A scorched-earth rebuild desensitizes a fan in so many ways. If the White Sox’ league-low TV ratings are any indication, most fans have removed themselves from the equation by deciding not to watch.
For the fans that still follow, it’s hard to get worked up about any individual development. If Rick Renteria hampers the chances of a comeback with a bunt call on a given night, it matters about as much as a bad month from Yoan Moncada, which matters about as much as a bad year for Lucas Giolito, which matters about as much as a flawless performance at Triple-A from Eloy Jimenez.
That’s what was great about Michael Kopech’s promotion — it finally tethered player development with an improvement to the MLB product. And, of course, it ultimately made zero impact because he tore his UCL after four starts.
Arbitration figures are another thing that don’t really matter, because the White Sox only have two players under contract for more than the league minimum in 2019. MLB Trade Rumors released its 2019 arbitration projections, and the White Sox have room for all of these players at all of these dollar amounts without a second thought:
- Jose Abreu – $16MM
- Avisail Garcia – $8.0MM
- Yolmer Sanchez – $4.7MM
- Carlos Rodon – $3.7MM
- Matt Davidson – $2.4MM
- Leury Garcia – $1.9MM
- Danny Farquhar – $1.4MM
Last year, MLBTR missed by $4.9 million on Abreu’s projection, tabbing him for $17.9 million when Abreu agreed to $13 million. Abreu doesn’t have a whole lot of peers when it comes to his pre-arb salary trajectory, so it’s hard to know about this year’s figure, either. Conversely, it nailed Avisail Garcia’s number, and was close enough on the other five cases to make it an accurate-enough assessment for the group on the whole.
If that holds true — and if all contracts are tendered — the White Sox’ base payroll number is $56 million, give or take a rounding error. Welington Castillo ($7.25 million) and Tim Anderson ($1.4 million) are the only other Sox under contract for more than the league minimum in 2019, unless you bring back Nate Jones and his $4.65 million option.
I doubt everybody on this list will be tendered, and while Avisail Garcia could be a battleground in our offseason plans, I’m more referring to Danny Farquhar, who will be attempting to come back from his brain aneurysm. I could see him coming back on a split contract, where he makes something like his arbitration number if he makes the 25-man roster. If one party decides to move on, then the payroll is $55 million.
When you get to Garcia, it becomes a matter of direction.
If the White Sox decide to punt on 2019 — or at least add no further beyond a veneer of respectability — then they may as well tender Garcia. He addresses a need for the year and makes it easier to meet payroll floor commitments, and if that unprecedented power surge hangs around, he’ll outearn a number that right now easily outpaces his career averages.
If the White Sox harbor any sort of ambition to significantly improving this team starting in 2019 — even if 2020 or 2021 is still the actual start of fielding a contender — then non-tendering makes more sense. That $8 million salary becomes more significant when it could be used toward solving a 2020 problem, especially if they plan on acquiring an outfielder. Non-tendering Garcia puts the base payroll below $50 million, leaving plenty of room for a superstar and then some.
And there’s room in between. The White Sox could bring back Garcia for his final arb year while making several other moves and still open the season with a bottom-third payroll. That’s the kind of room they’re working with. Garcia’s last arb year isn’t worth gumming up the works, but he’s also better than any of the internal corner outfield/DH options who aren’t Eloy Jimenez, even with a balky knee.
History says the White Sox won’t make the big splash, but they’re also at the bottom of MLB’s payroll rankings while garnering baseball’s lowest TV ratings, and Abreu/Castillo’s salaries come off the books the following year to offset any internal gains. Maybe they’ll try to squeeze one more low-cost offseason out of these rock-bottom expectations, but I’d hope fewer people run interference for them if they do. The Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers are right there as teams that formed contenders with a transactional approach to roster-building. Even if the top of the free agent class rejects a genuinely motivated White Sox front office, there are far fewer excuses for remaining so quiet over the winter this time around.