Thank you, Yolmer Sánchez!

A decade of fun and laughter: The White Sox gave him a chance, and Yolmer Sánchez has capitalized on it for the past 10 years. (Ashley Sanders)


As my favorite Chicago White Sox player, the recent moves surrounding Yolmer Sánchez have been difficult to comprehend. Instead of dwelling on something that I cannot control, I decided to go back and research (with the tremendous help from Baseball-Reference) Sánchez’s progress throughout the Sox organization and celebrate the life that he has given to his team and fans.

Sánchez became a member of the Chicago White Sox organization on May 6, 2009. At the time, Sánchez was known as “Carlos”: A 16-year-old, switch-hitting infielder looking for a chance to make it to The Show. (For respect toward his name, Sánchez will be referred to as “Yolmer” throughout the article.)

The timeline of Sánchez’s impact as a member of the White Sox:

2009-11

For his first two years in the organization, Yolmer played for the Dominican Summer League and the Appalachian League. By 2011, Sánchez made his way out of rookie ball, playing second base and shortstop for the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators.

For the four months (June-September) that Sánchez was in Kannapolis, he batted .288/.341/.345. He accumulated 76 hits in 63 games, snagged seven bags, and even shot a long ball into the stands! As for his defense, Sánchez had a .980 fielding percentage at second base (53 games) and a .949 fielding percentage at shortstop (10 games).

2012

Sánchez’s early success propelled him to start with the High-A Winston-Salem Dash for the beginning of the 2012 season. From April to July, Yolmer slashed .315/.374/.395 in 92 games. With 19 stolen bases, six triples, and another home run, Sánchez was promoted to the Birmingham Barons (Double-A). In 30 games, Sánchez’s batting line looked like this: .370/.424/.462. On the up-and-up again, Yolmer traveled to his third minor league team in just one baseball year, the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.

At 20, Sánchez was one of the youngest players in Triple-A. The actual youngest at the time? Mike Trout, 19.

In a limited, 11-game window, Sánchez batted .256/.256/.308. Collectively, Sánchez was positioned at shortstop for 68 games and second base for 60, where he was credited with .967 and .982 fielding percentages, respectively. He aided 46 double plays at short and 39 at second. Overall, 2012 saw Yolmer surging through the ranks, as he was firing on all cylinders.

Sánchez did participate in the Sox’s Arizona Fall League, and played winter Venezuelan baseball to cap off his successful 2012 campaign.

2013

Yolmer started and ended his 2013 season with the Charlotte Knights, continuing where he left off the year prior. In 112 games, Yolmer slashed .241/.293/.296. He still saw roughly even playing time at short and second. Playing 52 games at shortstop, Sánchez had a .943 fielding percentage; for the 61 games at second base, Sánchez fielded .983. He was a part of 67 total double plays, and he only committed four errors while playing second.

For the third straight year, Sánchez went on to play winter ball in Venezuela.

2014

For the second straight year, Sánchez started the season with Charlotte. He played 110 games, all the while fighting to not fall back into organizational filler status. After a disappointing offensive 2013, Sánchez performed to the high standards of a .293/.349/.412 batting line. Yolmer played twice at third, 44 games at short and 64 games at second with outstanding fielding percentages across the board.

Establishing himself as a reliable defender and an uprising hitter, Sánchez received the call in July and made his way to The Show!

On July 13, 2014, Sánchez donned No. 77 in his major league debut for the Chicago White Sox, a team who had all the faith in a Venezuelan teenager. Batting second and playing shortstop, Sánchez began a five-year stint in the majors. Unfortunately, he went went 0-for-5, popping out to second base in his first plate appearances and striking out twice. However, Yolmer was perfect in the field, foreshadowing his incredible skill that would eventually earn him a Gold Glove in 2019.

In his second major league baseball game on August 2, Sánchez secured his first major league hit, a single to right field off of Detroit’s Shane Greene, in a 3-for-4 performance!

Sanchez Rookie Season.JPG

On September 27, 2014, I snapped a shot of my favorite player for years to come. Note the lack of accent mark on the jersey in those less-enlightened days. (Ashley Sanders)

Sánchez finished the rest of the 2014 season with the White Sox. He played 28 games: one at short and 27 at second base. He recorded an almost-perfect fielding percentage of .992 at second. Offensively, Yolmer batted .250/.269/.300.

Once again, Sánchez went to Venezuela to play winter ball for the Tiburones de La Guaira to finish his 2014 baseball campaign.

2015

When the 2015 season came rolling into view, Sánchez started his year with the Sox (debuting his new No. 5 jersey). However, it was a short-lived stint from April 8 to April 10, heading back to Charlotte from April 12 to May 13. Not losing any hope for a long-term major-league stay, Sánchez put together a .344/.368/.466 batting line back on the farm. With 26 games at second base, Sánchez put together a .980 fielding percentage, and he played perfect defense at third base for three games.

Tearing up the minors as he did, the White Sox brought Sánchez back up to the big leagues. And shortly into his second stint of the season with the Sox, Sánchez made a major impact.

Sanchez 2015.JPG

On July 11, 2015, Yolmer Sánchez signed a baseball for me down in St. Pete, my very first player autograph. (Ashley Sanders) 

Later that month, my man, Yolmer Homer, ripped a long ball to the stands!

The following day, this happened:

Hyping my No. 1:

Selfie Sunday Sanchez

Arguably the best-ever promotion by the White Sox (#SelfieSunday) gave me another chance to meet Sánchez, on Aug. 30, 2015. (Ashley Sanders)

Sanchez Photo Bomb

Sánchez photobombed a picture featuring my Mom, Avisaíl García, and me. (Ashley Sanders)

First Selfie with Sanchez

Sánchez and I snapped a selfie, a tradition for many years to come. (Ashley Sanders)

Sánchez finished the 2015 season playing 120 games with the South Siders. He batted .224/.268/.326, crushing five home runs, notching a triple, and going 2-for-2 in steals. Defensively, Sánchez played all his games at second base, securing a .990 fielding percentage. Overall, he made a lifelong fan.

Winter 2015 was the last time Sánchez ventured back to his home country to play winter ball.

2016

In order to improve his bat, Sánchez started his 2016 campaign with the Knights. He played 61 games, racking up a .255/.309/.421 batting line, with a .984 fielding percentage between short and second base. Staying true to pattern, Sánchez found his way back to the majors … twice!

And after the July 27 call-up, Sánchez was up with Chicago to stay.

He played 53 games with the Sox that season. He put up a disappointing slash line of .208/.236/.357 with four home runs, but Sánchez did not lose hope.

2017

Before the 2017 season, Sánchez was asked, for the first time in his professional career, how he would like to be addressed. He responded with, “Yolmer,” and a resurgence of Sánchez occurred!

#LeadoffYolmerHomer

Sánchez played 141 games in 2017 with a much-improved batting line: .267/.319/.413. He hit a career-high 12 homers on the season (#YolmerHomer) and had a career-high 59 RBIs. Splitting time between second base (78 games) and third base (52 games) (with two outfield appearances and one at shortstop), Yolmer had .981 and .977 fielding percentages, respectively. This was his best season as a South Sider. Overall he established himself as a reliable, dependable player in his first full season with the White Sox.

2018

This influence carried over into the 2018 season where Sánchez earned his first ever spot in the Opening Day lineup! He started at third base, his primary position of the season. Having a solidified spot in the lineup, Yolmer went on to have another impactful year.

Yolmer April 2018

The first Yolmer selfie of the 2018 season (April 23)! (Ashley Sanders)

And Yolmer kicked off the season with the most iconic Gatorade celebration of the century:

Yolmer Father's Day 2018.JPG

Father’s Day selfie. (Ashley Sanders)

Back at St. Pete where it all began:

The goofy shenanigans strike again:

When I thought that I couldn’t love Yolmer any more than I already do:

Silly Yolmer

Sept. 1, 2018 was one of the best days of my life. (Ashley Sanders)

When 2018 came to a close, Sánchez put up a .242/.306/.372 batting line with eight long balls and 55 RBIs. He recorded a hat trick for career-highs in games played, plate appearances, and triples: 155, 662, and 10, respectively. In fact, Sánchez and Mallex Smith led the American League with 10 triples apiece.

Christmas Sanchez

Best Christmas present ever. (Ashley Sanders)

2019

For a second straight season, Yolmer Sánchez earned a spot in the Opening Day lineup. Uncharacteristically, Sánchez made four errors within the first 10 games, but had only five the rest of the season.

Sanchez Selfie 2019

Another season, another Sánchez selfie (June 15, 2019)! (Ashley Sanders)

Another year, another trip to St. Pete:

Game recognizing game:

Game Recognizes Game

Icons

Sanchez Autograph

Sánchez wrapped up the 2019 season hitting .252/.318/.321 and came in clutch a few times this season:

His fielding percentage was .987, and he aided in a career-high 108 double plays, and he made many beautiful plays like this:

With his tremendous showing as a second baseman, Sánchez earned the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for 2019, beating out finalists DJ LeMahieu and José Altuve.

From his 10 years playing baseball as a member of the White Sox organization, Yolmer Sánchez brought an infectious personality, a reliable glove, and a guy who meets with the fans before every single baseball game. He has accumulated a 8.6 WAR in his major league career. He’s batting .244/.299/.357, and he has hit 31 #YolmerHomers. His career fielding percentage sits at .986 for second base, and he helped turn 330 double plays. At 27 years old, there is still room for growth. His personality and glove-dependability almost ensured himself as a piece to this team’s future … until the bad news dropped:

It’s a bitter business, and it’s a shame that Sánchez has become a free agent. Forever the optimist, I hope by some miracle that Yolmer is signed back into the South Side. Regardless, he is a player who deserves to be on a team by the time spring training rolls around. I’ll be rooting for him no matter where he goes.

I would like to thank Yolmer for bringing life to the organization, hustling during every play, and for being a fan’s favorite player. He gave me someone to root for, and for all his kind acts, this is the least I can do to illustrate my gratitude.

Here’s to Yolmer Sánchez!

 

What, if anything, should the White Sox offer Tsutsugo?

Potential target: Yoshitomo Tsutsugo could supply the White Sox with a reliable, left-handed bat. (Kyodo)


The White Sox have had an unusual amount of difficulty finding a viable player whose primary focus is hitting. The lineup appears to be on solid ground, but right field and designated hitter are exceptions. Another gap on the roster is the lack of solid bats from the left side of the plate.

Luckily, the White Sox understand the need to address these issues this offseason. Also, the White Sox have an opportunity to sign a player who can patch up both of those gaps without offering prospects or a nine-figure contract.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who turned 28 last month, has been a force to be reckoned with in Japan’s Central League for several years. Tsutsugo broke into Japan’s highest level of play in 2010 at age 18, and though his career got off to a slow start, Tsutsugo has posted some supersized numbers at the plate near the tail end of the decade.

Season AVG OBP SLG wRC+
2019 .272 .388 .511 138
2018 .295 .393 .596 155
2017 .284 .396 .513 148
2016 .322 .430 .680 199
2015 .317 .400 .522 166

Source: Deltagraphs

Tsutsugo had a relatively quiet season on offense last season, with his lowest OBP since 2014. The good news is that even in a down year, Tsutsugo still posted a .388 OBP. Tsutsugo’s slash line last season was .272/.388/.511 (138 wRC+) with 29 home runs, which was still terrific by NPB standards. So far, the high point of Tsutsugo’s career was his 2016 campaign, when he slashed .322/.430/.680 (199 wRC+) with 7.5 WAR, easily a career high, per Deltagraphs. Though the NPB is not comparable to major league baseball, Tsutsugo has shown his potential to get on base and hit for power like very few others in Japan.

Defense is Tsutsugo’s largest issue, and that cannot be ignored. Near the beginning of his career, Tsutsugo’s ability at the corner outfield positions was decent, but that part of his game has declined. In 2019, his defensive value was an insane 25.0 runs below average.

Season Offensive RAA Defensive RAA WAR
2019 25.2 -25.0 1.5
2018 41.1 -20.6 3.6
2017 30.5 -11.3 3.6
2016 61.6 -4.7 7.5
2015 40.7 -19.0 3.9

Source: Deltagraphs

Based on FanGraphs positional adjustments, a full-time designated hitter over a 162-game season would earn a defensive value of 17.5 runs below average. NPB seasons are shorter (143 games), so if we apply the same rule there, the automatic penalty for DHs would be about 15.4 runs per full season (Tsutsugo has played between 131 and 139 games in each of the past five seasons). In other words, in both 2018 and 2019, Tsutsugo would have been more valuable as a designated hitter (the Central League, where Tsutsugo played, does not use a DH).

Though Tsutsugo can play right field in a pinch, he is not someone the White Sox should feel comfortable putting there on an everyday basis. However, Tsutsugo does not have to be an everyday right fielder to be useful for the White Sox. The White Sox’s hole at the DH slot is massive. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox got the least amount of production from designated hitters out of every team. With a .197/.275/.342 slash line (64 wRC+) and -3.5 fWAR, White Sox designated hitters were dreadful in every way, and the club desperately needs a player who can provide a reliable, left-handed bat without any other major responsibilities. Tsutsugo should fill that role admirably.

Tsutsugo will be 28 next season and should have quite a bit of good baseball remaining. Given Tsutsugo’s age, his slight decline in production at the plate last season should not be a cause for concern going forward. Finishing the rebuild will require some risk, and I would be happy to take a risk on Tsutsugo. The approximate value of 1.0 WAR on the free agent market is $8 million, and most are expecting Tsutsugo’s future contract to have an AAV of about $10 million. During the SB Nation offseason simulation, we managed to win the bidding for Tsutsugo by giving him a 5-year, $55 million contract.

Based on Tsutsugo’s market price, a contract of that size is likely to be more than enough to land him in real life, too. Five years and $50 million should also get the job done. That length and AAV would both figure to be mighty close to the top in terms of what clubs will offer. We should feel confident that Tsutsugo would post more than the 1.25 WAR per season, making the signing worth the price.

While Tsutsugo is far from the only option, having him on the South Side would bring the White Sox closer to completing the rebuild. Make it happen, front office.

Wheels down, it’s time to show (R)yu the money

Back to the drawing board: The White Sox should shift their focus towards signing Hyun-Jin Ryu. (@Dodgers)


On Wednesday afternoon, the White Sox learned that they lost the bidding war for their primary pitching target, Zack Wheeler. The Philadelphia Phillies made a late push and eventually inked the righthander to a five-year, $118 million contract that will keep him in the NL East. It hurts when you come up empty on someone who was your priority, although it’s worth noting that the White Sox did offer Wheeler the most money, but it was his fiancee’s preference of being closer to home that ultimately led to signing with the Phillies.

Go figure. The one time the White Sox don’t make any moves to acquire family or friends of a free agent and they go the route of offering the most money yet they still come up empty. Wheeler would have been a great addition to a young pitching staff and would’ve had the opportunity to solidify himself near the top of the rotation for many years down the road, but it’s not the end of the world. There are still plenty of good free agent starters that the White Sox can shift their focus towards.

One starter the White Sox should make a run at is Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Los Angeles Dodgers. If Ryu was in any other free agent class, he would be more popular among teams looking for pitching, but he gets a little lost alongside Wheeler, Gerrit Cole, and Stephen Strasburg. Ryu is a bit of a unique situation, given the fact that he will be 33 at the start of next season, but has only had four full seasons where he’s made 20 or more starts.

Staying healthy has been a struggle for Ryu, especially in the early portion of his career. After debuting in 2013, he landed on the 60-day injured list four times with various shoulder, elbow, and groin injuries. Even with all of the injury history, he has still managed to put together a very successful career: Through 125 starts in six seasons, Ryu has a 2.98 career ERA with 665 strikeouts and 164 walks in 740 ⅓ innings. Those numbers have given him a 8.1 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, and a 1.16 WHIP, which is very respectable for a starting pitcher.

The Dodgers have been careful with Ryu returning from injury, making sure they didn’t stretch him out too long and trying to limit the stress he puts on his body. In 2019, Ryu had a much healthier season, and the results were incredible. He made 29 starts while posting a 2.32 ERA with 163 strikeouts and just 24 walks through 182 ⅔ innings. That earned Ryu his first All-Star appearance, and he ended the season second in Cy Young voting. Given his history, this might not have seemed like a possibility, but Ryu showed just how great he can be when he’s feeling like his normal self.

His success as a pitcher is due in large part to the fact that Ryu generates a lot of weak contact and ground balls. His career average exit velocity is 85.9, placing him below the league average of 87.5. In 2019, his average exit velocity was 85.3, which was good enough to place him in the top 4% in all of baseball. In 2019, Ryu generated a ground ball on 50.4% of batted balls, giving him a slightly better percentage than the 48.4% total for his career.

Ryu has a wide arsenal that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, changeup, curveball, and slider. His fastball isn’t overwhelming, registering in the low-to-mid 90s, and he pairs it with a changeup that sits in the mid-80s. However, Ryu’s ability to locate his pitches makes up for his below-average velocity and helps him generate the consistent weak contact and ground balls. He’s become a “master” of painting the edges of the strike zone, throwing 44.2% of his pitches throughout those areas and targeting places where batters struggle to barrel the ball.

All of the ballparks in the AL Central rank among the top 20 in baseball, with two in the top eight, for most average runs scored and average home runs per game. Bringing Ryu into the mix would be a welcoming change, as his pitching style would play well at those parks and he would be set up to have a successful run with the White Sox, assuming that he can continue to stay healthy. In addition, Ryu has always been a pitcher who doesn’t walk many batters. The most walks Ryu has allowed in a full season is 49 over 192 innings during his rookie year in 2013. The White Sox issued the sixth-most walks in baseball last season, and that has been a consistent trend over the last few years.

One factor that could help influence Ryu to sign with the White Sox is their recent addition in Yasmani Grandal. The two of them worked together during Grandal’s time in Los Angeles, and Grandal trails only A.J. Ellis as Ryu’s most frequent catcher. When working with Grandal for 28 games, Ryu has a 3.02 ERA with 45 walks and 139 strikeouts in 143 innings. That’s good for the second-best ERA among catchers who have worked with him for 20 or more games. The pair has had success being battery-mates, and a reunion on the South Side would be in both their best interests.

Ryu’s market seems less robust than the other pitchers at the moment, and while there hasn’t been any information linking the White Sox to the lefty, it would be wise for the team to get in contact with his agent. The only downside to this? Ryu’s agent is Scott Boras, and the White Sox haven’t had the best working relationship with him in the past. Knowing Boras and how he’s able to suck money out of teams better than anyone in the game, he might use Chicago’s recent failure with Wheeler as a way for them to pony up more money for Ryu. While there’s plenty of reasons as to why Ryu makes a lot of sense and why it would be worth it to sign him, spending a lot of money on him is a risk given his injury history.

As a Plan B after failing on Plan A, Ryu makes a lot of sense for the White Sox. He’s a ground ball pitcher who doesn’t allow much hard contact, and he’s lefthander who would bring balance to the rotation. In 2019 not only was Ryu healthy, he looked like a guy who can pitch at the top of a rotation. There is risk involved with this signing, but it’s a risk the White Sox should be willing to take.

So you didn’t sign Zack Wheeler …

Close: But, nope. (@OTHeroics1)


There’s plenty of analytical reasons that laid out the case for the White Sox to have no qualms offering top dollar to Zack Wheeler. Now that Zack (and to-be Mrs. Wheeler) has decided Philadelphia was he and his family’s preferred destination to be multi-millionaires, I need to speak to the contingent on Sox Twitter that is unhappy about another failed FA pursuit.

Zack Wheeler: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

If the reports leaking out are true and the White Sox really did offer more money than the Phillies, then tell me: How far were you willing to go? Because, and be honest, you were going to be royally pissed if it took $150 million (call it the Mrs. Wheeler Tax) to get Zack to sign here. But again, not diving into hypotheticals, how can we blame the organization for actually doing what they should have done with Manny Machado — this time, offer the most money?!

The only person to “blame” is Zack Wheeler and whatever forces of chance/fate led to his fiancé’s family settling in the Garden State which evidently meant more to the Wheelers than any of us had an inkling of. But $118 million, a lower state income tax, and a literal Uber ride’s distance from home seems to be enough for Zack. And, once more for those in the back, THAT’S OK.

Jesus Montero Christ, there are multiple pitchers still available (Hi Madison! Hi Hyun-Jin! Hi Dallas!), a Goose Island-sized hole in right field to fill, and a whole metric ton of time to figure it out.

If Grandal is the only signing (other than Bennett Karrol’s premonitions coming true and Felix Hernandez gets fitted for a Sox uniform) and Dylan Covey is getting thousand-word think pieces on his final chance at the fifth starter spot in March, then I’m all for pitchforks and toilet papering Rick Hahn’s house. But for now, grow … the … hell … up … and move on.

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant a bit. Keep an eye out for South Side Hit Pen’s brand-new podcast dropping soon! Clinton Cole and Brett Ballantini are hosting and here to calm your troubled souls, Sox fans! (Don’t worry, they only talk about Zack Wheeler as the No. 1 White Sox FA target for, like, 33% of the podcast!)

Early moves close the book on the rebuild — it’s time to start winning!

It’s a Yaz! So far, White Sox fans are seeing less of the labor and more of the baby this offseason. (YouTube)


At this time last year, the White Sox were embarking on a seemingly endless journey in pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The club had a minimal payroll heading into the 2018 offseason, and seemed like they were in a good position to land one of the big fish. Even though the team wasn’t completely ready to start winning and they still had to work on the development of some of their own key players, Rick Hahn and Co. knew this was an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.

With Harper and Machado having a smaller market due to their steep price tag, the White Sox were aggressive in their pursuits early as they tried to sell both players on the future of the ballclub, and how they would have a great opportunity to win consistently on the South Side. Unfortunately, we all know how this story ends, as the White Sox came up completely empty. It was yet another offseason where the White Sox were actively engaging with the big free agents, but swung and missed, leaving a lot of fans in doubt about the team’s future.

Sure, the White Sox do have talent in the farm system. However, it’s almost impossible to win on homegrown talent alone. Teams need to be able to supplement what they already have with players from outside of the organization, whether to fill holes, bring over veterans to guide younger players, or make the most of an opportunity to sign/trade for a player who once might’ve looked like a longshot. There are many reasons why free agency and trades are important, and after last offseason’s shutout it started to feel like the White Sox were running out of time to strike and make an impact move.

Fast forward to this offseason, where the White Sox once again found their name in the rumors surrounding almost all of the top free agents available. There was a little more skepticism from fans this time around, and rightfully so, as they didn’t want to get their hopes up again in what could be another failure of an offseason. Hahn acknowledged the frustration, and knew this offseason was important when he addressed the media at the GM Meetings earlier this month:

And he was right. White Sox fans are tired of “having a seat at the table” as Hahn likes to say, and want the front office to start making things happen. Being in the mix for top tier free agents and coming up empty is an exhausting practice, especially for a fan base that is starving for a winning team. At the conclusion of the 2019 season, the team was trending upwards, in large part due to the developments of core players, the arrival of Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, and with Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the way shortly. In addition to that, the team would be getting Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón back for the upcoming season as well.

With all the positive developments that came from last season, the White Sox still needed a few dominoes to fall, and had to make something happen this winter in order to start putting out a product that could win consistently. The team still has quite a few holes to fill with starting pitching, left-handed hitting, and right field being the most notable. This free agent class was littered with plenty of names that could fill those gaps and instantly be an upgrade, and it was time for the White Sox to, in Hahn’s parlance, show us the baby.

It didn’t take long for the organization to show they were serious about winning this offseason, as they came out of the gates quickly and inked Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal that gave the catcher the largest contract in the history of the franchise.

Grandal checks off a lot of boxes for the White Sox. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, gets on base frequently, and is one of the best defensive backstops in the game. This is that type of immediate-impact signing that will benefit the club and pitching staff in many ways. Everything Grandal brings to the table makes him the complete package, and his name was up there as one of the best available free agents. The White Sox were able to get the deal done and outbid the rest of his suitors, which is a result that isn’t common on the South Side.

After a painfully long 2018 offseason, it was beyond refreshing to see the White Sox get a deal of that significance done early in the process. It also goes to show that Hahn and Co. are ready to get down to business this year. Not to mention, having Grandal as a member of the team now makes the White Sox a more attractive destination for other free agents, especially pitchers. He’s a highly-respected catcher throughout baseball, and just about anyone would benefit from working with him full-time. His elite framing ability is going to get the most out of the pitchers he works with, as he’s sure to get them a ton of extra strikes during his time in Chicago.

One free agent pitcher that the White Sox have been linked to this offseason is Zack Wheeler, one of the most prized pitching targets this winter. Members from the Mets media and other Mets outlets started mentioning the White Sox as serious suitors for Wheeler. Danny Abriano of SNY even went as far to say that the White Sox were among the “leading group” of teams bidding for Wheeler’s services. This news dropped just days before the Grandal signing became official, so Hahn was working on signing not just one significant free agent right away, but two.

Hahn could’ve sat around and celebrated the first big signing, but instead immediately went right back to work, focused on making the White Sox a winning team, and making them a winning team now. There hasn’t been much movement on the Wheeler front since those initial tidbits of information dropped, but at least the club has identified what would be another major upgrade — and they wouldn’t have to spend $200 million or more for that upgrade, as they would have last year. Sure, Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg would both be incredible additions, but those two are likely going to be out of price range. It would be wise to allocate the money among multiple players, as opposed to sinking most of it into one arm. Wheeler is in a tier slightly below Cole and Strasburg, but he has the potential to be a very good pitcher for a long time — and at half the price.

In addition to that, the White Sox outrighted Yolmer Sánchez and signed José Abreu to a three-year, $50 million dollar contract. The Abreu deal didn’t make much sense at the time, especially considering the fact that he recently accepted the qualifying offer. However, with the extension, the White Sox will save money this year and it won’t hamper their ability to continue to sign free agents. Not to mention, Abreu has been around some rough teams during his White Sox career and he deserves some security for the next few years. As far as Yolmer goes, that decision was made primarily because he was due to make $6.2 million in arbitration. Even though he’s fresh off of winning a Gold Glove, defense is about the only value he provides to the team, unless you count being a clubhouse guy/Gatorade showers.

The White Sox could’ve easily been OK with paying Yolmer the $6.2 million, because they still aren’t committed to a high payroll as of now, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they did that. However, with Madrigal being ready to take over second base in the not-so-distant future, it didn’t make sense to pay Yolmer to ride the bench. The team also has Danny Mendick, who can contribute much more offensively than Sánchez, and while he’s not a Gold Glove-caliber defender, he is solid defensively and can play multiple positions. Mendick is a perfect fit to hold it down at second base while Madrigal finishes up his development in Triple-A. Barring any surprise trades or signings, I would expect Mendick to take that job for now.

So what happens next? Well, the White Sox are off to a good start this winter, but their work isn’t even close to being done. Grandal was a great signing, but they still need to add more. We know the White Sox are once again in the mix with a lot of free agents, but this time around it feels a little different. They’ve made some noise early, and it finally seems like the front office is ready to shift their focus towards winning and being more competitive. They’ve already shown the willingness to outbid other teams and set the market for certain players, and hopefully they will continue to do that with their other targets.

The AL Central is the worst division in baseball right now. With a few more moves and the arrival of some of the highly-touted prospects, the White Sox could potentially be in the heat of a divisional race for most of next year. At the very least, there should be significant improvement, and the team might be able to squeeze their way into a wild card spot. A lot would have to go right for the White Sox to be fighting for the playoffs in 2020, but for now, at least the team is closing the book on the rebuild and is ready to start winning.

Joc of all trades: Pederson a perfect fit for Chicago’s right field woes

Rock n’ Joc: Reviving a trade for this fella could solve a lot of problems for the White Sox. (Rawlings)


The MLB Hot Stove usually takes a slow-roll, kindling approach before exploding –– especially when it comes to the last few winters. The 2020 offseason was presumed to be no different, until the Chicago White Sox dumped $123 million worth of gasoline onto the stove top, bringing Yasmani Grandal, a premium two-way catcher into the fold, and extending hometown star José Abreu.

These early moves put the accelerant on a publicly-stated desire by the front office to address holes at DH, C, RF, and in the starting rotation. Chicago’s dotted transaction history to begin the offseason places even more of an onus on smoothing out the rough edges of a roster that suddenly looks on track to do some damage in 2020.

SSHP’s own James Fox has already written about the next logical step in the process: Securing a front-end starter in the form of free agent Zack Wheeler.

Dipping into free agency and deploying cash have been the avenues of choice in player acquisition thus far, but Rick Hahn and Co. have been transparent in that the trade market is a viable route as well when it comes to certain upgrades.

That may not ring truer than in the context of right field, where the free agent inventory isn’t exactly thin, but is riddled with case-by-case complications, especially when it comes to finding a fit lacking warts.

There’s Nicholas Castellanos, who would surely be a spark in the lineup — but his glove in right is sure to douse some of those contributions in terms of overall net gains. Plus, his price tag is such that similar funds in the Brinks Truck could be wheeled elsewhere, if you catch my drift –– particularly if it’s an either-or scenario budget-wise.

Kole Calhoun is a reasonable enough stopgap, but given that DH is starting to look like a timeshare between Grandal, Abreu, James McCann, and Zack Collins, that’s not a significant enough addition for a right field position that now needs to feature more of a consistent lineup cog. After all, Chicago right fielders combined for a dismal .220/.227/.288 line in 2019, serving as their most glaring roster blemish.

Marcell Ozuna could provide some pop, but he’s far removed from his spectacular 2017 campaign with the Miami Marlins, in which he pounded 37 home runs and featured a slugging percentage 100 points better than his career average. At the right price, he’s a potential free agent fit, with some upside to go along with a very playable floor in the high ~700 OPS and two-WAR range.

But that would mean paying for more than you might actually get, eating the draft compensation consequences, and not spreading dollars elsewhere across the diamond, like the pitcher’s bump.

Then there’s Avisaíl García, who is simply not returning to the White Sox. They had the opportunity to retain him for $6-$8 million last offseason but chose to non-tender him instead. That says everything about their current interest. He’s a passable corner outfielder with steady tools, but low defensive value. And despite a potent frame and occasional bursts, García not been a benefactor of the juiced-ball era’s power dividends.

Same applies for Yasiel Puig, who is just not meant to wear black and white. For whatever reason, this oft-rumored and volatile target hasn’t found a place on the South Side, despite the ever-present Cuban-connection narrative and positional need. The White Sox are placing a premium on clubhouse culture, and there seems to have been and likely continues to be a mismatch here.

Corey Dickerson typically mashes when healthy while also sporting non-sinking defense. Despite an injury-riddled 2019, he’d be the go-to option in the free agent market and may very well be what the White Sox pursue.

But can Chicago do better on the trade circuit?

There’s no Christian Yelich-style deal to be had this offseason, and there’s a strong case for why Chicago’s not even at the point where trading from the upper echelon of their prospect pool for a single prized fixture would even make sense.

Funneling multiple upside assets into one premium proven player comes at that “final piece” stage, which is at least a year or two down the line. It dooesn’t help that right fielders like Cody Bellinger, Max Kepler, and Austin Meadows aren’t available, anyway.

Mookie Betts is available, but now that’s a move more than a year down the line, seeing as front office actors don’t even consider rentals until they’ve paid off their rebuilt suburban mortgage and suddenly want to live in a high-rise on Parade Ave. in Championship City for a year.

However, there is one player who won’t cost an “arm and a bat” plus Hahn’s first-born, whose performance is just a tick below the top-tier.

That would be Joc Pederson, who sits below the Bellingers of the world but was still better than just about two-thirds of the league’s right fielders with a 3.0 fWAR in 2019 –– an output that also outpaces every available free agent at any outfield position not named Brett Gardner (who can’t be expected to end up anywhere other than back in New York pinstripes).

Pederson himself has had an interesting MLB career, going from the 15th-best prospect in baseball in 2014 while flaunting a 30/30 ceiling, to a 2015 full-season stint that saw him parlay initial explosiveness into an All-Star selection, only to sputter out as the season dragged on.

The depth and versatility of the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield has always made them a matchup smorgasbord, which limited Pederson’s playing time at various moments due to his poor splits against left-handed pitching. Such curated and maximized deployment resulted in an .847 OPS with 25 bombs in 2016.

An injury-riddled 2017 was rock bottom of sorts, where Pederson turned in a .212/.331/.407 line with just 11 home runs.

He got back to the 25-home run threshold in 2018 with an .843 OPS and slugging percentage above .500, but it still didn’t make him a lock to be a Dodgers stalwart moving forward.

Entering his age 27 season, he started to look like the odd man out in an increasingly crowded Dodgers outfield that included Chris Taylor, Bellinger, the newly signed AJ Pollock,  emerging top prospect Alex Verdugo, and rumored aspirations of splashing on Bryce Harper.

Chicago read the tea leaves and immediately got on the phone lines despite still apparently pursuing Harper themselves, which turned out to be overplayed in its own right. Here was the first scoop from FanSided’s Jason Kinander:

Legend has it that this trade was actually pretty darn close to being filed for print. But deals are susceptible to “leaks,” and those leaks can seemingly manifest into floodgates of competition from other clubs. In the case of the Pederson deal, the flood rose L.A.’s price tag for Pederson beyond Chicago’s comfort zone –– something Hahn essentially alluded to at an NBC Chicago Summer podcast interview at Reggie’s Chicago, despite his usual couched language.

Yet, when the dust settled, not only wasn’t Pederson traded to Chicago, he wasn’t traded at all, so who’s to say why the I’s and T’s could never be officially dotted. Maybe it’s still possible to get “cold feet” in LA despite the beachy weather.

As history would have it, Pederson would go on to produce arguably the best year of his career in 2019, with a .249/.339/.538 slash line and a career-high 36 home runs to go along with his highest fWAR since 2016. Not to mention top career marks in HR/FB ratio backed by a career-high hardest-hit rate (45.2% per FanGraphs).

What’s interesting, though, is that the crowded outfield of 2019 hasn’t really changed in the context of 2020. Bellinger, Verdugo, and Pollock are the tailor-made starting outfield and there’s still Taylor and Matt Beaty to take reps out there as well. Instead of Harper potentially on the horizon like last offseason, the Dodgers are exploring another prize in Mookie Betts via trade –– which in theory could involve Pederson. Yet ultimately, the script is very similar to last winter where smoke was almost met with fire.

It almost goes without saying that Pederson checks a lot of boxes for the White Sox.

He’s got the defensive chops to play right field, as he has played center for a good portion of his career and has the arm to handle a corner. He brings true left-handed power to a lineup that desperately lacks it even after the addition of Grandal.

Pederson’s contract situation fits like a glove. He’s got one season left of team control, and would come at an arb rate in the $8-$10 million range. That’s the perfect bridge to an internal option, in case one of Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe, Blake Rutherford, Luis Gonzalez, or Steele Walker emerge as a true everyday outfield option to pair with Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert for the long haul.

At just 28, Pederson could excel beyond what he’s presently shown and even become a worthy extension candidate if the farm goes through a drought and other options look undesirable. It’s entirely possible that Pederson takes advantage of the bandbox that is Sox Park, goes off for 40 home runs, and realizes enough of an OBP and defensive value to be a keeper beyond 2020.

The main pitfall is Pederson’s near unplayable splits against lefties, but assuming superutility player Leury García is back for 2020, his career .285/.311 AVG./OBP. splits could cover Pederson semi-competently. That said, a true fourth outfielder and better platoon fit than Adam Engel could be pursued to complement Pederson if a trade with L.A. actually comes to fruition.

So here we are, yet again, with another Dodgers outfielder surfacing, swimming, and downright bobbing around in the sea that is the White Sox rumor mill. It has to happen at some point, right? Books could be written from all the prior trade conjecture surrounding Matt Kemp, Pederson, Puig, and yes, even Andre Ethier at one point, with regard to Chicago’s predilection for a Hollywood outfielder. Even Verdugo was a popular name during Quintana-Dodgers rumors.

So what will it take for a player to finally book their flight from LAX to O’Hare? Kinander gives us some insight into the potential cost, with perspective into last offseason’s deal structure at least:

It’s safe to say the interest in Carson Fulmer is dead. Bryce Bush destroyed rookie ball in his draft year, but was absolutely abysmal last season in A-Ball, with a .201/.285/.346 slash line and K-rate north of 30.

Aaron Bummer was coming off a mixed 2018 campaign when the Dodgers apparently had interest. The good metrics were a 2.40 FIP and 9.9 K/9 while the bad were a 4.26 ERA, 1.579 WHIP, and a 11.4 H/9 metric that gave pause. While Pederson had a career year in 2019, Bummer did so as well. He posted a 2.13 ERA across 67.2 innings, with a 3.41 FIP, sub-one WHIP, and limited hits to just 5.7 per nine.

He’s far from just a lefty specialist, limiting RHB to a .234/.337/.332 career mark. Bummer’s transformation came from increased fastball velocity, the introduction of a cutter, as well as positive regression from previous bad luck. There’s a far more detailed explanation here.

Still, the 82.3% strand rate and .228 BABIP are almost the inverse of the bad luck from 2018 and somewhat unsustainably positive, which means Bummer’s true self might be somewhere in between 2018 and 2019 — but the full package is still a non-specialized, nearly lights-out reliever.

There’s a lot of volatility in relievers, but there’s also five years worth of cheap control in Bummer as well. That seems steep for one year of Pederson, but if the White Sox wanted to guarantee it would get done, then this is a one-for-one that would make ink dry on LA’s end at least.

Maybe at that point, just paying for Dickerson and keeping Bummer makes more sense, but there’s still the chance that net-net in 2019, Pederson outpaces that tandem in wins if a replacement level arm could be plugged in for Bummer.

But between Caleb Frare and Jace Fry, the White Sox are very thin on reliable lefty pen options, and neither the free agent market nor their system provide much in the way of immediate help. At that point, trading five years of a potentially plus-reliever for what could be a one-year stopgap starts to seem ill-advised.

The White Sox could then look to a prospect-only package here, given the leverage of Pederson truly being an odd man out in LA, but he won’t just be given away for nothing.

Something like RHP Jonathan Stiever (No. 7 White Sox prospect per MLB) and RHP Codi Heuer (No. 19) would likely be enough to get it done.

If there was very little competition in Pederson’s trade market, Stiever could be swapped for LHP Konnor Pilkington (No. 16 prospect) and a pot-sweetener like OF Luis Meises. But that’s about the line before a Dickerson deal starts to make more sense, unless Chicago likes Pederson enough to at least consider this the beginning of a longer-term relationship.

Adding Pederson to the existing offensive corps would undoubtedly give the White Sox a playoff lineup –– at least offensively. But Stiever is a legit prospect and one that Chicago is very high on, so parting with him could be the first real sting of this impending transition to the promised land.

This is not the type of trade a rebuilding team makes, but all indications are that the White Sox no longer wish to be a rebuilding team.

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José Abreu signs three-year, $50M contract

Locked in: Power-hitting first baseman José Abreu signed a contract that will keep him on the South Side through 2022. (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)


After making a big splash in free agency yesterday, the White Sox remained active, as they signed José Abreu to a three-year, $50 million contract. This contract will keep Abreu under team control through the end of 2022. Abreu will receive a signing bonus of $5 million, $11 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, and $18 million in 2022 with $4 million deferred.

Abreu, who will turn 33 in January, is coming off a season in which he slashed .284/.330/.503 with a 117 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR, and 2.4 bWAR. Per Baseball Savant, Abreu was a bit unlucky last year. Abreu posted a wOBA of .344, but the quality of his contact shows that his wOBA should have been .359.

Though situational stats like hitting with runners in scoring position are not predictive, Abreu’s value to the White Sox last year was greater than his WAR may indicate. Abreu slashed .337/.368/.590 with a 141 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, and as a result, he gave the White Sox some much-needed hits in high-leverage situations. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Abreu led the American League in runs batted in (123).

Abreu has played six years in the majors and has yet to play for an organization other than the White Sox. In those six years, Abreu has been worth 17.9 fWAR, or 21.2 bWAR. If Abreu averages 2.0 WAR in each of the three years of his contract, Abreu would only be slightly behind Paul Konerko (24.0 fWAR/28.9 bWAR as a member of the White Sox) in terms of WAR.

Some have criticized this move as a classic Jerry Reinsdorf “loyalty deal.” While it is possible that Abreu will disappoint as he inches past his prime, it appears unlikely that this contract fits the “loyalty deal” description. Free agents are considered worth their price if they accumulate 1.0 WAR for every $8 million, so Abreu only needs about 2.0 WAR per season to reach that target.

Unlike the Grandal signing, which nearly every White Sox fan loves (and rightfully so), reviews on this contract are mixed. On paper, though, this is not an egregious overpay by any stretch of the imagination, and it is nice to have Abreu’s power-hitting and leadership back on the South Side.

White Sox: Final Report Card

Way back at the midway point of the season, we took a look at the White Sox from the standpoint of the whole versus the sum of the parts – that is, whether the Sox were getting value added from Ricky Renteria, et al.

Back then, the answer appeared to be “yes.” The Sox were 39-42, not only well above expectations and well above what run differential would suggest (351 runs scored vs. 420 allowed leads to 34-47 or 33-48, depending on whose measurement you use), but well above the some of the parts, as measured by WAR.

Aristotle anticipated advanced baseball stat possibilities.

At the 81-game mark, Baseball-Reference had Sox position players at 5.9 bWAR, several of them dragged down by terrible dWAR. B-R had pitchers at 5.5 bWAR, two-thirds from Lucas Giolito, and most of the staff below zero. FanGraphs had the position players at 5.5 fWAR (24th in MLB), pitchers at 5.1 (21st).

That’s 11.4 bWAR and 11.1 fWAR, very close. WAR in both cases equals 48 wins a season, or 24 at the midpoint, so by WAR, the Sox should have had 35 wins. That made the whole four wins more than the sum of the parts.

That made Ricky Renteria look pretty good, overbunting and batting Yonder Alonzo cleanup notwithstanding (I think Ricky kept Alonzo in the fourth slot just to troll the front office, which, if so, was quite clever and eventually worked).

Now, at season’s end, does the same “whole is better than the sum of its parts” thing apply?

Nah.

The Sox ended the season 72-89.5, saved from 90 losses by Mother Nature wiping out a game last Friday that they were losing. Thus, the break even on the whole and the parts would be at 24 WAR.

The final stats have position players at 13.5 bWAR, led by Yoán Moncada at 4.6, Tim Anderson at 4.0 and James McCann at 3.8. Of the regulars, only Yolmer Sánchez (+1.7), McCann (+1.4) and Adam Engel (+.5) were on the plus side defensively, with, as you’d expect, José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez dragging themselves way down with terrible fielding.

The non-pitchers fare worse under fWAR, coming in at a total of 10.9, more than half of that from Moncada alone. FanGraphs punishes Anderson more for his fielding (has anyone before ever led the majors in both batting average and errors?), and give McCann less credit for his.

On the pitching side, the numbers were closer, with bWAR at 11.8 and fWAR at 12.3. Giolito dominates, of course, at 5.6 and 5.1 respectively, but his numbers aren’t double where he’d been at the midpoint, not surprisingly, since he went from 11-2 to 14-9 and his ERA climbed .69.

So, in the end we have bWAR totaling 25.3, fWAR 23.3. One calls for 73 wins, one for 71, and because the actual number was 72:

The Law of Conservation of Mass strikes the White Sox.

In the final analysis, Renteria deserves neither credit nor blame for the White Sox performance. The real credit goes to the people who developed the various WARs, because it turns out they know their stuff.

As for the Pythagorean side, the probabilities based on run differential, with 708 runs scored (24th in MLB) and 832 allowed (22nd), the Sox should have been 69-92, but since Pythagoras has been dead for 2,500 years he couldn’t know that the White Sox liked to get blown out. Actually, that was mostly the case in the first half of the year, when in games decided by five or more runs the club went 8-16, while they were a more respectable 11-13 in the second half.

Pythagoras really knew his triangles, but in baseball he failed to account for really bad pitching.

The midpoint report card also looked at walks and strikeouts, and darned if the Sox didn’t get even worse at those in the second half, which helps explain why they went from three games under to 17.5. They’d been sixth in the AL in batting average at the end of June, and advanced to fifth at the end of September, at .261, but they stayed 11th in on-base percentage, thanks to being by far the worst in the big leagues at drawing walks, at 378.

I know this is beating a dead horsehide, but with 1,549 strikeouts, that makes the Sox K/BB ratio 4.1/1, so far and away the worst in MLB that second place isn’t even in sight. The average is 2.7/1, with Houston being at 1.8. Houston wins a few games. If the White Sox don’t get that fixed, and fixed soon, you can put off being competitive for a whole lot longer, especially since the Sox don’t refuse walks to knock things out of the park, being only 25th in HRs.

But I digress. Back to the report card. Looks like a gentleman’s C. When it comes to Sox management, in the dugout or out, C is as good as it gets.

Six Pack of Stats: White Sox 5, Tigers 3

Win No. 72: The season ended on a victorious note. (FanGraphs)

White Sox win Game No. “162”

After an exciting finish to the season, let’s go into the stats one last time in 2019:

.335

Tim Anderson wins the MLB and AL batting title with a .335 batting average! Congrats, Stick Talk! Let’s go for back-to-back titles in 2020!

1

Kelvin Herrera, during the last game of the season, records his first save of his 2019 campaign.

2

Joe Resis, my fellow editor-in-crime, has made it back to the #SoxMath Championship at SoxFest for back-to-back seasons!

6

The South Siders used a combination of six pitchers (Detwiler, Cordero, Osich, Marshall, Bummer, and Herrera) en route to their end-of-the-season win.

72

The White Sox picked up their 72nd win of the season! They avoid a 90th loss, and that is a stat worth celebrating!

123

José Abreu secures the AL RBI lead with 123 during his 2019 season. I hope he continues to wear the pinstripes for many, many years to come!

The White Sox win the final game of the 2019 season, 5-3

Ending on a High Note: The Chicago White Sox win their 72nd game to end their season, 72-89. (@WhiteSox)

Anderson wins the MLB and AL batting titles, and Abreu secures the AL RBI lead

The 2019 Chicago White Sox end their season on a positive note: capturing their 72nd win of the season! For as much as the season aggravated fans, it did bring its sunshine…

The Detroit Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the first off of a Miguel Cabrera home run. However, in the bottom-half of the inning, José Abreu scored on a throwing error by Detroit’s third baseman, Ronny Rodriguez.

Bottom of the fourth inning, the infamous #SoxMath was played. The 2019 finalists:

South Side Hit Pen’s very own, Joe Resis, will be back at SoxFest defending his 2018 championship title! Congratulations, and good luck, Joe!

Back to the game, the score stayed knotted at one until the Tigers took the lead back in the third off of a bloop, Jordy Mercer RBI-single that scored Victor Reyes.

Once again, have no fear White Sox fans becasue the Good Guys put up a four-spot in the sixth to take the lead back, 5-2.

Yoán Moncada grounded out to tie the game at 2, which scored Danny Mendick — who came in as Tim Anderson’s replacement.

STICK TALK!

Eloy Jiménez doubled home Ryan Goins, who pinch-ran for Pito.

Welington Castillo finished the inning’s scoring by launching a two-run home run for that 5-2 lead.

One-out in the ninth inning, Rodriguez launched a solo home run to left field to decrease the scoring deficit, 5-3.

Kelvin Herrera was able to close it out, and the White Sox enter the 2019-2020 offseason on a victorious note!

We all know what that means!!!

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Keep checking out South Side Hit Pen for many offseason reads! It has been my honor bringing coverage to the South Side Sox and SSHP community beginning in May of this year. I look forward to many more writings in this growing community of passionate White Sox fans! Rest up; there is a lot to do for 2020! I’m predicting many more sunglasses emojis and a playoff appearance!