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Day 4: the White Sox post-sim roster

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Big upgrades push the team better than .500

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Prodigal ’Paw: The top WAR on the 2019 White Sox, post-SB Nation simulation? Could be our old friend, Gio.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

All told, the Chicago White Sox made 11 trades and signed six free agents during this past week’s SB Nation offseason simulation. A review so far:

Simulation Day 1: a whole new outfield

Simulation Day 2: objectively ridiculous

Simulation Day 3: roster and rumors roundup

So, would you believe that the deft trades and signings made during the SB Nation simulation dropped us right on the doorstep of .500 — or inside the house itself? I wouldn’t have, either. But, plain as the stats on our face, there it is, 83.15 projected wins.

How’d it happen? Well, here’s a breakdown of our 25-man roster, with the dust settled. Each player has my projected WAR attached to them, which is intended to be conservative — but surely in some spots, my optimism oozes forth.

Catcher

Jason Castro ($8 million, $2 million paid by Minnesota Twins): 1.5 projected WAR (pW)
Carson Kelly (minimum): 1.0 pW

Position gains: Kevan Smith (never DFA’d in the first place in this simulation, although, would he have become a free agent anyhow? If not, he’s at Triple-A, with Seby Zavala)
Position losses: Welington Castillo (Angels), Omar Narváez (Milwaukee Brewers), Zack Collins (St. Louis Cardinals)

The team was in desperate need to bring actual catchers into the fold, and we did that by inking defensive-minded framers Castro and Kelly into the fold. I believe these WAR estimates to be almost complete based on defense; any hitting either can bring to the platoon will be a bonus.

First Base

José Abreu ($16 million arbitration estimate): 2.0 pW

Position gains: 1B-OF Luke Raley (Twins), who should slot in the Casey Gillaspie spot with the Charlotte Knights
Position losses: Justin Yurchak (Los Angeles Dodgers)

No big changes at first base. I was not averse to dealing Abreu (eating a little salary in the process) if the right deal came up, then turning around a grabbing a guy like Jose Martinez from the Cardinals. When that didn’t happen, if extensions were allowed in the simulation, I would have taken the cue of Hamster’s plan and extended Abreu by a couple of years, at a lower AAV. Steamer has Abreu at 2.3 WAR for 2019.

Second Base

Yoán Moncada (minimum): 2.0 pW

Position gains: None
Position losses: Camilo Quinteiro (San Francisco Giants)

Fingers are crossed for a bigger step forward here for Yoán than just 2.0 WAR (Steamer says 2.2), but I’m trying to be conservative here. The Washington Nationals did their due diligence and checked in on Moncada, but I brushed that off; however, I did say that if we’re looking at 217 more strikeouts in 2019, let’s meet back here again in a year’s time.

Shortstop

Tim Anderson ($1.4 million): 2.0 pW

Position gains: None
Position losses: None

You can see that middle infield went relatively untouched, overall. Steamer is a bit dour on Timmay, at 1.3 WAR.

Third Base

Evan Longoria ($14.667 million, with monies from the Giants and Tampa Bay Rays taking our obligation down to $6.5 million): 2.1 pW
Yolmer Sánchez ($4 million arbitration estimate): 1.0 pW

Position gains: Maikel Franco (Philadelphia Phillies), Travis Demeritte (Atlanta Braves)
Position losses: Franco (Phillies)

We gained and lost Franco in a matter of 24 hours, in a protracted negotiation with simulation menace San Francisco. Demeritte, of late an outfielder but also super capable at second and third, will slot at Double-A with a chance at a quick promotion. Longoria also has a 2.1 WAR projection from Steamer. Sánchez isn’t a true 3B any longer on the roster, he fills more of a Swiss Army knife role, even seeing reps in the outfield, as necessary. Steamer estimates Yolmer as a 1.5 WAR player, but that presumes he’s a regular, and he won’t be in 2019.

Left Field

Eloy Jiménez (minimum): 2.0 pW
Leury García ($1.9 million arbitration estimate): 0.5 pW

Position gains: Kean Wong (Rays)
Position losses: Charlie Tilson (Cardinals)

Eloy is in my lineup from Opening Day on; Steamer projects him at 2.6 WAR. Leury is my second Swiss Army player; I’m presuming full-season health, and thereby hope for more WAR than Steamer’s predicted 0.1. Wong was shifted to three-position outfield at Triple-A Durham last season, but has seen tons of infield time prior. Slot him where you will, he’s at Charlotte to start the season and stands a decent chance at a call-up at some point next season.

Center Field

Rusney Castillo ($12 million): 2.0 pW
Curtis Granderson ($5.5 million): 0.8 pW

Position gains: Castillo (Boston Red Sox), Granderson (free agent, Brewers)
Position losses: None? (will Adam Engel get claimed after a DFA?)

Rusney, obviously, was our most controversial pickup of the simulation. His career WAR projected to 162 games is 2.6, so I’m comfortable setting him at 2.0 for his first full MLB season. He’s our Opening Day starter. Granderson plays all three OF positions as our fourth outfielder, and for that reason I’m giving him a modest WAR projection (although Steamer says 0.3).

Right Field

Domingo Santana ($2 million arbitration estimate): 2.9 pW

Position gains: Santana (Brewers)
Position losses: Avisaíl García (Twins)

Santana hit 30 home runs in his only full MLB season, earning 2.9 bWAR in 151 games, so that’s the lofty standard I’m going to hold him to. (Steamer, presuming Santana as a sub or in Triple-A, says 0.3).

Designated Hitter

Daniel Palka (minimum): 1.0 pW

Position gains: None
Position losses: Matt Davidson?

Both Palka and Davidson are still on the roster, try as I did to deal Davidson. So Matty’s $2.5 million arbitration estimate is still on the books. Now, in lieu of finding a trade partner, rather than DFAing Davidson and perhaps losing him for nothing, I might explore the possibility of stashing him in extended ST, ostensibly to give him pitching reps. As for the actual 2019 DH, Palka, Steamer is dim on his prospects: 0.1 WAR.

Rotation

Carlos Rodón ($3.7 million arbitration estimate): 2.3 pW
Reynaldo López (minimum): 2.3 pW
Gio Gonzalez ($12 million): 2.5 pW
Lucas Giolito (minimum): 1.0 pW
Chase Anderson: ($6.5 million): 1.8 pW

Position gains: Kyle Gibson (Twins), Gio Gonzalez (free agent, Brewers), Kolby Allard (Braves), Michael Mercado (Rays)
Position losses: Gibson (Rays), Jordan Guerrero (Twins), Jimmy Lambert (Phillies), Blake Battenfield (Phillies)

As you can see, I’m a bit bullish on the rotation as planned, at 11.9 WAR; Steamer says 3.2. Yeesh. I’ll say that one hedge I’ll make with Giolito at 1.0 is that if he gets out of the gate flat, he’s heading to the pen, or more likely, Triple-A, to be replaced by Allard, or Jordan Stephens, or whoever. Someone will get us 1.0 WAR at the four-spot.

Gibson was flipped to the Rays for prospects, after we surprisingly found ourselves somewhat flush with starters. None of our three other starter losses from the system are significant in my eyes.

Bullpen

Kelvin Herrera ($9 million): 1.5 pW
Dylan Covey (minimum): 0.8 pW
Sam Dyson ($5.4 million arbitration estimate): 1.1 pW
Manny Bañuelos (minimum): 1.0 pW
Tyson Ross: ($5.5 million): 0.5 pW
Caleb Frare: (minimum): 0.3 pW
Danny Coulombe: ($3 million): 0.3 pW

Position gains: Herrera (free agent, Washington Nationals), Dyson (Giants), Bañuelos (Dodgers), Ross (free agent, Cardinals), Coulombe (free agent, A’s), Matt Bowman (Cardinals), Boone Logan (minor league free agent, Brewers)
Position losses: Nate Jones (Cardinals), Jace Fry (Braves), Danny Dopico (Red Sox), Aaron Bummer (Brewers), Carson Fulmer (Twins)

I’m also bullish on the bullpen, although just 5.5 WAR is pretty modest (Steamer says 1.5, including 0.1 for Herrera, but hell, man, Herrera was good for 1.6 bWAR alone, in just 48 games, in 2018). Anyway, we have balance in the pen, as despite trading Fry and Bummer, two of our three lefties highest on the depth chart, three will sit and shiver on Opening Day. It’s a nice mix of young arms and vets, I think.

Losses? Well, Jones could rock in 2019 — or pitch 20 games. I’ll take the under. Fry hurt — but yielded nice gains from Atlanta, and even he is no sure thing for 2019. Bummer? Fulmer? Eh.


So, all in all, including a couple of players making major league dough but stashed in the minors, we’re at $105 million in payroll. Given an estimated doubling of our ~$60 million payroll this year in a perfect storm, that still gives us ample room to make a run at Nolan Arenado next offseason (with Longoria shifting over to first base, or taking a buyout or bench role), and who knows what else.

This new roster projects to 35-plus WAR next season (we were at 17. 2 average WAR in 2018), which would land the White Sox at 83-79. Using a more miserly $4 million value per WAR, that would give the roster a $140.6 million value, for a not-shabby $35.5 million in surplus value.

Compare that to reasonable salary and performance projections for our current roster, with no free agent adds or trades. That 2019 bunch, with a $49 million payroll, projects to 19.9 WAR and a 68-94 record. That’s $79.5 million in total value, and $30.5 surplus value.

Given an inexpensive core of guys like Moncada, Anderson, López and Jiménez all projected to be in the neighborhood of 2.0 WAR players in 2019 (IhopeIhopeIhopeIhope, or more!), both the “real” White Sox and this sim version should have some guaranteed surplus value. The key for Rick Hahn will be to smartly add wins to that core, at an efficient ($4 million per WAR) rate.

It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure!