The White Sox started the official offseason with two official moves Thursday morning:
- They formally named Todd Steverson the new hitting coach.
- They picked up Matt Lindstrom's $4 million option for 2014.
We've already discussed the former, but the latter registers as ... not a surprise, just a non-given. According to Rick Hahn in a statement released by the team:
"Matt’s versatility, durability and fit for our ballpark were important factors in deciding to bring him back next season," said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. "We believe Matt will continue to play a key role in the structure of our bullpen in 2014."
Lindstrom earned his $2.3 million salary last season, posting a 3.12 ERA over 76 games. That stat belies an unimpressive strand rate (19 of 50 inherited runners scored) and a significant dip in his strikeout rate (down from 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings to 6.8). Those factors limited him from becoming a reliable high-leverage option, but on the other hand, he got through 76 games while allowing just two homers, hence Hahn's "fit for our ballpark" comment.
I was surprised when he slipped through waivers unclaimed, because it seemed like other teams would've been interested in having the inside track on the option (although the Sox could've just pulled him back). It also raised the possibility that the Sox could retain Lindstrom on a reworked deal, but when weighing the alternatives, the relief market fluctuates enough that finding something as friendly as a one-year, $4 million contract for a sound reliever isn't presumable.
Plus, exercising Lindstrom's option doesn't guarantee a spot on the 2014 White Sox, anyway. The Sox picked up Jason Frasor's option after the 2011 season when he didn't really seem to offer much bang for the buck, but they ended up dealing him back to Toronto for Daniel Webb and Myles Jaye. The Sox have to like how that one turned out.
Lindstrom stands a better chance of sticking around because if he didn't exist, the Sox would need somebody like him. The Sox carried three veteran, seven-figure relievers last season, but the other two (Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain) are out of the picture. If the Sox wanted to retain some of that security, retaining Lindstrom's services makes enough sense for now.