Two days to go until the five-day post-World Series signing moratorium ends, and the White Sox free agent class is set. Things appeared to be cut-and-dry with the team’s three option decisions, but a surprise twist on Tuesday could alter the club’s offseason plans fairly significantly, as AJ Pollock’s unexpectedly opted-out of his $13 million deal for 2023.
Given the absolute shock of Pollock’s play today, we’ll lead off with his $5 million smash-and-grab.
$13 million player option declined ($5 million buyout accepted)
One of the more surprising decisions of the early free agent period, most assumed that Pollock’s weirdly-structured player option ($10 million increased to $13 million by plate appearance incentives reached during his surprisingly-healthy 2022) was a lock to be picked up: Entering his age-35 season with an extensive injury history and coming off a replacement-level season, finding an additional $8 million guaranteed in free agency seemed like a long shot.
It may still be a long shot, but that didn’t matter, as Pollock may have simply decided that with a minimum of $5 million in hand — and nearly $70 million already in the bank — he didn’t want to deal with the word moribund in the 2023 season. Perhaps he’s inclined to return to the Western side of the country, where he spent every year of his career prior to 2022. Whatever the reasons, the Sox have $8 million in their budget and another roster spot we anticipate them having.
But perhaps more importantly, there’s a concrete hole in the outfield now, even if you think Eloy Jiménez can still stick out there for any length of time. Instead of a stopgap platoon partner for the Big Baby, the team may be forced into making a bigger free-agent splash. Otherwise (and more likely), the White Sox are now almost forced to bring Oscar Colás to the Show earlier than they would have otherwise allowed.
AJ gave us no reason to dislike him on a personal level, and I wish him the best wherever he goes next. That being said, there won’t be too many people on the South Side upset that he won’t be suiting up at Guaranteed Rate Field in 2023.
$12.5 million club option exercised
A lot of things went wrong for TA this year, but he still played at a 4 WAR pace and made an All-Star team, so the chances of his option getting declined were about as good as mine were of getting picked up.
Anderson will play 2023 in the seventh year of what will, if the subsequent $14.5 million option for 2024 is picked up, ultimately be an eight-year, $52 million deal. Signed with the team’s leverage at a maximum the spring after his rookie year and the first of several exploitative early-career extensions that make up a fair chunk of this year’s payroll, Anderson made a total of $25 million over the six guaranteed years of the contract, though he played at a rate that would have worth roughly $140 million on the free agent market.
Anderson looks on track to hit free agency at age 32 if he plays well in 2024, and while it would probably take a pretty big disaster to make a decision out of that 2023 option, there’s always the chance he plays poorly enough to reach it a year earlier. If he stays healthy, he’ll likely move past Buck Weaver and Chico Carrasquel for most games played at shortstop for the White Sox. It’ll take another contract after this one to give him a shot at passing Alexei Ramírez (1,101 games), Luis Aparicio (1,508), Ozzie Guillén (1,724) and, if contract years become plural, Luke Appling (2,218).
$5.5 million club option declined ($1.5 million buyout)
I’ll miss watching Josh Harrison. He was a breath of fresh air on a team that hardly did the word moribund justice. It’s a shame he didn’t play better.
The word moribund also bears some application to the free agent class at second base, so if he had managed just a little bit better than a 98 wRC+ (.256/.317/.370, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 50 R) and 1.4 WAR, $5.5 million might have been a perfectly fine price to pay to have him keep 2B warm in hopes of him being usurped by Lenyn Sosa or José Rodríguez. That’s actually a pretty good argument for keeping him around at $5.5 million, when you think about it — and when you take into account his 89th percentile Outs Above Average on a team that isn’t in a prime position to start shedding competent defenders.
Alas, it’s too big of an expenditure for the guy who also owns one of the 25 most valuable sports franchises in the world. Let the Lenyn Sosa era begin!