In my third year of representing the White Sox as their GM in the SB Nation offseason simulation, we made only one trade (lowest number ever) and signed five free agents (four, really, plus re-signing Carlos Rodón).
After the 2018 sim, our roster projected to 83 wins, using preseason projections — a mighty leap from 62 the real team grabbed. After last year’s simulation, we projected to 86-88 wins; amazingly, the actual White Sox of 2020, projected over 162 games, would have been a 94 or 95-win team.
So, where do the White Sox stand after this past SBN simulation? Let’s take a look.
(WAR totals provided by FanGraphs; projections provided by Steamer/Depth Charts via FanGraphs)
Yasmani Grandal ($18.25 million): 3.9 fWAR in 120 games
Tucker Barnhart ($3.75 million): 0.5 fWAR in 42 games
Total 4.4 WAR for $22 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Grandal (3.7 fWAR) and McCann (2.0); $23.65 million for 5.7 fWAR.
Barnhart, who we acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for José Ruiz, is a fairly expensive backup — but no more expensive than James McCann was in 2020. I’d project similar production from Barnhart, with less pop from his lefty bat but better defense (he won the 2020 Gold Glove in the NL).
McCann’s terrific mini-season in 2020 really throws these numbers off, so 2021’s projection is a step down.
José Abreu ($16 million): 1.8 fWAR in 152 games
Andrew Vaughn ($0.6 million): -0.1 fWAR in 10 games
Total 1.7 WAR for $16.6 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Abreu, $12.67 million for 7.0 fWAR
Not really great returns here, either, compared with 2021. But that isn’t due to GM mismanagement (this time), just a predicted crash back to Earth by Abreu after his MVP season.
Running sim total 6.1 fWAR, $38.6 million salary
Nick Madrigal ($0.6 million): 2.7 fWAR in 146 games
Leury García ($3.5 million): 0.0 fWAR in 16 games
Total 2.7 WAR for $4.1 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Madrigal (0.3 fWAR) and Mendick (0.7 fWAR); $1 million for 1.0 fWAR
The projections are very bullish on Madrigal in his first full MLB season, which is a big plus, and not exactly expected.
Running sim total 8.8 fWAR, $42.7 million salary
Tim Anderson ($7.25 million): 2.3 WAR in 153 games
Leury García (salary counted above) 0.0 fWAR in 13 games
Total 2.3 WAR for $7.25 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Anderson (6.7. fWAR) and García (1.1 fWAR); $4 million for 7.8 fWAR
Again, the White Sox are getting killed in the 2021 projection because of sheer regression, it seems, as FanGraphs sees TA getting a 2.3ish WAR vs. a projected 6.7 in 2020.
Running sim total 11.1 fWAR, $49.95 million salary
Yoán Moncada ($7 million): 3.3 fWAR in 150 games
Danny Mendick ($0.6 million): 0.1 fWAR in 12 games
Total 3.4 fWAR for $7.6 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Moncada (4.3 fWAR) and Yolmer Sánchez (0.8 fWAR); $2.3 million for 5.1 fWAR
If Moncada, playing in the aftermath of a coronavirus infection, projected to 4.3 WAR in 2020, not sure how he takes a step back in playing 150 games in 2021.
Running sim total 14.5 fWAR, $57.55 million salary
Adam Engel ($1.4 million): 0.2 fWAR in 81 games
Leury García (salary counted above) 0.0 fWAR in 81 games
Total 0.2 fWAR for $1.4 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Eloy Jiménez (4.6 fWAR) and Engel (1.2 fWAR); $2.8 million for 5.8 fWAR
This is terrible. But what are you going to do? We have no outfielders. And at least this isn’t a negative, the way right field has been for (seemingly) years.
Running sim total 14.7 fWAR, $58.95 million salary
Luis Robert ($3.5 million): 3.4 fWAR in 149 games
Adam Engel (salary counted above): 0.0 fWAR in 13 games
Total 3.4 fWAR for $3.5 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Robert (4.0 fWAR) and Engel (0.2 fWAR); $1.5 million for 4.2 fWAR
Again, if Robert projected to 4.0 WAR in 2020, 3.4 WAR in 2021 seems pretty pessimistic. However, he did slump badly to end his rookie season, so the notion of a significant sophomore slump is not that unfair. This seems more solid than the YoYo forecast.
Running sim total 18.1 fWAR, $62.45 million salary
Robbie Grossman ($4 million): 1.0 fWAR in 140 games
Adam Engel (salary counted above): 0.1 fWAR in 22 games
Total 1.1 fWAR for $4 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Nomar Mazara (0.5 fWAR) and Engel (1.9 fWAR); $5.6 million for 2.4 fWAR
I mean, not great, and illustrative of how hard it is to find gains that take you from the .500 realm to the more elite air of 90-plus wins. The White Sox badly need a bat here; Grossman projects as a more solid placemarker than Nomar Mazara (or Daniel Palka, etc.), but right field is where the White Sox will need to strike to most easily move into that 90-win realm.
Running sim total 19.2 fWAR, $66.45 million salary
Eloy Jiménez ($3.5 million): 3.6 WAR in 152 games
José Abreu (salary counted above): 0.1 fWAR in 10 games
Total 3.7 fWAR for $3.5 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Edwin Encarnación (-0.8 fWAR), $12 million
Here’s another possibly dour outlook, because by taking Eloy out of the field, even accounting for the DH positional adjustment, seems like it would add at least half a win to his projection. Seems very safe to say Eloy projects as at least a 4.0 WAR DH.
Running sim total 22.9 fWAR, $69.95 million salary
Lucas Giolito ($0.6 million): 3.3 fWAR
Dallas Keuchel ($18 million): 2.2 fWAR
Masahiro Tanaka ($10.5 million): 3.1 fWAR
José Quintana ($7 million): 1.7 fWAR
Dane Dunning ($0.6 million): 0.8 fWAR
Total 11.1 fWAR for $36.7 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Lucas Giolito (2.9 fWAR), Dallas Keuchel (4.9 fWAR), Dane Dunning (1.9 fWAR), Dylan Cease (1.1 fWAR). Reynaldo López (-1.4 fWAR); $20.3 million for 9.4 fWAR
The (now) No. 5 starter competition would seem to be Dunning’s to lose, although he will face fierce competition. All said, this pretty phenomenal value for the rotation, thanks to an unrealistically-low Tanaka contract in the sim. But then, the projections really expect Keuchel to take a step back in 2020, so we’ll see.
Running sim total 34.0 fWAR, $106.35 million salary
Aaron Bummer ($2 million): 0.9 fWAR
Jimmy Cordero ($0.6 million): 0.2 fWAR
Evan Marshall ($1.9 million): 0.4 fWAR
Codi Heuer ($0.6 million): 0.5 fWAR
Jace Fry: ($1 million): 0.1 fWAR
Matt Foster: ($0.6 million): 0.0 fWAR
Carlos Rodón: ($1.3 million): 0.2 fWAR
Tony Watson: ($3 million): -0.2 fWAR
Total 2.1 fWAR for $11 million
2020 totals, projected for 162 games Jimmy Cordero (0.4 fWAR), Evan Marshall (2.4 fWAR), Matt Foster (1.6 fWAR), Steve Cishek (-0.5 fWAR), Alex Colomé (1.6 fWAR), Codi Heuer (1.4 fWAR), Jace Fry (0.0 fWAR), Ross Detwiler (0.5 fWAR); $11 million for 2.1 fWAR
The bullpen above, with Rodón as the swingman/long reliever, covers 431 appearances and 534 innings (3 ⅓ innings per game). With the roster fortified, the 2021 season begins with Dylan Cease (minimum salary, projected for 1.4 fWAR), Reynaldo López ($2.2 million, 0.5 fWAR) and Michael Kopech (minimum, 1.5 fWAR) in the Charlotte rotation, although nothing says any of those guys couldn’t slide in instead of Rodón or even Dunning. Given the projections, sole bullpen addition Watson looks to be a bust.
Final sim total 36.1 fWAR, $117.35 million salary
Dead money/buyouts owed to Kelvin Herrera, Steve Cishek, Gio González and some salaries in the minors take the total team commitment to $126.2 million. That’s 17th in baseball, behind the Twins and ahead of Toronto.
(Last year, Reinsdorf green-lighted our payroll to $162.7 million, qualifying as 13th in baseball among the sim teams.)
Different sites use different baselines for how many wins a replacement team would have in the majors, but the very lowest estimate, 48 wins, means our 36.1 WAR roster would finish 84-78. Higher-end estimates would place us at 88-74.
Using a miserly $4 million value per 1.0 WAR, that would give this sim roster a $144.4 value, well above the $126.2 million team salary. Surplus value!
Last year’s sim roster added up to one more win for our 2021 sim Sox, and a $152 million value — but at a much higher cost. Plus, against a $162.7 million team salary, that put our 2020 White Sox in the red, even with a jump up to as many as 89 wins.
So this year, we came up with virtually the same final record, but at a much more Reinsdorfian budget. Ending with 84-88 wins is not the most thrilling result, but given that we had one day to fill some pretty big holes in left and right field, hopefully Rick Hahn can explore the full studio space of a long offseason to find a trade or sign a free agent who can add a few wins to a core total like this. This is the season to crack 90 wins, after all.