Obviously, Day 2 of the SBN Offseason GM Simulation was the big one for the White Sox, signing five substantial free agents and lining up a couple more to complete the offseason kill on Day 3.
Well, Day 3 came, and we did pretty well.
It was touch-and-go all along, because at this point the White Sox were really having to peer ahead to make sure payroll wasn’t going gaga. That necessitated one embarrassing re-do, and another salary-dump trade that cost us a (positionless) prospect.
Anyhow, it’s Day 3; let’s boogie!
When we lost out on José Abreu as the Houston Astros fell prey to a bidder’s fever dream, we had to turn on a dime in search of first base help. Tomorrow I’ll detail some of the near-misses of the simulation, but we turned to a true wild card, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, posting out of Japan this offseason. Tsutsugo, 27, is a pure masher. We tapped into Tadahito Iguchi overseas, and he felt confident that in spite of a mediocre defensive rep (Tsutsugo has mostly played left field and profiles as a possible DH in the majors), he will field first base for us just fine. At any rate, the bar set defensively by Abreu isn’t too encumbering, and it’s a safe bet that the lefty clubber (205 homers and a .285/.382/.528 slash in 10 NPB seasons) can match Abreu’s offensive output as well. His cost? Nearly the same for five years ($55 million) that Abreu got for four.
In order to put ourselves in a position to fill one more gaping need, right field, we needed to shuffle some cash. Wade Davis, who we took a flier on from Colorado in a salary dump on Day 1, needed to go. The Washington Nationals offered to take Davis and pay three million due him, in return for old friend Javy Guerra (Guerra’s name came up so quickly I had to ask whether he was wanted for murder). We’re paying the Nats $10 million this year, $5 million next. This was a flub on my part, but after last year’s near-whiff on free agents (certainly substantial ones; I had no clue we’d run the table and pick up seven key guys this year), it was necessary.
(Later, we received more payroll relief from Pittsburgh, who sent us raw, low-level catcher Deon Stafford in exchange for Kelvin Herrera and Yermín Mercedes. I was not happy to have to part with Mercedes in a dump, but even on the current, punchless White Sox there seems no room for him, so certainly there’s no space for in this new South Side Hit Men lineup.)
It was a toss-up in right field between Yasiel Puig and Kole Calhoun, and though personally I preferred Puig, Calhoun’s lefty bat and (I suppose) smoother biorhythms made him the preference. (Puig was snatched up while I was doing my payroll dance, anyway.) Calhoun, who hit a career-high 33 homers and put up 2.3 bWAR in 2019, took a slight pay cut to hop on to this joy ride on the South Side, comes aboard at three years, $30 million.
A note on the final salary: At approximately $163 million, the White Sox took a huge leap forward from the pauper class. But here’s the thing: Near the end of the simulation, I counted 13 teams with a higher payroll than the White Sox, placing us right near the middle of the pack in all of baseball.
And finally, a funny note about our unsuccessful bid to keep Abreu (and subsequent mood change to Tsutsugo): Houston later suffered buyer’s remorse and sought to send Abreu back to the South Side, essentially free of charge. But the Astros were the one who built up a one-dimensional player (albeit a crucial and beloved one) into a long-term, $18 million per year guy; we’d already moved on to other players, and there was a reason I said no on pushing Abreu’s salary, long term, to $18 million a year. So a bit of a humorous coda with Abreu ... hopefully he doesn’t hear this inside-negotiation story and sour on the Astros before pulling on those orange threads for the first time.
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at some of the near-misses on trades and signings from this simulation. And Friday, we’ll break down the full lineup to see how much $100 million or so in payroll has improved the White Sox.