We started this Soxivus season with the Calling of Managers, then moving on to Grievances and Feats of Strength. Most recently, we’ve taken a look at the Worst and Best Games of 2022. And we still have more Soxivus celebrating to do in 2022!
Enjoy this week’s feature, our Soxivus Miracles for 2023.
A Healthy Season for a Superstar Waiting to Happen
Reality is often stranger than fiction.
The reality for the White Sox over the last several years is the kind of injury issues that you wouldn’t have been able to imagine back in the infancy of the rebuild. It’s hard to find a player who was not affected by a fantastical fracture, or ludicrous laceration.
However, of all the beleaguered and infirmed, a single player sparks the full extent of one’s imagination for both the style and manner of injury, and also the unfathomable depths of talent we are so unfairly being deprived of the chance to see:
Eloy Arturo Jiménez Solano.
No other member of the Sox young core checks every box of a superstar-in-waiting, from his god-given gift to hit a baseball to a personality that doesn’t give way to even his most outspoken teammate in Tim Anderson.
One small problem. Eloy hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
Appearing in just 58% of available regular season games, both South Side fans and baseball followers overall have only gotten the smallest tastes of where Eloy’s talent can take him.
In roughly half of the available play time, among Sox players with at least 500 PAs since 2019 Jiménez ranks:
- Second in wRC+, OPS, and HR
- First in SLG and ISO
- Fifth in fWAR
Offensive struggles of other South Side sluggers notwithstanding, it is borderline outrageous that a player missing almost half the games of his first four full years still carries 162-game averages of 36 HR, 108 RBI, and an OPS+ of 123 (23% above league average).
Jiménez’s health journey has felt very much like the prologue of a role-playing game protagonist: Toiling through bad luck and misfortune before an adventure opens up and they journey on to their destiny as a fated hero of the land.
Let’s do it, Eloy. It’s time to slay the dragon of mediocrity that is the Chicago White Sox.
We are just getting our adventure started, and we are starting with a full healthy season in 2023, from the superstar player the fan base deserves.
A Soxivus Miracle!
The Legend of Eloy begins now.
A Soxivus Eve (with a gift for us all)
Leigh Allan (the Soxsanta)
Down the chimney he came, so smooth and so slick,
I knew in a flash it must be Jim Click.
I asked “How can you be here, when we’re stuck with Rick Hahn?”
His belly shook as he answered, “Why, that man is gone.”
Most surely this elf, so dimpled and spherical,
Has brought all us fans a Soxivus Miracle.
Kenta Maeda Comes to Town
On October 3, Rick Hahn stated that the White Sox would not be able to simply throw money at their problems, and that the trade market would be more fruitful. For many fans, this was disappointing to hear, especially after seeing numerous other teams successfully spending to solve problems, while the White Sox struggled despite having the seventh-highest payroll in 2022.
But OK, fine. Hahn, we can do it your way. Let’s focus on the trade market.
In 2019, I wrote about why Kenta Maeda would make sense for the White Sox. To my displeasure, the Twins traded for him the following offseason, and got a brilliant 2020 season from him that ended in a silver medal in the AL Cy Young rankings. Notably, Maeda also came within three outs of a no-hitter, finally losing his bid on a 67 mph exit velocity single by Eric Sogard.
Now 34 and coming off of Tommy John surgery, Maeda has less value than before. However, as Brad Pitt said in Moneyball, “That’s good for us. He’s cheap.” Of course, the White Sox’s farm system is rather shallow, which limits their options in terms of players they can reasonably land via trade.
Why would Maeda fit? For one, with arbitration salaries on the rise and the White Sox fielding by far the highest payroll in franchise history in 2022, low salaries are helpful. Decent starting pitchers with low salaries are hard to come by, but Maeda fits that description. In 762 innings across six MLB seasons, Maeda has a 3.87 ERA, a 3.70 FIP, and a 3.70 xFIP, rendering him a 13.4-fWAR pitcher. Pretty good, right?
Maeda is guaranteed to earn a relatively $3.125 million in 2023. He has some incentives that could reasonably take him up to around $5 million, but if he is hitting those incentives, that is a trade-off the White Sox should happily take.
Unlike Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet, Maeda has a track record of being able to last a full season as a starting pitcher. While I am still bullish on Kopech and Crochet, neither one can be counted on to be a starter for the length of a season. The back end of the rotation is not on solid ground at all, especially if Lucas Giolito’s struggles continue. The White Sox are in desperate need of someone who can eat innings, and Maeda could help with that.
In addition, Maeda can do more than simply eat innings. In 2021, Maeda’s most recent season, he was above average in every Statcast category except fastball velocity and extension. Despite his lack of an overpowering fastball, Maeda was in the 89th percentile in chase rate, 74th percentile in average exit velocity, and 73rd percentile in whiff rate. In other words, thanks to a good collection of breaking balls led by his sharp slider, Maeda gets weak contact and swings-and-misses more than the average pitcher.
Will Maeda’s slider have the same effect after the surgery? Only time will tell. But, at his price tag (one year remaining on his contract with $3.125 million guaranteed), the gamble is small, and even the White Sox farm has enough to land him.
Miraculously, Hahn does something exciting and trades for him, with the most valuable piece heading to Minnesota being the White Sox’s No. 14 prospect. In his age-35 season, Maeda proves that he still has plenty left in the tank, delivering 150 innings and posting a 3.65 ERA.
Imagine this: The Guardians fade into mediocrity following a flaming-hot end of 2022, and the AL Central race comes down to the White Sox and Twins. Maeda, the former Twin, gets the call for Chicago against Minnesota on September 17, the last meeting between the two teams. The White Sox and Twins head into the day with a tie for the division lead. Although the White Sox are held to one run on three hits in six innings by Josh Winder, Maeda delivers the best pitching performance of the day. In six shutout innings, Maeda strikes out seven, and the only Twin to get a hit against him is Luis Arráez. The White Sox bullpen takes care of business, and the White Sox ride the momentum of the victory to take the 2023 AL Central title.
The Mayor of Mediocrity Makes Moves
Outside of one fateful trade deadline, Rick Hahn has mainly been risk-averse when it comes to transactions in recent history. As we’ve noted on his less-than-stellar record with trades and free-agent signings, that could be seen as a good thing. However, for a team that is “mired in mediocrity” once more, Hahn needs to do more than hire a fresh face to guide what appears to be a sinking ship.
As such, my wish and Miracle are that Hahn finds the courage to deliver a team that is a marked improvement over previous years. That starts with dismantling his most expensive bullpen (yes, even Liam Hendriks) for guys who can hit and, dare I say, play the outfield with greater competency than a fawn learning to walk. Even more impressive, Hahn realizes that Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet need better planning and protection throughout a long season than mere wishes, and decides to bolster the back of the rotation.
Yes, some of this sounds expensive, but I promise it’ll cost far less than the emotional toll and waste of a contention window if the White Sox lay another egg this upcoming season.
Year of the Hamster
I mean, does this even need to be explained? It’s been said many times that in any other organization (baseball, or across all sports), Rick Hahn would no longer have a job. On the South Side he not only does, but probably banked a crispy Christmas bonus.
As bad as the White Sox were, as bad as we think Tony La Russa managed the 2022 club, last season Hahn was worse. And smugged his way through it, to boot.
My Miracle is that someone — Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, or Hahn himself — comes to their senses and removes the GM from his position. Hahn already has said, mere weeks ago, that if he didn’t think he was capable of performing his job at a high level, he’d leave.
Do some soul-searching over the holidays, Rick. Jerry will golden parachute you like five years’ salary, so don’t worry about paying for the kids’ college. Just go.
Last year I wished for transparency from the White Sox organization, and rather predictably, we didn’t get it. This year, it’s tempting to just keep asking for same, but I’ll tweak it.
My Miracle is that the White Sox stop insulting their fan base and comport themselves with honesty and respect. Stop the fan-shaming, or the “smartest guys in the room” b.s. Of course, certain circumstances may dictate subterfuge — but in that case, no dugout lectures or social media smugness ... just don’t say anything!
The front office conducts itself, at best, with the sort of sass that befits a much more successful organization. Let’s shed the accoutrements and just focus on being direct with fans. Honesty is malleable and in the eye of the beholder, but the White Sox need to strip the silliness back and get back to respecting its fan base.
Lucas Giolito Returns to All-Star Form
It is no secret that Lucas Giolito’s 2022 season was rough. He put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and was feeling very confident. Then, he sustained an abdominal strain on Opening Day. After a stint on the IL, he got COVID. And as if the virus wasn’t enough, he spent a while dealing with its aftereffects.
Injuries aside, the product on the field was not great. Giolito’s 11-9 record was accompanied by a 4.90 ERA and career-rotation lows in strikeouts and innings pitched.
So what would I like to see? Honestly, any version of 2019, 2020, or 2021. In the upcoming season I want Gio to win 15 games, and accrue 200+ strikeouts over 180+ innings. If Ethan Katz can fix him once, he can do it again. Right?
The Medical Staff Actually Knows What They’re Doing
Throughout the 2022 season, the White Sox were a revolving door across the field and in the rotation and bullpen. The mishandling of injuries to Luis Robert and Michael Kopech are the two most glaring examples, but we also have Joe Kelly looking hurt every other outing and Tim Anderson projected to return from injury in mid-September at the latest and then not returning at all.
Now in TA’s case, some of that might have been due to Elvis Andrus being a more than capable replacement, allowing Anderson to take his time in recovering. But at the point that Anderson was supposed to return, the team was firmly in the race for the division. Inserting the player who has been one of the most consistent bats on the team over the last three seasons back into the lineup probably would’ve helped.
It does not matter if you sign Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom (the White Sox won’t) if they’re not available due to the medical staff being bad at the thing they need to be great at: Keeping players healthy.
Eloy Stays Healthy and Hits 50 Dingers
My Soxivus Miracle is almost two miracles, in a way. Eloy staying healthy has proven to be difficult in the last few seasons, but I believe that he somehow can avoid maiming himself running into walls, first base, and whatever other obstacles are put in front of him. If he can do that (which he totally can!) he’ll show off his true potential that he’s been hiding all along, with a 50-homer season.
Now you may ask yourself, “Eloy hit 16 home runs last year, how in the world can he hit 50?” My dear reader, that’s because he played 80 games. A full season of Eloy could easily garner him 30-35 homers, but this new Eloy has a trick up his sleeve: He’s going to hit the ball harder and farther than ever before, and add an extra 15-20 dingers to that total and easily lead the AL in RBIs, home runs, and slugging.
Will he win MVP?
No. Despite the lack of injuries and the monstrous season he’s going to have, not even God himself could fix Eloy’s outfield defense, which he will have to play even more of after the Sox don’t sign a single outfielder in the offseason. Therefore, he’ll put up a respectable 4.0 WAR, but come third in MVP voting because his defense is doodoo.
Miracle on 35th Street
In a nod to one of the best holiday movies of all time, a department store Santa saves the 2023 White Sox season by delivering a Soxivus Miracle!
Kris Kringle and his enchanted sack deliver magic home run bats to the South Side clubhouse this holiday season. Santa was as upset as every White Sox fan in 2022 with the lack of home-run power! He knows without a doubt that Rick Hahn won’t sign Aaron Judge or Brandon Nimmo, so he took matters into his own hands. He has spent the last few months of the year helping the elves craft some special magical bats.
In 2022, the Sox were 22nd out of 30 teams in home runs, with 149. That was 105 less than the league-leading Yankees. Have no fear, though: The magic bats for the 2023 season will ignite the power back into the likes of Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, and Luis Robert. This trio will hit more than 100 home runs alone! Guaranteed Rate Field will be rockin’ with fireworks in every game. It actually won’t even matter who is at the plate. Even if Hahn signs a crappy player like J.D. Martinez (which we know he will), all J.D. will have to do is grab a magic bat, and BOOM, Jason Benetti will call out a dinger, and Steve Stone will be enjoying the ride!
Happy Soxivus, everyone!
Which Soxivus Miracle would you most like to see happen in 2023?
A healthy season from Eloy Jiménez, including 50 homers
Jim Crane replacing Rick Hahn, or Rick merely leaving
Kenta Maeda joining the rotation
Rick Hahn attacking the offseason aggressively
Honesty and respect from the White Sox front office
Lucas Giolito bouncing back to 2019-21 form
A medical staff that has a clue
Power bats reappearing on the South Side
These Miracles are horrible. I have a better one. I’m a good sport, though, so I’ll list my better Miracle in the comments.