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Day 2: objectively ridiculous

It’s the revenge of the framers, as defense comes to the fore in Chicago

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles
Long Time: Yeah, that dude who murdered us 10 years ago, he’s ours now.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Day 2 of the SB Nation offseason simulation was another maddeningly long one, during which we inked five free agents and swung seven trades, all the while keeping the payroll south of $100 million. (We did so much stuff, I keep having to break back into this draft and update it, because I forgot a trade or FA.)

Believe me, I have newfound appreciation for Rick Hahn after going through this process — and I don’t even have to subject myself to media scrutiny during and after all of this ... wait ... hold on, I’m being told WLS-TV awaits me for a quick hit post Monday Night Football. OK, gotta run!

Stiward Aquino from the Angels for Welington Castillo

Minor deal here, ripped right from the pages of Michael Kenny’s offseason plan. But here’s the good news: While MK anticipated we’d have to eat some Castillo cash in order to deal him, that was not the case. We are free and clear of, as somebody I used to know put it, beef au jus.

The Angels gave us in the war room a choice of three lottery tickets, among them Michael’s choice, Aquino, who he called “a 19-year-old pitcher with a lanky 6-foot-6 frame who lost his 2018 to Tommy John surgery.”

So, anyway, we got rid of Castillo. Oh, and it does bear mentioning here that because this exercise presumes time was frozen at season’s end (picking up options, etc.), Kevan Smith was never DFA’d and is still on our roster. So the Angels have just one ex-White Sox catcher, not two.

Stiward continues his rehab and makes our all-name team for 2019.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals
One of these guys is now on the White Sox. Also: That’s not how you execute a high five.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kelvin Herrera signed for three years, $27 million

So, Herrera is our new closer. Originally I’d put in for Adam Ottavino of the Colorado Rockies to shift into that role, but the Rockies made him a qualifying offer and he accepted. I was told we made a strong offer for him, at three years, $30 million, so if not for the QO, we probably would have gotten him.

Herrera was my second choice, after Ottavino. I’m loathe to sign closers, frankly, but the market was a bit flush and south of $10 million a year, I’m OK with it. The intention actually was to bring in two experienced arms; I envisioned Daniel Robertson coming back to set up for Herrera, but he got a surprising 3/36 bid. I tossed out a token 1/7 bid for Joakim Soria, for old time’s sake, but the San Francisco Giants — more on that ball of fun franchise, later — offered like 2/17 and I took a pass.

Anyway, we got a closer. He’s got some stats, but I’m pretty tired.

Herrera is our closer. I hope someone asks him about his facial hair strategies during the conference call.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Maikel Franco. Don’t get too attached to him.
Photo by Stephen Nowland/Getty Images

Maikel Franco from the Philadelphia Phillies for Jimmy Lambert and Blake Battenfield

So, taking another page from Mr. Kenny’s offseason plan, I swung a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for wild-card corner infielder Maikel Franco. Now, we made out better here than in MK’s draft, because the second piece along with Lambert was Battenfield, not Blake Rutherford.

Now, the caption to the above photo reads: Third baseman Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws to first after dropping a pop up ... and this is my worry with Franco. He’s got pop and as Michael outlined, is a perfect candidate for a change of scenery. But he’s not really a third baseman, and one of the things I’ve set out to do in remaking the Chicago White Sox is to improve the defense.

That said, I was happy to slate Franco in at the hot corner for 2018 and shift Yolmer to a superutility/comic relief role. But, well, stay tuned.

Franco is penciled in as our third baseman ... but there’s a reason pencils have erasers.

MLB: NLCS-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers
Giovany Gonzalez, back where he started, sorta.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez signed for two years, $24 million with a $12 million mutual option ($2 million buyout)

I originally went 3/$36 million, but got a little froggy and snipped the last year, just in case Giovany can’t handle the great fortune of being back with the team that traded him twice.

What appeals about Gio is his durability — ironic for a relatively small hurler — and, of course, production. He’s consistent. We need that.

Gio slots in as our No. 3 starter, freeing Carlos Rodón to take the Opening Day start in 2019.

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
Carson Kelly, framing a pop out.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Carson Kelly, Matt Bowman and Lane Thomas from the St. Louis Cardinals for Nate Jones, Zack Collins and Charlie Tilson

So, before this trade, our MLB catchers were Smith and Seby Zavala. But that was always going to change. I went in hard for Yasmani Grandal, — yes, horror of horrors, I was willing to lose our second-round pick over him — but someone was nuttier than our four-year, $78 million offer. Probably, several somebodies.

Anyway, Kelly was considered the best defensive catcher in all of minor league baseball a year or so ago, frames like a champ ... in short, he’s a catcher. That’s what I want at catcher. A guy who catches. We got one.

Kelly was the key here, but I was happy to add a quality RHRP in Bowman (although subsequent moves have bumped him off the roster, the price of continuing to build a strong club), and a surprising little gift in Thomas. Bowman had a solid 2016 and 2017, but struggled in the bigs and at Triple-A in 2018. Thomas is an ex-2B/3B who’s now in center field, with tasty pop: 27 homers, 88 RBIs, .823 OPS at AA/AAA in 2018.

Sometimes, you know, people just give you stuff.

OK, so we lost some stuff here. After getting Herrera, Jones become even more extraneous. I wish the best for him, but the dude is a ticking time bomb, and a slightly pricey one at that. Collins, wail if you must, but he’s not a catcher. Hell, Zavala may barely be a catcher. But Collins ain’t. Maybe he’ll be another Mark Grace at first base or something, but I’m not waiting around for my first round catchers to turn into first basemen at midnight. Tilson, St. Louis management had some strange affinity for. I wasn’t going to convince them otherwise.

Kelly catches against all lefthanders, select righties, in a time-share at catcher with ... some other guy you’ll read about shortly. Bowman fights it out for a spot on in the pen this spring. Thomas plays in the Charlotte Knights outfield, maybe we get him a bit of burn back in the infield, too, and could just well be our first OF call-up in 2019.

League Championship Series - Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five
Curtis Granderson, defying time.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Curtis Granderson signed for one year, $5.5 million

I think I offered one year, $4 million and was willing to go up to seven, and we split the difference. He comes in knowing he’s not a starter, and will be counted on for his clubhouse presence as much as anything else.

Granderson can still play, so subbing in as our fourth outfielder and late-inning pinch-runner or all-three-position defender won’t cost us a thing.

After yesterday’s OF bonanza, I didn’t really want to commit three years to similar fellas, like Andrew McCutchen. Denard Span would have been a fine choice, too, but I like Granderson’s ties to the South Side, his ability to lead and mentor this young White Sox team. He also was promised ongoing work in the White Sox front office/PR/scouting upon his retirement. Granderson is a guy I won’t mind having associated with the White Sox for a long time to come.

Fourth outfielder. Clubhouse leader. Mentor.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies
Tyson Ross, resurgent.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson Ross signed for $4.5 million

As DJ suggested in his offseason plan, Ross is still on his way back from shoulder issues, but was dynamite in 2018 (I believe his bWAR was 1.0, which is pretty tight for a guy pitching in relief for the first time). Rather than a two-year deal, we took a flier on him for one, at a slightly diminished rate from DJ’s plan.

I didn’t set out to make the bullpen great or anything, but I did want to stock it with more veterans and a better mix of pitchers. Last year’s White Sox pen had just two vets, really, right, Soria and Luis Avilán? Jones, sorta? This year, it’s not all vets, but the only true MLB newbie is Caleb Frare, and even he got his cup of coffee already.

Bullpen mainstay, perhaps with electric enough stuff to step up to setup man and occasional closer.

San Diego Padres v Minnesota Twins
Jason Castro, when he could still run.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Jason Castro from the Minnesota Twins for Carson Fulmer

And now, the second half of our new catching tandem, Castro. He missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury, but will be 100% healthy for spring training. Minnesota, showing surprising moxie in making its second deal with its hated rival in as many days, agreed to pay $2 million of Castro’s $8 million salary for 2018, his last before free agency.

Yeah, it cost us Fulmer. Seriously?

Castro is a plus-defender and ace framer. Rumor is that Don Cooper and several members of the rotation have already sent edible arrangements to the front office for making these catching acquisitions. He brings a left-handed bat to the equation, but on the first day of Spring Training I’m telling both Castro and Kelly: Your bat is a bonus. Catch. Frame. Throw. Make our pitching staff confident, proud, and fearless. You do that, we’ll make sure you never leave Chicago.

Castro faces all or most righthanders in our catching platoon. You’re welcome, Reynaldo, Lucas, Carlos, et. al.

Milwaukee Brewers v Cleveland Indians
Remember this dude? He was dealt for our ‘original framer.’
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Boone Logan signs a minor-league deal

Having swapped out Jace Fry and Aaron Bummer yesterday, we were low on southpaw relief help. Darren Jackson’s plan included Boone on a modest deal, and that’s just what we did.

Can crack the pen out of spring training, but if he plays more of a Xavier Cedeño role in 2019, fine.

Cleveland Indians v Los Angeles Dodgers
He’s back! It’s almost as if he never left.
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Manny Bañuelos from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Justin Yurchak

As mentioned above, rosters freeze as of the end of the World Series for this exercise, so it’s like this trade never happened. And then, it did.

Read all about it.

With our many rotation acquisitions, Bañuelos will not get a crack at starting this season. But he will be a key pen arm, pairing with Caleb Frare as our two core lefties.

San Francisco Giants v St Louis Cardinals
Air Longo.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Evan Longoria, Sam Dyson and $35.75 million from the San Francisco Giants for Maikel Franco and Camilo Quinteiro

Holy crap. What a nightmare this trade was.

OK, first off, it was not a no-brainer to flip Franco for Longoria, and I can respect people lining up on either side of the aisle here. My thinking was, we’ll get Longoria for one year longer (four years) than Franco (three), at a comparable total price (all in, including buyout, around $20 million).

I get that Longoria is on the down side of his career and may even be playing older than his 33 years. But he is still an average-to-plus defender, and I’m willing to bet that in Sox Park, friendlier than AT&T, his offense gets a goose. Last year was the worst season of his career, and his bWAR still was 1.8. Calculated risk. Worst case, he catches the ball as well as Yolmer, and far better than Maikel. Again, keep these young arms content, White Sox.

Plus, I get a bonus arm, not a super cheap one (~$5 million arb), in Sam Dyson (whose 2018 our prickly compadres at McCovey Chronicles assess in typically entertaining fashion).

All of this, for the low, low cost of minors infielder Quinteiro.

Now, if you crunch the numbers, you might see that the $36 million or so might not match up with us just paying $20 million or so in Longo’s deal. At first, San Francisco suggested (and I agreed to) Longoria, Dyson and $46,166,666 (including Tampa Bay monies) for Quinteiro and Franco. Then the Giants GM wanted to change both the cash outlay and the player acquired (Quinteiro). I gave some on the money, taking us down to around $41 million. Then we went back and forth on what other players the Giants wanted, and I said no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We agreed to sub out Mike Morrison for Quinteiro. Then SF wanted both guys.

Sigh. I am beginning to see why Ken Williams hated Mike Rizzo.

In the end, I was chastised as being “objectively ridiculous” for holding out for our original (or slightly modified) deal. OK. Well, if I had been desperate for Longoria, fine. But I wasn’t. Had we held onto Franco and gone big bop at third, at risk of having him flame out after making one too many trips to the hibachi stand at the Asian buffet, oh well.

I didn’t set out to create bad blood with this simulation, but I’m guessing that San Francisco and Chicago won’t be dialing one another up to work deals together in 2019.

Longoria is our everyday third baseman. He will be counted on, like Granderson, to play a key role in our clubhouse as well. Dyson serves as a key cog in the pen, perhaps even as the regular setup man. The cash, well, for one night at least, drinks are on me.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays
Kean Wong, invisible in the ocean depths of the Rays system.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Kean Wong and Michael Mercado from the Tampa Bay Rays for Kyle Gibson

In part, this update is late because of this late-developing deal, which I find absolutely delicious.

First off, yeah, we lose Gibson, who was penciled in as our No. 3 starter. Gibson had a monster, 3.8 bWAR season in 2018 — but, well, sorta sucked the two seasons before that, with 1.1 bWAR total. Plus, he’s a rental, on an estimated $7.9 million arb deal before hitting free agency after the 2019 season. Yeah, he could go 5-6 WAR bananas on his salary drive. But, maybe not.

Gibson was found money, and when Tampa came a-callin’, I knew we could work something out.

Mercado was the first name mentioned. Full disclosure, guys, I thought I might be getting back into the beat writer game this spring, with Tampa, and as such did some athletic writing early in the season, including a rundown of the Top 50 Rays prospects. I’d link it, but, nope. Anyway, here’s my blurb about Mercado, who came in as the consensus No. 19 prospect in the Rays system (remember, this is pre-2018 draft):

19. Michael Mercado, RHP (21.40) — Tampa Bay went hard at Mercado after plucking him with the No. 40 pick last June and inked him by pushing $400k over slot. At 6-foot-4 and raw, Mercado’s clean delivery should see him adding velo and reducing walks with continued reps. With a promising fastball and an advanced curve, Mercado had a tasty rookie-ball debut last fall and is luxuriating in extended spring training in 2018.

Mercado landed in the “Future Major Leaguers” “tier” because, well, athletic does things like “tiers.”

Now, Wong (younger brother of Kolton) isn’t anywhere among the top Rays prospects, which is a bit curious, I have to say. Because all the kid has done is mash hell outta the ball; he just finished a full season at Triple-A Durham, with an OPS of .750 in 502 plate appearances. He did so at 23, a full three-and-a-half years younger than league average. He’s played second, third and left, and should immediately stand out in Charlotte.

Mercado will turn 20 at the start of the 2019 season, and will slot into the Kannapolis rotation. Wong will be a step behind José Rondón as first IF call-up, but you should hear his name a lot during the 2019 campaign. More crucial to the 2019 White Sox, losing Gibson gives Lucas Giolito, Chase Anderson and Kolby Allard cracks to occupy the No. 4 and 5 rotation slots.

There’s still time for deals early tomorrow, but this probably wraps things up for the simulation. Tomorrow I’ll share a full rundown of the roster, strengths and weaknesses of the team, and biggest disappointments, surprises and missed opportunities from the entire simulation.

We ended up, I believe (pretty tired) in the low-90s in payroll, and my projected WAR puts us on the cusp of the playoffs. We’ll see if you agree. But, we’ll get to that tomorrow.

Many thanks to my war room compadres Michael Kenny, wsm# and Darren Jackson, and to all of you who submitted plans on site and in direct emails. All of it helped build a pretty damn good ballclub.

Oh, yeah — go vote on Tuesday, people.