When teams tried to sign their way out of tanking

When teams tried to sign their way out of tanking

If you can’t get enough of tanking talk, Jonah Keri weighed in on the topic, wondering aloud when a team can justify trying to bust loose.

The Phillies, now with Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, started the conversation. The Padres, now supposedly contemplating Eric Hosmer, are along for the ride.

Keri is skeptical of both, although the Padres more than the Phillies because they have fewer of their best prospects actually in place on the 25-man roster. He gives a number of examples of teams that made significant signings when it didn’t appear as though one large expenditure wouldn’t make a difference.

  • Cubs: Edwin Jackson in 2013 (nope), Jon Lester in 2015 (yep).
  • Astros: Scott Feldman in 2013 (nope)
  • Nationals: Jayson Werth in 2011 (kinda worked)
  • Royals: Gil Meche in 2006 (nope)
  • Tigers: Ivan Rodriguez in 2003 (yep)

Werth’s seven-year, $126 million contract is the one I think causes the biggest philosophical divide. On the whole, he did not earn the money, because he was a replacement-level player over the last three years. But he did give the Nationals three productive years — one injury-shortened — as they rose to dominate the NL East, so one could argue that he earned his keep on the whole, and it wasn’t his fault Dusty Baker favored him over more promising options in the NLDS.

These contracts are effectively booster rockets — something to help generate escape velocity from perpetual loserdom, then negligible/sheddable afterward. I think calling Werth’s contract a flop misses the forest for the trees, but they’re easier said than done, especially with the White Sox’ lack of success in signing veterans.

In order for one to work, they basically can’t block anybody at the start, and the team has to generate enough depth internally so they have the flexibility to pursue or retain other desired players at market rates. Either that, or ownership has to be ready to ramp up spending (which is easier when it works, because of increased attendance and ratings). That part is a big difference between the Cubs with Jackson and the Cubs with Lester. The latter came with Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero and Joe Maddon.

The White Sox have committed hard enough to rebuilding that they’re too far afield to put one of these to good use now. They should have a far better idea of where they are as a franchise after first full seasons for Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, potential debuts for Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech, and, fingers crossed, a rebound for Tim Anderson. Perhaps the knowledge gained will be “still not there yet,” but they’ll also have a better sense of what parts of the depth chart definitely aren’t arriving in the next two waves.

The deal Welington Castillo signed is much more in line with the current ambitions. It adds  professionalism where experience is sorely lacking, lest weak positions drag down others, and any flop will be forgettable, insofar as it won’t alter any future plans. It would help if Castillo succeeded, if only to inspire confidence about the White Sox accurately identifying outside players who can produce past age 30. That’s another unknown factor in the White Sox rebuild, and it’ll have to be tested eventually.


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PauliePaulie
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PauliePaulie

How much would success/failure by Castillo tell us if he truly was a “Ricky hire”, as the FO has sort of boasted?

Or is that more a story for fans than how a signing actually works?

35Shields
Member
35Shields

I don’t know how to embed tweets, but it’s $4.75m

 

https://mobile.twitter.com/ChrisCotillo/status/951496676946186240

Patrick Nolan
Editor
Un Perro
Member

Excellent. No more Dylan Covey, and we gained a Ti’Quan Forbes out of it all.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I don’t think we will be looking back with admiration over how we got Forbes out of that deal.

asinwreck
Member
asinwreck

DISMAYED

Patrick Nolan
Editor

I’ll share this link to something Un Perro wrote up right here on Sox Machine, because I’m not sure where to find these from the front page:

https://www.soxmachine.com/2018/01/11/sox-shoud-move-ji-hwan-bae/

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Elsewhere, Jim Callis weighs in on Rondon’s place in the Sox’ top 30 — he doesn’t have one.

https://twitter.com/jimcallisMLB/status/951433826055712768

PauliePaulie
Member
PauliePaulie

Between AZ and Charlotte, I can see this kid causing some early season irrational exuberance.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I think of him at his peak as basically Tim Anderson with a better glove and no power behind it.  Sounds like he swings at pretty much everything, but probably makes more consistent contact than Timmay.

Anohito
Member
Anohito

This should probably have a way more indepth post but where does this put the sox rotation situation for ’18 and beyond now? Should they still find at least one more cheap starter/innings eater? No more Covey right? What about Fulmer? Who starts opening day? What should the rotation order look like? And beyond.

chambers.kevin
Member
chambers.kevin

I would guess Shields starts opening day. At this point, he is our best known and experienced pitcher.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Gonzalez has been on the team longer and also has the advantage of not being hated by the entire fanbase.

katiesphil
Member
katiesphil

I wouldn’t normally consider something like this of any real importance, but yeah – imagine the reaction if Shields starts opening day and gets shelled.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

I’d put the odds of Shields starting Opening Day north of 80%. Fortunately, it’s a road game, and someone more interesting might get assigned the home opener.

It…it might even be Miguel Gonzalez!

ThisReallySox
Member
ThisReallySox

Give me Giolito

GrinnellSteve
Member
GrinnellSteve

I have a bet with someone (Gibby maybe?) that Shields will be the Opening Day starter.  He ended the year pitching credibly, and it reduces the pressure on the youngsters.

 

 

gibby32
Member
gibby32

It indeed is with me.  I gave you 3-1 odds.  You choose $5 as the “1”.  Assessing “win probability”, you have increased your odds since you made the bet.

GrinnellSteve
Member
GrinnellSteve

You’re either more organized or in possession of a better functioning memory than me.

With -18 wind chill and snow to shovel, Opening Day can’t come soon enough.

Ted Mulvey
Editor

I have a beer bet with Josh (assuming these bets transfer over from SSS) whether or not the Sox will retire Ozzie Guillen’s number next. My Google Calendar has a reminder set for 8/31 of this year at 4 PM reminding me to check.

gibby32
Member
gibby32

What’s the point of a bet if you can’t remember it?

GrinnellSteve
Member
GrinnellSteve

Don’t good intentions count for anything?

 

gibby32
Member
gibby32

Sometimes during criminal sentencing.

Brett R. Bobysud
Member
Brett R. Bobysud

Barring injuries, the 3 sure things for the rotation at the start of the year at this point are Shields, Giolito, & Lopez.  Of the 3, Shields is the most likely choice for opening day, given that he’s the only one of the 3 who has a full season’s worth of major league experience.

As far as the other two spots in the rotation, with Rodon out, it appears to be Fulmer & Miggy, which means 5 righties.  They could go for another one-year vet lefty, but that would mean dropping one of the two mentioned above.

I still think Fulmer ends up in the bullpen at some point, but I think the Sox want to try him out as a starter to see if he can put things together under Coop’s guidance.

The quandary is going to be who to drop when Rodon is healthy again, and possibly again later in the season when Kopech gets called up.  Of course, by the time the latter happens, both Shields & Miggy could be flipped to create space in the rotation.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Miggy also belongs in the “sure thing” category; they didn’t sign him for any other purpose.

gibby32
Member
gibby32

Your referenced “quandary” is premature.  Injuries happen every year.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I’m over the whole “too many left/right-handed pitchers in the rotation” thing.  If you have five good right handers or left handers, it won’t matter in the long run.

Buehrlesque
Member
Buehrlesque

IMO, there’s also a difference between “rebuilding” and “tanking.” If a rebuilding team signs Mike Moustakas and wins 78 games, it is not a failure, and it could pay dividends down the road (seen or unseen at the outset). It’s the tanking/intentional losing fad that, if too prevalent, can become troublesome. The fewer the number of teams that are trying to compete, the worse the league is, and the sport would be boring if all teams won either 100 games or 60.

Sox fans have a unique take on it because the KW-era teams always seemed to sacrifice the future, or at least not be concerned with it at all, to try for a very short-term fix, which was both a. short-sighted and b. even by that standard, a horrific failure of underperformance year after year. But mediocrity in general is not that bad.

Sophist
Member
Sophist

yeah — I was thinking along similar lines.  But here’s the distinction I want to make: between tanking/rebuilding and just improving a team’s drafting/development.

Teams are allowed to build a good minor league system without going through a tank/rebuild. Sure, it’s easier to build a top system if you have the luxury of losing hard for a few years or trading each and every asset. But if the goal is to build a team with good depth, able to compete consistently, it’s going to depend on having the scouting/drafting/development in place to keep bringing good prospects in without getting top 10 picks.

Anyway, if the Sox go after any big FAs next winter, it might signal the end of the tanking, but I’m hoping not a return of prospect wilderness that was 2004- 2016.

katiesphil
Member
katiesphil

I dunno – there was one pretty good season in there as I recall.

hi5
Member
hi5

Agree1 I’d put up with another stretch like 2004-2016 if another WS win is in there.

Sophist
Member
Sophist

I was referring only to the ability of the team to draft and develop over that span.

MrTopaz
Member
MrTopaz

See if I can get this tweet to embed/link…

https://twitter.com/timanderson7/status/951539012619169794

Timmy seems fired up for this season. Or maybe MiGo beat him in clubhouse ping pong and he’s itching for some payback.

Edit: hell, I don’t know what I’m doing, but anyway, the tweet is “revenge18”, and some high five/jazz hand emojis.

yoyo
Member
yoyo

so basically Moustakas and Cain fit this scenario as upgrades that wouldn’t block anyone important for the immediate future.