Free agency opens, and the White Sox won’t be favorites

Free agency opens, and the White Sox won’t be favorites

A guide to the open market include rankings, qualifying offers, and early machinations from other teams

Today marks the first day of MLB free agency. The White Sox broke open last year’s edition with the Welington Castillo signing, then stayed quiet for the remainder of the offseason, save the return of Miguel Gonzalez.

The White Sox have reason to be more aggressive this time around, if only because they know which positions have no immediate solutions in the high minors. That list includes a starting pitcher or two, a third baseman, an outfielder who can play center, and a veteran reliever wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

But after 100 losses and no immediate path to improvement — that’ll probably come when they bring up Eloy Jimenez and have a firm timetable for Michael Kopech — a huge outlay could be difficult for them to rationalize at this point. And even if they wanted to spend, would marquee players want to take it to join a team that’s still multiple seasons away?

Below are some reading materials that will give you a sense of who’s available, and which teams pose the greatest competition.

Rankings and predictions:

*MLB Trade Rumors Top 50:  The White Sox receive honorable mentions for a number of players, but aren’t predicted to land any of them. In the comments, Michael Kenny noted that MLBTR even forgot to list the White Sox among the teams to not be called a favorite.

*Keith Law’s top 50: Law leaned into Yasmani Grandal’s receiving issues in the postseason:

He leads baseball in passed balls over the past four years, doesn’t block balls well and has a reputation of not working well on game-planning with pitchers.

Good-framing catchers tend to have a passed-ball problem, the byproduct of trying to keep the glove still on pitches with movement, so that part doesn’t necessarily concern me.

Qualifying offers

Seven players received qualifying offers this time around. If they accept it, they’ll return to their teams for one year and $17.9 million. If they decline it, then their teams will gain a sandwich pick after the first round if the player receives a contract of $50 million or more. If the contract comes to less than that, they’ll receive a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B.

If the White Sox sign a free agent who declines a qualifying offer, they have to give up their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 of international bonus pool money.

The players who received qualifying offers this year:

  • Grandal
  • Bryce Harper
  • A.J. Pollock
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Dallas Keuchel
  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu

One of the surprising omissions was Michael Brantley, who proved himself fully healthy and hit .309/.364/.468 with 12 steals for the Indians, good for 3-4 WAR by any metric (more on this in a bit). Charlie Morton also didn’t receive a qualifying offer, and thus should be popular in free agency.

Maneuvering and rumors

*The Dodgers kept Clayton Kershaw off the market by signing him to a three-year, $93 million extension. Kershaw had an opt-out for the remaining two years and $65 million, so he was able to get another year guaranteed for $28 million plus potential bonuses.

*The Cubs picked up the $20 million option on Cole Hamels, although they had to shed salary to do so, which they accomplished by trading Drew Smyly and his $7 million obligation to the Rangers for a player to be named later. The Rangers were on the hook for Hamels’ $6 million buyout if the Cubs didn’t exercise the option, so they kinda bought Smyly for $1 million, although the trade includes a player to be named later on each side.

Patrick Mooney of The Athletic says the Cubs’ pursuits could be seriously limited by the luxury tax., making Bryce Harper more wishful thinking than a legit possibility.

The Cubs are already positioned to blow past next year’s $206 million luxury-tax threshold without adding a veteran backup catcher, another experienced hitter and a ninth-inning insurance policy against injured closer Brandon Morrow. Epstein’s baseball operations department also usually sets aside funds for the trade deadline and unexpected in-season additions. […]

That winning environment and star power will help fuel the Harper-to-Chicago buzz during next week’s general manager meetings in Southern California. Epstein will always be known for making bold, aggressive moves. But Friday’s accounting for Smyly and Hamels sure didn’t make it look like the Cubs are about to hand out the biggest contract in major-league history.

*The Indians are trying to tighten belts, according to Buster Olney. That could be why they couldn’t tolerate the risk of a high salary for Brantley, even if it was only a one-year commitment. Olney says Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez aren’t going anywhere, but everybody else could be on the block:

The Indians will hold on to shortstop Francisco Lindor and MVP candidate Jose Ramirez next season, but they have indicated to the industry that they are prepared to discuss other accomplished players, including 2017 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, pitcher Carlos Carrasco, catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, slugger Edwin Encarnacion and second baseman Jason Kipnis, among others.

While the Indians have been an AL Central monster the past three seasons, their ’90s-like dominance hasn’t resulted in ’90s-like attendance figures. They drew just 1.93 million during a third consecutive pennant-winning season, down from 2.05 million the year before.

For context, the White Sox drew 2.5 million fans in 2008, the year after losing 90 games, which is what I always think about when people freak out about potential relocation. A second Chicago team that had its act together would be a divisional monster. Alas.

The Indians should be the easy favorites even if they have to reallocate resources in 2019. That makes the White Sox’ stumbles of the past season so unfortunate. Cleveland coasted last winter due to the lack of a legit challenge, and unless the White Sox can gain 25-30 wins in an offseason without blowing up a pipeline that’s still under construction, only the Twins will pose a semi-projectable challenge.

Perhaps the White Sox can incorporate the weak division into their free-agent pitches. The AL East would bury them, but the AL Central gives any mediocre team a puncher’s chance.

3+
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
yolmers gatorade
Member

If the Cubs want Harper, maybe the Sox take Happ in exchange for absorbing salary like Chatwood and whoever else. Happ can play center, and Coop can wring some value from Chatwood.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Happ sucks.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Yet is somehow significantly better than a lot of the players we fielded last year.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Very low bar.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Happ’s .353 OBP in 2018 would have been second on our team among players with at least 100 PAs. His .761 OPS would have been third. Yes, his numbers declined from his rookie year and he’s hardly a star player, but he’s been a legitimate major league bat, unlike pretty much everybody on the White Sox. If we’d drafted him instead of Fulmer and he were playing second base for us in 2018 we’d consider the position locked down for the foreseeable future and nobody would be trying to move him to another position to make way for Madrigal.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Fine, he doesn’t suck. If I’m going to get Cubby stink on me though, I’d rather have Almora.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

If you rub their scat all over you, the Cubs fans will leave you alone.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Well, yeah, I would too.

roke1960
Member

Now the Indians are listening to offers for Kluber and Carrasco. I’m sure if they can’t trade them, they’ll be hard pressed to keep any of their free agents. This division could be so winnable. Add Machado or Harper, another bat, sign a mid-rotation pitcher and then hope for improved production from Moncada and Giolito. Plus the arrival of Eloy and maybe Cease by mid-season. Anything can happen! Prove all these so-called experts wrong who have all the big free agents going to the same old teams (plus the Braves and Phillies). Come on Rick and Jerry, spend a lot of money this offseason!

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

I really dont care that 2018 was a disaster, it shouldnt effect free agency for this team. There are 2 elite players in/entering their prime. This almost never happens. These players will require a 10-12 year commitment, not being super ready to contend in 2019 shouldn’t matter much to the whitesox but I do realize it may play a bit into the players choices. Look at next years free agent market, would harper and machado make sense as 27 year old free agents looking for 9 year deals? Then why the hell wont they make sense as 26 year olds looking for 10 year deals…. Sox payroll is a freaking joke. This is a big market, a new tv deal is on the way and attendance and ratings come from one thing and one thing only WINNING. Get the job done and land one of these guys if not both.

hitlesswonder
Member
hitlesswonder

I think the Sox offseason is painfully easy to predict. The Sox will not sign any long term contracts. Probably just a starting pitcher on a one year reclamation deal.

The failure of any of the Sox players in the majors to take a big step forward last season put the nail in the coffin on trying to compete in 2019. In fairness, it would take a lot of money to build a competitive team this coming season. Plus the Sox probably need to keep that second pick.

The real danger is that other than Eloy, Moncada, and maybe Anderson there is no one you could imagine that might take that step in 2019. Which means the Sox are likely to be in the same situation next offseason. At that point, the Sox will need to strongly consider dealing Rodon and maybe Anderson (if he has a decent season) for prospects as they are aging out of the Sox elusive window.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

You can’t use the argument of lack of development of your own assets for not doing something in FA: those two methods of building a team are not mutually exclusive. Moncada didn’t have a good year doesn’t mean trading for a guy like Realmuto wouldn’t help the team grow as we move forward.

Also, if the point is to win at some time in the future, that process happens in increments, not a total flip. We aren’t going to go from 60-102 to 102-60 in two years. Adding players that help develop a winning culture and can be here for a few years is still needed.

Whether Hahn understands that I don’t know, but it does not help developement of young players by getting them to expect 100 loss seasons every year.

yolmers gatorade
Member

Nah, I think ironically they might end up like the 2015 Sox team, where they spend some but not enough to be a contender. While the 2015 Sox team had no minor league talent to speak of, the 2019 Sox team will win 75 games with a top five prospect list and not many long term contracts.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

Grandal
Bryce Harper
A.J. Pollock
Patrick Corbin
Dallas Keuchel
Craig Kimbrel
Hyun-Jin Ryu
All off limits. We need our #2 pick 44? Plus 500,000 international bonus pool money. Since we get to play the International game again. These players plus Machado will suck up the cash.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

Yeah we’ve done so well with those second round picks: Alec Hansen and Gavin Sheets are dominating those prospect rankings……

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

You understand how rebuilds work, right?

Marty34
Member
Marty34

The White Sox are a big market team. No way in the world should they not sign a free agent because it will cost them a 2nd round pick. Let’s hold this management accountable.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Hansen was a consensus top-100 prospect after 2017. He had immense value that plummeted after his injury, and he’s hardly a lost cause yet. As for Sheets, while he’s not producing in the manner expected, he is, nonetheless, producing.

As Cirensica
Member

Hansen is already 24 years old. I easily imagine Hansen being a shut down multiple innings reliever (Think of Hader, Wade Davis, A. Miler, etc) which we will definitely need when contending.

Marty34
Member
Marty34

Given his age and that he reversed all the progress he made the previous year, Hansen is a non-prospect.

Trooper Galactus
Member

AC’s take is reasonable. This one is not.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Second round draft picks suck. If we’re going to avoid signing a FA who fits our needs and timeline so we can hold on to a pick who’s expected value is about one Conor Gillaspie, the Sox should save us the trouble and just stop playing games until 2021

KenWo4LiFe
Member

You’re nutsy you don’t pass on Bryce Harper because of a second round pick and 500 k

ImmortalTimeTravelMan
Member

If they take the same team into next year they are guaranteeing another 100 loss season. I don’t see how Hahn can tell the fans that development is still the most important thing when there were entire stretches of non-MLB player starting in the outfield and on the pitchers mound……

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

well, that’s true.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Not calling up Eloy made it pretty clear that development is not what’s most important to Hahn.

As Cirensica
Member

The same team than last year plus Eloy in the AL Central will not lose 100 games.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

We got only partial seasons from Leury, Avi, Rodon, Palka, Rondon, Castillo, and Jones. It’s worth noting.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Unfortunately, most of those names we should be expecting partial seasons out of based on their track records.

As Cirensica
Member

They drew just 1.93 million during a third consecutive pennant-winning season, down from 2.05 million the year before.

Like you mentioned later in the article, I blame the Al Central division a bit for this. Cleveland won so easily with no challenge whatsoever from their rivals and that probably smothered the wish to go to the ballpark for some fans in a “why bother” fashion.

Trooper Galactus
Member

I really don’t think that’s the case. Winning baseball is winning baseball. If you watched your home team beat the crap out of the Orioles this year, you didn’t walk away from the game disappointed.

Just speculating, but media consumption is more internet based these days than it was during the Indians’ run in the 90s, which means sports coverage skews to national trends. That being the case, people in Cleveland have probably been less exposed to their hometown teams than in the past, with the major market teams dominating the media landscape.

Marty34
Member
Marty34

You can’t give away tickets to games against AL central opponents and since that accounts for about half the home schedule that’s a problem.

As Cirensica
Member

I wouldn’t underestimated good rivalry matches. If the Indians and, let’s say, the White Sox were head to head in the standings, more people would go to their games.

I don’t think this alone is the factor, but it’s worth considering.