed a staff of aces, while the Sox were able to muster the Lance Lynn deal and seem stuck at Giolito, Keuchel, Lynn and a TBD back end of Cease/Kopech/Lopez/Stiever/etc. Well, in the case of the Musgrove trade, unlike the Snell and Darvish deals, it required another team to bolster the value by giving an intriguing prospect for cheap depth. The Mets took a liking to SP Joey Luchessi, who had been a part of the Padres rotation and future in 2018 and 2019, albeit to middlin’ results. He’s very much the Padres version of Reynaldo Lopez in that regard. Ah! you say. Would the Mets have made the same deal with Reynaldo, giving up same said prospect, C Endy Rodriguez? Well…probably not. Luchessi was better than Reynaldo in 2019, though not by a lot, and not as good in 2018 as Reynaldo, by quite a bit. Both were bad in 2020. The difference is Joey Luchessi is a weird deceptive lefty in need of refinement, and Reynaldo is a very standard power-profile righty coming off of arm issues. Lefty with the funk is a better project than a power pitcher with dimished velocity. Still, it is heartening that the Mets would send anything for an experienced MLB starter on a skid. Maybe the Sox can also find something of value in return for Lopez, should he be out of their plans.

Beyond that silver lining, the Musgrove deal just exposes where the Padres system sits vs. where the Sox system sits…again. But without trying to play more “match the prospects”, this is more about the Padres being willing to gut their system and add salary, which the Sox can’t comfortably do either. This offseason the Padres have traded a whopping 14 players for three pitchers and a backup catcher. Of those traded, four were part of the big club, including their third-fourth starter from 2020, their third-fourth starter from 2018-2019, their 2019-2020 co-starting catcher, and a lesser part of their bullpen. They also took on $38.85 million in salary to do so, while only sending out one salary of note: Zach Davies and his estimated arb number of $10.6 million. The Sox have maintained their farm system and had seemingly remained payroll-neutral on their offseason departures and arrivals until Liam Hendriks. If the Sox were to add another $33 million to catch up to the Padres current payroll (they won’t), you’d think that could easily be, say, Jake Odorizzi or Taijuan Walker and Tommy LaStella, or dare I say a Bauer outage. Focusing on Musgrove, the Sox sending out five players including two that could be on the major league roster could have been a small price, or a James Shields overpay. This could be one that we think back on with pangs, but he’s 28 with a career ERA+ of 96, so he’s intriguing but has been below average. By comparison, Gerrit Cole had an ERA+ of 113 in Pittsburgh. Musgrove is a nice add, but not a world-beater.

So what about them Jays? Did they charm George Springer and others leaving us wondering what if? Only in dreams, pal. Springer was never walking through the door at 35th and Shields, nor is he really needed at $25 million per for the next 6 pers. No missed opportunity there really. Of course he’s better than Adam Eaton, but…nah. Wasn’t happening. Kirby Yates? We got Liam Hendriks. Michael Brantley? Hmmm…well, if he had given the Jays a 1-year deal at $10-$12 million you could argue. Since he instead re-signed to perhaps play out his days in Houston, the Sox would have needed to blow him away money-wise. That means going over $16 million annually, and the Sox could get similar production younger if not cheaper.

Jon Lester took $6 million to be the Nats’ fourth starter. It’s tough to say that he has anything in the tank, and also whether that’s a fair deal or an overpay, or even an underpay (see my last blog for more confusion). He’s a guy that intrigued me because he’s a post season vet, a past winner, a guy who buys fans beer, and it would piss off Cubs fans if he were here. His decline is hard to ignore, though. We can woulda-shoulda this one if his season goes well and Kopech or Cease flops, but you don’t lose sleep over someone else’s haggard one-night stand.

And lastly we saw erstwhile Sox ace Jose “Q” Quintana sign with the Angels for $8 million. Remember how good he was with the Sox? He hasn’t been that guy in a couple years. In fact, each year since he left the Sox he’s been progressively declining. At least Jake Odorizzi and Garrett Richards have injuries to blame for their performance. I’m fine with Q being somehow the fourth starter on an Angels team with only 2 other starters.

So here we sit, fretting that the Sox have lost out? Nah. “The one” didn’t get away. Nothing that came off the boards this week was anything more than a fleeting thought in the shower. You take that statement to where ever you want it to land, my friend.

More Fits and Nots: Right Place, Wrong Guys

Are the Sox in on high priced talent? Forget about Dorn, he’s just high priced. Photo from Paramount Pictures’ 1989 motion picture release “Major League”

I hope I’m wrong about this segment in that mostly I don’t think that the Sox will do anything major or that isn’t on a minor-league or reclamation project deal. Assuming the chatter that they aren’t done isn’t just fan frustration and wishful thinking, I think the rumor mill is pointed in the wrong direction. While I don’t know that I have the right direction, here’s more rumors and whether they are Fits or Nots.

Corbin Bernson, uhhhh…Burnes

The Brewers are dangling (are they though?) young Corbin Burnes, a pitcher with great stuff, whom the Sox supposedly covet to the tune of Nick Madrigal and other top guys. Who? Top. Guys.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: Of course he is, he’s at least where Dylan Cease is in terms of becoming a consistent major league starter, the arm talent is fantastic and the ceiling very high. He’s also under team control and still cheap. He’s been a fantastic reliever but transitioned to starting some in 2019, and then more so over the short 2020 season.

HE’S A BAD FIT: Talent wise there’s no bad fit, but to get him might hurt too much. This isn’t a salary dump for the Brewers, this would be them getting a need or many needs filled. How much does this cost the Sox? Madrigal was the rumor but the Brewers aren’t hurting for middle infielders, so you’d think it has to be a pitcher or different position player. Does that mean Kopech? Vaughn? Both? It took 5 guys to get Joe Musgrove in a straight salary dump, so the Brewers might want all 9 positions and a reliever for Burnes. On the field, Burnes has been more reliever than starter (74 overall appearances with 13 starts) so he isn’t necessarily an innings-eater. 60 innings last year are his MLB high, coming over 12 appearances and 9 starts. He’s talented, but he’s also in that Kopech/Cease range so there’s probably growing pains coming for him too.

FINAL TALLY: Good fit, but Good Gawd. The price should be tremendous because the only reason the Brewers trade him at this point is to get back a haul. He’s not a salary dump, as Josh Hader ($6.675 million) and Brandon Woodruff ($3.275 million) are their highest paid pitchers. If the Brewers are using a young pitcher to reload, Hader and Woodruff would also command a big return. Woodruff might be the better bang for buck target if the Brewers are shopping Sox prospects, even though he’s a bit older and higher salaried than Burnes. Woodruff’s been very good and similar in usage for the beer makers to Burnes, but with more starts. For the Brewers, his cost savings and arb status mean they’re getting out at the right time for a rebuild, if that’s what they’re doing. For the Sox he’d be a great 4th at, I suspect, less cost in terms of players than Burnes. I don’t know why the Brewers part with either unless you really blow them away and really replenish the Milwaukee MLB club around Christian Yelich. Sorry, it’s a pipe dream that it’ll happen without a big hit the farm system, and the Brewers would need to agree to trade a young, cheaply controllable, exciting pitcher when they don’t need to.


The Sox are going hard after former Cubs/Angels/A’s IF Tommy LaStella, say people who think that’s happening.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: Not a big slugger but a high contact, low strikeout guy who found a better HR stroke with regular playing time. He’s a 2B/1B/3B and would make a lovely DH rotation candidate. Over his past 135 games he’s a .288 hitter with an .826 OPS, and 21 of his career 31 homers and 22 doubles. He can spell Yoan at 3B, take some days at 1B, be insurance for Madrigal at 2B…and even giving him a nice raise from his recent $3.25 million salary it seems likely he’s not going to break the bank. Awwww he’s perfect! Can we keep him? PLLEEEASSE?

HE’S A BAD FIT: He really isn’t a bad fit at all. The fact that he isn’t signed yet by someone makes you wonder whether he’s priced himself silly because he fits a number of teams. His power output before 2019 being nil in mostly part time roles is just one of those flags that is red-adjacent, but he’s not the power bat that you’d normally want as a DH. He also hasn’t actually been a full-season starter, ending his breakout 2019 halfway through due to injury and last year being last year. He wouldn’t be expected to play all 162 for the Sox, but pretty close as the primary DH. Assuming that he wants to DH. If he wants a regular field job, the Sox don’t have one for him.

FINAL TALLY: As with most free agents, at the right price he’s a good fit. If he’s expecting James McCann/Kyle Schwarber money, that’s the right neighborhood but it feels like the highest you’d want to go. I don’t know if Rick Hahn has that in the coffers when, as previously discussed, he’s said the team is on the floor. There are guys out there that might come cheaper until Vaughn is ready. And plenty of folks, presumably including the Sox, really believe that Vaughn is close to ready and will play this year. Committing to a free agent DH has to be a short term move. LaStella could easily grab a multi-year deal elsewhere, even back with the Angels. Amongst his former Angels teammates lies a guy that broke out last year and is kinda trapped by the Angels roster in Jared Walsh. An older rookie, the lefty-hitting 1B Walsh came out hammering the ball in 2020 and has some good MiLB stats. The worry is that he’s a flash in the pan. The Angels desperately need help on the mound, and trading a question mark like Walsh at his high point makes some Angelic sense. Maybe Reynaldo Lopez or Bernie Flores II and a prospect get it done? If Walsh makes it hard on Vaughn, that’s ok. Its great. If he’s not good…meh…throw him in AAA until Adam Eaton gets hurt and we find out Vaughn is a passable RF.

Mrs. Garrett, but Richer. Rich Nougharret. Garrett Richards?

Often injured former ace Angel Garrett Richards is the next fourth starter target.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: Cory Kluber Lite..? Diet Kluber? Diet Kluber. You’d be paying for past performance and the hopes that injuries and the resulting ineffectiveness are done and behind him. Same risk as Kluber, but a bit lesser in that he’s not quite as good historically as the former Cy Young winner and wayyyy more injury prone. But Richards has been real good as a major league starter. In his career he has a 3.62 era and 1.255 WHIP. As a 1-year or uno with options, he’s a good gamble to buy the Sox time for Cease and Kopech to emerge as the forces they are expected to be.

HE’S A BAD FIT: 6, 6, 16, 3, 10. That’s neither my luggage combo nor my office’s usual Chinese order, that’s how many starts Richards has made each year since his only 30-start season in 2015. He seems to come pre-injured, just add water. You’d have to worry that he would tear a ligament in his arm taking a crap. Pre-wipe even. He was effective but not great as a 2020 Padre, so what you’re getting is anyone’s guess. And the Padres didn’t want him back, so why is he good enough for the Sox?

FINAL TALLY: As a minor-league signing or an Alex Wood-esque $3 million flyer, Richards can show you if he has anything left. He can try and out-pitch Cease and Kopech, and Lopez…and Stiever…and Flores and Vargas. If Richards pans out, great, if not, cut him. But as a guaranteed guy that you slot in at four and pay money like he’ll be there for 32 starts and be good? No…that seems like a hope and prayer that he’s healthy and the same guy he was 6 years ago. Not a great idea for a team with championship aspirations. If you want some discount on an oft-injured free agent pitcher who has shown recently that he’s what he was 6 years ago, Brett Anderson and Taijuan Walker are sitting there. Anderson started over 30 games in 2015, like Richards, and like Richards battled injuries in 2016 through 2018 not completing a season for the A’s. The difference? Anderson started 31 A’s games in 2019 with a respectable 3.89 ERA and 1.307 WHIP, and 10 more with the Brewers last year before succumbing to a season-long blister issue. Anderson in 2019 was back to his old self, and would make a fine addition to the back of the Sox rotation for a year or so. Walker was 22 in 2015 and emerging as a starter with the Mariners. He took a step forward that year as a full-time starter and showed improvement in 2016 and 2017, before 2018 and 2019 were done in by Tommy John. The surgery. Coming back last year, Walker was OK as a Mariner but after a trade to the Blue Jays was sparkling down the stretch. At 27, signing him to a multi-year deal might just be insurance against Lynn or Kuechel leaving, or a trade chip if they don’t need him in 2022.

A lineup’s worth of things that worry me

I only worry on Mondays, not heading into the weekend. But Chris ripped me on this bit during the show so I thought I’d reference it in case you were actually looking for it.

The Humble NRI and Comparative Grief 101

Pablo Ozuna? Yup. I invoke thee, Pablo Ozuna, to wield the Staff of Cork and Kerry. Photo from MLB.

A Joke that isn’t really a Joke: Expect an unexpected 2021 contributor.

I started the most recent episode of Sox In The Basement with a joke, declaring it “Nick Williams Day” in honor of the Sox signing the former Phillies OF to a minor league deal and a see ya in AZ. I got a rise out of Chris but suggesting that Williams was the new DH, and after the cursory Chris chuckle and get the f out was over we launched into the serious business of comparing Kyle Lewis and Luis Robert.

I wasn’t kidding completely though. I knew what his reaction would be, but in all seriousness I see the Williams signing as a possible DH now being brought to camp. Williams has had success in the majors as a left handed OF with some pop. His minors stats are good, .288 with an OPS of .821. His majors stats aren’t as good, .254 with a .733 OPS but that includes a horrid 2019 campaign after a good to average 2017-2018 run. What happened in 2019? For one thing Bryce Harper took his job. Williams was left to share time with Corey Dickerson, Odubel Herrera, Jay Bruce and Andrew McCutchen who opened the door a bit by getting hurt. Other than going from everyday guy to part-timer I have no idea what happened and neither the time nor inclination to find out. Dude’s a minor leaguer and an NRI (non-roster invitee).

But he follows a long line of guys who were also NRIs and contributed to White Sox teams in big ways. Take a look at Pablo up there. Breathe in the memories of a guy popping a gum bubble before laying down a walk-off bunt, exemplifying the grinder rules. Recall the joy as he pinch ran for A.J. after our pesty catcher stole first base, with Pablo stealing second and scoring the game winner on a Joe Crede double. Pablo…was a minor league signing having washed out in 2004 with the Rockies, and took his NRI status in spring training and played his way onto a championship team and, more importantly, into our hearts. Chris Widger also did that in 2005 but to a lesser extent. He played his way into a lymph node at best.

Among others that have followed this route recently, to mixed and mostly bad results: Dewayne Wise, Matt Skole, Geo Soto, Cody Asche, Ryan Goins and a handful of pitchers like Ross Detwiler, Evan Marshall and Anthony Swarzak. This is also ignoring when a prospect that isn’t on the 40-man makes the team, which happens and is frankly what Andrew Vaughn would be doing if he’s the opening day DH.

However, sometimes the NRI is equivocal to an under the radar minor league deal. Enter names like: Daniel Bennett Palka. In November 2017 he was claimed off waivers to no fanfare, really being AAA depth. Sitting behind the major league OF consisting of Avi Garcia, Adam Engel and the immortal Nicky Delmonico, Palka was also had Ryan Cordell, Trayce Thompson and Charlie Tilson hanging around. He hit his way into an April callup and Palka ended up with 27 homers and an OPS+ of 110 as a rookie and more than a few Sox fans thought he’d be the DH going forward.

So don’t sleep on the minor league signings and NRIs that are bound to start popping up in the coming weeks. One of them could be important. I just don’t know that it’ll be Nick Williams. I just hope its more Pablo Ozuna, and less Cody Asche.

An apology (of sorts) to Rick Hahn, Part 2: WTF is this pitching market?

Aren’t we Sox fans all just a bit annoyed at Rick Hahn saying the team is on the floor? He’s not going out and getting a DH and a number 4 starter? Really? The DH thing is somewhat unforgivable based on the hitters still sitting out there, but the SP4 is maybe a market problem rather than tight purse strings by Jerry.

Last week I noted that Cory Kluber was a good fit for the Sox at the right price, citing his injury history and noting that he might garner a discount contract as he hasn’t really pitched since 2018. He signed with the Yankees for $11 million guaranteed, which if he regains form is great. If he’s hurt again or he finds that how he used to pitch no longer works because his stuff doesn’t do the same things, he’s a waste. But at $11 million, is that the Yankees taking a flyer or paying for him to be their #2-#3 starter?

Kluber’s deal slots between 1-year and $8 million for Robbie Ray, who pitched the past two years and poorly at that, and 1-year and $15 million for Charlie Morton, who has been ace-esque until an up and down 2020. Kluber’s deal matched Drew Smyly, who signed for 1 year and $11 million and hasn’t been good for 5-6 years. Other guys getting guaranteed money: Alex Wood, who was also last good in 2018 before injuries, 1-year $3million; Matt Andriese who has never been all that good, 1-year $2.1 million; Michael Wacha, who’s good seasons seem like outliers, also 1-year $3million; Anthony “Disco” Desclafani, who was pretty good in 2019 and decent in other years, 1-year $6 million; José Ureña, who has as many diacritical marks in his name as he has decent seasons in the majors, 1-year, $3.25 million. Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman are each on 1-year, $18.9 million deals and expected to be a big part of their respective staffs even though both have been very up and down in their careers. Mike Minor, who was best as a reliever years ago, inexplicably has the only multi year deal and will earn $7 million from the Royals in 2021, and $10 million in 2022.

So to keep tally:

  • For $15 million or better you can get an aging #2 or a decent starter with a spotty history. Bandname: Charlie and Friends.
  • For $11 million or better you can get a former ace coming off major injuries or a lefty who has never lived up to his billing. Bandname: Smyly and the Klubots.
  • For $7 million or better you can get a lefty who really kinda blows. Bandname: Left Out!
  • For $6 million you can get a #4 starter with a good nickname. Bandname: The Disco Factor
  • For $2 million or better you can get bad pitchers or a guy who was a good pitcher until he was hurt. Bandname: Scrapheap and the Mehs.

Of the pitchers signed, Disco and Morton seem like bargains while the deals for Stroman and Gausman make it hard to fathom Trevor Bauer taking less than $30 million per year. Kluber’s deal if he’s healthy is a bargain because he’s likely better than Gausman or Stroman, and maybe comparable to 2019 Charlie Morton. Wood is a flyer while some guys are getting deals based on fleeting potential or some good year in the past. If this is the market, then no wonder the Sox, Padres and Mets chose to trade for pitching. But, that also means that we can match the profile of remaining free agents to the ranges that the 2021 market has established.

  • Charlie and Friends, feat. Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odirizzi, Garrett Richards, Taijuan Walker, J.A. Happ and Jose Quintana
  • Smyly and the Klubots, feat. James Paxton and Brett Anderson
  • Left Out! feat. Carlos Rodón
  • The Disco Factor feat. Mike Leake, Chris Archer, and Rick Porcello
  • Scrapheap and the Mehs it turns out is a pretty all-inclusive band that no one wants to listen to, with some players being better than others.

There’s also solo artist Trevor Bauer, who will be very pricey. There’s also Rolling Stones/Aerosmith like band of potentially pricey aging rockers who have lost a step but might still bring it every now and again, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Rich Hill and Adam Wainwright.

So my slack cut to Rick Hahn here is, where do the Sox go? Pay around $15 million or more for a decent guy? A little less for a comeback candidate? Or go for reasonably priced mediocrity? I’d be willing to wait and see if a bargain falls in his lap.

How’s Jerry stack up to Virginia, two families and himself? Photo by Money Inc.

More Complaints: Owners Edition

For those White Sox fans that spend some of their emotions and cash on the Bears, the post-mortem presser sparked conversation about sports ownership and where the McCaskeys ranked amongst the NFL and Chicago owners. The answer was unfavorable, to say the least. Then I saw some attempts at comparing the Rickettseses of Wrigley to the Sox’ own Jerry Reinsdorf, with several comments that they are both bad. Toss in the Blackhawks slowly sinking back into irrelevance and the Bulls who are owned by…Rerry Jeinsdorf?

So who has the right to claim misery at having the worst owner in town? On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the greatest sports owner in history who spares no expense on players, facilities, fan experience and puts a championship banner up every other year at least (no one) and 10 being a rich idiot with no knowledge of the game, no attempts at a winning team and no cares whatsoever about the fans (Rachel Phelps from “Major League”), where do our fair city’s team owners rank? Keep in mind that the midpoint, a 5, is a competent owner that invests in the product but will be mindful of profits first and puts reasonably good sports minds in key positions, creating a generally predictable result with occasional greatness and badness.

Virginia Halas McCaskey, Bears – 3 out of 10. Why? Look, the fact that Mrs. McCaskey has been around pro football since pro football started is impressive. I do believe that she hates the failure of the franchise as much as her dad would have. But at this point, the team isn’t great, the stadium isn’t great, the explanations aren’t great about why things aren’t great. For too long the Bears have had the same issues, a GM that struggles to evaluate QBs and offensive talent, coaches that aren’t as good as expected, teams that under perform when it matters, and hanging on to fan tropes and glories so old that it makes the fandom look like an SNL parody. Even that parody is so tired that it isn’t funny anymore. At some point repeating the same mistakes is an ownership issue, and shoveling that down fans’ throats really is an ownership issue.

The Wirtz family, Blackhawks – 7 out of 10. Why? They won championships and Rocky Wirtz remade the team into a much more fan-friendly and accessible team in the process. But like a lot of teams, now that they are top-heavy with aging stars things aren’t going great and it’ll be curious to see how they react, which so far hasn’t been exceptionally. Recent Stanley Cups are what’s keeping them above average and this would have been an 8 or 9 until recently.

Jerry Reinsdorf, Bulls – 4 out of 10. Why? In a nutshell he let Jerry Krause’s personal vendettas determine the fate of the Dynasty and first rebuild, and then let Gar/Pax run the show for too long in spite of repeatedly coming up short on all fronts. The NBA is a league where 1 player can determine the fate of a franchise but ownership has to get the front office in place to get that guy and surround him with talent. Jerry hasn’t gone too cheap on the Bulls or tried to alienate the fans, but his loyalty to bad evaluators since ’99 is a huge problem.

The Ricketts family, Cubs – 6 out of 10. Why? I wouldn’t trust them to watch my dog while I took a piss, but I will give credit to the Ricketts for doing what they said they’d do. They remade Wrigley, they sold out hard to win a World Series and delivered one, and the wave of that success buoys their score. But that love fest is over now with the team looking to rebuild and rumblings that the debt the Ricketts went into to get the team is going to dog them. Like the Wirtz family, recovering from the championship window closing will be telling, and they still get a pass from the big win. Now we get to see if they will return to the Cubdom that the Ricketts knew and loved when they were just obscenely rich fans, a team that is seemingly unable to monetize their ridiculous overpopularity into behaving like they should, as the Yankees of the NL. They could drop straight into the 3 out of 10 realm as soon as this year if they aren’t careful.

Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox – 5 out of 10. What? I mean, Why? For all our griping, Jerry is basically just a competent baseball owner. He invests only what he feels he can with profits in mind, he has decent baseball minds in key places, he at least has the team make attempts to engage fans and provide a good fan experience, but he doesn’t go over and above to try and win, nor does he ever really truly shit on the fans. It’s aggravating, though, in way that Bears fans and Bulls fans don’t suffer. Jerry The Sox Version hasn’t really done anything obviously wrong, just he hasn’t done anything exciting so there’s no one thing to complain about that’s clearly bad, just knowing it could be better. Bears fans watch the same garbage each year and each iteration of the team, and can sit there and yell about Ted Phillips and the inability to draft a QB and point to clear problems. Bulls fans watched Jerry clearly not be able to put a good front office together or control the guys he did put in and have them make good choices. But with the Sox…Jerry’s largely had good GMs…his payroll is usually tied to attendance and income for the team the year prior…Sox games are fun in person but not transcendent baseball experiences…they sign free agents but never a huge splurge…and so on.

So who has it worst?

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

  1. The team is on the floor.
  2. Said team on said floor being anointed in January as the team to beat in the AL based solely on other teams’ inaction.
  3. Liam Hendriks’ jocularity vs. Adam Eaton
  4. Lucas Giolito being worried about his contract.
  5. Tony LaRussa overusing Liam Hendriks.
  6. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Three words: memory foam walls)
  7. Tony LaRussa under using Liam Hendriks.
  8. The bullpen behind Hendriks being a tad overrated.
  9. NRI, DH.
  10. And warming up in the pen: being just two players away.

Vox Pop on the new Aussie, Fits and Nots in the news

Liam Hendriks (here cleverly disguised as Liam Hendriks) somehow has mixed reviews from Sox fans. Photo by NBC Sports

Just ain’t no pleasing some folks, I reckon.

The White Sox, clearly heeding the words of idiots and wise people alike in social media and other internet circles, went and signed the consensus (by MLB types) best closer in the game, Liam Hendriks. This should be universally applauded but yet somehow there are detractors. By “yet somehow” I mean “as expected”, by which I mean “because some people are only happy when they can bitch about things”.

No matter. In my professional life away from here, I try and solve problems by seeing both sides of an argument, so let’s weigh the happy and mad of the deal:

Good on ya’ Rick:

There’s no real question who the best closer in the bigs has been in 2019 and 2020. Hendriks was a lights-out workhorse for the A’s, as notably demonstrated against the Sox in the playoffs last year. He was easily the best reliever on the market. His $13 million annual is just $2.5 million over what the Sox paid Alex Colomé the last two years (which you figure Alex’ll get a raise from that), and about what Brad Hand is expected to get. Unlike Hand and Colome, who have watched their velocity dip and started to rely more on soft contact, Hendriks has maintained his stuff and remains a strikeout guy. His presence means that Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, Matt Foster and possibly Garrett Crochet can cover the 7th and 8th, leaving the likes of Jimmy Cordero and Jace Fry to bail out the likes of Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez or Michael Kopech if they can only muster 5 innings.

Hahn’s a bloody Drongo, Mate!

The unhappiness seems to stem from the well-documented fact that Hendriks was bad as a Twins and DFA’d by teams several times, including the A’s in 2018. He’s also going to start the season at 32 years old, and therefore is too aged and about to fail physically. $54 million could have brought in a DH and a solid 4th starter.

So are the naysayers right to say nay, and the cheers for naught? Or was this an aggressive move to make the Sox an even bigger, better contender?

Good move. The money is fine, established closers are expensive and rarely available when they are young and cheap. The Sox window is now, and they don’t need to worry about the distant future, especially in the bullpen where turnover is a given. As for his age and turnaround, the reason why it hasn’t been the subject of more scrutiny is that it is a boring story. Hendriks simply decided in 2018 to stop screwing around and take his craft seriously. There were no advanced metrics poured over or radical mechanical changes, he just…honed his training, started charting pitches and studying, and tried to be aggressive. He’s another in a line of guys that went from starter to reliever to closer by simply adapting to the more aggressive bullpen mindset and, well, trying harder. As far as age indicating injury, he’s thrown 573 innings over the last 10 years, so he hasn’t really been overused. For the money minders, $54 million over 4 years will not get an established DH and starting pitcher, when Kyle Schwarber is getting $10 million and Robbie Ray is getting $8 million. Plus, the Sox can still find a reasonably priced DH and have 4 guys for 2 rotation spots, including two guys in their top-10 prospects list. A shutdown badass closer is a rare commodity. Just be happy he’s here.

Players in the news that the Sox can and can’t use

Andrew Benintendi, seen here joking with a sentient baseball, is on the trade block. Photo credit David Foster II USA Today

There are a couple players that have made the rounds in the rumor mills lately, notably because they are available after down years and/or injury. Three of them fit Sox needs, but do they really fit? Opinions have varied…

Andrew Bennetti, Beninetti…Jason’s cousin..? Oh. Andy Benintendi.

The Red Sox are shopping their 26-year-old outfielder who, in 2017 and 2018, looked like a cornerstone but in 2019 and 2020, looked pedestrian and injured.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: Not a slugger but an Adam Eaton type with some power and speed, Benintendi would seemingly be a nice addition to LF and allow Eloy to focus on DH, where everyone but Eloy wants him to play. At $6.6 million with an arb year left, Benintendi seems financially team friendly. The cost seems to fluctuate between prospects and controllable major-league talent, depending on the report. The Red Sox have needs, so a prospect who is a $2-$3 scratcher and a check guy would seem like the fit. Re-read past posts if that confused you.

HE’S A BAD FIT: I’m not sure what the White Sox would be trading here, but if the Red Sox want major-league ready, are they taking expendable guys like Lopez or Engel, or do you need to send Codi Heuer or Kopech? Getting back to earlier entries, I don’t think the Sox system has enough depth to make significant trades without giving up Vaughn, Kopech or another top-10 guy unless the other team wants low-minors guys with potential. Assuming Benintendi is more 2018 than 2019, and I’d bet he is, the question is whether the Sox want more power or more balanced hitter out of the DH role, and whether Eloy is the type that will struggle if he’s not on the field. This trade feels like it would have been a move to make before Adam Eaton signed and Eaton’s $8 million going to a power bat.

FINAL TALLY: Benintendi would be a good fit, if a bit risky because he has been backsliding and hurt for two straight years. That said, if he’s healthy he’s a very good player. But I wouldn’t make the move since he’s probably going to cost players that the Sox don’t really have to spend, and cash can get someone off the street. Plus, a trade for a player that needs to prove it was the injuries last year and that he’s really the guy he was thought to be at the start of his career sounds…familiar. Ah, yes. That, my friends, was Nomar Mazara last year.

Corey Koskie, no Snyder, no Haim, no…Kluber

Former Cleveland irritant and Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is throwing again after losing 2019 and 2020 to injury.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: You’d think Kluber would be looking for a 1-year deal maybe with a club option, and expecting teams to mitigate the risk on a very recently fragile arm by offering a low base with incentives a’ plenty. Even with the last two years being a loss, the guy has a career 3.16 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, and one of the injuries was freak in nature, the 2019 season ending fracture from a liner. The upside is a former Cy-Young winner who may not be as dominant but can still pitch. Think later years Doc Gooden or David Cone, with maybe another dominant run in him.

HE’S A BAD FIT: He tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder and that has to be a problem. He’s 34. he hasn’t pitched in 2 years. At this point he’s no more of a given than Cease, Kopech or Lopez, so why not just see what the kids can do? If you’re going to spend, spend on a guy who has pitched recently so we know what we’re getting.

FINAL TALLY: He’s a good fit, for the right price. He’s coming off of a $7.7 million a year contract so that base with incentives could play. What’s the worst that happens? He’s hurt. But if there’s a bidding war and some team is willing to overspend, there’s no need to chase. A DH is a more pressing need given the ceilings of Cease, Kopech and Stiever, with Lopez an in house rebound candidate.

Whole Camels. Uhh…Cole Hamels.

The veteran lefty was last seen getting hurt and leaving the Braves further in a hole last year, after being a lifesaver for the Cubs in 2019.

HE’S A GOOD FIT: Veteran pitcher that could also come cheap as he proves he isn’t through yet. A nice lefty to add balance in a rotation that only has Dallas Kuechel from that side. Not what he was in his prime, but lefty! They get crafty in their waning years!

HE’S A BAD FIT: He’s basically 2021 Gio Gonzalez.

FINAL TALLY: He’s basically 2021 Gio Gonzalez…so…NO.

An apology (of sorts) to Rick Hahn, Katz Thoughtz, and trading The Unthinkables.

Maybe I owe Rick Hahn a little slack…

Kyle Schwarber should be able to tip his 3B Coach better with the Nats. Photo by AP.

I, like many Sox fans and assorted folks who blog and podcast about the Chicago White Sox, have been shouting across the mountaintops to Rick Hahn to get moving on a closer, another starter and a DH. And while I’m aware that mountaintops are hard to come by in Chicago, I substituted the taller buildings in the Loop and Mt.’s Greenwood and Prospect to cover the Southside and Northside in case Rick is hiding.

It turns out, maybe Rick isn’t in hiding and he’s just as dumbfounded by the market as the rest of us non-GMs.

Case in point, the Nationals giving Kyle Schwarber $10 million. Schwarber was a $7 million man in 2020 and sucked, leading his projected arb figure of $7.9 million to $9.3 million to be too much for the suddenly cash-strapped Cubs. But, given the short weird season, you can assume he’d be due for positive regression to 2019. Ahh 2019…when, frankly, Schwarber was decent at .250 BA/38 Bombs/.871 OPS and everyone was thinking the baseballs were juiced because offense had skyrocketed all over the league and the minors. Otherwise his best year? 2018 where he hit .238 with an .823 OPS, including 26 homers in 137 games. In 2016 he was hurt, he spent parts of 2017 in AAA. So why wouldn’t the Cubs pay him? It appears the folk hero of the 2016 World Series might not be all that great given that in 2018 he was similar to Daniel Palka, of all people, and 2019 he was close to the Royals’ Hunter Dozier, and slightly outplayed by Joc Pederson (who is still NOT a guy I want on the Sox).

Back to Rick Hahn, then. “Go get a DH Rick!!” we shouted. Hell, I repurposed a classic Christmas poem to excoriate Rick over the Blake Snell deal and name dropped Schwarber. Why? Because I figured fair market to Kyle Schwarber was a lower base salary with incentives, letting the former Northside Babe Ruth wannabe prove he’s more Reds-era Adam Dunn than Sox-era ‘AndI’m Done’. Can’t afford to give Michael Brantley a raise over the $16 million he made each of the last 2 years? I can see that, I guess, even though the Sox should have that money. Don’t want to give Kyle Schwarber $10 million? I agree even if we discover a Scrooge McDuck money pool to swim in at Jerry’s house.

So I think if the market has players that are overvaluing themselves that badly, I’d cut Rick some slack over a lack of movement. It would also explain the league-wide stagnation and the recent spate of trades, which Rick could do more but none of those trades had good analogs with the Sox. The Nationals had no reason to blink on that Schwarber deal unless that was the cheapest they could get for what they needed, another lefty bat in the outfield.

I’m also cutting Rick a little slack on the closer market. Everyone is waiting on Liam Hendriks like he’s the Bachelor handing out roses. Or Riker firing on the Borg. Or like an Australian who might be trapped by a 7-foot spider and as a result can’t get to a contract signing. I think its more the formers than the latter. Really, until Hendriks makes his choice there’s no reason to sign Brad Hand or Alex Colomé, if Hendriks is a Sox possibility. That Hendriks hasn’t chosen also means Rick and his colleagues are making “competitive offers” instead of just giving the guy what he wants and securing the deal. If Hendriks is making a Schwarber of it all, we’ll know after he signs.

So, Rick, I’ll back off a little. But remember, a DH, a starting pitcher, and a closer are still on the shopping list. Go.


A report in The Athletic emerged that Ethan Katz has identified mechanical changes in Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez that should fix their 2019-2020 issues. Exciting thoughts abound that Cease could have a general idea where his pitches will end up while Lopez might return to 2018 when he had a 3.91 ERA and 1.272 WHIP.

Let’s be optimistic for the moment. Cease averages 4.7 BB/9 innings for his career, which was Lucas Giolito’s BB/9 when he was the worst starting pitcher in the MLB. If Cease can cut back on the walks and drop his BB/9 back towards 3.5, his H/9, HR/9, BB/9 and K/9 are similar to Zack Wheeler. I’d take that comparison at my 4th/5th starter. Lopez was statistically comparable in 2018 to Dallas Keuchel, who is slated as the #2 starter in the rotation. If Lopez has just had a mechanical issue that caused his regression in 2019, where hits were the biggest difference, 38 more hits and 10 more HR than 2018 in 4 fewer innings. If a more compact delivery makes Reynaldo a little less hittable, going back to 2018 makes for a good 4th, 5th or a good swing man.

Let’s be pessimistic. Mechanics are all about repetition and when feces are meeting fan blades, bad habits and natural tendencies start to rise up. Cease will need all offseason, spring training and a number of starts to get a feel and to see how the changes impact his pitches and control. Same for Lopez, although with him there have been additional questions about his head and his health. Last year he clearly had arm issues that lead to him going out to the mound with a meh-to-blah fastball. If he’s healthy, and if he gets enough reps to make the changes stick, there’s still the lingering memory of Ricky Renteria asking Reynaldo if he knows he’s pitching today whilst standing mid-inning together on the mound.

Unthinkable Trades for Thinkable Times

Michael Kopech has been untouchable in Sox rumors, but deep thought….should he be? Photo from the Chicago Tribune.

Dane Dunning was too steep a price for Lance Lynn in some circles of Soxdom the White. The idea of Michael Kopech, Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal ad the like being part of a Blake Snell deal seemed too steep as well. Then the trades for Darvish and Lindor seemed to include far less caliber a player than Kopech, Vaughn and the gang. One wonders why the Sox couldn’t just trade Zack Collins and Emilio Vargas for Joe Musgrove and call it a win.

But the key with the Lindor/Carrasco and Darvish trades were that the Mets and Padres took on salary that the White Sox are not interested in taking on. That’s why maybe the Sox need to dangle their top prospects to teams that need to read the room a little and reload rather than dump salary. Teams that think they’ll compete in a top heavy division that need holes filled now rather than lottery scratchers for later, and have something that gets the Sox closer to repeating 2005.

By that I mean, can the Sox get proven talent to be more World Series ready for the unproven, but enticing, top end of the farm? I have ideas…and spoilers, they aren’t happening.

-The Phillies-

The NL East has suddenly passed the Phillies up by more than a bit. They finished 9 back of the Braves and behind the very frisky Marlins, and have watched the Mets make moves, while the Braves stay the same. The Phillies face questions about their lineup and lost the best catcher in the game, JT Realmuto, at least for the moment. So let’s say the Phightin’s decide to fill some holes with a major trade, say RHP Aaron Nola and OF Adam Haseley for Michael Kopech, Jonathan Stiever, and Nick Madrigal.

Why they do it: Aaron Nola is the ace of the Phillies and when he’s on, he’s really on. He’s proven that he can pitch at a high level in the majors and at 27 is just entering his prime. Signed until 2024, his base salary is just under $12 million this year and tops out at $16 million. He’s there during the Sox championship window, and doesn’t need to be anything more than a 2 or a 3. Haseley is a 24-year-old left handed OF that probably isn’t starter for the Sox in 2021, but is a solid depth piece and could be an Adam Eaton replacement. The Phillies get two starters behind new ace Zack Wheeler, and a second baseman not named Scott Kingery. They immediately improve their infield with a potential leadoff hitter and the rotation gets a 4th starter and a new ace in waiting.

Why they don’t: Aaron Nola is the ace of the Phillies and they need their just about to be in his prime ace if they have a prayer of competing during the Bryce Harper era. Kopech and Stiever are just prospects, and the clock is loudly ticking on passing the Braves and staying ahead of the Mets, not to mention the Nats and the Fish. Madrigal is probably better than Kingery now, but not enough to give up the best pitcher on the team. The Sox are overpaying too. Madrigal is the 2B of the now and the future, and Kopech is slated to be a big part of the rotation going forward. Losing Stiever and Kopech makes starting pitching depth a problem. Nola is a stud, but who plays 2B, who fills in the rotation after an injury and losing a prize in Kopech is making bigger holes to fill a 4th starter role.

-The Reds-

The NL Central is wide open behind the Cardinals, and the Reds are right there. They aren’t getting back Trevor Bauer and have a lot of Joey Votto to still work through, but they can compete this year if they have the rotation pieces, which starts with Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. Any trade that alleviates Gray’s salary would require an immediate replacement. That would mean Kopech, Gavin Sheets, and Leury Garcia for Sonny Gray, and OF Jesse Winker.

Why they do it: With a couple of blips and really just a bunch of Yankee-fan moaning, Gray has been an ace/near ace pitcher for a long time. He’s established. He’s under contract through 2023 for just around $10 million/year. He’s the Sox third/fourth starter. Winker is a good bat in a crowded outfield with Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama and Nick Senzel. He projects to be a starter for the Reds, he’s young and under team control, and the lefty bat the Sox have been after. He can serve as DH or in the outfield in 2021 and Eaton’s replacement in 2022 when Vaughn is definitely the DH. The Reds get their next cheap ace and a shortstop for 2021, they can compete this year while saving some cash, and get Votto’s replacement in the wings.

Why they don’t: Gray’s experience is great and is safer than Kopech’s upside, but the tradeoff maybe isn’t a great deal for the Sox. If Kopech is ready to be in the Reds rotation why not have him do his thing right here? The Reds may not want to send their only sure thing for a guy that hasn’t pitched in over two years. Winker would be a great add but the Reds don’t need to deal him, and even with the prospect and future they are getting back in this proposal, the Reds are trading Winker’s bat for Leury Garcia’s. The Reds could fill SS through another means and to do it, drop salary in the form of C Tucker Barnhart now that they have a youngster in Tyler Stephenson ready to step in. The trade could be mutually beneficial, but also seems like both teams have good reason to stand pat.

-The Red Sox-

The AL East is suddenly a three-horse race in Tampa, Toronto and New York, and the Red Sox aren’t ready to compete in 2021. They kinda started a rebuild in 2020 but haven’t committed, lately dangling Andrew Benintendi and hoping that Chris Sale or Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to move at the 2021 trade deadline. But why not offer a splash trade now? Kopech and Vaughn for Sale? Madrigal and Stiever for JD Martinez? Nah…Vaughn, Stiever, Collins, and LHP Konner Pilkington for OF Alex Verdugo and RHP Matt Barnes.

Why they do it: The Red Sox, on balance, make the Mookie Betts deal a large quantity haul with their future 2B (Jeter Downs), 1B/DH (Vaughn), another C possibility in Collins, and two rotation pieces (Stiever, and Pilkington figures to be a mid to back end guy). Verdugo was the prize of the Betts trade, but he’ll always live in Mookie’s shadow and Vaughn has similar pedigree. Meanwhile, the Sox get another servicable bullpen arm in Barnes, but more importantly they have their starting OF of the next 5 years plus and the ability to use Eaton and Eloy at DH in the now. Verdugo is not a big power guy but can just flat hit, and fills that lefty bat issue that seems to task them.

Why they don’t: Alex Verdugo is the centerpiece of the Red Sox rebuild, and trading him isn’t what you do. Especially when you have Bobby Dalbec and Tristan Casas as future 1B/DH types that centerpiece Vaughn has to compete with. Plus, Vaughn is still just 55 games into his pro career and while he might DH on the Southside this year, there’s no saying he’d do so in Fenway in 2021. More to the point, the White Sox are giving up their top prospect and 3 other players for basically one guy who is 211 games into his major league career, and Andrew Benintendi looked that good at that point too.

Side note: If the White Sox were to take a flyer on Benintendi and didn’t trade top-ten prospects for him, I wouldn’t be mad. Even though the guy seems to have lost it. Maybe hitting 7th as part of an OF/DH rotation brings him back to 2017/2018, and if he’s just at his 2019 levels he’s at least middlin’ for $6.6 mill in 2021 and an arb year left. He’d be Nomar Mazara with a better track record.

-The NL West that isn’t San Diego or LA-

The NL West is stupidly top heavy. The Rockies, D-Backs and Giants are out of the running. The Giants seem committed to running a veteran rotation out there with Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and ‘Lil Yaz anchoring the lineup. The Diamondbacks have Mad Bum and some other parts and pieces, but nothing coherent. The Rockies have a mess and want to trade Nolan Arenado and/or Trevor Story to clean things up somehow. How about a 4-way trade…? The Giants get cash considerations, Mad Bum, Caleb Smith and David Peralta from the Diamondbacks and RHP Daniel Bard from the Rockies, the Diamondbacks get Nolan Arenado and IF Ryan McMahon from the Rockies and Michael Kopech from the Sox, the Rockies get 1B Seth Beer, OF Corbin Carroll, Sox 2B Nick Madrigal, and Giants SS Marco Luciano and OF Hunter Bishop, the Sox get Giants OF Mike Yastrzemski, Rockies 2B Garrett Hampson, and AZ RHPs Zac Gallen and Stefan Crichton.

Why they do it: Stay with me here…The Giants get their former ace back along with another MLB starter and a closer to make one last run; AZ gets an ace, a useful IF and the best 3B in the NL, the Rockies get 5 prospects for Arenado including multiple off the top 100; the Sox get a lefty OF/DH, a possible starter at 2B, a young starter with great upside and another bullpen arm that closed last year for a bit.

Why they don’t: There’s no way anything I just wrote makes a lick of damn sense. Fantasy baseball nonsense. The Giants are giving up a lot in prospects for expensive players with questionable track records; the D-Backs are trading a lot for Arenado and a guy that’s a bigger question mark than the pitcher they traded; the Sox get a wishlist of players there but why the Giants and Diamondbacks trade the two key players isn’t clear; the Rockies would be fine though.

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

  1. Winning a World Series on a $117 million payroll.
  2. The closer situation staying in-house.
  3. Eloy Jimenez, DH…because that means what in left?
  4. Wanting Garrett Crochet in the bullpen now vs. him overthrowing out of the pen.
  5. Michael Kopech’s mental strategy vs. just having good stuff.
  6. Zack Collins needing to meaningfully contribute.
  7. Dylan Cease’s idea that straight at the plate is cross-body.
  8. Reynaldo Lopez needing to start to have value.
  9. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Maybe he plays center and Eaton and Robert cover everything?)
  10. And warming up in the pen: Adam Eaton is the big bat the Sox signed this offseason.

Cheap Trades, A Handy Guide to Player Ratings, and (spoilers) The Future.

The best case, worst case and likely scenario game, Part II – 10 Things From 2021 Edition

Getty Images, taken off a bunch of British Psychologists and as I think about it, not all that applicable

1. The Rest of the Off-Season

  • Best Case Scenario – The slow market causes some otherwise too-expensive (for the Sox’ liking anyway) free agents to take what Rick, Kenny and Jerry have on the table. An already good team goes into the season with depth and no pressure on Vaughn, Cease, Kopech and the young pensmen to perform at a high level. They can perform at a high level if they want, we won’t be mad.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The Sox stand pat with some fringe veteran guys given spring training invites. The rotation will need Cease, Kopech and Stiever to reach their potential, someone like Heuer or Bummer to take on the closer’s role, and hitting from Vaughn or perhaps a Burger or Mercedes. Those last two are also things I’d like to have in a non-baseball sense. The rebuild will have to carry the team all the way.
  • The Likely Scenario – It feels like they’ll mainly stand pat, maybe just until the trade deadline if the kids can’t step up. They were aggressive in getting Lance Lynn and Adam Eaton, and there haven’t been many rumors beyond the Liam Hendriks speculation. Hahn is typically aggressive with the guys he wants and goes at them right away, so the lack of rumors is a problem. There will always be some veterans that magically appear in camp and there’s too many free agents left to think that they won’t make an offer to someone, but they’ll rely on the prospects to take the next step. And let’s face it, if that means hoping Michael Kopech is what we expect him to be, that’s as good as driving a Mercedes to get a Burger.

2. Who’s The DH?

  • Best Case Scenario – Tony Danza. No, uhh, there are a number of good bats on the market, ranging from DH-only Nelson Cruz to OF guys like Kyle Schwarber, Marcell Ozuna or Eddie Rosario, to IF types like Tommy LaStella or Justin Turner, or even lesser names like Renato Nunez. An established bat, especially that can spell someone else in the field, would make the lineup feel unstoppable.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Andrew Vaughn, Yermin Mercedes, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Luis Gonzalez, Jake Burger, or a fringe vet like Matt Adams. Or a rotation of Adam Engel, Leury Garcia, Eloy, Jose, Yas, etc.
  • The Likely Scenario – The next set of prospects gets the chance to hit their way on, especially to the extent that they can take a turn in the field and give someone a breather. If one struggles, the next guy gets a shot. If they all struggle, a bat can be found at the deadline. Vaughn is the hot name, but Mercedes, Collins, Burger and the carousel of bench guys are likely ahead of him. Really, not a bad scenario given that Vaughn is expected to hit, and they don’t have to run out a non-prospect. That is, unless everyone involved sucks and the market at the deadline is barren. Which, ummm, Tony Danza will be an option then.

3. Starters 4 and 5 through 6

  • Best Case Scenario – The recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete for Michael Kopech who becomes the ace-level guy as expected, Ethan Katz finds the secret to Dylan Cease having a reasonable idea where his pitches are going at all times, and/or Stiever or another guy takes the next step. Or Trevor Bauer gets so annoyed about his salary demands being outed by Jon Heyman that he signs with the Sox on the relative cheap out of spite. Or, you know, a solid mid-rotation guy gets acquired.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The recovery from Tommy John surgery isn’t quick and the season after the surgery isn’t usually a great one, so Kopech struggles.  Cease continues to be inconsistent and the remaining minor leaguers aren’t ready. Hahn waits until the deadline to find help, and what’s there costs a premium without returning a premium.
  • The Likely Scenario – This is where I get worried. Until Kopech, Cease and Stiever (or others) prove it, there are two very unsettled spots in the rotation. Beyond Bauer or a trade, the market isn’t inspiring but has some predictability (whatever happened to that?) which the Sox could use. But we haven’t heard that they are after any of what’s out there. So the kids are up, with the good news that presumptive starters Kopech and Cease have high ceilings.

4. The Pen of the Bull

  • Best Case Scenario – We have plenty of arms, plenty of towels. There’s room for one more, whether that’s Alex returning or Liam arriving.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The bullpen is just a damn cat wrapped up like a present. Relief pitchers are unpredictable year to year, case in point Jimmy Cordero 2019 (good) to 2020 (bad). Bummer is established but was hurt last year, and everyone else could Cordero themselves. Also, closer is unsettled and until you show it’s in the DNA, just having the stuff isn’t enough and no one on the roster has shown it.
  • The Likely Scenario – There’s definite rumors about the Sox adding (or re-adding) a closer. Foster is a bit of an unknown, as is Heuer even with his arm, but Marshall and Fry have seemingly established their floors. Crochet, Lopez, Burdi, Lambert, and a few others in the system could step in. Unless they are outbid for an established closer, the ‘pen should be what they were last year and that’s good.

5. The Outfield (not the band)

  • Best Case Scenario – Eloy and Eaton stay healthy, Robert and Engel keep improving, one of the minors guys takes a step up. Or, the DH role is filled by a guy who can take some innings in right or left.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Eloy and Eaton’s injury predilections take them on vacations far away, where they can at least say hi to Josie. Engel isn’t the improved player he showed last year. Robert is still awesome in spurts but disappears for spurts.
  • The Likely Scenario – Eaton seems likely to spend some time on the DL and walls still exist for Eloy to crash into, but Engel seems like he was turning a corner last year and between him and Leury the depth is decent. Robert might struggle here and there, but over 162 that’s expected and less magnified than last year. It seems unlikely that a DH is coming from the outside, but that would be just gravy.

6. The Infield (not the cover band that might exist)

  • Best Case Scenario – It’s set, right? Jose, Nick, Tim and Yoan with Danny and Leury there to back them up. If a DH gets added in the mix that can back them up as well, that’s cool.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Madrigal isn’t actually as good as advertised, Tim falls off and Yoan goes back to 2018.
  • The Likely Scenario – This is about as good as it gets for the team. Madrigal showed flashes, TA7 was still hitting last year, and barring injury Yoan was in the hunt for best 3B in the league.

7. We need a guy in a James McCann suit

  • Best Case Scenario – The backup catcher is a good defensive catcher and game caller who mashes lefties. So not Zack Collins, but a free agent (or Zevala or Mercedes if they’re up to it).
  • Worst Case Scenario – Zack Collins.
  • The Likely Scenario – Both.  There’s going to be someone invited to spring training, like a Curt Casali/Jeff Mathis type of backup C that almost never gets a major league deal but ends up on the roster. Chris Widger was playing softball in 2004, after all. But the kids will get the first chance to show that they can spell Yas, and Collins is at the top of the list but he was also a highly touted prospect. This should be just fine.

8. The Manager situation

  • Best Case Scenario – Tony LaRussa isn’t in the Hall of Fame for no reason. He’s been involved in the game since retirement and other than his personal life issues, he doesn’t have any trouble getting back in the dugout. The team takes the next step with LaRussa’s handling of the pitching staff and in game strategy.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Old man is miscast in his old role by an older man trying to make good on a mistake when they were much younger. The team’s chemistry is damaged and LaRussa no longer has it, and the team goes backwards.
  • The Likely Scenario – This could go either way. LaRussa was always a forward thinker and you’d figure his taste for the game hasn’t gone away, so he should still be up to speed on the current data and his instincts should still be intact. But would he find TA’s batflips or Eloy’s mock protest of Robert catching everything funny or a reason to hit the pine? Ten years away is a long time, and the game is not the same. He should be competent, but that won’t be enough.

9. #Winning

  • Best Case Scenario – With the Indians and Tigers not improving, KC not improving enough, and the Twins needing to replace some guys, the AL Central belongs to the Sox. In the playoffs, the rotation holds up for a deep run.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The back end of the rotation and DH hole keep things from quite coming together, and the damn Twins take the division. The Sox miss the wildcard behind teams like the Jays, A’s and Astros.
  • The Likely Scenario – They’ll battle for the division and the Twins aren’t as fearsome as a couple years back. Once the Sox are in, anything can happen. Health and a couple key guys showing up will be the key, but there’s enough options that you figure they’ll be ok and take the division or a wildcard spot.

10. The fan experience

  • Best Case Scenario – We are back at the park and by the end of the season, sellouts are the norm and allowed. Life is back to normal, and for those not attending games the Bennetti/Stone/Kasper (and DJ) experience is among the best in the game. It is a good time to be a fan of the White Sox.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Pandemic protocols persist pushing people past personal perusal possibly punting people’s pleasure pointedly. More succinctly we aren’t allowed back into the park. The team claims poor.
  • The Likely Scenario – It’ll be fun no matter what, but things look like they’re headed towards being able to take in a game in person, on the tube, or on the radio as you so choose. With the in person being stepped up slowly to start, the team will still claim poverty.


So you want to know what your team got back or gave up in a trade, or you want to compare what your team has to what other teams have? Sure, you could look at stats and analytics and try and classify players by saying they have a plus-plus tool or a 55-grade bat with a 6th grade brain, but only a few hipsters would even pretend to understand and who wants to have pretend understandings with hipsters? Besides IPA breweries?

That’s why my preferred beer is a stout and my preferred way of rating a player is by how immediately they can pay off. So give a good pour and watch the cascade whilst familiarizing yourself with Ed’s Great Guide to Equating Players As Money, or EGG-ToE-PAM:

CASH GUY: An MLB player or MLB ready player who, like cold hard currency, can be spent right away. The guy that will be on the roster, with varying value. So a million dollar cash guy is a star, but a $5 cash reliever will be useful in limited scenarios.

CERTIFIED FUNDS GUY: Also MLB ready, but for various reasons you may have to wait until the funds post to your account (i.e. service time can be used in a team-friendly manner). Your top prospects that teams need to see get a little “seasoning”.

CHECK GUY: A check is generally a safe way to receive money, but the money isn’t immediately available and could bounce entirely. The corresponding player is a decently safe bet that won’t pay off right away, and in some situations could fail. A guy who has a great pro stat line and was great in AA/AAA last year but hasn’t shown it in the bigs, for example.

$$ SCRATCHER GUY: A guy that has decent odds to pay off in some way, but you need to do some work to find out. Similar to the proverbial lottery ticket guy, but like the Lotto/Powerball vs. a scratch-off ticket, the odds are usually better on the scratchers with varying levels of payoff. Also, unlike just waiting and hoping, you have to actually work on them. You can describe them as a $2 scratcher that could pay off big, a $1 scratcher that could definitely help, a $5 scratcher that could be a game changer, etc. A lot of A/AA level guys fall into this category.

LOTTERY TICKET GUY: Long odds but a big reward if it cashes in. Those players with a key physical trait or set of traits that evidently have no idea how to play baseball. They have scouting reports that read like “big arm but needs to learn control, secondary pitches, mound presence, game terminology and rules, where his uniform pants should be worn, and refine his spin rate; struggled in rookie ball with walks, home runs and property damage but has an ace upside or could also be selling insurance for a living as early as 2022”. Coaching and coaxing generally don’t decide whether they get it, just waiting and hoping the light turns on.

THE BAG OF BASEBALLS GUY: A possibly made up player that could easily be acquired at Target, Dick’s, Walmart or where ever sporting goods are sold. Good for shagging fly balls and batting practice, but not game usage.

So there you go. Use it conversation and impress your friends, at least the non-hipsters. “I can’t believe the Padres got Darvish for a $50 cash guy and four $2 scratchers. The Sox gave up a better cash guy and a scratcher for Lynn, and he ain’t no Darvish.” Then order another stout.

dark colored guinness in glass closeup
Sometimes you need to drink a light beer like this pint shown above.


Two teams made blatant selloff trades in recent weeks, the Pirates trading 1B Josh Bell for a fringe Check Guy in pitcher Wil Crowe and a $2-3 Scratcher in pitcher Eddy Yean, while the Cubs sent RHP Yu Darvish and C Victor Caratini to the Padres for Brewers castoff RHP Zach Davies and four $1-$3 Scratchers. Publicly, the Pirates are explicitly trying to retool the rebuild they started when Willie Stargell retired after the 1982 season, and meantime the Cubs think no one noticed that their World Series aspirations include having Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies front a starting rotation.

Let’s assume for a moment that the Sox have interest and both of those teams will consider more trades. Then let’s peruse their respective boards of fare and see what can help take the Sox to the playoffs and a deep run therein, if anything.

The Cubs: Likely trade candidates based on cost saving without admittedly tanking the season are Craig Kimbrel (woof), Wilson Contreras (probably not a good fit), Kris Bryant (meh. yes, meh), J-Hey (pricey meh), with unlikely but salary dumpable guys in Anthony Rizzo (interesting), Hendricks (interesting) or Davies (hmmm). I don’t really see Rizzo or Bryant being traded cheap, because they sell jerseys. In fact, the Ricketts may have players doubling as concessionaires to save money so Bryant and Rizzo may be selling jerseys, hats, nachos and other goods too. But both would require premium players going to the Northside. Kimbrel has been bad and worsening, no thanks. Wilson is a good catcher, but Grandal is already here. That really leaves Heyward or one of the veteran starters. The Cubs need Hendricks to maintain any credibility so I think we are down to Zach Davies and Jason Heyward.

If the Cubs would eat a bunch of Heyward’s money, his lefty bat and glove could make for a really good OF/DH rotation. I’m guessing that the Cubs want his contract off the books entirely, and for the Sox, there are cheaper and similar options on the free agent market. I’d pass unless the Cubs ate at least 60% of his salary and took a couple scratchers back. He also has a full no-trade clause. Pass.

On the other hand, Davies has been a solid but unspectacular back end starter for most of his career, other than being dropped by the Brewers after a weak 2019. He was good for the Padres in 2020 and as a 1-year rental 4th/5th on the Sox, the Southsiders could do worse. Given what the Cubs just gave up to get Davies, you’d have to overpay for the optics. It might mean a couple cash guys like Adam Engel, or a few check guys like Zack Collins, Luis Gonzalez and Jonathan Stiever. Ya know what? Maybe forget the Cubs. Jose Quintana could be just as good at a similar price.

The Pirates: Arrr, here be the bounty? Likely trade candidates include RHP Joe Musgrove (interesting), 2B/etc. Adam Frazier (hmmm), LHP Stephen Brault (ecchh), RHP Chad Kuhl (ecchh), reliever Richard Rodriguez (hmmm) or C Jacob Stallings (meh). There are other pieces on the Pirates, and with unabashed rebuilding comes opportunity.

Musgrove is the big piece here as folks feel he has that Gerrit Cole air about him. Cole was talented as a Pirate but needed to leave Pittsburgh to reach his potential. Musgrove could be similar, even though Cole he isn’t. Frazier is a solid guy who can play 2B or OF. Brault and Kuhl haven’t been much good, Rodriguez is a good reliever on a bad team and Stallings would be a decent sidekick to Grandal. Other guys of note are 3B/1B Colin Moran, who lost his 3B gig to Bucs top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, all-around good hitting OF Bryan Reynolds who is coming off a garbage 2020, the continually injured Gregory Polanco, and Carson Fulmer if for no other reason than to make you say “really?”.

Frazier doesn’t make sense unless you are using Madrigal as a primary chip to get Musgrove and others in a larger deal. Frazier is a good bat, but not a DH and not needed as an OF unless Engel is traded. Pass on Stallings, Brault, Kuhl as you can find that stuff in house. Polanco has a fractured wrist, hasn’t been all that good in years and isn’t worth the gamble. Reynolds is cheap labor that the Pirates want. That leaves Rodriguez, Musgrove and Moran as targets.

Rodriguez would be an addition to the bullpen as the presumptive closer, even though he’s newer to the role. At least, one imagines that’s the Pirate’s narrative in any trade to make the cost in prospects that much higher. In spite of the lack of closer history, he’s under team control and a savings over Colome or Hendriks. Even if he isn’t the closer he’s easily another 7th or 8th inning guy. The price would have to be right, though, to make it worth the Sox’ while. As he is a chip to get the Bucs prospects and not a salary dump, (he’s still cheap), I think I’d spend the cash on a more established closer. Pass.

So would I trade for Musgrove? He’s still arb eligible and under control until 2023, he’s started 83 games going back to a cup of coffee with the Astros in 2016 and has a career whip of 1.23. He would be Cease/Kopech insurance in 2021 and “Lynn doesn’t get extended” insurance in 2022. All it took to get Josh Bell was a starter that the Nats no longer believed in and a youngster with upside. Would Pittsburgh take Emilio Vargas and Reynaldo Lopez? Lopez has 1 more year of control and half the price, and needs a change of scenery, Vargas could be another starter candidate for the Bucs. The problem is that I suspect they’d want something more like the Dunning/Weems combo sent to the Rangers for Lance Lynn, given that Musgrove has more value if not quite the stats of Lynn. That might be hard given that the Sox lack a Dunning -level prospect, and Musgrove isn’t even a straight salary dump like Lynn, or Bell. I don’t know that I’d pull the trigger on sending top prospects.

Moran is an interesting target, not a guy that the Pirates need to trade but a guy that they could do without given what else is on the corner IF. His career .270 average and .754 OPS aren’t eye-catching, but a lefty swinging DH who can backup 3B/1B and comes at a pretty agreeable $2.5 million in 2021 with more years of control is worth a look. He has one more year of arb eligibility and costs about half of Josh Bell, but a similar deal to what the Nats gave up, an out of favor player who can compete for major league time now and a decent scratcher? Worth it if the price is something like Lopez and Vargas.

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

  1. Winning a World Series on a $117 million payroll.
  2. Adam Eaton is the big bat the Sox signed this offseason.
  3. Andrew Vaughn, DH.
  4. Wondering in the aftermath of recent trades if Dunning was an overpay for one year of Lance Lynn.
  5. Michael Kopech’s control.
  6. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Just let it hit the wall or go foul, please?)
  7. Dylan Cease’s control.
  8. Reynaldo Lopez.
  9. Nicky Delmonico, DH
  10. And warming up in the pen: wanting Garrett Crochet in the bullpen now vs. prepping him for his future as a starter.

A Poem for Rick

Or: A Question for St. Rick

With apologies to and a probable lawsuit from the estate of Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas a few nights after Christmas, at 35th and Shields

Was Rick Hahn there stirring, would any deals he yield?

The White Sox were stocked with a talented core,

With hopes of the Series like ‘05 before;

The fandom still wrestled with feelings of dread;

That visions of playoffs were just in their heads;

And mamma in a meat coma, and I on my phone,

Had just settled our brains for the long winter’s unknown,

When out upon Twitter there arose such a clatter,

I logged on from my bed to see what was the matter.

In waves to my screen the news flew like a flash,

Blake Snell to the Padres for prospects, (no cash).

This pitcher a beast for the Rays as you know,

For a cluster of prospects in Triple A and below,

When what to my DMs did appear,

The question of what the Sox could have sent there,

Would it take Kopech’s arm, so lively and quick,

And maybe that slap-hitting infielder Nick?

More rapid than eagles the suggestions they came,

Of the prospects for Snell they should have traded by name:

“Now, Stiever! now, Micker! now Collins or Yermin!

Or, Andrew! or, Kelly! or, Burger and Dylan!

Should have sent them to Tampa! We won’t need them all!

Heck, trade away! trade away! trade away all!”

As regrets losing Snell like a wild hurricane fly,

There were probably obstacles, explaining the why;

Trading Kopech and Vaughn is a mistake, they all knew

Even with the minors full of toys, and the major leagues too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my brain

The prancing and pawing of thoughts quite inane.

What I drew in my head, and was kicking around,

‘Twas the Padres rebuild better by leaps and a bound?

They had addressed all their weakness, from the field to the ‘pen,

And they still had the prospects and assets to spend;

A bundle of guys they had flung to the Rays,

Just like for Clevinger in earlier days.

Their rotation—how they twinkled! Their lineup, how scary!

Is our fifth starter Kopech? is his elbow now cherry?

Our droll little DH is drawn up to be a stud,

But with no Triple-A he could still be a dud;

We stump our GM to make a bold try,

For some smoke, some fire on a free agent guy;

To make a big trade (other than that round fellow)

And fill up the roster, like a bowl full of Jell-O.

Hahn is smart and canny, a right decent GM,

But can he win with his bosses, or in spite of them?

A wink of his eye and a call or a text

Could give me to know the Sox were up next;

Hahn’s spoke not a word, hopefully straight to his work,

To fill the “White Stockings”; and not be a jerk,

And lay out some cash aside the Palehose,

To keep up with the Dodgers, Padres and all those;

So Rick, phone the agents and to GMs give a whistle,

And find your Blake Snell so the fandom won’t bristle.

Can we hear you exclaim, ere the season’s in sight—

“Here’s Hendricks, Schwarber and Bauer, and to all a good night!”

More Reasons to worry about the Blake Snell trade

So on the surface the Rays traded Blake Snell for: (1) a highly touted catching prospect that has yet to establish himself in the majors, (2) a ready to go pitching prospect that should slot into the Rays rotation, (3) a minor league hitter at a position of need (catcher again) and (4) a prospect pitcher. So don’t those descriptions fit, say, Zack Collins, Jonathan Stiever, Seby Zavala and, say, Emilio Vargas or Bernardo Flores, Jr.? NOPE.

Francisco Mejia has struggled in the majors but was THE top catching prospect in 2018 and 26th overall in the top 100; Collins was the 9th best catcher prospect that same year but not in the top 100. Luis Patino is currently the 23rd best prospect in the top 100 (3rd best in the Padres system); Stiever isn’t in the top 100 (only Kopech at 18 and Crochet at 89 fit that bill). Zavala is 27 and the Padres/Rays’ Blake Hunt is 23; Cole Wilcox is the 7th best prospect in the Padres system while Vargas isn’t listed in the Sox’ top 30.

To make the same deal, the Sox would be trading something more like Zack Collins, Michael Kopech, Jonathan Stiever, and maybe SS Yolbert Sanchez. That list doesn’t feel quite as good, primarily because Kopech and Stiever are rotation candidates now and Kopech has been labeled as a key piece going forward. But that seems to be the equivalent deal, and even then it really isn’t as good an offer to the Rays as what they got.

For the Padres, Patino was more of a Stiever with top prospect Mackenzie Gore ready to joing Chris Paddack, 2020 ace Dinelson Lamet, Blake Snell, and former Cleveland ace Mike Clevinger (injured) in the rotation. Trading Kopech would be trading the Sox’ top pitching prospect with the next best guy not having spent a full season as a pro starter in Garrett Crochet. So the much lower-rated Stiever would be the guy to join Giolito, Keuchel, Lynn, and Cease in the rotation if Crochet stays in the pen.

The Sox simply don’t have the prospects to entice a blockbuster trade like the Padres just pulled off. The Rays took back a former top 100 prospect and a current top 100 prospect with the 7th and 14th best in the Padres system, with the Padres keeping their best pitching prospect. The Sox don’t have that pedigree to offer anyone. I wouldn’t count on any blockbuster trades like the Snell deal coming from Rick Hahn, because he doesn’t have the guys.

UPDATE: The Padres have also signed Korean SS Ha-Seong Kim, who like Yoelkis Cespedes may not be an immediate help, but is nonetheless an aggressive depth move by a World Series hopeful. Worse yet, they may take another top pitcher off the market as they are pursuing Yu Darvish.

Sox fans should be very concerned with the state of the team, watching the Padres, an analog for the Sox if there is one, advance past the Cardinals last year and in losing their division series, make aggressive moves for front line talent. Not that the Sox can’t take the AL Central as-is, but their sights need to be on beating the likes of the Dodgers, the Yankees, and yes, the Padres. And that beating needs to start now.

The best case, worst case and likely scenario game, Part I – 10 Things From 2020 Edition

Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal arriving in the Big Leagues was a key moment in 2020 that could mean something.

1. The Weird Short Season

  • Best Case Scenario – The small sample size is irrelevant as the key players basically met expectations or showed improvement – what we saw is what we’ll get in 2021 if not better.  The playoffs won’t be the goal, they’ll be the beginning.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The small sample size is unreliable; over 162 or at least the hoped-for longer season the results will regress to the point where certain key players who seemed to improve or meet expectations based on 2019 will have apparently taken a step backward.  The playoffs will feel like luck.
  • The Likely Scenario – A little of both.  Some players will be what they have been in ’19 and ’20, some like Robert and Madrigal will be up and down as they are in their first full year, some like Grandal, Abreu, Keuchel and Lynn may start showing age, but by and large the young core of the roster should continue to reach their ceilings.

2. The arrival of Robert and Madrigal

  • Best Case Scenario – The up and down nature of their 2020 seasons were just the usual rookie growing pains; Robert won’t disappear like he did for a few weeks, and Madrigal will hit like he was at the end, rather than the beginning.
  • Worst Case Scenario – That wasn’t really a rookie year for either and the league will get a book on both.  The defense aside, Madrigal will be overmatched ultimately and his lack of power will make him a role player at best; Robert will not be the expected force but instead a streaky player who will cost as many games as he wins.
  • The Likely Scenario – That wasn’t really a rookie year for either and the league will get a book on both, and the book will be titled “Oh, shit, that guy’s up”.   Madrigal’s high average, high on-base shtick will play well even though he will be limited at the plate by the lack of power; Robert will have a few down weeks but nothing beyond what every player goes through and he’ll be a wrecking machine.

3. Kopech sits out 2020

  • Best Case Scenario – The recovery from Tommy John surgery isn’t quick and the season after the surgery isn’t usually a great one.  Sitting out and focusing on further recovery means hitting the ground running instead of trying to get the feeling back in live games.  2021 will be a short readjustment to live games.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The recovery from Tommy John surgery isn’t quick and the season after the surgery isn’t usually a great one.  Sitting out and focusing on further recovery means the rust is now caked on and won’t shake off as easily.2021 will be a lost season while Kopech finds his mechanics, control and velocity.
  • The Likely Scenario – Probably closer to the worst case scenario.  Kopech hasn’t pitched competitively since 2018 and he’s bound to have kinks to iron out.  Figure those adjustments are made in the minors, with the hope that he’s at full capacity for the second half.

4. Giolito throws a no-no

  • Best Case Scenario – The arrival of an ace.  The sheer domination of a weak lineup.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Phil Humber threw a perfect game and largely sucked otherwise.  The no-hitter was cool and all but means nothing.
  • The Likely Scenario – Probably closer to the best case scenario.  Not all aces need no-hitters on their highlight reel but they are cool to have.  That the Pirates were one of the worst hitting lineups around last year helped, but Giolito did enough to the rest of the league that his utter destruction of the Bucs was just confirmation that he was as filthy as advertised.

5. TA’s high BA, year 2.

  • Best Case Scenario – TA has figured out this hitting thing and will compete for batting titles because he’s a badass star in this game.
  • Worst Case Scenario – TA got unusually hot in 2019 by trying a new approach, and only carried it over to 2020 because of the short sample size. He’s not that good.
  • The Likely Scenario – Tim Anderson is a badass.  He’ll continue to hit, and even if it isn’t at batting title levels it’ll be at a high level.

6. Ricky Renteria, Unemployed Manager of the Year Nominee.

  • Best Case Scenario – For the second time, Ricky took a rebuilding team to the precipice of their championship window only to be removed for a superior in-game manager.  Much like the Cubs, Ricky built the young Sox into professionals but his game management limitations would have hurt them in the next phase, so someone who has been there will take them the rest of the way.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The struggles were not because of Renteria, but because the players are not what we were lead to believe.  Even a hall of fame manager can’t take them to the next level.
  • The Likely Scenario – Ricky now has a history of being able to get guys ready to play in the bigs, but not being considered a good enough manager to win games.  His lineups and pitching management made fans into annoying know-it-alls because we all agreed that Ricky made the wrong moves even if we weren’t qualified to make the right ones.  Put it this way: if he was good enough to win the Series, Joe Maddon would never have been on the Northside.

7. The Lance Lynn trade that wasn’t

  • Best Case Scenario – There was no reason to think that just getting past Oakland was going to lead to anything more than a loss in the next round, and getting to showcase Dunning meant that he was the price for the new #3 rather than something higher.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Dunning and Weems would have gotten the Sox a reliable starter down the stretch when they faltered, and instead of going out of the first round they make a deeper run.
  • The Likely Scenario – Both.  Chances are that the Rangers felt like they could extract a bit more while the Sox were urgently in need of a starter during the 2020 season, but the season goes differently with Lynn behind Kuechel for a number of reasons.

8. The Fans sit out 2020

  • Best Case Scenario – The loss of gate cash in 2020 doesn’t kill the bottom line, as years of low payroll and the continued TV revenue means that the baseball payroll won’t suffer. The Sox will spend now that a few established vets can take the team over the top.
  • Worst Case Scenario – The loss of gate revenue means going low budget on the field in 2021 and maybe beyond.  All hopes are tied to what’s in the minors and what’s cheap on the streets.
  • The Likely Scenario – It is the worst case scenario.  Hahn has admitted there’s a budget and the Lynn and Eaton moves are notable for being cost-effective, and so far are the only moves along with shedding salaries.  But as the free agent market stays stagnant, that budget potentially being stretched to sign someone as prices drop is cause for limited hope.

9. Garrett Crochet skips the minors

  • Best Case Scenario – The guy has a cannon and while he isn’t ready to be a starter, there’s nothing he can’t learn by doing on the major league roster.  After all, a season terrorizing batters (especially lefties) from the bullpen is how Sale started, and he was a bona fide ace.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Pitching in the majors straight from college made him try and do too much, leading to the arm strain he had in the playoffs.  The lack of time in the minors means less time to find out how to manage a full season on the mound.  A flameout awaits.
  • The Likely Scenario – Hard to argue with the eye test that he passed last year.  As the third lefty in the ‘pen he can be brought along slowly to learn how to be a pro whilst firing 100 mph heaters and making batters look like me. And I suck.

10. The Sox make the playoffs

  • Best Case Scenario – The taste of postseason baseball is like a drug…once you take a bump you want it more and more.  The Sox may have been to the party earlier than expected, but now they’re shirtless and dancing on tables and having tacos delivered.  They aren’t leaving until someone makes them.
  • Worst Case Scenario – Postseason baseball is like getting a date with someone way out of your class: just because you manage to get them to Applebees once doesn’t mean you’ll go all the way and doesn’t mean you’re getting another shot or are actually attractive.  Um…what I think I mean there is that they got to the playoffs last year but if they get cocky and think it’s a given they’re going back, it’ll be a cold shower and a 2-for-$20 for one.
  • The Likely Scenario – There’s leadership on the team that will hopefully keep the locker room from lollygagging.  Plus the rough patch hit by the team after clinching should have been a wake up call that you can’t lollygag, whether on the infield, outfield, or base paths. Plus plus Tony LaRussa should at least inspire them to not be what Larry? Lollygaggers. 

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

  1. Pitching depth. Suddenly I have FOMO on Snell and other bona fide starters.
  2. Not trading Vaughn for immediate help.
  3. Trading Vaughn for immediate help.
  4. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Makes the “I’m watching you” two-finger point)
  5. Adam Eaton’s health. Every day he becomes the big bat we signed his health is more vital.
  6. Is the bullpen real? Who closes if we don’t sign someone?
  7. Michael Kopech’s headspace.
  8. Adam Engel, DH
  9. Lance Lynn’s fade down the stretch last year.
  10. And warming up in the pen: minor league depth.

The First Yoel(kis)

Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

News broke on Twitter that Yoelkis (Yoelki/Yoelqui) Céspedes, the younger half-sibling of Yoenis, hitter of Cuban baseballs, is likely to sign with the White Sox.

Per baseball reference, in 262 games at various levels of play while before he defected, Céspedes the younger hit .283 with a .753 OPS, 42 doubles and only 12 homers, 164 strikeouts with 42 walks. But, following his defection he appeared to have bulked up and

I’m sorry, did he bulk up after he defected from the Can-Am? Yes, that could sound a red flag as going from skinny fleet-footed toolsy guy to bulked up slugger sounds very 1990’s. But the change from 185 as he was listed on the Cuban National Team and the reported 205 that he weighed heading into the July 2020 signing period happened over a decent amount of time, at least since June 2019. I’ve gained 30 lbs. since Thanksgiving (though I should maybe get that checked).

What are the red flags, if any? He’s not a finished product. He looks like his brother in the batter’s box but hasn’t shown on the field what his new swing and physique bring to the table. He also hasn’t played in a while, given the 2020 cancellations. So he’s not immediate help. He’s also Yoenis’ brother, which hopefully the woes that have begotten the erstwhile Mets slugger are not indicative of some familial curse.

What are the green flags? He legitimately looks the part and has had international success, all before age 22. He has demonstrated 5-tool potential. The Sox have a great history of bring Cuban players along, including the group they currently have in place. Besides Oscar Luis Colás, he’s the international pool’s most wanted.

If the Sox are getting a top international prospect that seems to just be growing into the role of major league player (literally and figuratively), Merry Christmas and Happy (belated) Hanukkah to us.

But, as has been pointed out due to some trading of international pool money, Colás will be pouring out elsewhere. So maybe the stockings aren’t as stuffed as they could be, because again the Sox have a budget issue…can we get Rick a very large credit card with an intro APR to shop with?

A Christmas List For Rick (with cheap options…sigh)

Look, Rick, we get it. Money is tight from 2020 being that kinda year, we’re all thrown off by the days running into each other, so maybe some last second shopping is forgivable. Assuming that you’re talking holiday presents. Why not combine the holidays with some timely start of the season gifts?

Look, we appreciate that you went in early and got deals on Eaton and Lynn. Frugal move. Personally, I bought a nosehair trimmer/drone remote on Cyber Monday, a steal for what I paid. My wife and kids will be so excited the morning of the 25th. Heck, I might let them peak early.

Why wait until the season’s upon us to finish shopping when the Season’s upon us? Let’s fill the stockings. The white ones. Here’s the wishlist and some backups if the stores run out of the Trevor Bauers and George Springers that are hot this year.

A DH: Every cool kid wants an Ozuna or a Cruz, or even a Brantley. I know some of them claim they are better played on a different platform, like OF, but we know what we want. Some kids prefer Schwarber or Rosario, and they might come a little cheaper. If you really want to hit the Dollar Section there’s a Renato Núñez who has 43 bombs over the past two seasons but couldn’t catch a cold in the field. But why wait until it’s Jay Bruce and Jake Lamb? Go out now and get us a bat, man!

A STARTING PITCHER: I know you got us one, but we really want two. We promise we’ll take care of them both!! Remember José Quintana? I know we had one but can we get another one? I mean, if you really want us to squeal with glee it would be Trevor Bauer, but we understand that James Paxton is more in line with what you have to spend, even if he is used. At least a Taijuan Walker, who seemed to be fully back from Tommy John last year and has an upside worth taking a flyer on without being crushed if he doesn’t pan out. But there’s no reason to wait until there’s nothing but Tyson Ross on the shelves. Supplies are limited!

A CLOSER: The Liam that’s out there is soooo dreamy with that fastball and low ERA. But he hasn’t done it for very long, so if we have to stick with an Alex Colomé that’s cool. Some people even prefer a Shane Greene. There’s an Archie Bradley that might be overrated, and a Kirby Yates but I hear that there might be some build issues with that one. It would be a mistake to hesitate lest you have only a Wade Davis left. Shop now for saves!

Wither the Trade Market

I know Hahn already pulled off one deal and backed off another, getting Lance Lynn and shying away from the price for Sonny Gray. There are still holes to fill and evidently the free agent market isn’t that enticing based on the lack of movement. But if trades are the way, can the Sox actually make a trade right now..? Can anyone? There’s been a handful of notable deals, like 4-5 this offseason. And the Sox had maybe the biggest.

There are always teams on the rebuild that will part with a useful guy for the right price, teams need to shed salary and teams get themselves into a surplus. Take the Reds and Rays, who each have five OF that they would consider starters, or the Rockies who have 9 starting pitchers listed. With no minor league stats from 2020 the book on prospects makes it harder to sell them, and unless you have a surplus on the big league roster it’ll take a sacrifice in one area to fill another. And quality in requires quality out, so if you were pissed about Dane Dunning for Lance Lynn you’ll positively lose bowel control over the price of Blake Snell.

Anyone looking to trade Vaughn or Kopech? Who besides maybe Adam Engel and Danny Mendick is expendable off the bigs roster? Do Adolfo, Collins, Stiever, Sheets, or Rutherford have enough value to fill a hole better than the free agent market? It could be too hard for the Sox to really make a deal except where there’s a clear rebuild or where they can fill a hole there to plug a hole here. Even then, what are we talking about that isn’t on the streets? Why am I asking so many questions? I don’t have that many answers.

As fans we overestimate the value of prospects (especially after a full rebuild) but the reality is that the trade market is stagnant because teams don’t know what they have, or what each other has after a weird 2020. There also aren’t a lot of really intriguing names in the rumor mill that haven’t been there before, like Nolan Arenado who would require a big return. The ones that could be had for what fans would be ok parting with have some doppelgängers on the market.

There are always some trade musings that tumble through my mind like so many dog droppings down a sloped lawn, but really none of them make sense to me.

  1. Trading Stiever and/or Danny Mendick to the Giants for Brandon Belt. The Giants are in between and having an infielder and/or controllable starter while clearing space for Buster Posey at 1B. Still doesn’t seem worth it to either team.
  2. Stiever and Lopez to the Angels for Shoehei Ohtani. Yeah, the Angels have no starters and multiple DH candidates, but they wouldn’t do this. Maybe Lopez for Jared Walsh?
  3. Engel and Mendick to the Brewers for Lorenzo Cain. Would they? He’d possibly be an upgrade over Engel as a DH/Of…? I thought of this pre-Eaton.
  4. Zack Collins and a pitcher to the Yankees for Miguel Andújar. Trading blocked C for blocked DH, and the Yankees need to have given up on a guy that seemed like a cornerstone 2 years back.

Maybe my brain tries to hard to rig this like Fantasy Baseball where a little quantity can make up for quality. Maybe I’m not good at this. Suspicion being just what it is, that trades aren’t being floated much makes it seem like there just isn’t a good feel for the depth out there, or the free agent market is much the same as what teams have available.

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

  1. Pitching health. Especially Giolito. He’s important, man.
  2. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. Tarps are looking suspicious too.
  3. Adam Eaton’s mouth. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
  4. TA’s batting average. It feels too good the last two seasons.
  5. Is the bullpen Cotts and Politte circa ’05 or just tall and throw hard?
  6. Leury Garcia, DH
  7. Lance Lynn is David Wells.
  8. Trading Vaughn for immediate help.
  9. Not trading Vaughn for immediate help.
  10. And warming up in the pen: counting Nick Madrigal’s extra base hits on two limbs.

Just because you McCann, doesn’t mean you McShould.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor, text that says 'Thank you, Chicago. 33 Words won' do justice in describingmy feelings towards! city Chicago, the hite Sox organization and the Southside fan base My family and felt home rightaway righ and there will always be special place in our hearts for Chicago and the hite Sox. From making my first career All- Star game 2019 to helping the organization return to the playoffs in 2020, the memories will last forever. rom the bottom of my heart. thank you.'

The Mets just clowned themselves…a bit.

I, like the rest of Sox fandom, liked having James McCann around. As a right handed compliment to Yas Grandal, as the other hemisphere to Lucas Giolito’s brain, as a guy that sucked for the Tigers and became an All-Star with the Sox, he was a good story and a good guy. His farewell to Chicago and thanks to the Southside fanbase confirms that he seems a decent fellow. So I hate to kill him. Proverbially. I’m paraphrasing the Princess Bride.

James McCann was not the only or best option for the Mets. JT Realmuto has spent his career in the NL East, where the Mets reside. He was a star in the making with the Marlins, has been the best catcher in the majors with the Phillies, and he’s RIGHT THERE AS A FREE AGENT. To repeat, that’s the best catcher in the majors, sitting there waiting for a contract.

James McCann made sense as a White Sox. Mainly because he was a flyer in 2019 who turned into an All-Star with a career first half, hitting .316 with an .873 OPS. Overall, his presence behind the plate as a game caller in particular, 18 homers and .273 BA/.789 OPS made sense to extend him into 2020. In 2020 he did well, .283 average with an OPS of .896 and he and Giolito continued to surf the Astral Plane together, making it noticeable when Giolito was caught by Grandal. McCann was favored behind the plate by fans and seemingly the pitchers, even though Grandal’s reputation is that he is a well-received receiver.

But McCann at age 30 has yet to prove he is a starter worth over $10 million per year. Sure he’s a former All-Star…once in 2019…who in the second half of 2019 hit all of .226 with a .695 OPS. Yes, his stats were better overall with no dramatic splits in 2020…in 111 plate appearances. That’s less than half a normal season. And as far as there being no dramatic splits, career wise his OPS against righties is .639 vs. an OPS of .834 against southpaws. His OPS against Southpaw remains unknown.

If the Sox signed a 30 year old right handed batter who was a starter for only one season, mashes lefties but is pedestrian at best against righties, you’d assume he’s a platoon/depth player. If the Sox spent $40 million over 4 years on him while the top player at his position is sitting there, we’d be asking for Rick Hahn to kindly surrender his head to the staff of Cork and Kerry. Also, “The Staff of Cork and Kerry” should be a real stick that is used, perhaps, for beheading.

Good, good, great for James McCann that he was able to put 587 Southside plate appearances and Lucas Giolito’s turnaround into a $40+ million contract to take him to age 34 and possibly off into the sunset or managing the Sox AAA affiliate. But the Mets just paid the Sox’ best option at backup catcher a boatload of cash to not be as good as JT Realmuto. He will be good to that scary Mets’ staff, but New York fans will not be happy if he doesn’t put it together for a full season. Maybe if he struggles in keeping with his career, the Mets will trade him back to the Southside and eat the salary. In that case Rick Hahn may wield The Staff of Cork and Kerry against whomever has crossed him.

Crimes and Punishment, what’s in a name and who can you trust?

Tony LaRussa’s DUI Plea: 

The HOF skipper of the White Sox entered into a plea deal to resolve his February 2020 DUI, the second DUI charge he has faced in his career.  Full disclosure, I’m a licensed attorney and have defended a few DUI cases in my career, so I speak from the past.  The deal itself is a fairly routine plea deal, as reckless driving is the common replacement when prosecutors agree to amend/reduce a DUI charge in exchange for a guilty plea.  His history seems relevant as a fan since the overwhelming majority of MLB managers don’t have a pair of DUIs on the books, but since 13 years has passed since LaRussa’s 2007 case his history would not have been much of a consideration since convictions over ten years old are generally disregarded.  Adding in that gentlemen in LaRussa’s demographic and means are often given the opportunity to plead out since they can afford counsel who know the players and the local game, combined with the Courts’ general desire to clear the docket means that a plea deal like this is merely business as usual. So while the White Sox new/old manager will not face any severe punishment legally, the commonplace nature of the deal doesn’t resolve any lingering questions about whether this impacts him as a manager. We just know that the legal part is done and certainly the desire will be to move on to baseball-related topics.

Given that he now has two DUI charges in his MLB career, it seems like a pattern.  Given that he had 13 years pass in between, it really isn’t.  But the judgment displayed by LaRussa is poor, whether from actually being intoxicated behind the wheel (which we don’t know since he didn’t blow) or mouthing off to the officer (which was reported); if the DUI charge came from both of those factors rather than actual intoxication, then LaRussa’s temperament for the 2021 game is in question maybe rather than his judgment. That said, if it is actual intoxication then his judgment needs to be scrutinized. Getting behind the wheel after drinking is a pretty unnecessary choice in the Uber/Lyft age, and it remains a bad optic for the White Sox to have questions lingering about LaRussa’s personal life when yanking him out of retirement was questionable enough.

Cleveland Baseball Assemblage

Ya know what? Good for the Cleveland MLB club is ditching the “Indians” moniker.  Not only is it considered offensive, but frankly it is so woefully outdated that outside of Cleveland baseball when I hear Indians, I don’t think “Native American”, I think people from India.  Maybe they could have replaced Chief Wahoo with a regular guy in a nice polo shirt?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Baron/Shutterstock (10163491au) Aziz Ansari ‘Parks and Recreation’ 10th Anniversary Reunion TV Show Presentation, Arrivals, PaleyFest, Los Angeles, USA – 21 Mar 2019

80 Lines about 40 Players

We talked this past weekend about the Sox needing more depth and the assumption that the youth have arrived at their destination and will step up in 2021.  But they don’t even have a complete 26-man roster based on who is already here and has the track record to be relied on.  Looking at the 40-man, here’s a 2-sentence-apiece breakdown of each of them and whether we can probably predict their performance, who could regress, who could surprise and who remains a mystery, with all assumptions based on the player being 100% healthy:

Known quantities:  Jose Abreu, Yas Grandal, Adam Eaton, Eloy Jiménez, Leury García, Danny Mendick, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, Reynaldo Lopez.

Pito is a given to have a very good baseline. He can still raise his game to great at times.

Yas’ 2019 was a breakout because he had a career high in AB.  His 2020 was career consistent with the past.

Spanky’s 2020 can be ignored as a small sample size outlier from a fairly consistent career.  He just needs to stay on the field (and keep his mouth in check).

Eloy also has a small sample size problem in that his career isn’t that old, but it has been pretty steady.  I’d say he could improve but what else do you want from his bat?

Leury feels like he’s been around since LaRussa’s first go around, and he’s been a decent reserve.  He hits better than we think but not enough to rely on as a regular.

Mendick, in need of a name change, is also pretty much what he is and has been in his pro career, a .260 hitter with a versatile glove.  He won’t kill you but he isn’t a starter on a championship team.

Dallas is never going to be what he was in the Cy Young days.  He’s settled in though and isn’t likely to implode.

Lance Lynn’s recent success is tied to an improved spin rate after TJ surgery and that he knows how to pitch.  When he’s on he’s on, when he’s off he’s still likely to keep you in the game.

Bummer keeps getting hurt but assuming he’s healthy, his stuff has always played.  He should stay reliable.

Fry isn’t as good as his fellow lefty and you can count on him to be up and down.  I didn’t say these were all positive.

Reynaldo is predictably bad.  I’m not counting on Ethan Katz having a magic wand.

Enigma wrapped in a mystery:  Lucas Giolito, Yoán Moncada, Adam Engel

Gio…yeah that’s right I’m picking on the ace even though I think he’ll be fine, but he could improve or could regress.  A season and change is shaky ground when it’s all that separates him from being the worst starter in the majors…even worse than Reynaldo Lopez.

Yoyo was great in 2019, bad before 2019, not as good last year, was the top prospect overall before that, but has been hard to pin down in the bigs.  I think the pedigree is reflected in his 2019 stats, not the short and injury filled 2020 or the early struggles.

Engel improved last year as he was seemingly adjusting to both the league and more playing time. Unless he really is just all glove and no bat, the 2020 growth as a player can continue (and besides he couldn’t be worse than what he was).

Could get worse: Tim Anderson, Nick Madrigal, Evan Marshall, Cody Heuer, Matt Foster

Anderson’s 2019 breakout was astoundingly above his career numbers and 2020 is too small to be sure that it was real.  He could still go back towards what he was, which is still good but not great.

Madrigal had the proverbial cup of coffee last year.  He needs a full season to prove he’s real, and expect that he’ll struggle during his real rookie year.

Marshall has been good for a couple seasons, but isn’t dominant.  The bottom could fall out as pensmen seem to have a short shelf life.

Heuer has the big arm to be a pen stud.  But he has yet to do it over 162 and teams can still figure him out with the increased repetition.

Foster seemingly came from nowhere.  To nowhere he may return…we don’t have the MLB track record and the MiLB record is pretty small.

Could get better: Luis Robert, Dylan Cease.

Lou Bob, as rightfully no one should call him, was hot to start the season, then vanished, then kinda came back.  His minor league stats suggest he’ll improve and we just saw the usual rookie struggles.

Cease has the stuff, which is all we ever hear about.  He needs to figure out how to use it correctly and then rinse and repeat for each start.

The Great Unknown(s): Zack Burdi, Garrett Crochet, Bernardo Flores Jr., Tyler Johnson, Jimmy Lambert, Michael Kopech, Jonathan Stiever, Jimmy Cordero, Emilio Vargas, Zack Collins, Luis González, Yermín Mercedes, Seby Zavala, Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets, Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, Andrew Vaughn*

Burdi could be something, he could be nothing.  He hasn’t been much yet but maybe he’s more than we’ve seen.

Crochet came out of the pen looking stunning with 100 mph heat, yet last we saw him he was unable to continue against Oakland.  His MLB debut came the same short, weird year he was drafted, so it’s just too soon to anoint him.

Bernardo Flores Jr. should not be confused with his dad even though fans may not know the difference.  Sneaky-ok minors numbers suggest the younger Bernie could be a back end starter, but his first taste of the bigs wasn’t good, so we can’t know what’s real.

Tyler Johnson is a guy that looks like he should be in the pen soonish, but maybe not this year.  his total of 12 games in 2019 at AA isn’t enough to really get a good feel.

Lambert had a tough break after looking good in a very very short stint last year.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Michael Kopech, yes that Michael Freakin’ Kopech, has yet to really do anything in the majors, and is coming off of TJ having not pitched in forever.  He could be rusty, he could be a headcase, he could be superman, he could be Mark Prior; he is the ultimate X-factor in 2021 but it has to be real and on the field, rather than in theory as it is now.

Stiever is a name that has been bandied about in trade scenarios and as being right there with Dane Dunning as a prospect.  His stats aren’t awe inspiring and neither were his 2020 starts for the Sox.

Jimmy Cordero, is still listed on the 40-man roster.  Exactly why is a great unknown, unless you really pine for 2019 and think that he is that guy rather than the pedestrian guy he’d been everywhere else, or just want to have a placeholder for the next free agent.

Emilio Vargas is a right handed Bernardo Flores, Jr. and similar to Jonathan Stiever.  If that helps you at all.

Zack Collins has yet to be a real Zack attack and his catching hasn’t been great.  All signs pointed up when he was drafted, and catchers can take longer to develop, but he has yet to really be a viable backup catcher or DH, let alone starter.

Luis González is not the one you’re thinking of, but is a switch hitting outfielder who took an MLB AB last season after spending 2019 in AA.  Like others on the list, he’s too early in the process to really know what he will do, but he could still make it to the show and hit a World Series walk-off single.

Yermín Mercedes can hit and he was the lust talk of spring training last year.  He could hit his way into the DH conversation or if his skills behind the plate are adequate enough, he could sit behind Grandal…but them’s big old ifs for a 27-year-old not-a-prospect.

Seby was the guy that seemed to be overtaking Collins as the best catcher in the system but he hasn’t gotten here yet.  He is another internal candidate to backup Grandal if the Sox don’t get a veteran but what that does for the team is a guess.

Jake Burger used an independent league last year to prove that his surgically rebuilt body parts can still function collectively as a baseball player.  If he can stay healthy maybe it’ll become clear whether he’s anything.

Sheets hasn’t played above AA yet but he looked pretty good there.  Figure he needs more seasoning…which is term that really ought to be retired unless you’re talking about food.

Micker Adolfo only played 36 games in 2019 and is still too raw.  He’s a name to watch but no help in 2021.

Blake Rutherford hasn’t exactly lit the minors up but you’d expect him to get to the majors…after 2021.  He was once the team’s the top prospect after all.

Andrew Vaughn* is only 55 games into his professional career and at that sample size there’s no way to assess him.  We know the raw tools are there to hit, but anyone thinking he’s a real threat to contribute in 2021 might be forgetting that the guy is 55 games in and those games were two years ago.

The end result here is that on the 40-man Roster, all 39 of them, 9 players are a decent lock to be their usual selves, 2 more are predictably going to drive us nuts, 2 are stars about to take the next leap or sink back into good-dom, 1 guy might suck or might be on the verge, 5 have some worries, 3 look like they could get better, and the rest are unproven or are still on the roster for reasons that can’t be explained. Think we’re ready for a World Series run…?

* Technically Jose Ruiz is on the 40-man per and Vaughn isn’t…but do we really need more Jose Ruiz analysis in our lives? Just see Cordero, Jimmy.