After a fourth place finish in the AL Central, the White Sox will supplement their bullpen, and perhaps add reinforcements at left field, designated hitter, catcher, and in the rotation.
- Jose Abreu, 1B: $51MM through 2019
- John Danks, SP: $28.5MM through 2016
- Chris Sale, SP: $28.15MM through 2017
- Jose Quintana, SP: $25.65MM through 2018
- Alexei Ramirez, SS: $11MM through 2015
- Jeff Keppinger, IF: $4.5MM through 2015 (released in May 2014)
- Scott Downs, RP: $250K buyout (released in July 2014)
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Ronald Belisario, RP (4.151): $3.9MM projected salary
- Tyler Flowers, C (3.148): $2.1MM
- Dayan Viciedo, RF/LF (3.123): $4.4MM
- Hector Noesi, SP (3.006): $1.9MM
- Nate Jones, RP (3.000): $600K
- Javy Guerra*, RP (2.133, Super Two): $1.3MM
- Non-tender candidates: Belisario, Viciedo
- Felipe Paulino, SP: $4MM club option with a $250K buyout
It was another summer of trading away veterans for the White Sox, as GM Rick Hahn dealt Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza, and Adam Dunn in a span of 11 days at the end of August. The exact return on Beckham won’t be determined until the offseason, but Hahn did acquire a solid pitching prospect for Dunn in Nolan Sanburn.
It was an ugly campaign, but the 2014 season did provide Chicago clarity at several key positions. Most importantly, 2013 signing Jose Abreu looks like a huge bargain after posting MVP-caliber numbers in his rookie MLB season. Also, center fielder Adam Eaton established himself with a quality year worth 2.8 wins above replacement.
While the player acquired alongside Eaton from Arizona, Matt Davidson, remained in Triple-A and took a step backward, the Sox still found a solid stopgap at the hot corner in 27-year-old Conor Gillaspie. Gillaspie fits on the strong side of a platoon, and could match up with Marcus Semien again.
Avisail Garcia is the incumbent in right field after missing much of 2014 due to a shoulder injury. Just 23, Garcia could take a leap forward in 2015. Tyler Flowers had a passable season as the starting catcher, but struck out a ton and could easily see his average back around the Mendoza line in 2015. The Sox could pony up for Russell Martin, but Hahn should be proactive in attempting to find a quality backstop via trade. The Yankees are probably the team with the most depth at the position, in terms of long-term catchers.
25-year-old Dayan Viciedo declined to a .231/.281/.405 line, and does not look like a long-term piece for Chicago. He could be non-tendered or traded. Should Hahn turn to the free agent market to fill left field, options include Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Morse. Nori Aoki, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Nick Markakis haven’t generally played the position, but could be considered. The Rays’ Matt Joyce could be a trade option, and the Dodgers’ outfield surplus remains unresolved. The most intriguing choice would be young Cuban corner outfielder Yasmany Tomas, with whom Abreu is familiar. The problem is that Abreu’s success reset the Cuban market such that Tomas’ price tag could be in the $100MM range. The White Sox have not been connected to Tomas in any notable way thus far.
The White Sox have finally gotten Adam Dunn off the books, and in August Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com wrote that stealing Victor Martinez away from the Tigers tops Chicago’s offseason wish list. The Sox fell just short of signing Martinez four years ago, leading to their deal with Dunn. Martinez, who had a monster offensive 2014 season few saw coming, turns 36 in December and now spends the majority of his time as a designated hitter. Martinez would represent a fairly risky win-now signing for the Sox, but the switch-hitter would make a fantastic tandem with Abreu in 2015 as he did with Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. The Carlos Beltran deal should be Martinez’s floor, and the Sox would have to forfeit their second-round draft pick.
Trades for Alexei Ramirez could be entertained, though he still has value to the White Sox. He’s under contract for 2015 and has a club option for ’16, and could make a nice bridge to hopeful shortstop of the future Tim Anderson. Anderson, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, missed nearly two months with a broken wrist but still received a surprise promotion to Double-A. With Beckham gone, second base next figures to be a competition, with Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien, and Carlos Sanchez in the mix.
In the rotation, Chris Sale’s dominance continued and Jose Quintana had a quietly excellent campaign. John Danks ate innings at the back end, if nothing else. Hector Noesi, claimed off waivers from the Rangers in April, posted a 4.43 ERA in 27 starts for the Sox. The team is missing at least one more above average starting pitcher, and they could have it soon in 2014 first-round pick Carlos Rodon. Rodon finished the season at Triple-A and has a chance to break camp in 2015 in the big league rotation.
The Paulino experiment was a bust, though the Sox spent very little on him. To reduce the risk of dipping heavily into the team’s No. 6-8 starters, the Sox should at least add a project arm or two for depth.
The White Sox bullpen struggled in 2014, putting up a 4.28 ERA that was second-to-last in the American League. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam filled the ninth inning void after the offseason trade of Addison Reed, injuries to Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones, and ineffectiveness from Ronald Belisario (a likely non-tender candidate). Petricka, Putnam, and Daniel Webb were able to keep the ball on the ground, but failed to miss bats. Jones underwent Tommy John surgery in July, so he’s a non-factor for 2015 even if the Sox tender him a contract. The bullpen is a clear area of upgrade for Hahn, who told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin in September, “The overall goal of the bullpen is going to be to acquire multiple options, potentially from the right and left side … many of which could be end-game options for us.” Even if Chicago decides to pass on top free agent reliever David Robertson, the market offers a wide array of quality options.
Hahn used the word “aggressive” multiple times regarding the upcoming offseason, as reported by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. An aggressive approach makes sense, with Abreu, Sale, and Quintana currently so affordable. The Sox have about $46MM in contract commitments for 2015, plus maybe another $6MM if they retain Flowers, Noesi, Jones, and Guerra. Hahn could have around $40MM to play with in 2015 salaries without raising payroll, enough to add multiple significant free agents.
Though 2014 didn’t go as planned, the Sox received star-caliber performances from Abreu, Sale, and Quintana and quality seasons from Eaton and Gillaspie. There seems to be much offseason work to do to vault this team into contention, with the wish list including a retooled bullpen, an effective bat or two, and added rotation depth.
Note: there is some question as to Javy Guerra’s official service time. MLB’s calculation of 2.133 would make him a likely Super Two player, but his contract being selected (at least publicly) on May 20th suggests 2.128, which would fall short.