clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Josh Nelson's Offseason Plan

New, 76 comments

Fine, let's give it one more shot in 2017. We can always blow it up at the trade deadline.

Save us, Charlie Blackmon.
Save us, Charlie Blackmon.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox should rebuild. A team that has tried the past two seasons by adding players to support their core has fell well short of the postseason in 2015 and 2016. It would be beautiful for the White Sox to make the postseason with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana leading the charge. Perhaps they are better built for the short season that is the playoffs, but they don't have the roster to endure the marathon 162 game season. It's time to move Sale and Quintana for young talent so they can build around Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

I just don't think that is the direction the White Sox will go, and fans that want the team to rebuild can thank Jerry Reinsdorf for that.

My offseason plan is how I would approach the offseason if I were in Rick Hahn's shoes with the demand of trying to build a winner. Not saying coming up with a plan to rebuild isn't difficult, but after going through this exercise I've decided that I really don't want Rick Hahn's job.

My plan for James Shields is to pray every night that he'll opt-out of his contract. If not, Reinsdorf was cool cutting John Danks in May, maybe he'll be okay with letting go Shields midseason too.

Arbitration-eligible (with projected salaries from MLBTR):

Write "tender" or "non-tender" after each of the following names. Two notes: 1) You can trade before or after tendering a contract, and 2) we'll just assume Jose Abreu is in the fold for roughly $11 million regardless of whether he chooses the arb route.

  • Todd Frazier, $13.5M - Tender

  • Brett Lawrie, $5.1M - Tender

  • Avisail Garcia, $3.5M - Non-Tender

  • Miguel Gonzalez, $2.6M - Tender

  • Dan Jennings, $1.2M - Tender

  • J.B. Shuck, $1M - Non-Tender

  • Jake Petricka, $900K - Tender

  • Zach Putnam, $900K - Tender

  • Daniel Webb, $600K - Non-Tender

I like Brett Lawrie and feel he is better than Tyler Saladino to be the starting second baseman. Yes, I am aware of Lawrie's lengthy injury history and I know at some point a visit to the disabled list is very likely. That's why Saladino is around to provide insurance. If Lawrie can give the Sox 140 plus starts in 2017, that might be an extra half to full win boost. For me, that's worth $5.1 million.

Non-tendering J.B. Shuck was an easy decision, and because the White Sox always need players in Charlotte, I wouldn't mind offering him a minor league contract if he hasn't found a home by Spring Training. Avisail Garcia is also a non-tender because the Sox have spent plenty of time with him to improve his swing. Somehow, he performed worse in 2016 than in 2015, and it seems that whenever Avi is having a good couple of weeks, a visit to the disabled list is upcoming. The money isn't a lot, but if Avi receives a contract, I just find that to be a waste.

Regarding Daniel Webb, the roster spot is more important than the money, and that spot is going to 2016 first round pick, Zack Burdi.

Contract options (pick up or buy out)

  • Matt Albers: $3M for 2017 or a $250,000 buyout - Buyout

Enjoy the $250,000, Matt, and at least we'll always have Queens.


Impending free agents (re-sign, let go or qualifying offer)

  • Austin Jackson: Made $5 million in 2016.

  • Alex Avila: Made $2.5 million in 2016.

  • Justin Morneau: Made $1 million in 2016, although he signed during the season.

I don't know what the future holds for Austin Jackson, who is just 29 years old. Perhaps another team will offer him a minor league contract, but I don't think that will be the White Sox.

Alex Avila - I could see the White Sox resigning him. At this point, he is a backup catcher at best because he can't stay healthy enough to carry a starter's workload.

Justin Morneau will play one more year, and it'll be a contending team that will give him opportunities to play first base. I don't see a match between him and the Sox.

Now it's time to fill the roster starting with the free agents I would sign.

Free Agent signings:

Sign Jason Castro, C - 3 yr $21 million with a team option at $9 million for 2020 (Breakdown: $6MM, $7MM, $8MM)

After the debacle pairing Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila trying to give the offense a boost from the catcher position, the Sox get back to the importance of defense and framing. Jason Castro had MLB's third best Fielding Runs Above Average in thanks to his framing ability. He won't provide much offensively, as he hit 11 HR 32 RBI with a slash line of .210/.307/.377 in 2015, but the boost defensively and aiding the pitchers in getting strikes called will provide tremendous value.

Sign Javier Lopez, LHP - 2 years, $10.5 million

Sign Greg Holland, RHP - 1 year, $5 million

If you listened to our 2016 pitchers review podcast episode, larry emphasized why the Sox need to find someone in the bullpen to get lefties out consistently. In 2016, Lopez held left-handed batters to just a .626 OPS (23rd best in MLB for relievers) and in his career a .572 OPS against lefties. If San Francisco doesn't bring him back, Lopez is an excellent option as a LOOGY.

Greg Holland missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery in 2015. Signing Holland is one of two lottery tickets I would buy, and I'm hoping that Herm Schneider & Co. can keep Holland healthy. If they can, it would add a reliable high-leverage reliever on a deal that gives him an opportunity to leverage for a bigger contract deal next season.

Carlos Gomez, OF - 1 year, $8 million

Nobody will be more excited by this move than Hawk Harrelson. Out of all the offseason moves I've selected, I feel most confident the signing of Carlos Gomez would happen. The Sox desperately need help in center field, but my direction would this move isn't for Gomez to start in center. Instead, it is a move that has Gomez play most of the time in left field and have Melky Cabrera DH more.

This type of move is one the Sox should have made in the last offseason, in signing Ian Desmond. The Sox really could've used his 2.7 bWAR season with 22 HR 86 RBI and a .782 OPS. I don't think Gomez will come close to those numbers, but after being released by the Houston Astros, he hit 8 HR 24 RBI with a .905 OPS in just 33 games. I think Gomez can still be a plus 2-win player that will provide better defense in left.

So, who will play in center for the Sox in 2016? First, let's take a look at the CF production outside of Adam Eaton last season.

Player

WAR

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Charlie Tilson

0

1

2

2

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.500

0.500

0.500

1.000

Leury Garcia

-0.1

18

50

48

6

11

1

1

1

5

1

13

2

0.229

0.260

0.354

0.614

Austin Jackson

-0.1

54

203

181

24

46

12

2

0

18

17

39

2

0.254

0.318

0.343

0.661

J.B. Shuck

-1.8

81

241

224

27

46

5

2

4

14

12

21

3

0.205

0.248

0.299

0.547

Total those numbers up and you get -2.0 bWAR with a slash line of .229/.270/.323. It shouldn't be hard to find a center fielder that can produce better numbers. The problem is there are not many options in free agency that provide the type of significant change the Sox need.

Because of the lack of free agency options, is why I think the White Sox will need to go the trade route in acquiring a center fielder.

Trades:

Colorado Rockies receive: Carson Fulmer RHP, Brad Goldberg RHP, Courtney Hawkins OF, Corey Zangari 1B, Micker Adolfo OF

Chicago White Sox receive: Charlie Blackmon CF (Arbitration $9 million), Tom Murphy C

Charlie Blackmon is coming off a career year in 2016 with a .933 OPS with 29 HR 82 RBI. His bWAR was 4.4; a full two wins better than in 2015. The question is, can he repeat that level of performance? His 2014 and 2015 seasons were decent coming in above 2 WAR level of production. The concern about Blackmon was the nasty difference in OPS away from hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Year

Home OPS

Away OPS

2014

.915

.617

2015

.890

.695

Something must have clicked for Blackmon because he raised his OPS away from Coors by 231 points this past season.

Year

Home OPS

Away OPS

2016

.939

.926

I feel like this is a splendid time to buy on Blackmon. He is still arbitration eligible with MLB Trade Rumors predicting a $9 million dollar salary in 2016 and doesn't become a free agent until 2019. For the level of production he can provide, whether it is falling back to his 2014/15 pace at two wins or picking up where he left off this season at 4-plus wins, that is a good value for the Sox.

Tom Murphy ranks as the 10th best catching prospect according to MLBpipeline.com. His scouting grades are Hit 40 | Power 55 | Run 30 | Arm 55 | Field 50. He isn't going to wow you with his receiving skills unless you're comparing him to Dioner Navarro, and his footwork is decent behind home plate.

The reason I included Murphy in the deal is that a combination of Jason Castro/Omar Narvaez would create a dead spot in the lineup almost every night. Jose Quintana's outstanding command would be a good pairing for Murphy to learn and improve his defensive mechanics while providing another bat in the lineup to be a threat. The Rockies have Tony Walters who I assume will take the workload as starting catcher with Nick Hundley going elsewhere in free agency, so I sweetened the pot to grab Murphy.

Now to get this deal done, I know I had to give up Carson Fulmer to have a chance at Blackmon. The Rockies have made it well known they want to add pitching and have a good core building up in Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood. I'm not sure if Fulmer is a starting pitcher in the long run and I haven't been a big fan of how the Sox have handled him. His mid-90's velocity is what the Rockies are looking for, and they could be the team to give Fulmer starts while being patient in his development. Yes, Fulmer could be needed if James Shields continues to be bad and I know Spencer Adams and Alec Hansen are at least a year away from helping. I just find center field to be a big enough hole that I'm willing to part ways with the 2015 first round pick for a player like Blackmon.

Brad Goldberg is a reliever that can reach the high 90's with his fastball, again something the Rockies want more of and he could be part of their bullpen plans in 2017. Then the three projects: Corey Zangari, Micker Adolfo, and Courtney Hawkins. If any of them pan out, the Rockies could have themselves a 30+ HR bat in the lineup.

Now for my money dump.

Texas Rangers receive: David Robertson, RHP

Chicago White Sox receive: Nick Martinez, RHP, Andrew Faulkner LHP (ranks 17th MLBpipeline Rangers prospects).

There are three great closers in free agency this offseason with Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon available. Both Chapman and Melancon were part of trades during the season so that they won't have with a QO attached to them. If a team wants to grab a closer, they have their options, but boy these can be quite expensive options. I'm predicting that Chapman and Jansen could fetch contracts around 5 years, $75 million dollars which is insane for a reliever. Melancon could get a deal slightly better than the one David Robertson got in 2014.

Now, the Rangers could decide to spend the money and sign Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon. Sam Dyson had a fine season as their closer, but they could use more arms that have high leverage experience. Instead of investing four years or more in a closer from free agency, I would be giving them Robertson who only has two years remaining on his deal. In exchange, I'm giving Don Cooper a project in Nick Martinez and future LOOGY Andrew Faulkner.

This trade is not a steep cost from the Rangers point of view, and the White Sox are not making it out rich in this deal. For my other moves to work, while stashing some cash aside to make another move during the season possibly, I had to move Robertson's contract. This deal would be my first move I would make in the offseason and try to close the transaction during the GM Meetings in November.

Minor League Free Agent signings:

Tommy Milone, because Charlotte needs pitchers.

Projected lineup

Tim Anderson, SS

Adam Eaton, RF

Jose Abreu, 1B

Charlie Blackmon, CF

Melky Cabrera, DH

Todd Frazier, 3B

Carlos Gomez, LF

Brett Lawrie, 2B

Jason Castro, CF

Bench

Tyler Saladino

Tom Murphy

Charlie Tilson

Matt Davidson

Starting Rotation

Chris Sale

Jose Quintana

Carlos Rodon

James Shields

Miguel Gonzalez

Bullpen

Nate Jones

Greg Holland

Javier Lopez (L)

Dan Jennings (L)

Jake Petricka

Zach Putnam

Zack Burdi

Pie in the sky prediction: The additions of Blackmon and Castro add eight wins from last year's total. Gomez has a bounce back year, and Anderson continues his rookie season pace to become a 4-win player. White Sox win 89 games in 2017.

Closer to earth prediction: Blackmon falls back to a 2-win player. Gomez is more like the player he was in Houston than in Arlington, and Anderson has a sophomore slump. Chris Sale gets traded by the deadline.  White Sox win 78 games in 2017.