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Year of the Hamster’s 2021 Offseason Plan

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More lineup flexibility and a rotation six-deep, all for less than $160 million? Come, read this witchcraft.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago White Sox
Chris Taylor is a key add for my 2022 White Sox, who are sporting a “flexibility” theme that applies to more than just hosiery.
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

There is not a lot of flexibility in the White Sox payroll, and in fact Brett pushing the upper edge to close to $170 million strikes me as WAY bolder than anything we’ll see in the true offseason on the South Side. My theme: positional flexibility, keyed by a trade and a signing that drastically shifts the Sox from a stationary and flat-footed defensive team to a club with some swerve.

All that, and a payroll just 10% more than last season, which feels like a number Jerry Reinsdorf could stomach.


Arbitration-eligibles

Jimmy Cordero (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) $1.2 million DECLINE, certainly OK with inking Biceps to a minor league deal though
Adam Engel $2.2 million YES
Jace Fry $1 million YES
Lucas Giolito $7.9 million YES, and offer an extension of six years, $90 million
Brian Goodwin $1.7 million NO
Reynaldo López $2.8 million NO but will offer a token raise and would agree at $2.2 million
Evan Marshall (just underwent TJS, extremely unlikely to pitch in 2022) $2.3 million NO


Impending Free Agents

Re-sign, cut loose, or extend a qualifying offer of $18.4 million?

Leury García (2021 contract: $3.5 million) Want to re-sign, but at no more than last year, and he’ll get a better offer, so, ultimately, NO
Billy Hamilton (2021 contract: $1 million) NO
Ryan Tepera (2021 contract: $950,000) Want to re-sign, but he will be too expensive and risky; plus the Cubs are going to go hard to get him back, NO
Carlos Rodón (2021 contract: $3 million; Spotrac market value is $24.1 million) QUALIFYING OFFER


Team Contract Options

Pick up, decline, or rework the deal — and explain any tough or complicated calls.

Craig Kimbrel $16 million (or a $1 million buyout) BUYOUT
César Hernández $6 million (no buyout) GOODBYE


Free agents

LHRP Tony Watson (two years, $3 million). So boring. But Watson gets the job done, year after year.

C Manny Piña (two years, $3.5 million). So, so boring. But Piña brings defense and MLB experience, and he’s getting older, so works as a cheap, experienced, playoff-tested backup to Yaz (Brewtown reunion!). Enough of this Collins/Zavala/Mercedes nonsense, let’s clear the deck and get Carlos Pérez up as the emergency third catcher in 2022.

2B/OF/SS/2B Chris Taylor (four years, $45 million with an additional $15 million vesting option) This is a very slight overpay of Taylor’s market value, and we’ll juice it up with a fifth year that vests at say $15 million with PA incentives in 2025. This gives the White Sox a Swiss Army knife player superior to Leury García, at a nice price. Taylor’s flexibility (OF/IF) can also guard against another rash of hammy injuries.

Trades

1B/OF/DH Andrew Vaughn PLUS to the Tampa Rays for 2B/SS/OF Vidal Bruján The Rays don’t have many weaknesses, but first base might be the closest they come. Per the MLB Trade Simulator, Vaughn and Bruján’s future values are close, but more would need to get to Tampa. For example, Zack Collins and Micker Adolfo make the trade work. At any rate, given the Rays organization is so much better than ours, I’d hand over a list (Jake Burger, Adolfo, Collins, Seby Zavala, Jace Fry, you get the picture, some sweetener that gets this done) and let the Rays pick another name or two. Maybe, just maybe, with Bruján flailing in his first taste of the majors in 2021 and ready alternatives (Taylor Walls, who decidedly did NOT flail, and probably three dozen other guys), Vaughn for Bruján straight-up works. Bruján gives us a younger “Chris Taylor,” which you can never have too many of.

Summary

There are more trades I’d like to make, including a mild salary dump of Dallas Keuchel, who I’m not sure is a good fit on this team any longer. I’d search for another bad expiring contract, rather than the ol’ Prospect That Will Haunt Us + Dallas deal for a legit player. There’s probably a fit out there, and if not, fine, it’ll be the farewell tour.

It seems like we can ship a few AAAA guys who have legit breakout potential (Collins, Mercedes, Adolfo, Burger) for something a bit more contention-window useful. We seem to be seeing a lot of “send some garbage to Pittsburgh for Jacob Stallings” out there. I’d dig Stallings, but our AAAA churners are not realistic booty for a 2021 season that good.

ROTATION
Gio
Lynn
Rodón
Cease
Kopech
“Keuchel”

BULLPEN
Hendriks
Bummer
Burr
Watson
Fry
Ruiz
López (multi-inning or stopper role, like Kopech in 2021?)
Crochet (see López, above)

PLAYERS
Grandal
Piña
Abreu
Taylor
Bruján
Romy González
TA
YoYo
Eloy
Luis
Sheets
Engel

We have six starters, with the QO to Rodón and moving Kopech into the rotation. If everyone is pitching well, including Dallas, hell, go six-man rotation, someone gets gassed or breaks down eventually. Six starters are necessary given NO DEPTH (OK, Jimmy Lambert?) in the minors. Would LOVE to see the White Sox make a real effort to bolster depth beyond just the Emilio Vargas waiver gambles.

Oh, and if Rodón finds a taker for a big deal? Draft pick, baby, and the same B.S. depth issues that plagued the White Sox a year ago. The QO offer is almost a no-risk deal; hell, Los paid for this $18 million in 2022 with his insane 2021 season already.

The bullpen is sorta trash, maybe, too south-pawed, but guys like Fry etc. can be switched out for whatever Charlotte flavor of the month is running hot. Hopefully Bennett Sousa, Caleb Freeman, Andrew Perez and others are coming as soon as later 2022 to reinforce.

I’d like to see the pen be a little more long-outing prepped: Hendriks, López, Crochet.

I’d also pursue deals where a AAAA hitter (Collins, etc.) is shipped out for a fairly promising bullpen arm. Tepera-ish, or Tepera lite. Actually, even for a Tony Watson-level, reliable dude. That’s a contention window deal, baby. But maybe those deals don’t exist. It’s late, I’m tired.

We fixed 2B, not RF. So it’s Sheets/Engel platooning, with runs at/fortifications of it made by Taylor or Bruján, or, failing a deal to a team like the Pirates who will give him 500 PAs in 2022, Micker Adolfo. If RF is the weak link, it’s OK by me. At this point, it’s White Sox tradition, anyway.

I’d pursue perhaps an Anthony Santander deal with Baltimore, but his price is likely too high even after an off-year. But Adolfo/Collins for him? Sure.

Would certainly be willing to bring back Hamilton or Goodwin on a minors deal, or for that matter Mahtook or Beckham, even.

If Jerry really did offer a green light to go 170-175 with payroll, not sure there’s pitching I’d chase (Gausman, perhaps? Robbie Ray is a no-brainer QO, yes?), sadly, but I’d throw an offer at Sterling Marte or Michael Conforto for RF; that market might be spicier than $15 mil AAV though.

My Marcus Semien dream died early; great in theory, but with this payroll, too indulgent. Plus, where is Popeye gonna play in 2023 then?