- Former big league infielder Chris Getz spoke to reporters, including the Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane, about his new role as director of player development for the White Sox over the weekend. Kane writes that Getz knew he wanted to move onto the front office track upon wrapping up his playing career even in the final years that he was active. The former ChiSox draftee considers the city and organization his home and is excited to return: “The relationships I was able to build, it was something that will always be in my heart, something that always will be in my DNA,” he explained before continuing to discuss his new position. “…It is carrying out the vision of the scouts. It’s a commitment by both the player and staff members to create an environment for (each) player to reach their ceiling.”
Three years ago, the White Sox signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a franchise-record six-year, $68MM contract. Abreu kicked off his MLB career with a monster 2014 campaign, winning Rookie of the Year and finishing fourth in the MVP voting. His offensive production has declined steadily since then, but still remains above average. Now, Abreu is presented with an important decision that will impact his future earnings. Within five days of the conclusion of the World Series, Abreu and his agents must decide whether he will opt out of his existing contract and into MLB’s arbitration system — a right that is afforded to him via a clause in that six-year pact. (Note: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig finds himself in a similar situation, albeit coming off a weaker year. His situation will be addressed separately from Abreu here at MLBTR.)
If Abreu keeps his current contract, he will earn $34MM from 2017-19. That includes salaries of $10.5MM in 2017, $11.5MM in 2018, and $12MM in 2019. Abreu’s agents must determine whether their client can do better in arbitration, without the luxury of a precedent for a situation like this.
Abreu’s baseline 2016 salary, for the purposes of arbitration, appears to be $11.66MM. That figure is calculated by taking his $10MM signing bonus, dividing it by his six-year term, and adding it to his $10MM salary from 2016. That’s a critical difference, as arbitration paydays are based largely off of the previous year’s salary. However, there is some gray area in this all-important baseline figure, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not provide clarity. First, does it make sense to divide the signing bonus by six years, even when Abreu is opting out of the last three? An agent could argue for dividing the bonus by three years, setting Abreu’s 2016 salary at $13.33MM. Second, even if the six-year term is used, the Players Union tends to calculate net present value on the signing bonus, which could put Abreu’s 2016 salary around $11.88MM.
The White Sox will surely argue against interpretations that assign Abreu a higher number for his 2016 salary. I think they would agree that for the purposes of establishing an arbitration baseline, he earned $11.66MM this year, unless there is something in the contract that calls for the exclusion of the signing bonus in determining his 2016 salary.
Is there any argument to be made that based purely on statistical merit, and not prior salary, Abreu should earn more than $11.66MM in 2017 through arbitration? Nope. Abreu seems to be in the range of Giancarlo Stanton’s first three years, which earned him $6.5MM for his first arbitration year in 2014. Even with inflation, Abreu wouldn’t get past $11.66MM.
Since Abreu “deserves” a salary well below $11.66MM through arbitration, can the White Sox argue for cutting his salary? Using the maximum allowable cut of 20 percent, the team could theoretically argue for a $9.33MM salary for Abreu for 2017. However, salary cuts are extremely rare in the arbitration process, so much so that MLBTR’s automated model doesn’t even consider them. Ian Stewart’s pay cut in 2012, after an awful season, is not relevant here. So I think the worst case scenario for Abreu if he opts into arbitration is getting a repeat of that $11.66MM salary for 2017. That would be a win for him, since his contract would otherwise pay him $10.5MM in 2017.
Can Abreu actually score a raise for 2017, beyond the $11.66MM baseline, though? It’s possible, especially once appearances come into play. It would look bad for the White Sox to try to cut Abreu’s salary for 2017, but it also might not look great to the public if they suggest he does not deserve a raise. Do you think Rick Hahn would try to explain all of the above to White Sox fans, in justifying an argument against giving Abreu a raise? Abreu’s agent, on the other hand, can feign mock outrage to the media that the White Sox don’t think a cornerstone player such as Abreu, with a .299 average, 91 home runs, and 308 RBI in three seasons, deserves a raise. The White Sox could consider giving Abreu $12MM or more to save face.
Abreu gains upside by opting into arbitration. He’s still in his prime, and he plays in a hitters’ ballpark. Abreu could put up strong baseball card numbers in the coming seasons, maybe even reversing his declining power trend. Even just normal Abreu performance, combined with token arbitration raises each year, could earn him $40-45MM from 2017-19, instead of the $34MM his contract would have paid.
Abreu’s downside, on the other hand, is limited. I don’t think a salary cut at any point is likely, so he could simply get repeat salaries three times and still come out with $35MM for 2017-19. The one risk factor would be in the White Sox non-tendering him after the 2017 or ’18 season, in which case he’d become a free agent. The White Sox would only do so if his performance truly cratered, and even then, Abreu would make back most or all of the lost earnings in free agency.
Ultimately, I do expect Abreu to opt into MLB’s arbitration system, and I believe he’ll get a salary of about $12MM for 2017.
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
- The White Sox will name Chris Getz their director of player development during the upcoming week, reports Scott Merkin of MLB.com. The 33-year-old Getz will take over for Nick Capra, who is now the White Sox’s third base coach. Getz was a major league second baseman from 2008-14, including parts of two seasons with the White Sox. The South Siders selected Getz in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.
- Acquiring Chris Sale would be a major rotation upgrade for the Red Sox, and since they had discussions with the White Sox about the star southpaw this summer, talks could be revisited in the offseason. Cafardo figures Boston would have to give up Jackie Bradley Jr. (who the White Sox have long liked) and at least one of top prospects Yoan Moncada or Rafael Devers to land Sale; Chicago could also ask for Eduardo Rodriguez as part of the trade package. It would be a heavy price to pay, though the White Sox are obviously going to shoot for the moon if they explore dealing their ace, who is both one of the game’s best pitchers and one of its best bargains thanks to his team-friendly contract. The Red Sox would have Andrew Benintendi take over for Bradley in center field, while left field would presumably be handled by some combination of Chris Young, Brock Holt, Blake Swihart. If not dealt, Moncada would also be in the mix for both 2017 and as a long-term answer.
- While there’s been some turnover in the White Sox’ dugout, as bench coach Rick Renteria has moved up to manager as a replacement for the departing Robin Ventura, changes to the field staff don’t figure to impact pitching coach Don Cooper, per Heyman. In fact, the South Siders have actually made an extension offer to their well-respected pitching coach, who is on the brink of entering his 16th season at that post.
The White Sox have outrighted right-hander Jacob Turner to Triple-A, per a club announcement. That move leaves the organization with one open 40-man spot at present.
Though he is still just 25 years of age, the once-touted Turner has still not shown signs of reaching his former promise. He wasn’t terribly effective even at the Triple-A level, and was bombed for a 6.57 ERA over 24 2/3 major league innings.
Neither were the peripherals terribly promising. Opposing hitters made hard contact on nearly 40% of the balls they put in play against Turner. He ended with just 6.6 K/9 against a messy 5.8 BB/9 and sported a 26.3% home run-per-flyball rate to go with his more-promising 51.2% groundball rate.
The White Sox have officially announced that bench coach Rick Renteria will replace Robin Ventura as their manager. Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report the move. The White Sox had a meeting with Ventura last night, at which he intended to resign, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link).
“Rick is incredibly well respected within the game as one of the top baseball men,” said GM Rick Hahn in a statement (via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune on Twitter). “He is a knowledgeable teacher of the game who loves to develop players and spends hours watching video looking for any nuance that gives us an edge. He is well respected within the clubhouse, and his ability to communicate in English and Spanish is a real plus as he interacts with our players.”
Nightengale reported Wednesday that the White Sox were hoping to re-sign Ventura, whose contract would expire at season’s end, if he wanted to return. But Ventura is content to move on, per Van Schouwen, who adds that the 49-year-old’s relationship with the organization is “amicable” and devoid of hard feelings.
Ventura, a former third baseman who spent the majority of his 16-year major league career with the White Sox, took over their dugout in 2012. Unfortunately for Ventura and the club, his stint as its manager hasn’t been nearly as successful as his playing days were, though it’s not as if Ventura has been given excellent rosters during his five years as Chicago’s skipper.
Under Ventura, the White Sox have gone 375-433 with only one above-.500 campaign and no playoff berths, thereby extending their postseason drought to eight years. The Ventura-led Sox got off to an excellent start this year with a season-best 24-12 mark on May 13, but they’ve gone just 54-71 since and now own the American League’s fifth-worst record (78-83).
In Renteria, the White Sox have someone with previous managerial experience in the city of Chicago. Renteria oversaw a rebuilding Cubs team that finished 73-89 in 2014, and the 54-year-old has drawn praise this season from Ventura and other White Sox coaches, notes Van Schouwen. Renteria is also a fluent Spanish speaker, which is an obvious asset.
“He’s just a good baseball guy,’’ Ventura said of Renteria. “You see the work he puts in, all the little things he does and [what he can do for] our Latin guys. His interaction. He does a lot of stuff people don’t see. Gets there early, does video work. It’s been great.’’
While the White Sox are set to move forward with Renteria, it remains unknown which approach they’ll take during the offseason. A rebuild is possible, it seems, as left-handers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana would command enormous returns if the Sox were to trade one or both. However, owner Jerry Reinsdorf is reportedly reluctant to take that route, meaning Renteria could be at the helm of a team that aims to end its lengthy skid next season.
Kane was first to note (via Twitter) that Ventura had confirmed he would not return as the White Sox’ manager. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted that the White Sox planned to announce Renteria as their manager on Monday.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here’s the latest from the south side of Chicago…
- Robin Ventura was rumored to be done as the White Sox manager, and he confirmed it with reporters (including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin) after today’s game. “I just feel it’s the right time. It’s more of a personal decision than anything,” Ventura said. “I love being here. The organization means a lot to me. You can go as hard as you can and really the only thing you know is how you conduct your business and how you treat people. I’m good with that. Talking to [general manager] Rick [Hahn] through September, you just realize right now is the right time to do it and you need somebody else.”
- White Sox executive VP of baseball operations Kenny Williams is not stepping down from his position, WSCR 670’s Bruce Levine reports (Twitter link). Williams was promoted to his current role in October 2012 after a twelve-year stint as the White Sox general manager.
- The somewhat awkward handling of Ventura’s final days as manager is a sign that the White Sox need to settle on a clear chain of command within the organization, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines in his latest column for ESPN.com subscribers. Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who Olney calls “the most loyal boss in baseball,” needs to set a clear direction about whether or not the team is rebuilding or in go-for-it mode. It would also help solve some of the front office miscommunication by firmly establishing whether Williams or GM Rick Hahn is in charge of baseball operations.