Normally, that’s not difficult. You just look at the player’s performance in the past season and the cost of the option, plug in your method of evaluation (such as about $4.5 million per WAR) click the appropriate key. Or, if you’re no more capable than the White Sox front office is, you flip a coin.
This time, though, each of the three situations is out of the ordinary, giving rookie GM Chris Getz a chance to try to show he’s more than just a platitude-spewing, butt-kissing non-entity like his predecessors and the manager the Sox say they’re going to keep for no discernible reason.
Option 1: The bad guy
It’s not often in life you get a chance to make the ethical and moral decision, to show that you have character and expect others to have it as well, without paying a penalty. Getz has that rare opportunity in this case.
Even before anyone but her kith and kin had ever heard of Olivia Finestead, character issues should have had giant red flags flying over the head of the pitcher Rick Hahn decided to jump the market to sign last offseason, whom we shall, in the spirit of Elon Musk, refer to as X. Even if you overlook his history as Trevor Bauer’s wingman or think that’s unfair guilt by association, there was the matter of X’s COVID protocol violation in Cleveland and subsequent lies to his team and teammates.
That issue had X’s teammates telling management that either the team gets rid of him, or they quit (it was 2020 — the only year they could say that without contract repurcussion). Given that X was Cleveland’s second-best starting pitcher at the time, that was an extraordinary move for the players to make, and almost assuredly indicates they hated him even before that. But Hahn plunged forward.
X had a decent season on the mound, though was still a jerk off it, with his Gold Digger walk-up music choice to threatening to sue a radio station for having the audacity to let Finestead speak. His 3.3 bWAR would normally call for the team to pick up his option.
But doing so would put Getz in a moral dilemma (and Jerry Reinsdorf, too, if there is such a thing as a moral dilemma for Reinsdorf). Fortunately, circumstances save him.
First off, X’s option is mutual, and though he faltered badly a few times in September, odds are strong the player won’t go for it, since 3.3 WAR is worth much more than the option amount of $8 million on the open market. Thanks to Hahn’s incompetence, the White Sox will owe X $4 million no matter who decides what, so it’s the $8 mil that’s at stake.
Thus, Getz can turn down the option, which X will reject anyway, and look like the White Sox developed scruples with the departure of Hahn. And if X’s agent has discovered nobody wants him? Even if the 99% chance X rejects the option doesn’t happen, Getz is still in position to play the ethical and moral leader by refusing the option, since even 3.3 WAR is meaningless for a team that has no chance to compete in 2024, no matter what the blather used to try to sell season ticket packages says.
Be it 98 losses or 101, what’s the difference? And ticket sales aren’t going to be enhanced by making a move that will once again alienate a sizeable chunk of the fan base, so why tick off all those people? Ticket sales will be bad enough as it is.
Option 2: The good guy
If X represents the dregs of character, Liam Hendriks is the opposite: An incredible human being disguised as a mound-stomping Aussie. Were it not for the highly unusual nature of his contract option, Getz would indeed face the moral dilemma of releasing a player who overcame cancer only to soon need Tommy John surgery — not to mention a man who, with his wife, has exemplified positive community involvement.
The White Sox are saved because of the oddity of the contract — whether they pick up Hendriks’ option or not, they still owe him $15 million. The only difference is whether they owe all $15 mil in 2024, or spread over a decade. Sure, money in hand beats money doled out over time, but in this case, the Sox will be doing Hendriks a favor.
That’s because Liam’s TJS was at the beginning of August. Absolute best-case scenario, he’ll be ready to pitch in August 2024 — if then. By then the White Sox could be, oh, maybe, 250 games out of contention. And it would be after the trade deadline, too late to trade Hendriks to a team in a playoff race, where he could make an important difference and enjoy pitching for a winner. (Hendriks has gone on record as saying he wants to be back with the White Sox, for what that’s worth.)
Naturally, just plain refusing the option won’t do. Getz (and Reinsdorf if he can stand mixing with the hoi polloi) need to sit down with Hendriks and discuss the situation. He’s a smart guy, so chances are he’ll agree he’s better off being turned loose and getting to pick his team from among the best in the game, while easily getting by on the first $1.5 million of the buyout. And if the Sox PR department can actually engage in public relations for a change, they can make sure the public knows the reasoning.
And Option 3: The in-between
If you base your decision on this year’s -2.0 bWAR performance, rejecting Tim Anderson’s $14 million option ($1 mil buyout) is a no-brainer. If you base it on his White Sox career, with 16.2 WAR over eight years (but divide by seven, since he came up in June of 2016 so it combined with 2020 for a regular season), it’s a close call — 2.314 WAR times typical $4.5 million per WAR value comes to $10.4 million, and throw in TA being the face of the franchise and you’re apt to lean toward picking up the option.
You shouldn’t. That’s mainly because you’ll be making Tim a big favor if you don’t.
If ever a player’s situation called for a change of scenery, this is it. Anderson hasn’t played, or talked, like a player who wants to stay in Chicago, and given his off-field issues as well as declining play for the Sox, it’s best for all concerned if he doesn’t.
It was just a few months ago TA was saying he’s a shortstop, by golly, and that’s what he’s going to stay, never mind that he’s a defensively-challenged shortstop and has been for a long time. Then, just a few weeks ago he changed his mind, or at least his words, and said he’ll be happy to move second base if need be.
Saying he’d be perfectly happy with a move to second, where he may well prove to be solid defensively (as he was in the WBC), was not something meant for the ears of the White Sox brass. They need a shortstop until Colson Montgomery is ready and have no other good options — the best being Elvis Andrus, a free agent who doesn’t play into the long-term future.
That decision was meant to be heard by any other team that might be in the market for his services. With a really weak list of middle infield free agents available, Anderson may well be worth a a fair amount to some team. With a little luck going for him, it will be a team with a solid chance of success, not one destined for the depths.
Which is where Getz gets to show that he’s not just another White Sox front office bust.
The trade market opens up the day after the Series is over, so there’s a four-day period to work a deal before option decision time. That’s not usually a busy period, but Getz needs to make it one. He should already have spread the word that every player on the Sox on down to Kannapolis is on the market for the right price, and he should make it known that when it comes to Anderson, making an offer right off the bat will get his services for the next year without having to compete and offer multi-year money — perfect scenario for a one-year prove-it deal. If it works, you take the option and then trade.
With a lot of luck, the White Sox may get a little something in exchange — probably not much, but better than the nothing that would come with simply declining the option.
However, if that comes to nought, once again, by saying “no” you’re doing the player a favor, especially if he gets to go to a contending team. And he doesn’t have to seem to be rejecting Chicago.
Which adds up to
Three options, three thumbs down, for three different reasons. If that makes the team worse in 2024, it just doesn’t matter. And since rejecting the options will save money, Reinsdorf will be thrilled.
Leigh’s made his call: What’s yours?
This poll is closed
I agree: Decline all three options.
That’s crazy, the White Sox have zero talent and depth, keep all three players.
Keep TA, let go of Hendriks and Mr. X
Keep Hendriks, get rid of TA and Mr. X
Keep Mr. X, get rid of Hendriks and TA
Keep Mr. X and Hendriks, bye-bye TA
Keep Mr. X and TA, bye-bye Hendriks
Keep TA and Hendriks, bye-bye Mr. X
If there’s a combination possible not on this poll, blame Brett, he wrote the poll.