News broke today of the fourth free agent signing of the Chicago White Sox offseason, Jonathan Lucroy.
The White Sox, expected to compete for the Central Division title and considered among the top teams in the American League, have attacked their open window of opportunity and exploited their payroll flexibility not with bright stars filling obvious needs, but with the old, the overpriced, and the familiar.
Again aggressive at the start of the Winter Meetings, GM Rick Hahn struck on Day 1 and inked noted grinder/clubhouse cancer Adam Eaton to a one-year deal for $8 million, winning a bidding war of one and spending approximately twice as much as anyone could have predicted for an oft-injured, irascible punch-and-judy right fielder who is coming off a full-season projected -1.9 bWAR in 2020.
Next up came the closer that no one was crying for, Liam Hendriks. Hendriks was a fabulous add, but a curious one, given the overall strength of the bullpen and specifically the 91.3% save conversion rate of Alex Colomé (Hendriks has converted 83.0% in the same, two-year time frame). At a cost of just two more guaranteed years and $49 million more dollars, the White Sox replaced their excellent and emotionless closer with an excellent and emotive one. If only Colomé had more demonstrably supported animal welfare causes.
Mere days ago, news broke that the White Sox used the free market to pull in a veteran southpaw capable of serving anywhere from brief No. 4 starter to Charlotte Knights rehabber, Carlos Rodón. Rodón, projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration by MLBTR, was non-tendered in mid-January, and after two weeks of a dead market was snapped back up by the South Siders ... for a guaranteed $3 million. Discounting his rookie season, Rodón has averaged 14 starts per season for the White Sox, so this crafty move ensures the club has the No. 4 (or 5) spot covered for May and June.
Finally, Lucroy comes in today as the fourth extraneous piece of the offseason, as the White Sox handvacced up the space dust of a fallen star who’s put up -1.1 bWAR in the six seasons since his last All-Star appearance. Lucroy is projected by Marcels to receive a .654 OPS with mediocre defense, if able to win the starting backup job in 2021. Of course, this Lucroy deal offers, presumably, no significant money or term, and thus is the parsley on the plate of a most unimaginably underwhelming meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Running total on what has for a week or so been considered a “finished product” of an offseason: five years, $71 million of total expenditure.
No crucial holes were filled among right field, designated hitter, fourth and fifth starters, and backup catcher. Another year will tick past on the odometers of Lucas Giolito, Yasmani Grandal, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, Nick Madrigal and José Abreu without the eminently-available reinforcements necessary to ensure a fair fight with the Minnesota Twins for the division crown, and playoff qualification. Precious roster space is filled by the likes of Eaton and Rodón, while the likes of Danny Mendick, Leury García, Zack Collins and Reynaldo López are handed another year on the roster without as much as a challenge.
Nothing about this mockery of an offseason dims the bright potential of this team. But here in February, the White Sox could have ensured that spotlight stays bright on the South Side all season. Instead, with question marks abounding — even in the manager’s chair — we’re again forced to cross fingers and wish upon a nacho helmet. As in 2018-19, when all of baseball took free agency off and virtually handed the White Sox Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, this pandemic-panic of an offseason left the field almost free for the White Sox to ravage. It now appears clear they will not frolic in those fields.
Some forgiving fans have been cautioning that the offseason isn’t over.
How many more of these “moves” must we endure before it is?