This Weekend in White Sox History

We’ll always have Kansas City: Matt Davidson made a BIG impression on the Royals to start 2018. (@MLBTradeRumors)


March 28, 1981
The Sox dealt pitcher Ken Kravec to the Cubs for pitcher Dennis Lamp. Over the next three seasons Lamp would do everything for the club … start, pitch long relief, close games. He’d toss a one-hitter against Milwaukee on August 25, losing his no-hitter in the ninth inning when Robin Yount blooped a double. Lamp would then lead the “Winnin’ Ugly” 1983 Western Division champion White Sox with 15 saves.


March 29, 2018
The earliest Opening Day in history at that time turned out to be a record-setting day for the White Sox, who blasted Kansas City, 14-7. The Sox tied the record for most Opening Day home runs by hitting six at Kauffman Stadium. (The 1988 Mets also hit six, against the Montreal Expos.) Matt Davidson became the fourth player in history to hammer three home runs on Opening Day, as he went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and five RBIs. Tim Anderson had two home runs and drove in three, with José Abreu hitting the other home run. Yolmer Sánchez also drove in three for the White Sox.

Subs provide spark, pitching shuts down Reds in 7-2 win

Young blood: Yermín Mercedes, Luis Basabe, and Micker Adolfo all contributed to a key ninth-inning rally this afternoon. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


GOODYEAR, ARIZ. — After yesterday’s game was cancelled, the White Sox were able to squeeze in their first Cactus League matchup this afternoon, as they traveled to Goodyear to take on the Reds. The lineup was stacked, giving White Sox fans a look at most of the guys that will be playing regularly once the season starts on March 26.

However, it wasn’t the starting lineup that was the story of the day, but the subs who came in and helped seal a 7-2 victory.

Dylan Cease took the mound this afternoon for his first Cactus League start and came out of the gates firing, hitting 99 and 98 mph consecutively to start his day. Cease went for two innings, which is the norm for starters at the early stages of spring training. He allowed at least two batters to reach base in each inning, but they never amounted to anything thanks to his defense and three strikeouts.

All things considered, Cease’s command was pretty good for his first outing. There were moments where he struggled to find the strike zone, but those moments never hurt him — and for his first in-game action in months, his performance could’ve been a lot worse.

As for the rest of the White Sox starters, it was a very quiet day. At the start of spring training, it’s common for pitchers to be ahead of hitters, and that was evident this afternoon. Tim Anderson had an infield single in his first at-bat, but that was the only hit among starters until James McCann had a double to lead things off in the top of the fifth. Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu, and Luis Robert all went a combined 0-for-11 on the day. Moncada, Abreu, and Robert each hit the ball hard on different occasions, but they have nothing to show for it.

But even though most of the starters struggled, they managed to give the White Sox 2-0 lead thanks to some timely hitting in the top of the fifth.

After Carson Fulmer put runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, Matt Foster entered the game in a tough situation. However, Foster would rise to the occasion. He generated a weak fly ball and a grounder to quickly get two outs after facing just two batters. McCann helped get Foster completely out of the jam by gunning down Shogo Akiyama trying to steal, for the third and final out. Foster went on to pitch in the following inning, where he once again shut down the Reds and didn’t allow a run.

At this point in the game, there were all new faces in the field for the White Sox — and when the fun began. Seby Zavala took over for McCann and blasted an opposite-field, solo home run to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh. A lot of hitters were aggressive today, wanting to make a statement early. Seby, however, was not. He was patient at the plate, wasn’t fooled by junk outside of the zone, and once he got his pitch he deposited over the wall in the right, center gap.

Zavala wasn’t the only sub who would come through for the White Sox this afternoon. After the Reds made it a 3-2 game in the bottom half of the eighth, the White Sox were looking to add insurance runs in the ninth and they would do just that.

Micker Adolfo got the rally started with a double, and would later come around to score on an error, the first of two unearned runs in the inning.

Nick Madrigal would also join the party by scorching a RBI single to left field. Madrigal made a few mistakes in the field this afternoon, but he made up for it with this RBI. All told, the White Sox plated four runs on four hits in the ninth and put the game out of reach for the Reds.

Tyler Johnson finished this one off with a 1-2-3 inning where he picked up two strikeouts and was sitting in the upper-90’s with his fastball.

The White Sox will be back in action tomorrow as they take on the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 PM CT, with Alex McRae taking the bump. This is the first of six games televised by NBC Sports this spring, so don’t miss it.

Potential White Sox lineups for 2020

Crazy 88: With Luis Robert now expected to be on this year’s Opening Day roster, the offense should be absolutely lethal. (@KnightsBaseball)


Thanks to the extension of potential superstar outfielder Luis Robert, the Opening Day roster looks relatively set — at least on the offensive side. That’s not to say that there’s a bit of uncertainty, as the White Sox could still pursue a second base option in case the team feels Nick Madrigal isn’t quite ready for Opening Day. Also, the possibility exists for a right-handed platoon for Nomar Mazara in right field (Hunter Pence, Kevin Pillar or Yasiel Puig may make some sense there, if they’re willing to accept a platoon scenario). While Madrigal may receive a preseason extension, chances are the White Sox pass for now, due in part to his lack of power potential.

Anyway, here’s what this Sox fan would like to see (assuming that Madrigal does make the Opening Day squad) versus righties and southpaws.

Lineup vs. righties

(1) Nick Madrigal — 2B. Perhaps I’m a little old school, but I prefer my leadoff hitters to run like the wind and see enough pitches to work the opposing pitcher’s counts. Enter Madrigal. In the minors, he slashed a terrific .325/.395/.407 against righthanders in 2019. He obviously knows how to handle the bat, and isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes because of his impeccable ability to make contact. Infield defenses will likely play him to bunt, which could free up numerous opportunities to poke base hits through the infield. Sure, Madrigal’s walk total (44) last year wasn’t all that impressive; however, he still would’ve led last year’s White Sox squad with that number if he wouldn’t have played in the shortened minor league schedule. Expect Madrigal to walk a bit more with experience as he acquaints himself with each pitcher.

(2) Yasmani Grandal — C. This actually was a difficult call for me, as I was toying putting Yoán Moncada here. Grandal’s OBP (.372) versus righties was similar to Moncada’s, but Moncada owned a significantly higher slugging percentage versus righties than Grandal. Thus, I’d prefer to see Moncada in a lineup position where he could drive in more runs. Grandal makes an excellent No. 2 hitter here with his .372 OBP and .441 SP, and as evidenced by his 109 walks last year, he’s willing to take pitches that would allow Madrigal more opportunities to steal bases.  

(3) Eloy Jiménez — LF. The easy choice would be to go with José Abreu here, but his numbers last year simply didn’t stack up to those Jiménez compiled against righties. Jiménez provided far better offensive numbers against righties (.270/.313/.535) than the veteran first baseman, and his 31 homers despite missing 40 games show he should be a force for quite a long time. While he struck out at a high clip last year (134), Jiménez did improve as the season went along and has a history of adapting and learning from mistakes.

(4) Edwin Encarnación — DH. Despite missing essentially one-third of last season due to injuries, Encarnación still managed to club 34 homers and knock in 86 runs. He did strike out his fair share (103), but posted a solid walk total of 58. Encarnación has hit at least 32 homers in each of his last eight seasons, and if he’s healthy, should continue to produce similar numbers. Despite a relatively low average last year versus righties (.244), he still provided a respectable .332 OBP and .510 SP.

(5) Yoán Moncada — 3B. The 24-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019, yet it seems like he’s merely scratching the surface. All he did last year was slash .315/.367/.548 with 34 doubles and 25 homers, despite missing 30 games due to injuries. Moncada’s numbers were even better versus righties (.322/.377/.569), and he should provide ample protection for Jiménez and Encarnacón in this lineup. He’s also stolen double-digit bases in each of his first two seasons, and he could easily be one of four regulars to do so in 2020. 

(6) José Abreu —1B. It just makes more sense to place Eloy in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Abreu’s still no slouch, as his .284/.330/.503 slash line with 72 extra-base hits and 126 RBI last year attest. However, his slash line versus righties was relatively weak in 2019 (.257/.298/.472) so it actually makes sense to drop him to sixth in the lineup. He should still receive plenty of RBI opportunities with the bats in front of him.   

(7) Luis Robert — CF. By the end of the year, Robert could very well spend time at every single lineup position. He clearly has the speed to be a leadoff hitter, as he swiped 36 bases in an abbreviated minor league season in 2019. He’s also got massive power potential, as displayed by his 32 homers (16 of which came in just 47 games, with half hit in Birmingham where bats often go to die). Robert also posted lofty slash lines against righties and southpaws alike, but I like giving him a little left-handed protection with Nomar Mazara batting behind him for now. Versus righties in the minors last year, all Robert did was slash .315/.373/.580. The only concern with Robert offensively is his pitch selection, as he walked just 28 times as opposed to 129 strikeouts last year.

(8) Nomar Mazara — RF. Mazara’s provided consistently decent yet uninspiring offensive numbers with Texas during each of the last four seasons. Perhaps he was a victim of high expectations? He was regularly ranked among MLB’s Top 50 prospects prior to his 2016 Rangers debut, and he was asked to play against both righties and lefties. Certainly, his numbers versus southpaws last year left much to be desired (.220/.252/394), but he still provided quality numbers when facing righthanders (.288/.344/.500). Last year, he clubbed 27 doubles and 19 homers, which is a massive upgrade from what the White Sox ran out in right field. 

(9) Tim Anderson — SS. I know what you’re thinking: The league’s batting champ hits ninth? But I like Tim here for two reasons. The first is that he has well-chronicled on-base deficiencies, so if he’s not hitting, he’s not on base; secondly, he’d basically serve as a second leadoff man when the lineup turns over. Anderson, surprisingly, enjoyed a better season versus righties than when opposing southpaws, with a .339/.360/.514. Of course, this was aided by a perhaps fluky .399 BABIP. I’m expecting some drop-off here, perhaps to a .349 BABIP which would be squarely between Anderson’s 2018 and 2019 numbers. With Madrigal’s ability to handle the bat, expect more stolen bases and hit-and-run opportunities with Anderson in this spot in the lineup. Of course, if Madrigal gets off to a slow start, Anderson and Madrigal could easily be switched. 

Additional notes: In 29 games for Charlotte last year, Madrigal slashed .331/.398/.424 with 13 walks and just five strikeouts; thus, it’s hard for me to believe he truly won’t be MLB-ready to begin the 2020 season. It’s difficult to believe they’d hold him down for contractual purposes, since the White Sox clearly plan on being in a close race with Cleveland and Minnesota as evidenced especially by the Encarnacion signing. If Madrigal doesn’t make the trip north for Opening Day, however, Danny Mendick would likely slot to the ninth spot while Anderson would shift to leadoff. It’s easy to like the versatility of this lineup, and the bench will feature numerous defense and pinch-running options with Adam Engel, Leury García and Danny Mendick. James McCann also provides leadership and defensive skills (excluding framing) as the backup catcher, and would be valuable as a No. 8 or 9 hitter in this lineup (.265/.311/.448 in 2019 vs. righties). Also, with just three lefty bats in this lineup, I spread those hitters three batters apart from each other to make it more difficult for opponents to use their best bullpen southpaws against them.   

Lineup vs. lefties

(1) Nick Madrigal — 2B. Despite better slugging numbers, his numbers dropped to more pedestrian levels against southpaws in 2019, as he slashed a still-respectable .278/.338/.431. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him better those numbers, even while donning a major league uniform, in 2020.

(2) Yoán Moncada — 3B. Moncada enjoyed a much-improved 2019, and nowhere was this more evident than when opposing southpaws. In 2018 against lefties, he slashed just .209/.287/.297; in 2019, he slashed .299/.345/.500. I’ve switched Grandal and Moncada vs. lefties, because Grandal’s power numbers are significantly more impressive.

(3) José Abreu — 1B. While Abreu had his struggles against righties last year, the same can’t be said against southpaws. In 2019, he slashed an impressive .360/.418/.591 against them.

(4) Edwin Encarnación — DH. While Encarnación was solid against righties, he fared even better against southpaws last year, with a .245/.375/.594 slash line.

(5) Yasmani Grandal — C. Like Encarnación, Grandal was quite good against righties. However, when as a right-handed batter versus lefties, he performed even better, to the tune of a .258/.397/.529 slash line. This would be nice protection for Abreu and Encarnación indeed.

(6) Eloy Jiménez — LF. Jiménez’s numbers, though quite good, dropped off slightly against southpaws in 2019. That’s not to say when he was bad by any stretch (.259/.322/.459). It’s a credit to the rest of this lineup that he actually drops to sixth versus lefties.

(7) Luis Robert — CF. Robert absolutely murdered lefties last year, to the tune of .356/.386/.719. Of course, those numbers were against minor league competition, so the verdict’s still out for him in 2020. If Robert continues to mash lefties as this rate next year, he likely will move up significantly higher in the lineup.

(8) Tim Anderson — SS. I kept wavering between inserting Anderson here and the leadoff spot. The reason I have Anderson eighth is because he simply provides stronger lineup protection for Robert than would either of the next two hitters. If others disagree with this spot, I certainly wouldn’t argue. For the year, Anderson slashed .326/.351/.493, which isn’t too shabby.

(9) Leury García — RF. García is a better defensive alternative than Mazara, and has generally produced far better numbers versus southpaws throughout his career. Last year as a right-handed hitter, García slashed a respectable .311/.344/.443. While García likely won’t be a game-changer as a right-handed platoon, he’d add a little speed element (15 stolen bases) with his defense.

Additional notes: As good as the team’s lineup appears versus righties, the lineup opposing southpaws should be even more lethal. On games in which Grandal sits, the offense shouldn’t suffer much with McCann in the lineup, as he slashed .295/.372/.492 against southpaws last year. The same caveat for righties as above applies for Madrigal; if Mendick or some other player begins the year at second to open the season, Anderson could easily slot leadoff while García and the second baseman hit in the eighth and ninth roles. The lineup above features five guys with double-digit stolen bases (Madrigal, Moncada, Robert, Anderson and García) while Mendick and Engel also provide stolen base potential off the bench. 


 

Backup backstop: McCann vs. Collins

Zack attack: For Collins, even in a limited platoon role, the time is now. (Tom Borowski/South Side Hit Pen)


James McCann was a bit of a renaissance man for the 2019 Chicago White Sox. Signed as an afterthought for $2 million in advance of another rebuilding season, not much was expected of the former Tigers’ backstop. But all the 6´3´´, 225-pounder proceeded to do was post a 2.3 fWAR season and play in his first All-Star Game. McCann hit .273/.328/.460 with a 109 wRC+ and smacked 18 homers in 118 contests.

McCann was especially good against southpaws last year, posting a stellar wRC+ of 132. The catcher’s .197 ISO was staggering, and contributed a great deal to his career-best campaign. The former second round pick handled his business positively in Chicago and was well-regarded in a leadership role, to the extent that starting pitcher Lucas Giolito credited his new teammate with much of his success in 2019.

Pitch framing is a weakness for McCann, and defense overall isn’t considered to be a strong suit of his. He’s a respected game-caller and adept at throwing out runners while being very studious regarding the planning and preparation that goes into being a catcher.

The second half of 2019 was rough for McCann, and he was much better vs lefties overall. Against righties in 2019, James posted a league-average mark of 100 with his wRC+ and he posted a .319 wOBA. In an ideal situation, McCann would face primarily southpaws in 2020.

Crowded roster

The decision-makers in the front office made a concerted effort this offseason to add talent to the roster for the 2020 season. The rebuild is over, and it’s time to compete for a Central Division title. José Abreu is slated to return to the south side for his seventh season in black and white. Abreu has hit 179 career homers and has always been very successful against left-handed pitching in general.

Abreu signed a three-year contract extension with the White Sox worth $50 million in late November. The deal was met with some consternation due to the anticipated regression of the player, in spite of his gaudy home run and RBI totals in 2019. The soon-to-be 33-year-old Cuban has regressed, and will likely continue to do so. That regression will occur in a comfortable place, though, and hitting southpaws is still something that should be a primary focus.

Playing in 159 games last year, Abreu posted a 117 wRC+ even though his strikeout rate increased and his walk rate keeps falling. The first baseman was a league average offensive performer (100 wRC+) vs righties, and some scheduled days off in the future could best serve all parties. Abreu must be in the lineup vs lefties, however. In 2019, he murdered lefthanders to the tune of a .360/.418/.591 slash line with a 168 wRC+ and 24 homers.

Yasmani Grandal was given the largest free agent contract in the history of the organization back in November as well. The former first-rounder out of Miami is one of the best catchers in baseball. The switch-hitter played in 153 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, and hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers. Yaz posted a 121 wRC+ with a 17% walk rate as well. The 31-year-old was exceptional against lefties, though. While Grandal posted very strong numbers against right-handed pitching (114 wRC+), he was even better (138 wRC+) when he turned around and hit from the right side.

With Grandal as the biggest outside addition to the club, playing time didn’t appear to be an issue for James McCann. His numbers against lefties indicated a role could be carved out in which he split some time at designated hitter in addition to catcher with the newly acquired Grandal. But then …

Parrot party

The White Sox signed 37-year-old slugger Edwin Encarnación in early January. The deal is for one year with a club option for 2021, and the move further signifies a win-now attitude. Encarnación is primarily a designated hitter at this stage of his career, but he could do some moonlighting at first base. In 109 games with the Yankees and Mariners in 2019, he clubbed .244/.344/.531 with 34 home runs while posting a 129 wRC+ and .362 wOBA.

Encarnación has 414 career homers, and the long ball is still a primary focus of his offensive profile. Edwin walked at a 12% clip last year, and while he posted a strong 121 wRC+ vs right handed pitching, he was death to lefties. The slugger hit .245/.375/.594 (.969 OPS) with a .396 wOBA vs southpaws. Encarnación posted a 152 wRC+ vs lefties in 2019. He was signed to play, and he should be in the lineup almost every day. Days off could come against tough righties, but it’s imperative that EE be available to mash against most pitchers.

Zack Collins … left out?

Another name in the 26-man roster mix for the White Sox is former top draft pick Zack Collins. Collins has many detractors, and his style of play wouldn’t be described as aesthetically pleasing — he was billed as a three-true-outcomes performer with defensive questions, after all. He can also play some first base and designated hitter, and has struggled vs lefties throughout his minor league career.

Collins will be 25 years old in February and has nothing to prove at the minor league level. Last year with the Charlotte Knights, the lefty slugger batted .282/.403/.548 with a 140 wRC+ in 88 games. Zack hit 19 homers and posted a .401 wOBA. He possesses plus raw power and plate discipline, and has displayed it across every minor league level: In 2017 at Winston-Salem, Collins posted a 130 wRC+. With the Birmingham Barons in 2018, his wRC+ was 130 in one of the strongest leagues in the minors.

Collins struggled in a small major league sample in 2019 when playing time was quite sparse. In 102 trips to the plate, he posted a 77 wRC+ over the course of 27 games. He showed off some of the plus power to go with a 14% walk rate and a .219 ISO. Collins’ eventual role in the big leagues might be as a part-time player, one who walks and hits for power against right-handed pitching.

Collins vs. McCann

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that McCann’s good name has come up frequently in trade rumors this offseason. He’s a functional piece on a roster, and perfectly suited to be a member of a catching platoon. He no longer fits ideally on the White Sox roster, however. McCann is locked in for 2020 at $5.4 million, which looks tenable on the surface but could make him a difficult trade piece due to his shortcomings. What the White Sox would even look for as a trade return is very debatable.

It will likely be seen as heresy to suggest that Collins fits more appropriately on a winning roster than McCann in this particular case, but orthodoxy should be challenged this time around. McCann would benefit from playing against left-handed pitchers most often, but it’s tough to justify ceding playing time to him at the expense of Encarnación, Abreu and Grandal. That trio of mashers shouldn’t be sitting against lefties just so McCann can see more time.

Collins on the other hand, could serve a purpose and fill an actual need. If proven that he’s playable behind the dish, his left-handed bat could be a benefit for the club. On days when Collins catches, Grandal could stay in the lineup with one of Abreu or Encarnación sitting against a right-handed starter. On the other hand McCann is a solid all-around player, and he needs time as a regular in advance of his first foray into real free agency after this season.

The White Sox may choose to keep all three players, especially with the new roster rules in place that make keeping three catchers much easier. Injuries occur, but with McCann on a one-year deal with a role that’s rendered him superfluous, a trade to a better situation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the near future.

McCann is a professional and would likely accept any role provided to him, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s not thrilled with the situation. McCann is no longer scheduled to attend SoxFest this upcoming weekend, and he will likely be involved in trade rumors for catching needy teams into spring training.

 

 

Friday’s arbitration deadline makes a busy week busier for the White Sox

Big payday awaits: Closer Colomé is the sole significant salary expenditure expected through the arbitration process. (@AlexanderColome)


The White Sox continue to add talent this offseason, and right-handed reliever Steve Cishek is the latest addition to the squad. The signing isn’t yet official but in short order, the organization’s expenditures over the course of this offseason will surpass $200 million in total outlay. With a reported agreement for designated hitter Edwin Encarnación also on the precipice of becoming official, it could be a busy week of roster juggling for the franchise.

Friday is the deadline for clubs to reach agreement with arbitration-eligible players. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox has been involved in trade discussions in advance of his penultimate year of arbitration, and he’s expected to set a record for salary among players yet to reach free agency. Kris Bryant‘s situation with the Chicago Cubs is tenuous as well, due partly to the effects of the salary arbitration process. While the White Sox won’t be the focus across the sport in this regard, the club has its own decisions to make by Friday’s exchange date.

As an organization, the White Sox generally like to settle on a number rather than exchanging figures to be glossed over by an arbitrator. The franchise went many years without an arbitration fight, prior to Avisaíl García and Yolmer Sánchez heading down the process in recent years.

This year, six players are eligible to receive salary arbitration from the club.

Catcher James McCann agreed to a $5.4 million contract with the club early in December, and he’s signed on for his final season before he reaches unrestricted free agency. More of these deals should become official in the coming days. Pitchers Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Carlos Rodón along with outfielders Leury García and Nomar Mazara are the arbitration-eligible players on the White Sox. Fighting their own players is atypical to the modus operandi employed by the organization, so it’s expected that the five players will settle before the deadline.

The fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors do a commendable job of predicting arbitration raises annually and they see Colomé and Marshall getting somewhere in the neighborhood of $10.3 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

Rodón is in a tricky situation while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as well, earning $4.2 million last year for just 34 ⅔ innings. Rodón is projected to receive $4.5 million for the 2020 season, in his third year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player.

García, a 28-year-old superutility player, earned $1.55 million last season; because he plays multiple positions for the White Sox, he’s slated to turn his 1.3 fWAR season into a projected $4 million commitment.

Outfielder Mazara is expected to receive a salary bump as well. The 24-year-old has been a bit of an enigma early on in his career. Regarded as one of the best prospects in the game on his way to the Rangers from the minor leagues, Nomar hasn’t lived up to his high billing. The lefty slugger earned $3.3 million in 2019; while struggling mightily vs left-handed pitching throughout his career, Mazara posted an .844 OPS with a 110 wRC+ vs RHP in 2019. He’s expected to receive $5.7 million for 2020.


The 2020 payroll, in review

Jerry Reinsdorf has opened his wallet this offseason, upping overall payroll from some uncommon recent lows. In 2019, the White Sox were 26th in baseball with a total payroll of $91,371,201. The organization currently has leaped to 16th in  payroll and is expected to spend between $125-$130 million in player salary for this upcoming season.

It can be astutely argued that they haven’t gone far enough, but the increase is a marked improvement that has quelled some recent criticism of the front office. The first addition to the 2020 club was catcher Yasmani Grandal back in November. The 31-year-old signed a four-year contract worth $73 million, so the switch-hitting backstop will earn $18.25 million next season.

The front office followed up the contract with a new deal for first baseman José Abreu. Abreu signed a three-year, $50 million contract extension with the team and he’ll earn $12.6 million against the payroll in 2020.

The next two signings slotted right into the starting rotation. First, Gio González signed a one-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million. And the biggest addition on the pitching front came days later, when the White Sox inked veteran southpaw Dallas Keuchel. The 32-year-old will earn $55.5 million over the course of his three-year commitment with the White Sox, and $18 million in 2020.

With the agreements and the trade for Mazara at December’s winter meetings, the front office effectively completed their shopping list. The decision-makers landed two starting pitchers, a right fielder and found some offensive pop from the left side. While the designated shopping list was all checked off, the organization remained motivated to add talent to the 2020 club. Edwin Encarnación is expected to make $11 million next season as the team’s primary designated hitter. Better production in that spot was another priority of general manager Rick Hahn.

And most recently, even the bullpen got a tuneup:

The 33-year-old reliever is the latest addition in Chicago. He’ll earn $5.25 million in 2020 and with an option year, could also be around for multiple seasons.

While five free agents have been added to the team, one of the bigger moves of the offseason was struck with a player already in the organization. Luis Robert will be the opening day center fielder after signing an extension that will keep him in Chicago for the next eight years.

Before their offseason signing frenzy, the White Sox had committed just $14.8 million to three players: Shortstop Tim Anderson, outfielder Eloy Jiménez and reliever Kelvin Herrera were the only members of the team not under arbitration or pre-arb status. Much has been done since that time, giving the roster a radically different look by Opening Day. While the heavy lifting has likely been consummated, another reliever, right-handed hitting outfielder or utility infielder could still be added to the mix, in addition to a bevy of non-roster invitees.

The current White Sox payroll according to Spotrac.com is $119.2 million. Depending on what else the organization decides to add before spring training, the official 2020 payroll should be in the $130 million range. The White Sox are projected to be 16th in baseball, and there’s no reason they can’t ascend into the 11-15 range on an annual basis, as the Washington Nationals are currently 10th in baseball with a total hovering around $152 million.

The White Sox don’t seem likely to threaten the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold anytime soon, and it’s not necessary for them to do so. The payroll should increase continually, right along with the expectations of the team. And nobody will care what the payroll is as long as the team wins division titles and finds a way to keep their own over this next decade.

 

South Side Hit Pen’s Best of the 2010s

Three generations: One indelible memory. (Leonard Gore)


That last Christmas gift under the tree? Yep, it’s from your friends at South Side Hit Pen.

After we delivered our take on the very, very best and beyond, beyond worst games of 2019 last month, we decided to wrap up an extra-special treat, as we wrap up 2019 and the Teens to boot.

An octo-rama of the best and brightest SSHP writers present to you our Best of the 2010s — please enjoy.


Orlando Hudson leads off in what would quickly become a season finale onslaught.
Sure, it was a meaningless game, but it was also the last time the White Sox ended a season with a record better than .500. That wasn’t particularly inspiring at the time, because the White Sox had led the division until a week before, but looking back, a mere September collapse was the best of times. Plus, the score was significant — 9-0 being the official score of a baseball forfeit, given that the Sox would as good as forfeit the rest of the decade. The game itself had its moments – Gavin Floyd pitched seven innings of three-hit ball for his 12th victory of the season; Paulie and Dayan Viciedo hit dingers; the immortal Dan Johnson slammed three homers and picked up five RBIs, bringing his season total to six; and Adam Dunn improved the game significantly by not playing. (Yeah, yeah, that was his 41-homer year. So what?) — Leigh Allan

White Sox 9, Braves 6
June 22, 2010
There were two games that immediately jumped to mind, one sad, another happy. The sad one came in September 2011 in Kansas City, when manager Ozzie Guillén and I, both of us sensing it would be our last days together before setting off into other endeavors beyond the White Sox, sat alone and commiserated over our fates and futures for about 20 minutes in the visiting manager’s office of Kauffman Stadium. But I’m choosing the happier one, instead. And that game is a June win in Chicago, my first game on the White Sox beat. I was a week or so from riding in the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade, finishing up my one-and-done year on that beat before jumping right into the White Sox job for CSN Chicago. I’d covered the White Sox before, but never as a permanent job, and after writing stories for the beat-less Comcast during the Hawks playoff run — some even on a Blackberry after my netbook exploded in San Jose — I sort of forced my way into a dream job on the White Sox beat. It was the start of a two-year run with the team that was hard as hell, but a glorious and lucky time for me. I recall no details of the game beyond an early offensive assault and the win pushing the team over .500, but I hopped on the beat with the White Sox in the midst of a six-game winning streak, and from there my pugnacious prose helped compel the club to jump from third to first place during a 14-5 run (20 of 25 wins overall) that made me think, briefly, that after a first Stanley Cup in 49 years and now a 20-5 run with my new Chicago team, I was some sort of lucky charm. Of course, I was proven wrong by September 2010, but this season — and this game — will always be a magical memory for me. — Brett Ballantini

White Sox 4, Tigers 3
July 23, 2016
It was a day that was supposed to feature a cool retro jersey: the 1976 navy pajama top. Me and a group of friends normally went to the cool promotional games — the Hawaiian shirt games, jersey giveaways, steins, etc. — because the promotions have been the best thing about the Sox the past decade. If it is a cool promotion, we will be there. So, we mainly went to that game in July for the giveaway, but with the trade deadline nearing, we also understood it could be Chris Sale’s last game at Sox Park. While we were in line waiting to get into the park among what was a pretty good crowd, we all got phone alerts via Twitter, multiple reports coming in that Sale would not be starting the game. Immediately, we all turned to each other and asked if he was traded. As the line got moving, more and more fans were looking at their phones and turning to their group, all equally confused.

Now, my friends and I wanted a rebuild (and still support it), so we were giddy that a potential trade was in the works. A pitcher scratched from a start in late July surely made it seem like a trade was imminent. As confusion permeated the lines and the stadium, we collected our retro jerseys at the turnstiles and went upstairs to our seats. Looking back now, we should have noticed something obvious: The Sox were not wearing the 1976 jerseys, they instead were in the 1983s. But we did not think anything of it at the time (you can say we were stupid, and I will admit we were/are). As game time grew closer, the story became clear: Chris Sale was not traded; he threw a temper tantrum. He cut up the jerseys the Sox were supposed to wear on that day.

Once that information found its way to our laps, we all just laughed and laughed. In the same year where the Sox had the Drake Laroche debacle, another White Sox childish display was the talk of baseball. Because Sale did not start, Robin Ventura had to go to an impromptu bullpen day, and the bullpen did very well: Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson went all-out to get through the day and on to the next. The Tigers were able to put up three runs in eight innings, including a blown save by Jones. Meanwhile, the Sox offense did just enough. Avisaíl García drove in two runs through the first eight innings, with a home run. Dioner Navarro doubled in another run. It was a rainy day by the end of the game, so we left before the game was suspended after the eighth inning, and we did not go back for the ninth the next day, when Adam Eaton ended the game with an RBI single.

But the game was really a second act on the day: The real story was Sale’s. He ended up being suspended for five games, missing one turn in the rotation. But looking back now, that day must have made it much easier for the front office to trade him in the upcoming offseason. For me and my friends, we do not remember much about the game, but we all have vivid memories of the shock we all had once the true story came out, punctuated by the team wearing 1983s instead of 1976s.

The 2016 team was not all that bad, but it was the most embarrassing season to be a Sox fan in recent memory. This game was the exclamation point. — Darren Black


The youngest Gore scored his first-ever White Sox game at the tail end of 2019. (Leonard Gore)
White Sox 5, Angels 1
Sept. 8, 2019
Since nothing of any baseball importance happened during the seven years of the decade a White Sox fan was the POTUS, I’ll go with a personal choice that just snuck in under the wire. Sept. 8, 2019 was a completely forgettable and insignificant Sox 5-1 win over a Trout-less Angels team.  José Abreu homered; Danny Mendick homered (the first of his career!); Dylan Cease was wild (of course); and every starter got a hit except for Adam Engel (of course-of course).
But what made it most memorable for me was the fact that it was my son’s first ever White Sox game! And frankly, I didn’t spend much time watching this game because I was happy to have him with me. We watched a couple of innings, met Ron Kittle outside the park (of course-of course-of-course), and spent most of the game in the Fundamentals Kids Zone in left field doing all the baseball activities over and over. My dad and brother also were there, so it was three generations of Gore boys to enjoy a day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. — Leonard Gore

Royals 4, White Sox 1
Sept. 29, 2013

White Sox 9, Rays 6
April 25, 2014
Looking for the best White Sox game of the decade was no easy task. But after digging through the dumpster fire of the last decade that was White Sox baseball, I stumbled across April 25, 2014, an evening affair against the Rays that produced some nice fireworks.

Cut to the top of the ninth at U.S. Cellular Field, as Evan Longoria smashed a two-run dinger off of Matt Lindstrom to straightaway center field, breaking a 4-4 tie. Things were looking grim for the Sox, but they got through the rest of the inning unscathed. Then in the bottom of the ninth, with two on and one out, Paul Konerko walked to load the bases. Adam Eaton was up next, and narrowly avoided hitting into a double play to end the game, just beating out the throw at first as a run scored. Grant Balfour then walked Marcus Semien to load the bases once again, setting the stage for José Abreu.

Abreu did not disappoint, smashing a walk-off grand slam into the bullpen in right center field, his second dinger of the game. Ballgame!!! This game set the stage for six years of heroics from José, as he’s been the star who has shined the brightest during that time for the White Sox. — Scott Reichard (guitarsox)


Image result for White Sox 9, Mariners 8 Aug. 24, 2012
The Tank and The Donkey, celebrating the moments of their lives.
The White Sox were fresh off a sweep of the mighty New York Yankees, who finished the season with the best record in the American League. So things were looking up for the White Sox, who held a two-game lead in the AL Central. The mediocre Mariners visited The Cell, and the White Sox broke through early and often against starter Jason Vargas. Even free agent bust Adam Dunn went deep, as the White Sox chased Vargas from the game after only four innings, leading 6-2 when Vargas departed. The White Sox tacked on one more against the bullpen to take a 7-2 lead.
Meanwhile, Jake Peavy settled in nicely, allowing only two runs in seven innings. Matt Thornton took care of business in a drama-free eighth inning, and it appeared the Mariners would go down quietly. However, the ninth inning was far from drama-free. Robin Ventura made an odd decision to have Philip Humber start the ninth inning. Though Humber had thrown a perfect game a few months earlier, his performance between the perfect game and this outing was rough: a 6.67 ERA and  .284/.363/.518 slash against him. Ventura’s strange decision did not pay off on this warm, August night, as Humber’s struggles continued: a leadoff home run and walk before departing with one out. In to pitch stepped Donnie Veal, who allowed a double to the first and only batter he faced.
But, it was OK, as the White Sox still led 7-3, and Seattle’s tying run was still on deck. Addison Reed, who came in to pitch after Veal, had room for error. Unfortunately, Reed could not get the job done, allowing four of his first five hitters to reach base safely, and the final hit was costly. John Jaso’s single gave the Mariners an 8-7 lead and took the wind out of many fans’ sails.
Luckily, the White Sox offense woke back up, as they solved Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen. Kevin Youkilis hit an RBI single to tie the game, and Paul Konerko won it with a base hit into right-center to score Dewayne Wise. This was the wildest game I have ever seen in person, and I am thankful that I was able to attend. In the bottom of the eighth, one of my friends was wondering aloud if we should take off early and beat the traffic. Mercy, I sure am glad that we did not listen. — Joe Resis

OK, so this clip doesn’t feature the Yolmer Homer, but it does include a Yolmer two-bagger and a cameo from our own traveling win streak, Ashley Sanders.
White Sox 9, Rays 2
July 19, 2019
Although it has been a very disappointing decade for the Chicago White Sox, there have been many games worth celebrating. For my favorite game of the 2010s, like many of us I’m picking among games I attended. Of those 29 games, July 19, 2019 in St. Pete against the Tampa Bay Rays is my reigning favorite. A 9-2 squelching of Tampa Bay included a Yolmer Homer — and those are legendary! Reynaldo López pitched seven innings, the Sox tallied 17 hits, and it was an electric victory that ended a seven-game losing streak. Whenever the pitching and hitting are so in sync, it creates an all-around fantastic game! — Ashley Sanders

A weird and wonderful fit: Edwin Encarnacion in Pale Hose

All business: Encarnación is all about mashing. Think he’d fit in a weak White Sox offense? (@desusnice)


While the decision-makers at 35th and Shields are likely working feverishly to fill vacant spots in the starting rotation, another offensive upgrade is ready to be fitted in black and white.

Nomar Mazara was added to the outfield mix recently, and while the acquisition didn’t aptly whet the appetite of White Sox fans, it’s an upgrade nonetheless. White Sox right fielders accumulated a -1.3 fWAR last year with Leury García rounding out as the only positive contributor. The only thing worse than the club’s production in right field in 2019 was their production at designated hitter however.

The White Sox as a collective finished 17th in baseball, including dead last in the American League in fWAR (-3.5 fWAR) at the DH position. Two National League clubs performed better (albeit in a much smaller sample)! In 773 plate appearances, White Sox batters slashed .197/.275/.342 with a 64 wRC+ and .266 wOBA in the designated hitter role. Players presiding in this precarious position hit just 25 homers on the year as well. It’s not the most glamorous spot on the roster by any means, but putrid production stinks, no matter how it’s shaken.

During his media scrums in the initial stages of this important offseason, GM Rick Hahn bemoaned the production in right field and designated hitter. The architect of the 2020 roster made it a point of emphasis to state that those areas would be priorities this offseason, along with numerous additions to the pitching staff. The thirst for pitching hasn’t been quite quenched yet, but the club went away from its publicized target list with the signing of switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal. Grandal’s addition was welcomed and warranted, but it didn’t solve the stated trouble spots.


Multiple transactions weren’t officially filed while the front office vacationed in San Diego for baseball’s annual winter meetings, but that doesn’t mean work wasn’t being done. Veteran hardball scribe Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported on Thursday that the team’s brass met with the representatives for designated hitter Edwin Encarnación. EE is a free agent after spending last year with the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. He would be an interesting roster fit if added, but provides a definitive upgrade at the dish.

Encarnación was a ninth-round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2000 draft and made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005. The 6´1´´, 230-pound, then-third baseman carved out a career after moving north of the border to play with the Blue Jays. The 36-year-old slugger has hit more than 30 homers in every season since 2012 and has compiled 414 during his career. Edwin possesses immense raw power but also has posted walk rates around 12% throughout his big league tenure.

In 2019, the Dominican hit .244/.344/.531 in 486 plate appearances for the Mariners and Yankees. Encarnacion’s season was cut short with a fractured wrist, but he still came to the plate 486 times. He posted a .363 wOBA with a 129 wRC+ and once again eclipsed the 30 home run-mark. He posted a 2.5 fWAR, largely attributed to his success vs LHP: a .969 OPS with a 152 wRC+ vs southpaws. The power presence is substantial from both sides but in 2019, Encarnación posted a staggering ISO% of .349.


Roster Gymnastics 

As the roster currently stands, the 26-man rule makes it easier to utilize a third catcher in the big leagues. Grandal will join José Abreu, James McCann and Zack Collins in Chicago’s DH mix. If Edwin Encarnacion were added, he would likely be the primary designated hitter and play most days. His bat would be essential in the lineup against left-handed pitching. According to Baseball Savant, Encarnacion places in the 69th percentile in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. He’s also elite in xWOBA (78th percentile) and xSLG (83rd percentile).

It’s not likely that a club has ever truly had too many hitters or too much offense. Versatility is important, however, and while Encarnación can absolutely mash, the White Sox would be left with a multiplicity of the same type of performer to deal with. It seems likely that at the current juncture, McCann would either be catching or used in the DH spot against all lefties. McCann posted a 132 wRC+ vs southpaws during his All-Star campaign last year. Collins is in the mix as well and while he’s not a roster lock, he would likely serve as the DH vs righties if the season were to start tomorrow.

As the club’s first round pick in 2016, Collins likely gets a look in the big leagues in 2020. The 24-year-old, left-handed slugger posted a 140 wRC+ with the super ball in Triple-A Charlotte last year. He has big-time power potential and plate discipline (14% walk rate in Chicago) and could do some damage immediately vs. right handers.

Grandal has a long history of hitting all pitchers adequately. In 2019, the switch-hitting catcher posted a 138 wRC+ vs LHP to go along with a 114 wRC+ vs RHP. Grandal signed a $73 million contract with the White Sox this offseason, and his ability to hit and also play first base ensures him of a full season of plate appearances. Abreu is entering his seventh season with the club and his offensive profile is similar to that of Encarnación.

Encarnación gets on base more often, and Abreu hits for a higher average at this point. Both players possess premium power and they both destroyed lefties in 2019 (Abreu posted a 168 wRC+ vs left handers last year). It’s imperative that Abreu be in the lineup against all southpaws going forward. José was a league-average performer (99 wRC+) vs righties, though, and tough decisions on who gets into the lineup might have to be made if Encarnación were to be added to the mix.

When tough righties take the mound, Abreu should probably take a seat and wait for pinch-hitting opportunities. He wasn’t signed for $50 million last month to be a platoon player, though. There could be real lineup construction issues with Encarnación needing a spot for games where McCann ends up catching. But those are probably good problems for a team as offensively-challenged as the White Sox, though.

Dingers are fun, and Edwin Encarnación hits lots of them. As a subscriber to the methodology of the phrase, “Ball Go Far, Team Go Far,” EE would enhance the White Sox’s chances in 2020. Lineup construction can be worried about at a later date.

 

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.

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 All-Decade Team: Infielders

Something we can all agree on: José Abreu headlines the White Sox All-Decade Team is (@whitesox)



The votes are in! Some were right and some were wrong, but we can all agree that it was not the best decade for the White Sox — and the dreary player selections reflect that.Today, we are only looking at the infield. This is not necessarily the strongest group of players, but at least this where some of the easier top player guesses are. Without further ado, let’s start at catcher.


Catcher — Tyler Flowers

With the tallied votes, 64% of you chose White Sox great A.J. Pierzynski, 32% chose Tyler Flowers, 4% chose Omar Narváez. In reality, A.J. definitely has the name recognition and this probably clouded some guesses, but Tyler Flowers had the best fWAR in the 2010s. Now, let’s be honest here, Flowers’ value did not come with the bat, it was all on the defensive side. He had a total of 8.5 fWAR over his tenure from 2010-15. A.J. was the better hitter, 97 wRC+ compared to Flowers’ 84 WRC+, but games played and the lack of defensive ability hurt Pieryznski’s chances at top backstop of the decade. If this were a singular best catching season of the decade, A.J. would win. In 2012, he had the best fWAR for a Sox catcher since 2010, at 3.3. That was his power-resurgence year, when he hit 27 homers for a .223 ISO. That was his last season with the White Sox, as afterward he signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Rangers and eventually retired after the 2016 season. Meanwhile, the best White Sox catcher of the decade, Flowers, is still playing baseball with the Atlanta Braves and actually has been better since his Chicago departure. As a current White Sox fun update, James McCann’s 2019 season qualifies as the fourth-best fWAR year for a Sox catcher in the 2010s.


First Baseman — José Abreu

This time, you all got it right, José Abreu won the vote in convincing fashion (83% of the vote), and the fWAR was not close. The decade started out with Sox great Paul Konerko (who is on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot) ending his career as Abreu’s began. Over the course of the decade, Abreu had a 17.3 fWAR while Paulie ended with a 5.9. Abreu’s first season of his career was also the best season a first baseman had for the Sox in the 2010s, which resulted in a controversial Rookie of the Year award and an now-overlooked fourth-place finish in MVP voting. Over the course of the decade, Abreu led the the league in OPS+ and slugging percentage in 2014, total bases in 2017, and RBIs in 2019. In every season where Abreu played 140 games or more, he had at least 100 RBIs. He hit over .300 twice and had 30 or more homers thrice, while his career slash line is a fantastic .293/.349/.512 for a 132 wRC+. Since entering the league in 2014, Abreu has the seventh-best fWAR among qualified first baseman and the ninth-best wRC+. If you’re more into the baseball card stats, well, Abreu is fourth in homers and second in RBIs since his rookie season. White Sox history with first baseman generally has been good, and Abreu continued that tradition. They have gone from Frank Thomas to Konerko and then to Abreu, and though Abreu is at least going to stay on the White Sox for the 2020 season, some young guys will hopefully take over and excel soon.


Second Baseman — Gordon Beckham

Yes, you read that correctly: Gordon Beckham had the best fWAR among second basemen in the 2010s for the White Sox. Unsurprisingly, most people were wrong in the voting, as Gordo finishes last. First, let me explain the fWAR tabulation: I took out years where a player did not field the position the majority of the season. So, 2019 Yoán Moncada, 2018 Yolmer Sánchez, and Beckham’s 2015 season did not count, as they all played the majority of the time at third those years. It was a close race, though. Gordo finished with 3.3 fWAR, Moncada 3.2, and Yolmer with 2.8 and yes, those are multiple season’s worth of fWAR, not just a single season. To say second base play for the Sox was atrocious over the past 10 years might be an understatement. The Sox only had two seasons where a second baseman had at least 2.0 fWAR, and none of those reached above 2.2 in a season. In 2017, Sánchez had the best fWAR of the decade, but just to understand how truly awful it has been at second this decade let’s take a look at the rest of the single season Top 5s: Tyler Saladino had the third-best fWAR in a single season at second, while Moncada in his first 54 games in 2017 was fourth, and to round out the top five is Brett Lawrie. BRETT LAWRIE. I told you it was not pretty.


Third Baseman — Yoán Moncada

Third base was just about to be as bad as second, but thanks to a position switch between Yolmer and Moncada, it does look a little better. Yes, one season of fWAR did propel Moncada to the top spot, but at least the winner isn’t Todd Frazier, who finished second. The voters were correct on this one, as Moncada ran away with it after his breakout superstar season in 2019; yes, that season did deserve a Top 10 MVP vote, and he should have received more. Obviously, the season Moncada had was the best of the decade for White Sox third baseman, but there’s some other historical significance. Moncada in 2019 had the fifth-best 3B season in White Sox history. It was also the best offensive season among primary third baseman in terms of wRC+ in White Sox history. In the 2010s, Moncada’s 2019 season ranks 35th in fWAR and 21st in wRC+ among all MLB third baseman. The past was not great for the Sox at third, but the future does sure seem to be bright.


Shortstop — Alexei Ramírez

Shortstop was one of the closer votes, probably because of some recency bias as Tim Anderson won the batting title this past season. However, Alexei Ramírez had a far better decade when looking at fWAR. Maybe some people thought that Ramírez’s value came before the decade, but the two best seasons of his career and among White Sox shortstops in the 2010s was his 2010 and 2011 seasons. From 2010-14, the height of Alexei’s career, he was rated the fourth-best shortstop in MLB by fWAR, only behind Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramírez. From 2010-12, which was the height of Alexei’s defensive prowess, he was the second-best defensive shortstop in baseball using DRS and UZR. Ramírez was never a heavy hitter over his career, which is another reason why some might not remember how good a shortstop he was, but we seem to have the opposite now in Anderson. Defense is clearly the skill that Anderson lacks, but his bat still led to him having an fWAR of better than 3.0 in the 2019 season. With Anderson and Moncada, it seems like the future is bright heading into the 2020s for the left side of the infield.


Next up … The outfield and DH!