raBBit's Offseason Plan
Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):
- Tyler Flowers, $3.5M: Tender
- Avisail Garcia, $2.3M: Tender
- Nate Jones, $900K: Tender
- Zach Putnam, $800K: Tender
- Dan Jennings, $800K: Tender
No tough calls here really. Flowers and Garcia should both be tendered but they both have performed in ways that their roles are up for debate. Nate Jones certainly has the stuff to be in the back of the rotation and both Putnam and Jennings should compete for the last bullpen spots with both having success against their opposite-handed oppositions.
Contract options (pick up or buy out)
- Alexei Ramirez: $10M for 2016 or a $1 million buyout: Pick up
Alexei has become a discordant figure around most White Sox circles and he's a guy who you could certainly use improvement on, but there are no options that jump out at you. There's credence to the idea that you buy him out and try to get him at a lower price but shortstop is such a weak position right now if you don't have one of the young studs it may not be worth saving a couple million at most (when considering the buy out).
With Alexei, you have a guy who has been inconsistent but plagued by emotional struggles once again. How much slack you can give a guy for these personal hardships may vary from whom you talk to but it is something to consider especially when you see how well he rebounded after a terrible first half. The bar for offensive production at shortstop is very low and at the least, we do know that his BABIP was .264 which is much lower than his career average. He's not the the most exciting option for jaded Sox fans but this is a move that kind of has to be made though I contend Sox insulate themselves which I'll expand on later.
Impending free agents (re-sign, let go, or qualifying offer?):
- Jeff Samardzija: $15.8M qualifying offer: Offer QO, let sign elsewhere.
- Matt Albers: Made $1.5M in 2015: Offer 1 year, 1.7 million.
- Gordon Beckham: Made $2M in 2015: Let go (I pray).
- Geovany Soto: Made $1.5M in 2015: Let go.
Steve Pearce - 1 year, 4 million
Pearce is exactly the type of guy I think the Sox should target. While he's not a guy with a big name, he's amassed a 120 OPS+ since coming over to the AL. This past year, he struggled mightily and put up a .218/.289/.422/.711 slash line over 325 PA's. The future indicator I like is his BABIP. Pearce was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball and had a .232 BABIP over a fairly significant sample. You bring him as the latter half of the DH platoon and he will be able to play himself into expanded role. Pearce plays LF, 1B and even started at 2B for the Orioles for a few weeks. He mashes LHP and represents one of the cheapest free agents with ~20 HR potential. Sox need power in the baddest way and Pearce provides that potential on the low.
Mat Latos - 1 year, 8 million + 11 million team option, 1.5 million buy-out
Latos was tossed around the league this past year but it wasn't indicative of the type of talent he possesses. It's easy to throw around "what-ifs" but if Latos didn't play for Miami or the Dodgers, he would have had a more stable place. He came out in April returning from a knee surgery and his fastball was sitting just above 90 MPH. Those who pitched know losing a couple ticks off your fastball takes more away from you than the hitters' reaction time, it takes away that late break on your off-speed stuff as well. Latos was tattered by the opposition but once his velo returned t0 91-94 (topping out at 96) his old numbers returned. Latos has a great track record in Cincinnati and provides a nice buy-low option for the Sox. He's only going into his age 28 season and will take a back seat to the premier options in a starting-pitcher-abundant FA market. I'll bet on Latos strong track record over his recent small sample when he was plagued by injury and circumstance.
Trade #1: White Sox trade LHP Jose Quintana and LF Melky Cabrera to Boston for OF Jackie Bradley Jr., C Christian Vazquez, SS Deven Marrero, LF Hanley Ramirez and 21 million dollars.
A lot of people will shoot down this whole plan when they see the Sox would lose Quintana and pick up Ramirez in the same move. Stay with me. Yes, Ramirez has a horrible reputation and high salary but he also has a great bat and with the Red Sox adding 7 million a year, his AAV (currently ~23 million) comes much more manageable 16 million. I'd take Hanley Ramirez's bat on 3/48 and he's only going to be a butcher in the outfield for a short time (expanded on below). New Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has added money to dump a big contract before with the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler swap. The White Sox also dump Cabrera who can open LF for players who can fathomably provide surplus value. There certainly is risk in this move but the offensive landscape is in a horrible place right now and they need to take a calculated risk somewhere. I would safely bet on Hanley Ramirez outperforming Melky Cabrera over the next few years at the least.
Losing Quintana hurts plenty but in return the Sox get a gaggle of young players who provide plus-plus defense that can reshape their lineup for years to come. There are rumblings that Dombrowski is going to be a very busy man with the team he has inherited and he has never valued defense like his predecessors.
I think most are familiar with what Jackie Bradley can do in the OF and while you can't expect him to hit at the levels he did last year, he's not going to kill you at the plate as he puts up a good at bat. He was 11th in the AL in pitches-per-plate-appearance for players with at least 200 PAs. Most White Sox fans want Jason Heyward and while that's never going to happen, I can see a scenario where JBJ mimics his production.
Christian Vazquez, who missed all of 2015, is an elite defender behind the plate and with Blake Swihart and amiable back-up Ryan Hanigan under contract the Red Sox are able to move Vazquez in favor of the sexier, more offensive-minded catcher Swihart. He comes in to share a starting role with Tyler Flowers but in time, his ability would outshine Flowers.
Marrero isn't a prospect that jumps out at you by any means but he provides plus defense, has received high marks on his makeup and can play both all over the infield. With Alexei on a rental deal and Tim Anderson's future placement uncertain, Marrero insulates the White Sox with a multitude of options in 2016 and beyond. He can come in sharing starting duties with Carlos Sanchez and maybe even assert himself as the shortstop of the future. Boston has little use for him with Pedroia/Betts/Bogaerts up the middle.
Trade #2: Trade 2B Micah Johnson and RF Avisail Garcia to Oakland for 3B Brett Lawrie.
It's unclear whether Micah Johnson will ever find a role with the White Sox and it's past due on the White Sox starting Avisail Garcia. Oakland can bring some serious speed to a team that lacks it sorely and Garcia could at least fill a role as a platoon outfielder picking up the slack against LHP. Oakland has always been keen on taking quantity over quality and in this case they can move Lawrie before he hits his arbitration years as they have same-handed Danny Valencia to continue playing third base.
In Lawrie the Sox get a defensive-minded 3B who lacks in AVG/OBP but could see improvement on his 16 HR's by switching his mainstay from the O.co Coliseum to US Cellular Field. Lawrie is a cocky, hard-nosed player that you hate to play against and should fit well on the South Side.
Trade #3: Trade RHP Frankie Montas to Milwaukee for LHP Will Smith.
Milwaukee is going to be rebuilding over the next few years and don't the need the luxury of a highly effective left-handed reliever. While some White Sox fans would raise their eyebrows by moving a young, cost controlled flame-thrower for a reliever with less years of control, I see a time to sell when value is high and to cash in. Montas' stats in AA aren't numbers I would bet he repeats again and I am not in love with his bad knees or his terribly out-of-shape body at this juncture of his career. I am also not as sold on his secondary stuff holding up when the league gets a book on him. In Smith, you get a strong left-handed option who boasts a career rate 3.52 SO/BB in relief. He would immediately become the best left-handed bullpen option the Sox have had since Matt Thornton and a great complement to David Robertson at the back of the bullpen.
L CF Adam Eaton
L RF Jackie Bradley Jr./Trayce Thompson
R 1B Jose Abreu/Adam LaRoche/Steve Pearce
R LF Hanley Ramirez/Steven Pearce/Trayce Thompson
L/R DH Adam LaRoche/Steven Pearce/Hanley Ramirez/Jose Abreu
R 3B Brett Lawrie/Hanley Ramirez
R C Christian Vazquez/Tyler Flowers
R SS Alexei Ramirez/Deven Marrero
S/R 2B Deven Marrero/Carlos Sanchez/Brett Lawrie
Bench: INF Sanchez, C Vazquez/Flowers, OF Thompson and last spot goes to either Shuck or Saladino.
Rationale: The key here is adding flexibility and defense. The only position you are weak at defensively is LF. You make LaRoche and Pearce earn their time. If one of them can't stick by May/June, you cut bait and give more time to Trayce Thompson. You're not tied to any option in the middle infield. You let the best two play and find out what kind of roles Sanchez/Marrero can have moving forward. You can even go crazy-offense and abort defense in favor of an Eaton-JBJ-Abreu-Ramirez-LaRoche-Pearce-Lawrie-Vazquez-Ramirez lineup. After the power-moves-only DH platoon has their contracts expire after 2016 you switch Ramirez to DH, Eaton to LF and JBJ to CF leaving RF for either Thompson or more likely a new addition in RF. The weakness is the lineup may get a little too right-handed but that would be the area of concern in July if a playoff spot were in sight.
1.) Chris Sale
2.) Carlos Rodon
3.) Mat Latos
4.) Erik Johnson
5.) John Danks
Closer: RHP David Robertson
Setup: RHP Nate Jones and LHP Will Smith
Middle relief - four of: RHP Jake Petricka, RHP Zack Putnam, LHP Zack Duke, LHP Dan Jennings, RHP Matt Albers and random spring training invitee(s).
Rationale: I am very high on Carlos Rodon and higher than most on Erik Johnson so I think the rotation should be around the top third of the AL. It's never going to look as good when you pull out Jose Quintana from the middle of it but you have to give to get. The defense is going to be improved incredibly so most pitchers who have been here should improve after having one of the MLB's worst defensive units behind them. The bullpen comes back stronger with a real left-handed option in the late innings. Carson Fulmer can push some of those above out of their spots as soon as May and I am sure Scott Carroll/Chris Beck will be back in Charlotte as the next man up. It's safe to assume there will be some fliers added as well.
Additions: OF/1B/DH Steve Pearce, RHP Mat Latos, OF/3B/DH Hanley Ramirez, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., C Christian Vazquez, INF Deven Marrero, INF Brett Lawrie and LHP Will Smith.
Additions by subtraction: Jeff Keppinger's contract.
Subtractions: Jeff Samardzija, Geo Soto, Gordon Beckham, Jose Quintana, Melky Cabrera, Micah Johnson, Avisail Garcia and Frankie Montas.
Looking at 2016 and beyond:
The White Sox brain trust has pushed the "three year window" plenty of times and this plan will coincide with that notion. The upside one year deals gives the team flexibility to have plus performers from a value standpoint, but they're not pigeonholed if a young player emerges. So if the season falls to the wayside, they can move a rebounding performer in Pearce/Ramirez/LaRoche/Latos. The key to me is to bring in a bunch of younger players who have the qualities of MLB starters and let them determine their roles. Making the lineup should not be a matter of going through the motions as it has been with years' past, but instead, a lineup responsive to trends and positions being earned.
In this scenario, after 2016, the team moves forward with Hanley Ramirez shifting to DH, Eaton to LF, Bradley Jr. to CF with C Vazquez/1B Abreu/3B Lawrie holding their roles. Then the team has to see if Marrero/Sanchez/Thompson have taken grasp of any roles and go from there. The team will have plenty of salaries coming off the books after the 2016 season. Ideally, the White Sox should finally be at a depth position that they can be comfortable as Anderson, Carson Fulmer, other mid level prospects emerge along with the addition of three top 50 draft picks from the 2016 draft. The team sees the payroll cleared to mostly cost-effective assets and pre-arbitration players and has the ability to add via free agency/trades with the payroll opening up.