The biggest area of need for the 2022 White Sox is a scrappy 2nd baseman who knows how to get on and move runners over. If only they still had one on the team... In all honesty, I don't know what the logic was behind that deal. Kimbrel, even if he worked out, was a luxury item, complete overkill when a simpler (read: cheaper) upgrade would have worked. And boy, did Kimbrel not work. Sadly, that's only the 3rd worst trade the Sox have made in the past 10 years (behind Tatis, Jr. for Shields and Bassitt/Semien for Samardzija). Sigh...
Well, maybe this is the year JR finally cracks open his wallet. With that in mind, along with a remarkably stubborn optimism I can't quite seem to suppress, here's my dreamscape White Sox' offseason.
Jimmy Cordero (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, return uncertain) $1.2 million. Tender - should be back by shortly after Opening Day and BP is already losing Kopech, Kimbrel, and Marshall.
Adam Engel $2.2 million. Tender - Competent 4th OF, great defense on the cheap.
Jace Fry $1 million. Non-tender - At best, he's been slightly below average in ERA+. Sox should be gunning for better than that.
Lucas Giolito $7.9 million. Boy, here's a real head-scratcher. I think I'm going to go with Tender - A possible CYA candidate if he pitches the whole year like he did in the 2nd half for less than $8M is an easy sell. Even the Guardians or A's would pay him.
Brian Goodwin $1.7 million. Non-tender - Sorry, Brian, but I'm counting on there not being three dozen injuries in the OF. Hope you latch on elsewhere.
Reynaldo López $2.8 million. Tender - Had a Rodon-esque transformation partway through the year when he came back up. If he keeps this up, he could even fill in Keuchel's spot (more on that later).
Evan Marshall (just underwent TJS, extremely unlikely to pitch in 2022) $2.3 million. Non-tender - This was actually the toughest decision, just because I don't want to put him out there for other teams. Great years in '19 and '20 and won't be too old to get back there when he's healthy. Still, realistically, I'm already pushing the boundaries of reality with my plan. Maybe they bring him back on a minor league deal.
Impending Free Agents
Re-sign, cut loose, or extend a qualifying offer of $18.4 million? (Explain any tough or complicated calls.)
Leury García (2021 contract: $3.5 million) Re-sign - 2 yrs, $7.5M. Sure, they could get Chris Taylor, who's about twice as valuable, but will also be more than twice as expensive. Garcia's a good value Swiss army knife.
Billy Hamilton (2021 contract: $1 million) Cut loose - tough decision, this one. But with a targeted upgrade in the OF and Engel, Vaughn, and Sheets all capable, there's no room.
Ryan Tepera (2021 contract: $950,000) Re-sign - 2 yrs, $2.5M with a team option for a 3rd year at $2M and incentives to increase the initial deal by up to $500K. Just a good, steady arm. The only trade this past season that actually worked out.
Carlos Rodón (2021 contract: $3 million; Spotrac market value is $24.1 million) Extend a QO - wish they could take him back, but that's not likely. I can't trust his arm enough to give him the four years spotrac is expecting, certainly not at $27M per. Get the draft pick back when he leaves, then throw him a very nice going away party.
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) Pickup - Were it not for an interesting trade proposal I found and stole, I could not decline this fast enough. Pretty sure the pen would be moving so fast, the friction would set fire to the paper.
César Hernández $6 million (no buyout) Decline - The trade was a decent idea at the time, but just didn't work out. Hernandez sold out for power, then forgot to pack that power in his suitcase when he left Cleveland.
Adam Eaton - 1 yr, $8M - Oh, wait, we've tried that before haven't we? Never mind, scratch this one.
Starling Marte - 3 yrs, $45M - I know he's a LF or CF and that La Pantera has CF locked up, but he's cheaper than either Castellanos or KB would be, much faster than either, and still a defensive improvement over what they have now (not that that was a particularly high bar to clear). Sox can put him in RF and move Vaughn back to DH or put him in LF and shift Eloy to DH. Either way, baserunning, offense, and defense improve. I know he's not a lefty bat, but he actually has reverse splits for his career, though he hits both fairly well. These splits were more strongly reversed in 2021, with an OPS of .872 against RHP vs .762 against LHP.
Anthony DeSclafani - 2 yrs, $21M, with a team option for a 3rd year at $14M - He's been off and on, but had easily his best season last year and a very good one in 2019. The stuff is there, so he just needs the right coach to unlock it. I have faith in Katz. Giolito and Lynn are a terrific 1-2. Cease can be a great #3 if he starts attacking. Kopech has TOR potential. DeSclafani would be one of the best #5's in baseball.
Keuchel for a bucket of balls and a bag of whatever Luis Robert's favorite cookie is - In seriousness, Sox would have to eat about half of his salary to convince another team to take him on or take back a bad expiring contract of their own. I'd rather they eat just half and take a lottery ticket or two. It worked out well for the Padres and the Sox need to save some dough. With his excellent fielding, durability, and being only one year removed from a top 5 CYA finish, they should be able to find a taker.
Kimbrel + $2M for Adam Frazier - Two guys who had disappointing 2nd halves after dominant 1st halves and have only one year left. Sox desperately need a 2B and the Padres need to shore up their bullpen. I'll never claim that Frazier would be better than Semien, but this is JR we're talking about. I can't see him committing the $100M it might take to land Semien. Instead, he'd probably make up some line about not paying SS prices for a 2B. Kimbrel's projected to have more on-field value, but if Sox have to throw in a couple mil to make this work, I can live with that.
Collins (Barnhart would have been a good, albeit expensive, option and would have required a trade of Collins)
Burger (let him take a few turns at 2B to see if he can hack it there. Could also give an occasional day off to Moncada)
Well, there it is, folks. I very much wanted to put Semien in there, but couldn't bring myself to bend reality that much. Maybe if I could get my hands on that nifty red infinity stone. Still, that's a solid rotation, decent BP, and ridiculous lineup.
On to the math. We dropped Keuchel (paying half of his $9M salary), dropped Kimbrel (paying $2M and saving $14M, saved $6M on Hernandez, and let go of Hamilton, Marshall, Goodwin, and Fry ($6M total). That's $35M in cuts. Then we added Garcia ($3.75M), Tepera ($1.25M), Marte ($15M), and DeSclafani ($10.5M), for a total of $30.5M. That gives $4.5M to work with, whether that's adjusting the paydown on Keuchel's deal to sweeten the return, making the Kimbrel trade work, or upgrading at backup C and jettisoning Collins.
I doubt this will happen, but it's the early days of what could be a very long offseason. I'm going to be stubbornly optimistic until they disappoint me.