My eye isn’t on 2015. If something happens great, but I think the Sox should be looking to seriously contend in 2016. Therefore, I think you have to listen to offers for Alexei. I want an arm in return and a high end arm at that. It’s also possible the glove is regressing and unloading Alexei for a high end arm ends up being a steal. I prefer to keep him however.
Next, I’m calling Adam Eaton’s agent and seeing if I can buy out his arbitration years and maybe two years of free agency. I know we’re talking a six year deal, but four years plus two team options, ala Sale and Quintana, might make everyone happy. Eaton's been banged up a few times in his brief career, so the fiscal security of four years plus two options might be enticing to him.
Ronald Belisario - non-tender
Tyler Flowers - tender
Dayan Viciedo - non-tender
Hector Noesi - tender
Nate Jones - tender
Javy Guerra - tender (if he is a Super Two)
Contract options (pick up or buy out):
Felipe Paulino: $4M for 2015 or $250,000 buyout - Buyout
Free agents (re-sign or let go?):
· Matt Lindstrom: $4M salary in 2014 - See ya
Third Base - Conor Gillaspie had a fantastic year, but that’s probably the best you can hope for from Conor. He’s a valuable baseball player, and someone contenders always have. But, again, you’re probably not getting much more out of Gillaspie offensively than what he gave in 2014. His glove doesn’t grade out well, so the Sox could really use a bump up at third, then use Gillaspie as a supersub/DH-platoon or move him for an arm or two.
Solution: Kick the Hanley Ramirez tires. Hanley’s not a short stop any more, but he can still hit. I wouldn’t go beyond something like 5 years, $90m (4 years, $75m would be my perfect world deal), but it’s worth checking out. He immediately becomes the second best hitter on the Sox and taking him off short hopefully will lead to a better glove, which would then be an upgrade defensively at third. And even though he’s been around forever, he’s only 30 (though 31 on Opening Day). Hanley’s bat should be fine going into 2016 and beyond as the Sox get serious about contending.
I know a lot of people have suggested Chase Headley, but so much of his value comes from his glove that I worry that he’s going to age poorly and thus lose a lot of value. A four year deal seems risky. There’s also what to do with Matt Davidson… he’s pretty much a Javier Baez that walks. So that’s cool. Though no hype, which is weird.
Catcher: All in all, Tyler Flowers had a nice year, but there’s almost no chance he comes close to being a passable bat again next year—too many strikeouts and too much luck on balls in play. Though, he’s proven to be a good defensive catcher so he has value. I don’t need to see much more of Josh Phegley. I know he’s only had 250 plate appearances, but the returns are horrible so far—I don’t think he’s a part time solution. So another catcher is needed but since there isn’t much in terms of free agency, a serviceable backup who can split time with Flowers would probably be nice.
Solution: Geovany Soto. The bats pretty fried, if it was ever really there, but he’s a good defensive catcher who has walked a bit in the past. He’ll be 32 on Opening Day, so in a perfect world a one year deal ($4m) with a club option for a second would be great.
However, if I were a betting man, I’d put money down on the return of A.J. Pierzynski. I wouldn’t be against this if it means AJ is player-manager. I mean, let’s cut to the chase here, AJ’s going to be the manager of the Sox sooner rather than later, why not just do it now?
Left Field: I know he didn’t play here a ton last year, but has anyone enjoyed the Dayan Viciedo Era? Anyone? I can’t wait until he’s gone.
Solution: First I call the Marlins and ask about Stanton. After they say "No." Then… ugh. Rasmus has shown flashes, but he’s also been really bad. Markakis is about as unexciting as you could get and I wouldn’t want to give him three years on top of it. Melky Cabrera has really only had two above average seasons and his glove stinks.
I’d probably end up calling the Red Sox and seeing how much Yoenis Cespedes would cost. How much to give up? That’s where I always struggle with these things. Hawkins seems like way too much for what could end up being only one year of Cespedes. Thompson isn’t close to enough. So probably no deal there.
That’s why I come back to Colby Rasmus. He can also play center for the eventual Eaton 15-day DL stint in June/July. A two year, $20m deal with a team option on year three seems reasonable. Sox get Rasmus as he enters his prime seasons, Rasmus and his dad get the hands-off coaching of Robin while hitting in a hitters park. Everyone wins.
DH: I’m the only person that didn’t absolutely hate the Dunn Era. Sure 2011 was horrible, but 2012-2014 was kind of fun.
Solution: I prefer Morse over Butler, but signing Butler would be pretty hilarious just to listen to Hawk gush over him for three years year. Butler also has huge Paulie Jr. potential. I’d give Morse a two year deal ($12m), maybe even three for Butler ($24m), and let them know they’re never ever playing the field. I want no part of Victor Martinez.
Starting Pitching: Scott Carroll and Hector Noesi gave the Sox 300 innings of replacement level pitching. John Danks gave the Sox almost 200 innings of barely above replacement level pitching. There’s a lot of room for improvement here.
Solution: Barring a bad-contract for bad-contract deal, John Danks will be back next year. There is no way the Sox should take back more years if they do unload Danks, so a Danks for Edwin Jackson type deal would be a disaster for the South Siders. So don’t do that. Danks is probably done as anything more than slightly above replacement level, but I’ll hold out some hope that he can lower his walks next year, and who knows, maybe he turns in a good first half and the Sox are able to move him in July.
That leaves two other rotation spots. Carlos Rodon pretty much ready to go but I figure they’ll wait a few months before they start his service time clock however. With Noesi back, he’ll slide in until Carlos is ready. Beck and Bassitt also deserve a look in February and March. I figure Erik Johnson isn’t going to be ready. And Andre Rienzo can’t find the plate; time to move him to the pen and hope he turns into Wade Davis.
That leaves one spot. I can’t wait until the national (local?) media figures out the Sox have four lefties in the rotation. That being the case, it’s pretty obvious the Sox will target a righty. Scherzer is going to require years and money that the Sox really have never given a pitcher. So that means a lot of sifting through the middle and bottom of the market.
--Ervin Santana - Probably doesn’t get enough ground balls to survive in the Cell, so pass.
--Brandon McCarthy – Fills 2005 Team Quota until Burehrle is brought back in 2016 or 2017. McCarthy actually would be a really nice fit, however, anything more than a two year deal would probably be pushing it and someone will offer him three years. I’m fine with a two year, $24m with a team option for a third year deal; I just doubt it will be enough.
--Edinson Volquez - One of those guys that Coop might be able to ‘fix’. A one year deal with a team option for a second seems reasonable. But also have to worry about the drop in strikeouts last year.
--Brett Anderson -- He’s a really interesting guy out there, I had forgotten he was even in the league in fact. But he’s apparently healthy and in a small sample size got some crazy ground ball rates last year. Really intriguing due to prior success, Coop, and the possible five lefty rotation the Sox could roll out.
--Jeff Samardzija -- He grew up a Sox fan. He’s right handed. Hopefully Davidson and someone else in the minors (Hawkins?). Anyway, the Sox would need to then sign him to a long term deal. Sale-Samardzija-Quintana is pretty darn good, especially if Rodon hits the ground running in June/July. If the Sox want to make a 2015 and 2016+ move that doesn’t involve Stanton, this is it.
--Johnny Cueto – Nice rebound year for Cueto. He had a ton of luck which inflated the numbers a bit, but he was really, really good. Like Smarardzija he’ll be a free agent in a year, but he’s also younger than Samardzija. The worry would be twofold: 1) He was hurt most of 2013 yet threw nearly 250 innings last year; and 2) I’m guessing he’d cost more than Samardzija in a trade and will probably cost more to keep around. Thus I’m not as gun-ho about going after Cueto, but Sale-Cueto-Quintana would be more awesome.
Conclusion: I’m probably above budget (~$100m team payroll) once you factor in arbitration and filling out the bullpen (which I’m not going to worry about because I don’t see the Sox being a serious contender in ‘15 and if they are, then figure it out in season). Signing a Volquez/Anderson type keeps the Sox under that $100m threshold, however, trading and then extending Samardzija or Cueto puts the Sox over that figure. If that’s the case, then I assume the Hanley idea dies and Gillaspie is your everyday third baseman when 2015 begins.
The one advantage of signing Hanley this year and trading for Samardzija is that the Sox probably won’t stink next year even if they do next to nothing this winter, thus if they sign any sort of decent free agent in a year, that’s going to cost them their first round pick. That’s why going a bit over budget this winter might make more sense.
So my Can’t-trade-for-Stanton-Perfect-World 2015 White Sox:
- Eaton - 8
- Hanley Ramirez - 5
- Jose Abreu - 3
- Michael Morse - DH
- Garcia - 9
- Rasmus - 7
- Alexei - 6
- Flowers/Soto - 2
- Semien/Johnson - 4
June and Beyond: Sale-Samardzija-Quintana-Danks-Rodon