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The White Sox’ toughest calls at the non-tender deadline

Nine players enter, three might leave

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins

The non-tender deadline is upon us, and the White Sox have no make-or-break decisions on arbitration-eligible players before the 7 p.m. CT deadline. Sure, they’re entering the second year of a rebuild, so nothing’s particular crucial at any one juncture, but it’d be the same deal even if they had aspirations. The guys who are making considerable salaries are easy “yeses,” and the question marks are injured or randomly acquired relievers.

There are nine arb-eligible White Sox, and the front office can theoretically retain everybody at no tremendous cost. However, with only one spot open on the 40-man roster, they’ll probably use this occasion to create more space for either a Rule 5 pick, waiver claims, or other low-stakes acquisitions.

The easy calls (with projected salary from MLB Trade Rumors):

  • Jose Abreu ($17.9M)
  • Avisail Garcia ($6.7M)
  • Yolmer Sanchez ($2.1M)
  • Carlos Rodon ($2M)

That’s both in order of salary and excitement, as Rodon won’t be available until the summer months. All of these players were unanimous tender calls in the Offseason Plan Project.

Among those that weren’t, one should have been (he was in tendered in all but one proposal). The others are all relievers that aren’t essential to any plans.

Leury Garcia ($1.2M)

The case for: Hit .270/.316/.423 over 326 PA in 2017, and better before his hand injury (.289/.338/.450). That, along with an average center field glove and the ability to play other positions, gives him the inside track for starting and makes him a potential midseason trade asset if he can stay healthy.

The case against: There isn’t one, even if you’re pessimistic about his ability to stay healthy and/or productive. (Unless he’s in worse shape than the White Sox have let on.)

Danny Farquhar ($1.5M)

The case for: He was fairly watchable, which sounds like damning with faint praise, but means something given the situations. Only Aaron Bummer had a higher leverage index when entering a game, which means Rick Renteria had some comfort in him in jams. Farquhar ran hot and cold, and it averaged out to an average performance (4.40 ERA, 3.65 FIP). He has closer experience, saving 16 games for the Mariners in 2013, and single games in the following two seasons. His changeup allows him to pitch against lefties with confidence, which helps out Renteria if the Sox bullpen is limited to one southpaw.

The case against: He’ll turn 31 shortly after pitchers and catchers report, and he’s a fastball-changeup guy without a projectable arm (fastball sat 93-94), which explains the cold streaks. The White Sox acquired him for nothing late in the season, so the league doesn’t consider his talent precious.

Zach Putnam ($1.4M)

The case for: He’s been great for the White Sox, with 149 strikeouts over 139 innings and a 2.71 ERA. Over the last two years? A 2.00 ERA and a paltry 27 hits over 36 innings. He’s no stranger to the disabled list, but he’s also no stranger to pitching well after coming off the disabled list. Like Farquhar, he doesn’t have notable platoon splits thanks to a splitter-heavy arsenal. Perhaps Tommy John surgery properly addressed he elbow that had bothered in the past for other reasons (bone chips). The cost is nothing on this payroll.

The case against: If three’s a trend, then don’t look at his innings total, which has dropped in every season since 2014 (from 54 23 to 48 23 to 27 13 to 8 23). He underwent TJS in late June, which makes a return by the All-Star break ambitious, even if Zach Duke returned in just six months from his.

Al Alburquerque ($1.1M)

The case for: He pitched well and often for the White Sox after a mid-September call-up. He pitched 10 times over 24 days, allowing just a run on three hits and two walks over eight innings (five strikeouts). His fastball rebounded in velocity to sit 94, and threw his slider more than half the time, and harder than ever.

The case against: His 1.25 ERA doesn’t account for the poor strand rate (he allowed four of five inherited runners to score). Opponents didn’t chase much outside the zone, and didn’t swing through a lot of stuff in the zone, which makes him a potential regression nightmare. He was even more freely available than Farquhar, signed in August and called up a week into the September after a string of late-arriving absences.

Jake Petricka ($1.1M)

The case for: When he’s right, he’s good at what he does — throwing strikes, throwing sinkers, getting grounders, getting righties out, often in a high-leverage role. He had a 7.01 ERA, but he seemed to regain his stuff toward the end of his season, allowing just one run while striking out eight over 6 23 innings.

The case against: Petricka hasn’t been right for more than two years, and he was really bad before those final eight games, as opponents didn’t have an issue getting his sinkers in the air (six homers over 25 23 innings). He had surgery to repair a hip impingement in 2016, then went on the DL for back and lat strains before going on the DL for good with an arm issue in August in 2017. That injury needed surgical intervention (nerve transposition plus a flexor tendon debridement), adding to the trauma his body has suffered.

I haven’t been good at guessing these smaller procedural moves, but it feels like you can draw a line between Farquhar and the rest based on what might help Renteria. I can’t count on the White Sox parting with Petricka and Putnam based on what they accomplished and what they still might have left, but if they need to open up roster spots, they can’t retain everybody who might have potential if things finally break right for them.