Can you ever really get enough off-season plans? Probably, but I've submitted mine anyway. It will help you kill time between World Series games, if nothing else.
- Ronald Belisario - Tender
- Tyler Flowers - Tender
- Dayan Viciedo - Non-tender
- Hector Noesi - Non-tender
- Nate Jones - Tender
- Javy Guerra - Tender
When there's just over two runs difference between a pitcher's ERA and FIP, you can be certain that regression is coming. Fortunately for Belisario, it was the latter of the two numbers that was smaller in 2014. The culprit was a 57.7% strand rate that was second worst in the majors (MIN 50 IP) and was just a little over 12 percentage points below his career norm. Sure, $3.9 M might be a little pricey for a 0.5 WAR medium leverage reliever but it won't cripple the club's finances.
Contract options and free agents
I know it's foolish to base roster decisions on just one game. But that's exactly what I'm doing with Lindstrom. The game in reference took place at the Cell against the Orioles on August 18th. Lindstrom entered the game with men on first and second and two outs. The Sox trailed 3-2 at that point. Then, the following sequence happened:
- Caleb Joseph walked to load the bases.
- Jonathan Schoop cleared the bases with a scorched double.
- Nick Markakis cleared the bases again, this time via the home run.
- Steve Pearce smacked another double.
At this point, Buck Showalter was going to pinch hit the bat boy for Adam Jones but Robin Ventura pulled the plug on Lindstrom. The stadium predictably emptied and I never want to see Lindstrom on the hill for the White Sox again.
Free agent acquisitions
Nelson Cruz, DH, 3 yrs/$51 M plus an $18M club option/$3M buyout - The last thing one should want to do after shedding an onerous DH contract is to turn around and sign another one, right? Except that the Sox don't have any viable in-house options at DH. Personally, I don't care to relive the DHydra Experience of 2010. Sure, Cruz will turn 35 midway through the 2015 season and has had difficulty avoiding injury. But he did play 159 games in 2014, over half at DH. Given his poor defense, the less time he spends in the outfield the better. And if he can average 25+ home runs with a .340 wOBA over this contract, the price won't feel too steep.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, 2 yrs/$24 M - What I would expect from McCarthy from this contract- 150-170 innings of 3.75 FIP per season - is roughly what I was expecting (or at least hoping) of Erik Johnson coming into 2014. But, of course, Johnson's failure to stick in the major league rotation necessitates this move in the first place. McCarthy's home run tendencies will create headaches from time to time but he's still an improvement over Noesi. If nothing else, maybe McCarthy can help the front office better resist the temptation to fast track any pitching prospect not named Carlos Rodon.
Zach Duke, RP, 2 yrs/$6M - Duke quietly emerged as a reliable setup man this season after floundering as a starter for most of his career. This season, he largely ditched his fastball in favor of his sinker and curve ball, both of which are swing-and-miss offerings that induce a lot of ground balls. That would explain the career highs he set in strikeout rate (31.1%) and ground ball rate (57.7%). Combine that with the fact that he's left-handed with negligible platoon splits and he's damn near custom made for pitching in the Cell.
Burke Badenhop, RP, 2yrs/$5M - Badenhop is really good at inducing ground balls (55.6% career rate) and he only gave up one home run in all of 2014. That's how you succeed as a relief pitcher in the big leagues when you don't have swing-and-miss stuff, which Badenhop clearly doesn't (16.7% career K rate). He's not the sexiest option out there but I remain convinced that good bullpens can be built without busting a club's budget. Given the Sox' wide ranging needs, it's the only prudent way to proceed.
Jed Lowrie, 2B, 1 yr/$7M - Lowrie has always shown good strike zone judgement and power for a middle infielder but has battled constant injuries. He lived up to his potential in 2013 putting up a .290/.344/.446 line while hitting 15 homers over 662 PA. While he managed over 500 PA in 2014, his power disappeared as he only managed a .106 ISO. His defensive ratings are a bit erratic but he appears to rate as an average shortstop and he has experience at second base. Basically,he would be the kind of second baseman we all wished Gordon Beckham would have become. He'll probably command more years but he could go the Nelson Cruz route and agree to a one year deal to increase his value for a multiple year deal going into 2016.
Chad Billingsly, SP, 1 yr/$1M - Even the free spending Dodgers would be foolish to exercise the $3M club option for 2015. And there's no certainty that he'll be able to pitch at all next season. If he could throw as little as 100 innings of sub-4.00 FIP baseball, this contract would be a steal. If not, you probably wouldn't remember he was still on the team when his designation for assignment was announced around Father's Day.
Geovany Soto, C, 2 yrs/$5M - With Adrien Nieto requiring more seasoning and Josh Phegley not being very good, it would be nice to have a backup catcher who didn't make you cross your fingers or grind your teeth every time a pitch ended up in the dirt or look utterly over matched at the plate.
Saunders was one home run away from a 20-20 season in 2012 despite playing only 139 games. Unfortunately, that remains the most games he's played in a season thanks to injuries. (I seem to have a thing for injury prone players, don't I?) But even with only 263 PA over 78 games in 2014, he provided more fWAR (1.9) and bWAR (2.4) than any White Sox outfielder except for Adam Eaton. He hit for a very respectable .273/.341/.450. He can play all three outfield positions although UZR loves him in right field and despises him in center.
In this scenario, he takes over in left. His UZR numbers are more neutral there but I suspect given his speed and agility he would become an above average LF. Since he is still arbitration eligible, we don't know for certain how much he would end up costing the White Sox (although $3M is as reasonable of an estimate as any and what I'm going with for this exercise) or even if this trade would be necessary to acquire him. Further clouding this picture are comments from Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik during a post-mortem news conference just two days after the conclusion of the regular season. When asked about Saunders, Jack Z quipped, "He would be a really great player if he would stop being such a whiny bitch."
Okay, he didn't really say that. But he might as well have. Saunders' agent Michael McCann was plenty pissed off. Mariners' fans weren't too pleased either judging by the comments section of this piece over at Lookout Landing. (It appears they admire their version of "The Condor" almost as much we revere our own.) It's almost as if the Mariners are looking for somebody, anybody, to take over everyday duties in the outfield so they can reduce Saunders to a fourth outfielder.
All in all, it's a situation reminiscent of how the Sox acquired Kevin Youklis from Boston back in 2012. Management decides that a player is no longer a fit on the club and decides to offload them at a discount. (I'm still flabbergasted that all it took to get Youklis was Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge.) Maybe that's not what Jack Z is trying to do here but he's probably going to be fielding his share of phone calls about Saunders all the same. I also wouldn't expect Jack Z to be quite as generous as Ben Cherington was in the Youklis deal which is why I've included Micalczewski. JorDanks can serve as a fourth or fifth outfielder or as organizational depth.
As for Saunders' nickname, I'm sure he can be gently persuaded to adopt something like Raptor, Vulture, or Pterodactyl as a new moniker. Maybe the real Condor can buy him a nice juicy steak for dinner as a good will gesture.
Other roster moves
I was actually hoping to find a third baseman via free agency but was quite underwhelmed by the choices available. Chase Headley flashes serious leather. But offensively speaking, he doesn't offer anything better than Conor Gillespie and may actually be a downgrade . Pablo Sandoval would also be an upgrade defensively and offers a bit more pop but surrendering even a second round pick to acquire him seems too steep a price. Popular trade targets like Pedro Alvarez and Trevor Plouffe have plenty of concerns and question marks. So, I've decided to make Marcus Semien the Sox' starting third baseman and Conor Gillespie a backup corner infielder and left-handed bat off the bench. Sure, there will be growing pains. But I was encouraged by the improvement of his walk and strikeout rates in September, small sample size though it is. He won't win a Gold Glove at the hot corner but if he should be competent if given enough reps.
My 25-man roster
- Chris Sale
- Jose Quintana
- Brandon McCarthy
- Carlos Rodon/Chad Billingsly/Scott Carroll/Erik Johnson
- John Danks
Catcher - Tyler Flowers
1B - Jose Abreu
2B - Jed Lowrie
3B - Marcus Semien
SS - Alexei Ramirez
LF - Michael Saunders
CF - Adam Eaton
RF - Avisail Garcia
DH - Nelson Cruz
- Conor Gillespie - CI/DH
- Luery Garcia - IF/OF
- Michael Taylor - OF
- Geovany Soto - C
All told, my 2015 payroll comes in a shade under $105M although there may be some mathematical errors and/or omissions which might inflate that figure slightly. No sensible GM would use this plan as a blueprint but it was fun to put together and I think there are one or two ideas worth pursuing. Commence the mocking!