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Breaking down the rumored Eloy Jiménez extension

If the wunderkind slugger is even half the player Frank Thomas was, the deal is a big win for the White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox-Workouts
Big bux: The White Sox are rumored to be entering nine-figure territory with a long-term Eloy Jiménez deal.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Very late on Wednesday night, Héctor Gómez trickled out a tantalizing tweet:

As a reminder, Gómez is a sportswriter based in the Dominican Republic who broke the Chicago White Sox offer of eight years and $250 million to Manny Machado more accurately and earlier than any of the other “insider” jackals. He also was first with the Robinson Cano and Welington Castillo suspensions, among other stories.

In short, he’s a solid source.

The story, however, hasn’t seemed to pick up much traction, perhaps because Eloy Jiménez himself hasn’t signed off on the deal. But that tiny detail shouldn’t keep us from speculating about the deal, or determining how close Jiménez will come to earning such a contract.

[Let’s put aside whether this is a “good” idea for the White Sox, or whether it’s merely a make-good to fans after whiffing on Machado, Bryce Harper and the entirety of the 2018 free agent class. That’s a different discussion, which we might surely have in future days.]

So, to get the basics out of the way. An eight-year deal would buy out all of Jiménez’s arbitration years (under current rules, which may change with a new labor agreement), plus one additional season. It would keep him in Chicago through 2026, the slugger’s age-30 campaign.

In 2018, 1.0 WAR was worth approximately $3.8 million. For the purposes of projecting halfway into the next decade, let’s set WAR value at $4 million. So in order to earn his contract, Jiménez would need to amass 25.0 WAR over the course of his first eight seasons in Chicago, or 3.1 WAR per season.

I’ve picked two White Sox players from the past to overlay as Jiménez comps.

On the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming side, Frank Thomas. As the “worst case” (no offense, KenWo), Carlos Lee. Both players brought big bats to the South Side, and not a whole lotta defense or baserunning. Thomas, a Hall-of-Famer, might be aiming awfully high, but don’t we all, deep down, hope against hope that Eloy could be the 21st Century Big Hurt? On the flip side, if all the White Sox get out of Eloy is eight years of El Caballo, well, it’s not a great sign for the rebuild. But still, it gives us a baseline measure.

So, plugging Big Hurt’s numbers into Eloy’s contract:

Yeah, a massive win for the White Sox. Using Thomas’ performance, Jiménez would amass 52.0 WAR in his eight seasons, more than double the minimum expectation of 25.0 WAR. That leads to $208 million in value, and $108 million in surplus value.

It should be noted that Thomas won two MVPs in his first eight full seasons, and finished among the top eight in MVP voting in his first seven seasons. Thomas made $33 million in his first eight major league seasons, which would translate roughly to $46.9 million in today’s dollars.

Now, for El Caballo:

OK, not so good. An overall loss for the White Sox — but still, not a ridiculous one, given they would be signing a player to a $100 million deal without him seeing a single pitch in the major leagues. Eloy-as-Lee comes in at 20.0 WAR, five short of the break-even mark.

Lee never finished higher than No. 17 in MVP voting during those first eight years, making two All-Star teams in that span. Lee was paid just about $31 million for his first eight seasons, which translates to about $36 million in today’s dollars.

Sure, this is a somewhat silly thought exercise, and one that may not even end up applicable given that no extension has been announced. It’s not even a multi-sourced rumor, yet.

However, there’s some measure of guarantee here, given the years covered and amount committed to Eloy. Essentially, Jiménez could turn out to be just half the player Frank Thomas was, and still give the White Sox a surplus on this contract.

And if Jiménez turns out to be more along the lines of Lee, again, it may devastate the rebuild, but won’t really “cost” the White Sox too much. Worst case, Eloy-as-Lee turns out to be just a bit too big a gamble.

But really, isn’t it one you have to make, given the position the White Sox have put themselves in after this flailing offseason?