Chicago White Sox Rumors

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Offseason In Review: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had an active, successful offseason in which they upgraded their pitching staff and imported multiple bats.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • Adam Eaton, CF: five years, $23.5MM.  Includes $9.5MM club option for 2020 with a $1.5MM buyout and $10.5MM club option for 2021 with a $1.5MM buyout.

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

With core players Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana signed to affordable contracts, the White Sox were expected to take an aggressive approach to the offseason to fill their needs.  They met with Pablo Sandoval‘s agent at the GM Meetings in November, and had Victor Martinez on their wish list as well.  Around this time GM Rick Hahn also quietly explored trading for Jason Heyward, which wasn’t reported until this month.  Martinez re-signed quickly with the Tigers, however, so Hahn signed Adam LaRoche at less than 40% of the commitment Martinez required.

The price difference between LaRoche and Martinez reflects the fact that Martinez is a better hitter, of course.  Still, the White Sox got their coveted left-handed bat without taking on the risk of Martinez’s age 36-39 seasons.  Plus, bringing in a more capable defensive first baseman in LaRoche should help keep Abreu healthy.

The White Sox continued moving quickly by signing lefty reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM deal in mid-November.  Such a contract would have seemed absurd less than a year prior, as Duke had joined the Brewers on a minor league deal in January.  Duke was quietly dominant for the Brewers in 2014 after making a series of adjustments to his pitch mix and arm slot.  No team likes signing a reliever to a three-year deal, especially one with such a brief track record of success.  Only three other relievers received deals of three or more years this offseason, and one of those was also with the White Sox.  Still, the third year for Duke was the cost of doing business, and waiting until January for bargains is risky in its own way.MLB: Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox

Hahn owned the first night of the Winter Meetings, grabbing headlines by closing in on a trade for Jeff Samardzija and a free agent contract for David Robertson in the course of a few hours.  The Samardzija trade was a big win for the White Sox.  I do see the sneaky value in the players the A’s acquired — lower ceiling players who are mostly considered to be solid-average regulars by Baseball America.  Still, they were all players Chicago could afford to surrender to acquire one year of a potential front-rotation arm (plus perhaps an accompanying draft pick if Samardzija departs via free agency).  The White Sox would have had to take on a lot more risk in the free agent market to bring in a pitcher of Samardzija’s caliber.  In Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana, Hahn has assembled one of the better rotation trios in the game.

In Robertson, the White Sox acquired the offseason’s best available reliever at market price.  It’s interesting to note that Robertson apparently had another team offer even more than $46MM.  As with Duke, the term is not ideal, but it was necessary to sign the elite stopper.  $61MM is a lot to spend on commitments to relievers in one offseason, but the White Sox had very few dollars invested into their bullpen prior to Robertson and Duke.  Spending that much money is kind of a blunt-force way of addressing the team’s biggest problem, but it should work pretty well in the short term.  The Sox also complemented their bullpen by acquiring southpaw Dan Jennings from Miami.

Hahn continued going down his long list of offseason upgrades, signing Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42MM deal to play left field.  (We’ll have more on that signing in the Deal of Note section.)  After Cabrera, free agents Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham, and Geovany Soto were added as versatile bench pieces.  Getting Soto on a minor league deal was a plus.  Matt Albers and Jesse Crain were also added on minor league deals.

A five-year, $23.5MM extension for center fielder Adam Eaton capped Chicago’s busy offseason.  The talented 26-year-old missed 124 games due to injuries over the past two seasons, but the White Sox balanced that risk with reasonable salaries and a pair of club options at the end.

Questions Remaining

With top prospect Carlos Rodon a phone call away, maybe rotation depth won’t prove to be a problem for the White Sox.  Still, the rotation looks strong when Sale, Samardzija, and Quintana are pitching, and vulnerable the other 40% of the time with Hector Noesi, John Danks, Rodon, and maybe Brad Penny.  The Sox are still tied up with $28.5MM owed to Danks through 2016.

I raised the question of catching in my Offseason Outlook, and some alternatives and/or backups to Tyler Flowers were added in Soto, Rob Brantly, and George Kottaras.  The Sox did reportedly poke around on the Astros’ Jason Castro and discussed Miguel Montero with the Diamondbacks, so alternatives to Flowers were considered.  Catching still seems like a weak point in both the short and long-term.

There’s also the issue of executive vice president and former GM Ken Williams.  It was revealed in December that the Blue Jays sought to interview Williams to be their president/CEO, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf declined to grant them permission, and considered the attempt to be tampering.  Ultimately the Blue Jays retained Paul Beeston for one more year, and Williams doesn’t appear to begrudge Reinsdorf about the situation, perhaps because the Jays’ timing was indeed terrible.  Williams’ future with the White Sox bears watching though.

Deal Of Note

Melky Cabrera entered the offseason as our fourth-ranked free agent hitter, and many of us at MLBTR thought he would get the five-year deal he sought.  While there was reportedly one four-year offer, Cabrera settled for three years from the White Sox.  Even accounting for his 2012 PED suspension, qualifying offer, and below-average defense, it was surprising he didn’t sign for more money in a thin market for bats.  It works very well for the White Sox, who committed less to Cabrera and LaRoche than the Tigers did just to Martinez, diversifying their risk in the process.

Overview

We know “winning the offseason” doesn’t mean much once games start, but the White Sox entered the winter with a long list of needs and filled most of them, finding a few relative bargains along the way.  Hahn has assembled a much more interesting team that should be in contention in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports Images


Central Notes: White Sox, Dozier, Baez, Madson

If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
  • The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
  • Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.

White Sox Extend Adam Eaton

White Sox GM Rick Hahn announced a five-year, $23.5MM extension with center fielder Adam Eaton today on CSN Chicago. The deal includes two club options, which give the team risk-free control over Eaton for 2020 and 2021. Eaton is a client of Diamond Sports Management.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Chicago White Sox Here’s how the deal breaks out for the 26-year-old, who entered the spring with just over two years of service time and would have been playing for his first of three arbitration deals. Eaton receives $850K for the 2015 campaign, followed by $2.75MM, $4MM, and $6MM salaries for what would have been his arbitration seasons and $8.4MM for his first season of free agent eligibility. The club options are valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM, respectively, and either can instead be bought out for $1.5MM. The last club option can increase to $12MM if Eaton finishes second or third in MVP balloting any season from 2015 through 2020, and $13MM if he wins the MVP any of those years.

So, what did the White Sox get for their investment? Last year, in his first full run through the bigs, Eaton slashed .300/.362/.401 and swiped 15 bases. While he has no power to speak of, Eaton’s cumulative, park-adjusted work at the plate checked in at about 15% above league average. He draws walks at about a league-average rate while striking out a good bit less than the mean. Eaton’s .359 BABIP is probably not quite sustainable, but Eaton’s speed makes him a candidate to maintain a rather high average on balls in play; indeed, he consistently topped that level as a minor leaguer.

That kind of output will play at most positions, but is especially valuable in an up-the-middle defender. How one views this deal largely swings on how one values Eaton’s defense. He was not considered a sure thing in center as a prospect, but had at least proven he can handle the position heading into last year and unquestionably has the speed required.

The question is: with one full season in the books, which rating system (if any) do you believe? In the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating (-3.3 last year), Eaton is slightly below average at the position; thus, he checked in at 2.7 fWAR. But by measure of Defensive Runs Saved (12 runs above average), Eaton is an outstanding defender and was worth a staggering 5.2 rWAR last year.

If we split the difference and peg Eaton as an average to slightly above-average performer in center, and assume that he can continue to hit at an average or slightly better rate and provide value on the bases, then you have the makings of a solid 2.5 to 3.5 win player for the foreseeable future. That makes his new contract look rather appealing.

The closest comp for the Eaton deal is probably the 2012 extension between the Padres and Cameron Maybin. That contract went for five years and $25MM, with the team picking up just one option year. Maybin was obviously a high-variance player with bigger counting stats, so San Diego had to pay for his upside. Another obvious comparison point was just set: the $49.57MM Christian Yelich deal with the Marlins, which more than doubles the promise made to Eaton. While Yelich has more power upside, he plays in the corner. And though Yelich is a good bit younger (just 23), he also was one year further away from arbitration and free agency.

Of course, there are other elements weighing down Eaton’s price here. For one, his skillset is unlikely to translate into huge arbitration earnings And then there’s the fact that Eaton has dealt with a series of injury issues in recent seasons. Last year, it oblique and hamstring strains led to DL stints. In 2013, Eaton went down to a UCL sprain in his left elbow. It remains to be seen whether Eaton is uniquely injury prone or has just encountered some bad luck, but that track record certainly increased the deal’s logic from his perspective.

All told, the White Sox are undoubtedly pleased with how things have turned out with Eaton. Chicago was able to add him in exchange for lefty Hector Santiago, serving to facilitate the late 2013 Mark Trumbo deal.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune first tweeted the news. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweeted the option details. Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweeted the annual breakdown, while CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted details about Eaton’s last option season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



White Sox Acquire Neftali Soto

The White Sox have acquired corner infielder Neftali Soto from the Reds in exchange for cash considerations, CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes reports (via Twitter).

Soto was a third-round pick for the Reds in the 2007 amateur draft and he’s posted a .274/.322/.447 slash line and 107 homers over 3315 career plate appearances in the minors.  The 26-year-old made his Major League debut in 2013 and has only an .071 batting average (3-for-42) over 44 PA over the last two seasons.

Chicago is already pretty deep at the corner infield spots, what with Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche holding down the first base/DH duties and Conor Gillaspie starting at third base.  Beyond the starters, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio are also on hand for backup purposes, so Soto will likely be used largely at the Triple-A level.


AL Notes: Watkins, Correia, Surkamp

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe profiles Red Sox minor-leaguer J.T. Watkins, a 25-year-old backstop who hopes to become the first West Point grad to make it to the Majors. Watkins has spent two years in military service since being drafted, but was given the chance to pursue a baseball career by the Army. Of course, his odds of cracking the majors are somewhat longer those of, say, his 2012 teammate Mookie Betts — who just happened to be signed by Watkins’ father Danny. Here are more quick notes from the American League.


White Sox Notes: Williams, Penny, Robertson

White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams was included in the Blue Jays executive search, recalls Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. However, he’s happy with his current post. While he misses trade talks and the other daily duties of a GM, he now has more flexibility in his schedule. Williams has the final say in personnel decisions, but he doesn’t have to manage the day-to-day operations. That duty falls to GM Rick Hahn.

Here’s more from Chicago’s south side:

  • NRI Brad Penny will earn $100K if he is assigned to Triple-A, tweets Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Penny, 36,  appeared in eight games for the Marlins last season, including four starts. His last full season was in 2009. He has a 4.29 ERA, 5.95 K/9, and 2.89 BB/9 in 1,925 career innings.
  • The Sox have a history of building cheap bullpens under the current leadership, but they reversed course for the 2015 season, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The club didn’t have a good bullpen plan entering last season, and it showed in the results. Per manager Robin Ventura, “when you’re not confident in the seventh, eighth and ninth, it just deflates your team. If you blow it late, and if they don’t feel that they can win consistently, it just sucks the life out of them.” The new look relief corps, which includes David Robertson and Zach Duke, should do a much better job maintaining late game leads. The White Sox blew 21 saves last season.
  • Chicago liked that Robertson succeeded with the Yankees after Mariano Rivera‘s retirement, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. His ability to thrive on the biggest stage helped the club to make a pricey multi-year commitment to Robertson. The Yankees were also interested in re-signing him, but didn’t want to go as high as the Sox. Instead, New York was able to sign Andrew Miller for slightly less and net a compensation draft pick.

AL Notes: White Sox, Ramirez, Angels

Ken Williams lost out on a chance to become the Blue Jays’ new president and CEO this offseason, but he’s enjoying his current role with the White Sox, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “I can’t worry about something that I have no control over,” he says, but he’s clearly thrilled about this year’s team after adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke in the offseason. “I hesitate to say, because I don’t want to disrespect any of the other teams we’ve had, but I don’t know if I’ve been this optimistic and excited to see a team play on a day-to-day basis,” he says. Here’s more from the American League.

  • One player worth watching in Mariners camp is pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Ramirez is out of options. The Mariners will likely try to get him through waivers since there’s no space for him on the team (unless the Mariners option both Carson Smith and Dominic Leone), but another team is likely to claim him. (Ramirez posted an underwhelming 5.26 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 2014, but since he’s 24, has big-league experience, and can start or relieve, some team might find him to be an attractive waiver claim.) The M’s could deal Ramirez, but since he could wind up on the waiver wire anyway, there isn’t much incentive for teams to give up much for him.
  • Angels reliever Cory Rasmus has a core injury that will cause him to miss six to eight weeks, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes (Twitter links). That will leave two open spots in the team’s bullpen. One of those will likely go to Vinnie Pestano, and Gonzalez thinks it’s possible that the other will be occupied by Matt Lindstrom, who is an Article XX(B) free agent.
  • Nonetheless, the Angels are impressed with Scott Snodgress, who they see as a potential hard-throwing lefty bullpen option, Gonzalez writes. They signed Snodgress as a minor-league free agent over the winter. Snodgress spent most of last season as a stater with Double-A Birmingham in the White Sox system, posting a 3.89 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, but the Angels saw him as a reliever. “This is a team that, for the most part, has gone through the last year and a half without a consistent presence on the left-handed side of the bullpen,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “From Day 1, we’ve talked about bullpen being a role, and I think that intrigued him.”

Minor Moves: Blanke, Santos, Kussmaul

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The White Sox have traded catcher/pitcher Mike Blanke to the Diamondbacks for cash, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The 26-year-old Blanke hit .226/.302/.340 for Double-A Birmingham in 2013, but in 2014 he made the switch to pitching, striking out ten batters and walking 12 in 13 1/3 innings for Great Falls in the Pioneer League. He evidently throws 95-98 MPH, perhaps suggesting the pitching experiment is one worth continuing. Nonetheless, he’ll be back at catcher this season, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona tweets. It appears likely he will be minor-league depth, not a solution to the Diamondbacks’ catching uncertainties at the big-league level.
  • The Giants have released Adalberto Santos, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Santos, who plays second, third and the outfield, has an impressive .303/.388/.428 line for his minor-league career, but he’s never received an extended opportunity at Triple-A. The 27-year-old began 2014 in the Pirates organization before heading to the Giants in a minor trade in June.
  • The White Sox have released righty Ryan Kussmaul, according to the International League transactions page. Kussmaul, 28, posted a 4.08 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 68 1/3 innings split between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2014. He’s never received a shot in the Majors despite a career 10.4 K/9 in the minors.

Central Notes: Eaton, Henderson, Perez, Jackson, Wood

Today’s biggest transactional news came out of Chicago, as the White Sox continued to set the stage for the future by extending outfielder Adam Eaton. The 26-year-old expressed plenty of excitement for the new deal, though it sounds as if he did not quite enjoy the process that it took to reach agreement, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets“I didn’t sleep much,” said Eaton. “Very stressful. I don’t know how the other side felt. It was long.”

Let’s have a look at a few more notes from the central divisions:

  • Former Brewers closer Jim Henderson was reassigned to minor league camp today as he continues to show slow progress in his return from shoulder surgery, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Henderson has been throwing his fastball at about five to ten miles per hour below his peak mid-to-upper-90s offering from recent seasons.
  • Fellow righty Corey Knebel has also been shipped to the minor league side of camp by the Brewers, writes McCalvy, leaving Chris Perez, Tyler Thornburg, and Rob Wooten to battle over the final pen role. Perez is in camp on a minor league deal and has Article XX(B) protection, meaning that the team will either need to put him on the active roster, pay him a $100K bonus in the minors (and give him a June 1 opt-out date), or release him. The other two players still have options.
  • Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says he is talking with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a creative means to fit both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on the 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. Jackson is in the midst of a substantial free agent contract, while Wood is out of options. A transaction would be necessary should either player not make the club out of camp.

Central Notes: Melvin, Garcia, Beckham, Twins

Now that the Brewers have settled Ron Roenicke’s contract situation, the focus has now naturally turned to GM Doug Melvin, whose own deal is set to expire after the 2015 season.  Talking with reporters, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links), Melvin said that he felt Roenicke’s extension was the more important deal to complete first so Roenicke wouldn’t have “lame duck” status hanging over him with the players.  Getting an extension of his own isn’t as important to Melvin at the moment, though he figures he may talk to owner Mark Attanasio about the topic at some point.

Here are some more items from around both the NL and AL Central…

  • Jaime Garcia‘s checkered injury history and high salary ($9.25MM in 2015 plus $500K to buy out his $11.5MM club option for 2016) make him a tough sell as a trade candidate, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in his breakdown of Garcia’s trade value.  The Cardinals could pay some money to help make a deal happen, though that presumes they want to deal Garcia at all — Miklasz notes that Garcia has pitched well this spring and could be a valuable depth piece for the Cards this season.
  • While the White Sox were looking for a player with Gordon Beckham‘s skillset this winter, GM Rick Hahn tells ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla that he initially didn’t consider Beckham “because I didn’t think this was necessarily right fit for Gordon Beckham, individually.”  Hahn felt Beckham might be better suited to getting a fresh start with a club rather than returning to his original team, but after discussing the matter with Beckham and his agent, the infielder assured the GM that he was happy and eager to return to Chicago.  From that same piece, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that the Halos “were competitive” in making Beckham an offer close to the $2MM he received from the Sox.
  • Danny Santana‘s $530K salary for 2015 makes him the highest-paid of the Twins‘ pre-arbitration players, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.  Berardino has the full list of salaries for all 17 Minnesota pre-arb players.