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Sweeping up the cutting room floor

Sure, Machado and Harper are the big prizes, but the White Sox already have signed some quality depth

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Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks
Buy low, hopes high: Randall Delgado had a rough 2018, but the Sox are betting that he can bounce back.
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Well, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are not here yet, and with all the “reports” and “rumors” from various members of the media, there is no telling when or where either will sign.

However, that doesn’t mean the Chicago White Sox have stood pat! A bunch of guys have chosen the White Sox for 2019, for better or worse. If the White Sox land a superstar (or two) this offseason, this group of free agents will hopefully contribute to a playoff push. If both Machado and Harper choose to play elsewhere, we’ll have a replay of 2018, where the Sox try to find a diamond in the rough, likely to flip at the deadline (Joakim Sorian, Luis Avilán, Xavier Cedeño).

However it all wrangles out, the following new White Sox certainly fit the “rough” category at the moment.

James McCann

McCann is the only one of Chicago’s recent free agent signings to get a major league contract, as he is slotted to be the backup catcher behind Welington Castillo. As a whole, Omar Narvaez is probably the better option at catcher, but McCann has been and is a better defensive catcher. Unfortunately, that does not mean much.

Last season, Narvaez was rated 117th of 117 catchers defensively while McCann was rated 94th. So yes, McCann is “better.” On the bright side, McCann has had a track record of defensive greatness. In 2016, in fact, McCann was the 15th best catcher defensively, even ahead of Tyler Flowers. At the very least, McCann will show off his arm, which was rated as the best among catchers last season.

On the offensive side, Narvaez in unmatched compared to McCann. Using wRC+, McCann has never been above average as a hitter. The closest he came to 100 wRC+ was in 2017, when he had a 95, ranking him 17th among catchers (min. 300 PA). But 2018 was truly a terrible hitting year for McCann. He had a 58 wRC+, with a slash line of .220/.267/.314. To put that in perspective, Adam Engel had a better wRC+ last year (68).

Can McCann get back to slightly below-average hitting? It is possible. McCann had a career-low HR/FB rate in 2018 that fell 8% from 2017, and that should correct itself, especially now that he’s left Comerica Park in Detroit. McCann also swung 3% less compared to 2017, but his BB% still fell. Whether or not that was a new approach the Tigers wanted to try out, it did not work — McCann should be swinging more, especially in the zone, and hopefully the Sox can unlock that again.

Is McCann a hidden diamond? Probably no. But with questions surrounding Seby Zavala and Zack Collins, extra catchers are never a bad thing.

Ryan Goins

Goins is a depth signing, as he seems destined to be in Charlotte unless there are multiple injuries to the middle infield. Goins has been in and out of the majors since 2013, and predominantly plays second and shortstop. He does not have much of a bat, with a career slash line of .228/.282/.324, but has been good defensively. At second base, Goins has 25 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) over his career, in just more than 2,000 innings. That is fifth-best over that same time span among MLB second basemen (min. 2,000 innings). In 1,370 innings at shortstop, Goins has still been a positive player, but still much less so, with a 5 DRS.

Though his defensive numbers are pretty good, there is probably not much hope for Goins to see time on the South Side before September. What he will hopefully provide is veteran leadership for the prospects passing through whatever MILB team Goins is on. He has been on two playoff teams with the Toronto Blue Jays (2015-16), and he even got postseason playing time! That is probably the nicest way to end his summary.

Randall Delgado

This is where things really start to get interesting. Delgado broke into the majors in 2011 at 21, as a starter with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately for him, he was not overly successful at starting, and later the Arizona Diamonbacks moved him to a swingman role.

From 2014 to 2017, Delgado was able to excel in the swingman role, with a 3.66 FIP in 287 13 innings pitched, including 10 starts. His fastball was consistently at 93-94 mph, though Delgado had varying success with it over the years. Since he is a former starter, Delgado does have a broader pitching arsenal than a typical reliever. He used to throw a sinker, but since 2017 he has strayed away from it, as he has done with his curveball. Last season, with the D-backs, Delgado was predominantly a two-pitch pitcher, with his fastball and changeup, sprinkling in a slider every now and then.

But DJ, why did you only give his stats up until 2017? Well, Delgado got hurt. Twice.

After 62 23 innings pitched in 2017 with a 3.16 FIP — his most successful season — Delgado experienced trouble in his elbow and was shut down for the season, though he avoided Tommy John surgery. He was able to return for spring training in 2018, but got hurt again. This time, it was an oblique, and Delgado was placed on the 60-Day DL. While making his comeback, there were concerning reports that Delgado’s usual his mid-90s fastball had fallen to mid-80s — or as Eric Sim would put it, 80-poo.

When Delgado returned to the majors, it was clear he was not the same. His fastball had fallen two mph and his slider slowed by more than four mph. That led to a 7.31 FIP in 11 13 innings in 2018, not so good. Well, it got worse for Delgado. When he was designated for assignment, no other team wanted him, and he ended up re-signing with the D-backs.

Since he precipitous mph drop on his fastball happened after two injuries that took away an offseason and then a spring training, it is possible that Delgado’s 94 mph fastball can return. Last season, the White Sox saw Dylan Covey add speed to his pitches after a healthy offseason. If Delgado can return to form, expect him to be used like Hector Santiago was in 2018.

DJ Peterson

Some of you may not remember, but in 2017, DJ Peterson was a member of your Chicago White Sox (Charlotte Knights edition). Now if you really remember, the corner infielder used to be a top prospect in 2014 and 2015, after being selected in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft.

However, those top prospect days are long gone for the 27-year old, after disappointing seasons in 2015 and 2017. Peterson has spent time in AAA from 2015-18, and should return there when the season starts with the White Sox — and it should be at third base. Obviously, if Machado does not sign in Chicago, DJ Peterson has a chance to make the team, even out of spring training. Yolmer Sanchez is a good defender, and nobody is more fun to watch in pre- and postgame interviews, but he is still a below average hitter. Peterson might be a little better?

Peterson does not walk — or at least he didn’t in 2018 with the Cincinnati Reds AAA team (5.5%), and he strikes out in about a quarter of his plate appearances. However, Peterson still had a 119 wRC+ last year, his best mark in AAA and best mark in any of his MILB seasons since AA in 2016. He was able to show above-average power, with a .185 ISO and 16 home runs in just 453 plate appearances. His fly ball rate went up almost 6% (to 43.1%) in 2018 while his pull percentage also increased, so he was getting much better contact and lift. Now, the Reds seem to be good at getting untapped hitting and power potential (Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, and even Jose Peraza). Is DJ Peterson another hitter that found his stroke with the Reds? Well, let’s hope so.

Jacob Lindgren

Another lefty pitching acquisition for Rick Hahn, and this time it’s come with little risk and a lot of reward. After Lindgren was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft by the New York Yankees, he started his meteoric rise to the majors, making it all the way to AA in his draft year. In 2015, Lindgren started the year in AAA, and even made seven appearances in the majors. Unfortunately, his rise was cut short after his first Tommy John surgery in the 2016 season, and the southpaw missed all of 2017. Before the start of the 2018 season, Lindgren signed with the Braves, earning a spot on Atlanta’s 40-man roster. However, he got hurt again, and had his second Tommy John surgery, missing his second straight season.

According to FanGraphs, Lindgren has good 1-2 punch with his fastball and slider. He is supposed to have an above-average fastball (rated at 55) and what could be an elite slider, with a grade at 60. In his limited time in the majors with the Yankees in 2015, Lindgren’s fastball was in the low 90s, and the slider was in the mid-to-low 80s. In terms of value, for what the extremely small sample size was worth almost four years ago, Lindgren’s fastball was one of the worst pitches in MLB at -4.86, but his slider was all what it was supposed to be at 4.03 (per 100 pitches).

In all levels of professional baseball, Lindgren has pitched 61 innings and had 93 strikeouts, as you can guess, probably because of that slider. However, he does have a walk problem, free-passing 36 batters in those 61 innings. Again, these stats probably do not mean much because the last time Lindgren pitched he had were no arm problems, but he will only be 26 — which leaves a lot of room for a breakout year.