Okay, I'll be the first to admit the following will probably reinforce why I'm not an MLB General Manager more than wow anybody with its brilliance, but figure I'd best give this a go and see what everybody thinks.
- Ronald Belisario, $3.9M - non-tender
- Tyler Flowers, $2.1M - tender
- Dayan Viciedo, $4.4M - non-tender
- Hector Noesi, $1.9M - tender
- Nate Jones, $600,000 - tender
- Javy Guerra $1.3M - tender
I've seen a lot of people make arguments to keep Viciedo under the assumption he either finally breaks out or can be used as trade bait. I think I've seen enough of him at the major league level to believe if he's going to break out, it won't be on the White Sox, and his power tool is completely negated by his lack of plate discipline, OBP, and fielding. Also, Hahn couldn't jettison him midseason when he was making $1.4 million less, so I'd say trading him at $4.4 million would be next to impossible. As for Belisario, while he has had bad luck, he has almost no track record of success and two straight seasons of terrible results. I'd offer him a minor league deal or, barring that, $750,000 with a club option year for 2016 at $2 million with no buyout, but that's it. I see Noesi filling a role like Hector Santiago did as a swingman starter/long reliever, and he would definitely be worth $1.9 million. As for Jones, maybe offer him a two-year contract to give him a financial cushion while controlling his costs for when he finally returns to the club. Guerra showed flashes that make me believe he could be a steal at that price. Flowers earned another chance at showing he can be a starting catcher, and I believe even if this is as good as his bat gets, his defense and pitch framing make him worth double or triple what he'll be paid here.
- Felipe Paulino, $4M for 2015, or $250,000 buyout - buyout
The Sox tried to grab lightning in a bottle and it blew up in their faces. Next.
Pending Free Agents
- Matt Lindstrom ($4M salary in 2014) - BYE
Relievers are always a tough thing to call, but Lindstrom's age and declining peripherals lead me to believe he's passed his expiration date. Like Belisario, if he can be brought back on the cheap for organizational depth, then great, but otherwise, get rid of him.
No. 1: RHP David Robertson (four years, $48M, ($10M, $11M, $12M, $13M, $13M mutual option with $2M buyout))
I'm hesitant to commit eight figures annually for a reliever over the next four seasons, but Robertson has a long track record as a strikeout pitcher and succeeded as a closer in possibly the most pressure-packed environment in MLB. If the Sox intend to compete now, they need to overpay for relievers, and he's the youngest of the attractive options (Huston Street, Koji Uehara, Francisco Rodriguez, and Raphael Soriano).
No. 2: LHP Andrew Miller (3 years, $30M ($10M each year, mutual $10M with $1.5M buyout))
Miller is the top free agent lefty reliever on the market, and given the internal options, the Sox need exactly that. Again, this is an overpay with significant risk involved, but as with Robertson, you have a reliever with a few years of track record entering his age-30 season, exceptional strikeout stuff, and coming from a pressure-filled environment that, like the Cell, is very hitter friendly. Difference is, he doesn't have the closer/saves price inflation Robertson will have. I'd be willing to bump it up to $36M if there's heavy competition for his services.
No. 3: 3B Hanley Ramirez (five years, $70 million ($16M, $16M, $14M, $13M, $11M, Player Opt out after first two years))
Chase Headley has been the popular pick, but I think he's going to be paid far more than some of the estimates I've seen. Meanwhile, Ramirez himself is coming off a mega-contract he spent half of which under-performing like crazy. However, despite only playing 214 games over the last two seasons, he has more than earned his keep and shown some return to form. If he would accept a permanent move to third, it might help increase his defensive value while providing backup to Alexei at shortstop. Also, he provides more speed than Headley and is a year younger (though admittedly, with his injury history and playing time, that has to be taken with a grain of salt). I can see him being a 3.0 WAR player over each of the next two years, and maybe he could play himself into a better payday and opt out to avoid a pay cut. Also, if health becomes a concern, I believe he could be a legitimate DH.
No. 4: RHP Franklin Morales (1 year, $2.5 million, 2016 club option for $4 million)
This might seem to be a bit of a stretch, and I feel like he's a bit of a Felipe Paulino retread. However, he isn't coming off a major injury and is used to pitching in a park even more conducive to home runs than the Cell. He's also two years younger than Paulino. While historically more of a reliever than a starter, he did manage 22 starts and over 140 innings in 2014 (both career highs), and he profiles as the kind of pitcher the Sox have had success with in the past. I say get him on the cheap, and if he isn't cutting it in the rotation, just throw him in the bullpen or release him and call up Rodon. At worst, you've wasted $2.5 million, but more likely is you've acquired an experienced bullpen arm who can spot start. Dream scenario: he becomes a legit middle of the rotation starter and gives the Sox 170-190 solid innings.
No. 5: 2B Emilio Bonifacio (two years, $6.5M)
A switch hitter who could help balance the lineup's heavy right-handedness. Should be able to hold down the fort a bit at second while spelling Ramirez at third, Alexei at short, or even one of the outfielders. If there's competition for his services, add on an option year for another $3.5M with a $500k buyout to cinch it. He offers the kind of versatility Ventura was sorely lacking last year. Shouldn't be the permanent solution at second so much as a veteran option while the Sox's various prospects (Semien, Sanchez, etc.) develop further.
No. 6: RHP Luke Hochevar (2 years, $1.8M ($800k, $1M)
Assuming the Royals don't pick him up, this could be an interesting option next year. After years of floundering as a starter for the Royals, Hochevar was incredible as a full time reliever in 2013 before blowing out his elbow and undergoing TJ surgery back in March. I look at him as a Nate Jones kind of pickup, only on a better timetable to return during the season.
If the Sox are going to compete in the near future, they have to address the gaping hole in their outfield from last year, and the Moises Sierra/Jordan Danks/Michael Taylor triumvirate is probably not the solution. Fowler is a switch hitter who strikes out a bit much, but provides solid on-base and speed tools with a modest amount of pop. I think a switch to left could benefit his defensive value significantly, while providing backup to Eaton in center. Might be a bit of an injury concern himself, but I'm willing to take the risk. Astros might be willing to take the trade given Fowler will be a free agent in 2016, and the left side of their infield was absolutely atrocious, so they'd probably welcome the likes of Gillaspie and Sanchez, and this is probably selling high on Gillaspie. I'd rather not give up on Johnson, and this is probably selling low on him, but sacrifices must be made. If they'd take Semien over the combination of Sanchez and Johnson, that would be worth considering as well.
No. 2: Trade LHP John Danks to the Cubs for Edwin Jackson
Co-opting this idea from Larry. I think Jackson has more upside than Danks at this point and is owed less money, and the Cubs should be more than willing to deal him. Yes, it's a gamble, but I liked what I saw of Jackson in his time on the south side, and nothing I've seen from him in the last two years leads me to believe his stuff has diminished that much.
- Adam Eaton - CF
- Dexter Fowler - LF
- Jose Abreu - 1B/DH
- Avisail Garcia - RF
- Hanley Ramirez - 3B/1B/DH
- Alexei Ramirez - SS
- Tyler Flowers - C
- Marcus Semien - 3B/DH
- Emilio Bonifacio - 2B
I know the DH by committee is not the most desired option by many, but I think of it as more of a way to get a bit of rest for the likes of Abreu and Hanley Ramirez, who both have the bats to play there. Semien is the weak link in that triumvirate, but it's a good way to get him reps as he develops his bat. I'd like to have Alejandro de Aza back as a bench player, but I think Sierra and Danks cover the corners and center respectively well enough as cheaper fall-back options.
- David Robertson - RHP
- Andrew Miller- LHP
- Jake Petricka - RHP
- Zach Putnam - RHP
- Eric Surkamp- LHP
- Javy Guerra - RHP
- Maikel Cleto - RHP (or Frank Montas, with Carlos Rodon or Franklin Morales waiting in the wings)
I estimate this payroll to be approximately $105-108 million.