The 2014 White Sox made huge strides coming off the disaster 99 loss 2013 campaign. That being said, poor depth (some of it by design) on the bench, in the rotation and especially in the bullpen doomed the second half of the season. But with a ton of money having come off the books the last two years, the hot stove ought to be cooking on the south side this winter. With franchise cornerstone pieces hopefully already in place with Sale, Abreu, Quintana and Eaton, the Sox have the ability to turn a busy offseason into a playoff contender. With that goal in mind:
Ronald Belisario- Non-tender. Belisario was a tough call despite his struggles in 2014. He posted a decent strikeout to walk ratio (2.61), limited homers and stayed healthy which is more than the Sox other high leverage options did. But at $3.9 million, Belisario's a victim of resource allocation. I need that dough elsewhere.
Tyler Flowers- Tender. At $2.1 million to be a starter he's a bargain. I'm willing to see if glasses-Tyler is for real.
Dayan Viciedo- Non-tender. Tank's bat never was good enough to make up for his porous outfield defense. It didn't help that he's probably more of a 1B/DH type but the Sox had too many of those already. Just when his real position opened up on the roster, he's a bit too expensive to justify. Still, I hate to give up on a 26 year old who's hit 20+ homers twice in THIS run environment. If the rest of the league doesn't bite, I'd offer a minor league deal.
Hector Noesi- Tender. Picked up off the garbage heap, Noesi tossed 166 innings above replacement level for the Sox in 2014. At $1.9 million, he's well worth the 6th starter/long relief role he'll be given.
Nate Jones- Tender. With a bullpen badly in need of a guy with swing and miss stuff, here's $600K hoping he'll pitch at any point next season.
Javy Guerra- Non-tender. Another scrap heap pickup due to the Sox exhausting all pitching options, Guerra threw okay in 46.1 innings for the Sox. Not incredibly expensive to retain at $1.3 million, I just don't see the upside of Guerra as opposed to organizational arms like Webb or Cleto. Best of luck Javy.
Felipe Paulino- Buyout. A total disaster of a flier from the 2014 offseason. Paulino will cost the 2015 roster $250K to not pitch.
White Sox Free Agents:
Matt Lindstrom- Let go. He'll be 35, coming off an injury plagued year and with an alarming trend of decreasing strikeouts. There's better right handed bullpen options for far less cash on the roster already. See ya!
Free Agents: Looking over the talent pool for a couple hours I ended up adding one big position player, a mid-rotation starter, multiple bullpen and bench pieces and a designated hitter.
Chase Headley (4 years, $60M)- The big signing (if Hahn is indeed allowed to open the checkbook) this offseason NEEDS to be a position player with third base, left field and second base being the areas of obvious upgrade. I don't want an overreaction to the bullpen debacle, just sign a guy who plays everyday. The three players I targeted were Headley, Hanley Ramirez and Nick Markakis. I ended with Headley because I determined that he'd be reasonably affordable (I priced Han-Ram at 4 for $75M but was unsure whether that's realistic with the Dodgers bidding) even with the Yankees in the running, and that his offense would hold up better than Markakis who's power decline is worrisome. Headley's long been a favorite of mine with a solid mix of power, patience and defense. He fills a huge hole in the lineup and on the diamond.
Brandon McCarthy (3 years, $36M)- I kicked around a few ideas about which pitcher to pursue and couldn't find a better fit than McCarthy. Jake Peavy looks like he's NL-only material after a rough stint in Boston. Gavin Floyd got hurt again. Kyle Kendrick is bad. Ervin Santana (too expensive)? Francisco Liriano (does three years sound safe)? Most everyone else are studs (Scherzer, Lester, Shields) or guys who are too old to offer a multi-year deal. McCarthy fits in behind Sale and Quintana to shore up a rotation that had to trot out Scott Carroll last season. Brandon wields an impressive strikeout to walk ratio, injury concerns that keep his pricetag down, and a prodigal son narrative. Oh, and he's on the Twitter, I've heard.
Zach Duke (2 years, $9M)- LOOK, I know Robertson, Miller, Romo and K-Rod are all on the market. I'm just not paying market price for 60-70 innings a year. So Duke, failed starter in Pittsburgh who's been around since 2005(!), is the big fish for a cool 4.5 a year. He brings swing and miss stuff from the left side and should shoulder a heavy workload because "lefties don't close" or something which means he won't be saved when there's no save.
Emilio Bonifacio (2 years, $7M)- Bonifacio adds to a bench that was a total dumpster fire last year, and allows for it to only be four deep with his ability to play both infield and outfield. Bonifacio is an extreme contact hitter who runs well, so he's essentially a competent upgrade for the Leury Garcia roster spot.
Josh Willingham (1 year, $5M)- Willingham's offense has tailed off the last two seasons so I expect he's going to have to take a pricecut from his Twins contract. This is really just trying to fill a hole on the cheap because the White Sox lack solid options in the high minors (Andy Wilkins sure crapped the bed, eh?). If Willingham could provide something close to Adam Dunn's production (115 OPS+ or so) at this price, he'll be worth a one year deal to add some thump to the lineup. Also, the Sox have the space to keep him away from playing the field.
Geovany Soto (1 year, $3M)- Experienced backstop to improve the bench. Saves Sox fans from having to deal with the Josh Phegley experience (bat-first catcher who's bat sucks).
Joe Thatcher (1 year, $3M)- Second lefty in the 'pen. Has been used in the LOOGY role his whole career. And with a planned bullpen of seven, there's plenty of room for Thatch.
Trades: At one point I considered getting crazy and taking Mike Matheny's (leader of men) distaste for Oscar Taveras into account, I had the Sox unload the farm to pry the prized prospect from St. Louis, install him into left field and welcome the newest member of the young core (I'd give up a group like Anderson, Johnson, Danish and May). However, I decided that there's no way the Cardinals front office is that foolish. So, I settled on the more realistic possibility of filling left field with a player who's definitely being shopped.
White Sox trade Conor Gillaspie (3B) and Andre Rienzo (RHP) to the Pirates for Jose Tabata (OF) and Stolmy Pimentel (RHP)- With Headley in the fold, Gillaspie becomes trade bait and the Sox find a taker in corner-infield starved Pittsburgh eager to shed some cash in their overloaded outfield. Tabata's an interesting case in that his offense has been up and down the last three seasons after being a league average bat his first two as a 21 and 22 year old. Pittsburgh is looking to get out from his contract now that they don't have a starting spot to play him and he's owed $4M in 2015 and $4.5M in 2016. The more I look at his B-Ref page, he's just a younger Alejandro De Aza. Can play center in a pinch but Pittsburgh kept him in the corners where advanced stats haven't been overwhelmed. However, there's some tools: a league average walk rate, a close to league average extra base hit rate despite being a low home run guy. His career BABIP is .316 over 1700 plate appearances, and he's entering his age 26 season. The trade would be betting on continued development and he'd be the left half a straight platoon with Moises Sierra for the Sox.
As for the pitcher, the Sox would be getting back the better arm which makes sense because Pittsburgh probably got the better bat (unless Gillaspie's first half in 2014 was a mirage?) in this deal. Pimentel throws a mid to low 90s fastball and sinker along with a high-to mid 80s splitter. He's had good swing and miss stuff in his limited time in the majors.
Roster Summary: The total salary heading into 2015 with this constructed roster was right around $100M.
Adam Eaton (CF)
Chase Headley (3B)
Avisail Garcia (RF)
Jose Abreu (1B)
Josh Willingham (DH)
Tyler Flowers (C)
Alexei Ramirez (SS)
Jose Tabata (LF)
Marcus Semien (2B)
Geovany Soto (C)
Carlos Sanchez (MI)
Emilio Bonifacio (UTIL)
Moises Sierra (OF)
Chris Sale (LHP)
Jose Quintana (LHP)
Brandon McCarthy (RHP)
John Danks (LHP)
Hector Noesi (RHP)/ Carlos Rodon (LHP)
Jake Petricka (RHP)
Zach Duke (LHP)
Zach Putnam (RHP)
Joe Thatcher (LHP)
Daniel Webb (RHP)
Stolmy Pimentel (RHP)/ Maikel Cleto (RHP)
Chris Bassitt (RHP)/ Hector Noesi (RHP)