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What if the White Sox whiff in free agency this offseason?

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Cheer up with this sneak peek into the 2019 free agent class

MLB: NL Wild Card-Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs
Cool consolation prize: What if Nolan Arenado, freed from Colorado after next season, was the key White Sox target all along?
Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason has been quite the roller coaster. One day, it looks like the Chicago White Sox are not in the running for Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado; the next day, we are back in contention for both; the day after, we’re only in contention for one.

In the meantime, the White Sox are in something of a holding pattern until those players decide where they want to spend the next decade of their careers. While we’ve added some complementary pieces since October (Manny Bañuelos, Alex Colome, James McCann, Yonder Alonso), the Sox have yet to officially land that major star who could help expedite their long-awaited return to the playoffs.

What if the Doomsday: 2018 scenario occurs, and the South Siders land neither Harper nor Machado? Well, there are indeed several nice free agents next year who could eventually be this team’s version of Jon Lester (you’ll recall that the yipsy southpaw inked with the northsiders in 2014, marking their transition from the junkyard of a rebuild to contender).

Listed below are the five players at each position, 10 starters, 10 right-handed relievers and five southpaw relievers who line up as the top 2019 free agents at each position in rank of bWAR (catcher is ranked via Baseball Prospectus’ WARP in order to account for framing stats).

Of course, there are some caveats. Some of these guys may be signed to extensions by their current teams. Also, just because a player had a good bWAR in 2018, it doesn’t mean they’d put up those same numbers in 2019; thus, I listed a few additional players worth considering. Finally, this list won’t yet include any currently-unsigned free agents who could sign one-year deals for the 2019 season— those players would be added to a future 2019 list.

Ages listed are as of April 1, 2020.

Catchers

Tyler Flowers (34) Braves (2.9 WARP) .227/.341/.359, 251 AB, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 35 BB, 76 K, 0 SB — $6 million club option for 2020, with a $2 million buyout.

Yan Gomes (32) Nationals (2.9) .266/.313/.449, 435 AB, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 21 BB, 119 K, 0 SB — $9 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Francisco Cervelli (34) Pirates (2.5) .259/.378/.431, 332 AB, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 51 BB, 84 K, 2 SB.

Chris Iannetta (36) Rockies (2.2) .224/.345/.385, 299 AB, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 50 BB, 87 K, 0 SB — $4.275 million club option for 2020, with a $750,000 buyout.

Eric Kratz (39) Brewers (2.1) .236/.280/.355, 203 AB, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 6 BB, 40 K, 1 SB.

Other notable catchers include Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Robinson Chirinos, Jason Castro.

First Base

Paul Goldschmidt (32) Cardinals (5.4 bWAR) .290/.389/.533, 593 AB, 33 HR, 83 RBI, 90 BB. 183 K, 7 SB.

Matt Carpenter (34) Cardinals (4.9) .257/.374/.523, 564 AB, 36 HR, 81 RBI, 102 BB, 158 K, 4 SB — $18.5 million club option for 2020, with a $2 million buyout.

Anthony Rizzo (30) Cubs (2.7) .283/.376/.470, 566 AB, 25 HR, 101 RBI, 70 BB, 80 K, 6 SB — $14.5 million club option for 2020, with a $2 million buyout.

Justin Smoak (33) Blue Jays (2.3) .242/.350/.457, 505 AB, 25 HR, 77 RBI, 83 BB, 156 K, 0 SB.

David Freese (36) Dodgers (2.1) .296/.359/.471, 280 AB, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 24 BB, 72 K, 0 SB.

Other notable first basemen include Jose Abreu, Yonder Alonso, Steve Pearce, and Ryan Zimmerman.

Second Base

Scooter Gennett (29) Reds (4.2 bWAR) .310/.357/.490, 584 AB, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 42 BB, 125 K, 4 SB.

Starlin Castro (30) Marlins (3.3) .278/.329/.400, 593 AB, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 48 BB, 124 K, 6 SB — $16 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Ben Zobrist (38) Cubs (3.3) .305/.378/.440, 455 AB, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 55 BB, 60 K, 3 SB.

Jedd Gyorko (31) Cardinals (2.0) .262/.346/.416, 351 AB, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 44 BB, 77 K, 2 SB — $13 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Jason Kipnis (32) Indians (1.6) .230/.315/.389, 530 AB, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 60 BB, 112 K, 7 SB — $16.5 million club option for 2020, with a $2.5 million buyout.

Other notable second basemen include Jonathan Schoop and Brock Holt.

Shortstop

Didi Gregorius (30) Yankees (4.2 bWAR) .268/.335/.494, 504 AB, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 48 BB, 69 K, 10 SB.

Xander Bogaerts (27) Red Sox (3.8) .288/.360/.522, 513 AB, 23 HR, 103 RBI, 55 BB, 102 K, 8 SB.

Elvis Andrus (31) Rangers (1.7) .256/.308/.367, 395 AB, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 28 BB, 66 K, 5 SB — if Andrus opt outs after 2019, it would be a gutsy move, as he would forgo $43 million from 2020-22.

Brock Holt (31) Red Sox (1.3) .277/.362/.411, 321 AB, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 37 BB, 73 K, 7 SB.

Jordy Mercer (33) Tigers (0.1) .251/.315/.381, 394 AB, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 32 BB, 87 K, 2 SB.

Third Base

Nolan Arenado (28) Rockies (5.6 bWAR) .297/.374/.561, 590 AB, 38 HR, 110 RBI, 73 BB, 122 K, 2 SB.

Matt Carpenter (34) Cardinals (4.9) .257/.374/.523, 564 AB, 36 HR, 81 RBI, 102 BB, 158 K, 4 SB — $18.5 million club option for 2020, with a $2 million buyout.

Anthony Rendon (29) Nationals (4.3) .308/.374/.535, 529 AB, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 55 BB, 82 K, 2 SB.

David Freese (36) Dodgers (2.1) .296/.359/.471, 280 AB, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 24 BB, 72 K, 0 SB.

Jedd Gyorko (31) Cardinals (2.0) .262/.346/.416, 351 AB, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 44 BB, 77 K, 2 SB — $13 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Other notable third basemen include Todd Frazier and Josh Donaldson.

Left Field

J.D. Martinez (32) Red Sox (6.4 bWAR) .330/.402/.629, 569 AB, 43 HR, 130 RBI, 69 BB, 146 K, 6 SB— can opt out of the remaining three years, $62.5 million of his contract after 2019.

Corey Dickerson (30) Pirates (3.8) .300/.330/.474, 504 AB, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 21 BB, 80 K, 8 SB.

Marcell Ozuna (29) Cardinals (2.9) .280/.325/.433, 582 AB, 23 HR, 88 RBI, 38 BB, 110 K, 3 SB.

Brett Gardner (36) Yankees (2.8) .236/.322/.368, 530 AB, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 65 BB, 107 K, 16 SB.

Alex Gordon (36) Royals (2.4) .245/.324/.370, 506 AB, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 50 BB, 124 K, 12 SB — $23 million mutual option for 2020, with a $4 million buyout. It’s hard to imagine that Kansas City will fork over $23 million the diminishing Gordon.

Other notable left fielders include Matt Kemp.

Center Field

Aaron Hicks (30) Yankees (4.7 bWAR) .248/.366/.467, 480 AB, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 90 BB, 111 K, 11 SB.

Starling Marte (31) Pirates (3.7) .277/.327/.460, 559 AB, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 35 BB, 109 K, 33 SB — $11.5 million club option for 2020, with a $2 million buyout.

Leonys Martin (32) Indians (1.9) .255/.323/.425, 318 AB, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 30 BB, 77 K, 7 SB.

Juan Lagares (31) Mets (1.0) .339/.375/.390, 59 AB, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K, 3 SB — $9.5 million club option for 2020, with a $500,000 buyout.

Billy Hamilton (29) Royals (0.3) .236/.299/.327, 504 AB, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 46 BB, 132 K, 34 SB — $7.5 million mutual option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Right Field

Ben Zobrist (38) Cubs (3.3 bWAR) .305/.378/.440, 455 AB, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 55 BB, 60 K, 3 SB.

Nicholas Castellanos (38) Tigers (2.9) .298/.354/.500, 620 AB, 23 HR, 89 RBI, 49 BB, 151 K, 2 SB.

Yasiel Puig (29) Reds (2.7) .267/.327/.494, 405 AB, 23 HR, 63 RBI, 36 BB, 87 K, 15 SB.

Jason Heyward (30) Cubs (1.6) .270/.335/.395, 440 AB, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 42 BB, 60 K, 1 SB — Heyward can opt out after the 2019 season with if he reaches 550 PA, at which point he would forgo $86 million from 2020-23. There is zero chance Heyward will opt out of $86 million, so the 550 PAs are moot.

Adam Eaton (31) Nationals (1.1) .301/.394/.411, 319 AB, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 38 BB, 64 K, 9 SB — $9.5 million club option for 2020, with a $1.5 million buyout.

Other notable right fielders include Matt Kemp.

Designated Hitter

J.D. Martinez (32) Red Sox (6.4 bWAR) .330/.402/.629, 569 AB, 43 HR, 130 RBI, 69 BB, 146 K, 6 SB— can opt out of the remaining three years, $62.5 million of his contract after 2019.

Khris Davis (32) Athletics (2.9) .247/.326/.549, 576 AB, 48 HR, 123 RBI, 59 BB, 175 K, 0 SB.

Nelson Cruz (39) Twins (2.9) .256/.342/.509, 519 AB, 37 HR, 97 RBI, 55 BB, 122 K, 1 SB — $12 million club option for 2020, with a $300,000 buyout.

Edwin Encarnacion (37) Mariners (1.9) .246/.336/.474, 500 AB, 32 HR, 107 RBI, 63 BB, 132 K, 3 SB — $20 million club option for 2020, with a $5 million buyout.

Kendrys Morales (36) Blue Jays (0.8) .249/.331/.438, 413 AB, 21 HR, 57 RBI, 50 BB, 95 K, 2 SB.

Starting Pitcher

Chris Sale (31) Red Sox (6.9 bWAR) 2.11 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 158 IP, .181 OBA, 34 BB, 237 K.

Justin Verlander (37) Tigers (6.3) 2.52 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 214 IP, .200 OBA, 37 BB, 290 K.

Corey Kluber (33) Indians (5.8) 2.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 215 IP, .223 OBA, 34 BB, 222 K — $13.5 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout. It’s highly unlikely that any team would decline a chance to have Kluber pitch for them for just $13.5 million.

Gerrit Cole (29) Astros (5.1) 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 200.1 IP, .198 OBA, 64 BB, 276 K.

Miles Mikolas (31) Cardinals (4.3) 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 200.2 IP, .245 OBA, 29 BB, 146 K.

Kyle Gibson (32) Twins (3.9) 3.62 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 196.2 IP, .241 OBA, 79 BB, 179 K.

Cole Hamels (36) Cubs (3.8) 3.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 190.2 IP, .246 OBA, 65 BB, 188 K.

Tanner Roark (33) Reds (3.4) 4.34 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 180.1 IP, .262 OBA, 50 BB, 146 K.

Rick Porcello (31) Red Sox (3.3) 4.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 191.1 IP, .241 OBA, 48 BB, 190 K.

Jake Arrieta (33) Phillies (3.1) 3.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 172.2 IP, .254 OBA, 57 BB, 138 K — can opt out of his remaining one year and $20 million unless the Phillies exercise their two-year, $40 million option.

Other notable starting pitchers (some who I like better than the bottom half of these aforementioned pitchers) include Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner, Wade Le Blanc, C.C. Sabathia, Julio Teheran, Jose Quintana, Jake Odorizzi, Trevor Cahill, Rich Hill, Chris Archer, and Alex Wood.

Right-Handed Reliever

Jeremy Jeffress (32) Brewers (3.4 bWAR) 1.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 76.2 IP, .182 OBA, 27 BB, 89 K, 15 SV.

Jared Hughes (34) Reds (3.3) 1.94 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 78.2 IP, .212 OBA, 23 BB, 59 K, 7 SV — $3 million club option for 2020, with a $250,000 buyout.

Seung-Hwan Oh (37) Rockies (2.4) 2.63 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 68.1 IP, .209 OBA, 17 BB, 79 K, 3 SV.

Steve Cishek (33) Cubs (2.3) 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 70.1 IP, .181 OBA, 28 BB, 78 K, 4 SV.

Ryan Pressly (31) Astros (2.2) 2.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 71 IP, .216 OBA, 22 BB, 101 K, 2 SV.

Collin McHugh (32) Astros (2.0) 1.99 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 72.1 IP, .176 OBA, 21 BB, 94 K, 0 SV.

Pedro Strop (34) Cubs (2.0) 2.26 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 59.2 IP, .179 OBA, 21 BB, 57 K, 13 SV.

David Hernandez (34) Reds (1.8) 2.53 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 64 IP, .200 OBA, 17 BB, 65 K, 0 SV.

Dellin Betances (32) Yankees (1.7) 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 66.2 IP, .186 OBA, 26 BB, 115 K, 4 SV.

Yusmeiro Petit (35) Athletics (1.7) 3.00 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 93 IP, .221 OBA, 18 BB, 76 K, 0 SV — $5.5 million club option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Other notable right-handed relievers include Craig Stammen, Tommy Hunter, Brandon Morrow, Yoshihisa Hirano, Fernando Rodney, and Kenley Jansen.

Left-Handed Reliever

Sean Doolittle (33) Nationals (2.5 bWAR) 1.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 45 IP, .135 OBA, 6 BB, 60 K, 25 SV — $6.5 million club option for 2020, with a $500,000 buyout.

Tony Watson (34) Giants (1.8) 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 66 IP, .224 OBA, 14 BB, 72 K, 0 SV — $2.5 million player option for 2020, with a $500,000 buyout.

Will Smith (30) Giants (1.0) 2.55 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 53 IP, .194 OBA, 15 BB, 71 K, 14 SV.

Jonny Venters (35) Braves (0.3) 3.67 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 34.1 IP, .208 OBA, 16 BB, 27 K, 3 SV.

Tony Cingrani (30) Dodgers (-0.2) 4.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 22.2 IP, .221 OBA, 6 BB, 36 K, 0 SV.


Summary

When looking at the 2019 free agent class, there’s clearly more depth in the starting rotation than what appears in this year’s group. The bullpen group isn’t that strong, but if the young flamethrowers in the White Sox do as well as expected in 2019, this shouldn’t be an issue. The third base group (which includes Arenado, Rendon, Carpenter and Donaldson) looks exceptional. The outfield free agents are relatively mediocre, but hopefully by the end of next year, some White Sox prospects will have stepped up enough to make that a non-issue. The first base and designated hitter spots are great at the top (headed by Goldschmidt, Martinez and Davis), so if the White Sox are unable to re-sign Abreu, plentiful (and perhaps better) options may exist. Finally, the top catchers are decent but unexceptional — perhaps the White Sox look there in free agency with McCann and Castillo potentially leaving after 2019. However, such a need may be squashed by the defensive progress of Zack Collins and Seby Zavala — not to mention a hopeful free agent signing of Yasmani Grandal this offseason.