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Thoughts on the Nate Jones signing

The Sox sign Nate Jones for three years with three option years.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As is typical for the White Sox, rather than actually go to arbitration, the Sox signed Nate Jones for next season.  Unlike most of the recent arbitration signings, they extended their control on Nate Jones, including options, for six more seasons.

In the guaranteed seasons, Nate Jones will be getting $900k and $1.9 million in his last two arbitration years and $3.95 million in his first season of free agency.  There are two additional club option seasons of $4.65 million and $5.15 million (with a $1.25 million buyout for either of theses) and a $6 million mutual option in 2021.

For the arbitration seasons, this contract is pretty much in line with where Jones would be expected to be in those last years of arbitration assuming he wasn't non-tendered for some reason.  Compared to David Robertson's arbitration years, though, it's an absolute bargain.

David Robertson in Arbitration
2012 $1.6 million
2013 $3.1 million
2014 $5.215 million

That's for a David Robertson who at that point had eight saves under his belt.

Some of the discussion that immediately came up is whether this signing puts David Robertson on the trade block.  Nate Jones had been under discussion as being the closer before.  When Matt Lindstrom was named the closer to start 2014, the assumption was that Nate Jones would eventually take the job.  Unfortunately, back and Tommy John surgeries got in the way.

Last season, Nate Jones did a good job to get back to the Sox, but it wasn't necessarily a great season.  He gave up 2.37 HR/9 leading to a 4.66 FIP and a -0.1 WAR.  Digging a little deeper, his HR/FB was an unlucky 33%.  That lead to an xFIP of 2.40 and an xFIP- of 59, both career lows.  Nate Jones also pitched 19 innings last season, so everything screams small sample sizes.

The immediate question that came up is whether this contact means that David Robertson is on the trading block now.  If there's a question whether White Sox are going for it this season, trading David Robertson now would say no they're not.  Playoff teams need a solid closer.  While Jones can be a dominant reliever, we've discussed his problems with inherited runners here several times.  Making Jones the closer without some solid evidence that he's fixed his men on base problem would be pretty reckless.

In the long term, though, this contract gives the Sox a cost controlled Nate Jones for at least two seasons after David Robertson is gone.  If Nate Jones has earned his chance to close in 2019 at 33, he'll get it.  If the Sox decide to go another way, the $1.25 million buyout essentially becomes a nice deferred signing bonus.