The White Sox have made a staggering amount of progress on the rebuild of their franchise in less than a year’s time. It’s almost incredible to think that last year, when doing a “Three Needs” look at the Sox, one need that Tim Dierkes listed was to make a decision on whether they should embark on a fire sale or take one more shot with a group led by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, David Robertson, Carlos Rodon, Tim Anderson and Todd Frazier.
The Sox have traded almost everything that isn’t nailed down over the past year, bringing in high-profile talent like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Blake Rutherford and roughly a dozen other prospects of varying levels of upside. Certainly, though, there’s still work for the team to do. We’ll take a longer look at their offseason in next month’s Offseason Outlook series, but here’s a higher-level overview of the Sox’ remaining needs.
1. Make a decision on Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
Abreu has been one of the best hitters in the American League over his four Major League campaigns, and he’s enjoying his best year since his rookie season in 2017. Thus far, he’s hitting .303/.356/.549 with 31 homers and a career-low 17.5 percent strikeout rate. His 40.1 percent hard-hit rate is easily a career-high, while his 6.9 percent infield-fly rate is the lowest of his career. Abreu is due a raise on this year’s $10.8MM salary, and he’s controllable only through 2019, so the end of his contract will coincide with the arrival of much of the team’s young talent.
Garcia, 26, is in somewhat of a similar position (which is not something that anyone really expected to be the case this time last year). While his deeper track record is unsightly, the right fielder/designated hitter has long been seen as having a healthy offensive ceiling, and this year he’s come through and delivered on that hype. In 524 plate appearances, he’s hitting .333/.382/.502 with new career-bests in home runs (17), doubles (23), triples (four) and strikeout rate (19.8 percent). There’s no way Garcia can sustain a .396 BABIP, and his exit velocity is actually down from the 2016 season, but some of the strides he’s made appear legitimate. Like Abreu, though, he’s controlled only through 2019 and could be viewed by the organization as either an extension or a trade candidate.
The White Sox don’t technically have to make a call on either this winter, but the more time that goes by, the less team control they can shop to interested suitors and the closer each gets to free agency (thus reducing some of Chicago’s leverage in talks). Chicago also doesn’t have much else in the way of marketable veteran pieces to shop this winter, making a trade of at least one of the two the most realistic avenue to accruing more prospect capital. Garcia’s breakout has some potential red flags, but his price tag is lower than that of Abreu and he’s four years younger.
2. Add some veteran arms to support/mentor the kids (and to flip in summer trades).
White Sox fans can dream on a rotation consisting of Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon as soon as late 2018 or early 2019, but there are a lot of innings to be covered while Kopech finishes his development in Triple-A and the team monitors the workloads of the other three (Giolito and Lopez due to youth, Rodon due to 2017 injuries and durability concerns). Adding Derek Holland for the 2017 season may not have netted a trade piece for the Sox — Holland was released in August after struggling for most of the season — but he soaked up plenty of innings for an inexperienced staff.
Grabbing at least one veteran, if not two, to step into a similar role next season would be prudent. There should be no shortage of names available for the Sox to pursue, with hurlers such as Jeremy Hellickson, Scott Feldman, Tyson Ross, Anibal Sanchez and old friend Hector Santiago among the free agents likely looking at one-year rebound scenarios. Pitching coach Don Cooper’s reputation will likely be a point in the team’s favor in luring such veterans, as will be an easier promise to guaranteed innings than most contending clubs would be willing to offer.
Also on the docket, of course, should be a veteran reliever or two. Just as the Sox can offer guaranteed innings to rebound candidates, the team can also offer high-leverage roles to relievers looking for rebound seasons. Huston Street, Tyler Clippard, Fernando Salas and Neftali Feliz are among the bounceback candidates on the free-agent bullpen market.
3. Take advantage of a nearly blank payroll slate.
The fact that the Sox don’t have much in the way of marketable veterans to pitch to other teams doesn’t mean that they simply can’t acquire further talent this offseason. The White Sox only have about $15MM committed to next year’s payroll: the $10MM portion of James Shields’ salary they must pay, $3.95MM for Nate Jones and $1MM for Tim Anderson. Beyond that, the only notable arbitration raises they’ll face belong to Abreu, Rodon and Yolmer Sanchez. As it stands, the White Sox could easily field a team for under $40MM in player salaries next season, though they’ll surely spend more to fill out the roster and invest in some potential trade chips.
But, the Sox are also extremely well positioned to take on some or all of a veteran player’s contract in order to persuade a rival club to part with some meaningful young talent. When teams like the Braves (Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis), Diamondbacks (Yasmany Tomas), Yankees (Jacoby Ellsbury), Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) and others are looking to shed some unfavorable contracts, the White Sox will no doubt be involved in exploring scenarios that allow them effectively to purchase the rights to prospects — while also filling out the MLB roster with players that can perhaps be flipped again later, as occurred with Clippard this summer.
As recently as 2016, the White Sox opened the year with a near-$115MM payroll, and they opened with payrolls north of $118MM in 2015 and 2013 as well. The team can afford to spend — especially on players with only a year or two remaining on their contracts — and taking on those burdensome commitments could allow them to pry another few prospects away from rival clubs. As a bonus, the lack of veteran commitments on the current White Sox roster should also allow the Pale Hose to nab at least one player (if not multiple players) in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Mixed emotions on whether to extend Abreu and Avi or trade them…
My view is that both players are young enough and good enough to be important players for the Sox as they approach contention again. Abreu has been productive ever since he arrived. Garcia seems to be approaching the potential Sox officials touted when they acquired him from Detroit, though it’s reasonable to wonder whether he can perform at his current level next year. Right now, the Sox remain “Abreu and the Eight Ifs.” I don’t see how trading him or Garcia makes the Sox better, except to those who cling to the notion that the best players are prospects who haven’t made their mark in the Majors yet, if ever.
No brainer IMO. Both stay. Abreu is a great veteran presence and Avi, well I doubt Hahn will get floored by an offer for him this off season.. He also has at least another year of control, so you see how he starts, and frankly where the club is, by the All Star break next season.
Keep ’em both. Good major league hitters who will provide much needed offense and help our young pitchers win some games. Congrats to Abreu on getting 100 RBI’s again this year. Extensions are in order IF they both stay healthy and deliver again next year.
I guess it comes down to what your going to get in return. Doesn’t seem to be a big market for corner outfielders or first baseman. Most contending teams have both already.
At least they didn’t release Avi……
Probably the most favorable future outlook in all of baseball.
It’d look even better with Fernando Tatis Jr. I still don’t know why that trade didn’t get rescinded.
Sending out Tatis Jr. makes me cringe looking at his numbers now.
Only happened because the sox love Tim Anderson so much.
Abreu to the rangers makes the most sense to me, Is Napoli a free agent after this year ?
Maybe something centered around Guzman?
one need: develop the newfound prospect talent into good major league players
That is the most important aspect of their rebuild. But the White Sox don’t have a good track record for that.
I think the problem was both player development and drafting and scouting. Both have newer personnel so we’ll see
Define a good track record?
The White Sox have done a pretty decent job with developing pitchers in recent years but are lack with positional talent. Is that a reflection of their drafting strategy or an indictment of their player development staff, both of which have been altered recently?
Many of the top White Sox prospects have been acquired in trades this past year so the question of drafting strategy may be lessened as a result. We’ll all find out soon enough just how much the organization improves with their restructured player development and scouting staffs.
Btw-As a lifelong Cub fan (like yourself) in addition to being a die-hard White Sox fan, you might want to question your favorite team’s decision to forego pitching in favor of hitting until recent June drafts, along with their skill in developing amateur mound talent.
I like the idea of taking on bad contracts from other teams along with prospects (similar to what the Braves have done), but I’d hate to take on anything longer than 2 years.
Trading Avisail is so obvious a goal that it might hurt his market. Not to mention there aren’t as many dumb teams left.
Garcia is looked at as an aberration right now. Teams know this. I doubt he goes anywhere unless Hahn is floored by such a great package as to let him go. As that will likely not occur, Avi will need to back up this year by having another good season next. Though i do thing he is finally starting to live up to his potential.
I don’t anticipate the White Sox trading either Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia this offseason.
I believe Abreu will remain with the organization at least through 2018 and is the more likely player to receive a contract extension buying out his remaining arbitration eligibility and some years of free agency. His presence has already paid dividends to the organization with their Cuban players, particularly Yoan Moncada, to say nothing of the other hispanic players. Following the recent trades of their remaining veterans there is no question that Abreu is the clubhouse leader and face of the franchise as I post. His leadership and mentoring skills could become even more vital when the next round of elite talent surfaces on the White Sox roster, players that figure to include Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before Abreu’s current deal expires following the 2019 season.
Garcia is another matter. He finally began matching production with ability this past season. I seriously doubt that Rick Hahn will be blown away with an offer for him this offseason based on one good year of success. If Garcia can continue to produce next season his value should increase as the 2018 summer trade deadline approaches and when the organization will have a better feel for the progress of both Jimenez and Robert in their minor league system. Jimenez will be the top organizational prospect added to the White Sox 40-man roster this offseason due to his Rule 5 eligibility. With a strong start at AA and continued success in AAA it is not out of the question that Jimenez could make his MLB debut late next season. Robert may follow at some point in 2019 which would make Garcia more expendable as his arbitration eligibility draws to a close and he nears free agency.
Sign tradable flips that must be the number one priority also get the draft RIGHT no mistake with that first pick. Then 2019 we can make some noise.
Yo what happened to my comment
I’m just glad that Eloy isn’t breathing down Kyle’s neck anymore.
Sign Abreu 4 years $60mil w/ a team option for a 5th year
Sign Chris Tillman 1 year $6mil and hope ‘Coop can fix’m.
AND DON’T LET THE TIGERS PASS YOU FOR THE #3 PICK!
Jose will cost more than that.
It’s a very fair contract.
31yo 1B/DH’s don’t get huge contracts anymore.
He can take $60mil now or hit FA at age 33 with a little better than half that through arbitration.
The Baltimore Orioles should have taken your advise a year and a half ago when they seemingly bid with themselves to make Chris Davis a very rich man. For the White Sox sake, let’s hope that Jose Abreu isn’t inclined to hire Scott Boras as his agent anytime soon.
“Coop” hasn’t “fixed” anyone has he?
Swarzak and Kahnle were having amazing careers before this year.
You forgot Gonzalez and clippard
Brett The Wolfman
He turned Matt Thornton into one of the best set up men in the game. And for us to get anything for tyler Clip who was a salary dump for the Yanks and after 2 weeks with Coop he had like a 2.00 era with the Sox and we got a million for him
Cooper has fixed FAR more pitchers than made worse, and those guys he did not ‘fix’? Guess what? How many of those guys left the Sox and had massive success? None, because they were not ‘fixable’ to begin with. He has by far made more pitchers better than worse or no change!
They have acquired a great amount of potential. The first step is to develop the potential into actual results. The second step is to build a team with it. Their inability to do that is why they tore down a young cheap core in the first place.
I’d trade garcia to the braves, take on kemps contract, and pick up a boatload of talent from the braves.
Theyve got so much pitching they could easily part with some to get garcia from the white sox and send them kemp who can split dh duties with abreu.
You forget one part. The braves would want to do that. Will not happen. Not getting good prospects for avi.
It’s not impossible to get good prospects for a bat. But I admit it seems to be only pitching that teams are ponying up for though. Offense has cost some teams a playoff spot. So I could see a change in this trend possibly depending how the World Series shakes out.
I wish Abreu would leave the White Sox and sign with the Royals lol
I think the Royals could be rebuilding after this season. If they were to bid on Abreu would be weird seeing him in a Royal uniform. I could See Milwaukee, St. Lous, Mets, Giants, Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, Rays, Twins as speculative fits. Just don’t know if the package would be worth what he means to the team.
Great piece. Abreu would certainly help the Brewers or the Cardinals if they wanna compete with the Cubs. You can just tell they can’t hit with the Cubs. Both teams are right there, but need an elite bat like Abreu. The only other bats that could be like him available this winter Hosmer, Martinez, Stanton. Don’t see them ponying up the dough for those guys,. But can the Sox get fair value back for him and what would be some fair packages from those teams? Hard to say.
I could see Abreu in St. Louis. The Cards have a glut of young outfielders and pitching that could aid the south siders in a rebuild.
The Angels seem like an endless wallet of money, but do they have the prospects?
Milwaukee could be a destination, however, I think they have what they need. Plus, I don’t see them adding payroll.
An inner divisional trade of such a great player would seem unlikely between rivals.
I would love to see sox land Kelly from cardinals. He’s possibly top defensive catching prospect in minors, and decent bat. I realize we have Collins but he can be moved to 1B or DH. We focused this rebuild on pitching. Adding a top young defensive catcher is a priority to enhance the focus on pitching. Let these kids come up with a backstop like Kelly.
And what would they do with Carpenter?
I don’t see the White Sox pursuing any overpriced players like those mentioned in the second to last paragraph. Their farm system is already stacked with elite prospects, many of whom will be ready for prime time as soon as 2018 or 2019. They will also benefit with a top pick from a loaded draft class next June and still have a couple more pawns to deal in Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia if they so desire.
In fact, the White Sox are so stacked with power arms in their system at both the major and minor league levels they may wind up swapping a couple of those for any needs they might need in the field or batting order.
You read that wrong.
How so? All those players are over-priced based on their remaining contract obligations and production. I not only see zero need for the White Sox to pursue any of them based on their current situation I have history on my side that says owner Jerry Reinsdorf would not sign off on any of them.
There is little comparison with the inclusion of Tyler Clippard and his small remaining contract to make the mega-deal with the Yankees work versus the White Sox actually taking on Matt Kemp type dollars to secure a decent prospect package. The White Sox are in phase II of their rebuild so any comp with other recent trades like the James Shields mistake is not relevant either since the team still considered themselves a “contender” in June of 2016 when that deal went down, one in which they surrendered a top talent like Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Never injured Chris Volstad is pitching well so far like he did at the beginning of his career. No need to pursue any other veterans hoping for a rebound.
He had one good 4+ inning stint, lets not anoint him a start in a rotation next season
I doubt Abreu goes anywhere else, regardless of the cash, unless the Sox no longer want him. I think Abreu is far more interested in ‘fit’ than a massive contract, or he would have been griping about the one he has now. I think he could want to be closer to his son, but otherwise I think he is perfectly happy in Chicago.
So, we’ve obtained good, young pitchers…We’ve got the new ‘face of the franchise’ in Anderson (though I still think they should have moved him to center), and some promising power at the positions but WHERE’S OUR CATCHER??? If the Sox were going to roll the dice on a veteran player I’d throw some cash at a good, experienced backstop. Someone needs to show these kids how to miss bats!
Not to sure about Tim Anderson being the “face of the franchise”. That title belongs to Jose Abreu and will continue to be true up until the day he is no longer a member of the White Sox.
White Sox fans have been very unhappy with their catchers in recent years. They under-appreciated Tyler Flowers contribution to the pitching staff defensively and as a signal caller. Last year they all cried about Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro. This season the team has received some unexpected offense from a pair of “younger” backstops in Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith and still complain bitterly. I’d like to see a little more defense but the kids are improving with experience and should be given a shot to continue until the organization sees what they have in prospects Zack Collins, Evan Skoug and Seby Zavala.
As far as missing bats, you should see plenty of that from the likes of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer and Dane Dunning in the next couple of seasons.
Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith you say. I don’t like your math. Two backup catchers do not equal an established field marshall. There’s a nuance to catching that goes beyond keeping a 100 mph fastball from slapping the back wall. I’m all about the ‘framing’ and the defensive aspects but there’s no replacing the experience of a veteran catcher. Both of our guys need a lot more seasoning before they’re served up as a viable catcher. Nothing spells Triple A more than a battery of New Guy Pitcher / New Guy Catcher. If the only option we have right now is Soto then so be it but lately he’s been a more experienced spectator than participant. If we can’t acquire a catcher we need to create one but throwing Narvaez and Smith into the deep end has produced the expected results…treading water.
It’s entirely possible that the White Sox will once again bring in another cheap veteran catcher to compete in camp next spring. There’s little chance or reason for them to invest the dollars or years in an expensive option like Jonathan Lucroy.
I’m fine with a cheap option like Geovany Soto who was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training last offseason. I’m also good with just sticking with Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith. Narvaez now has two MLB seasons under his belt with the White Sox while Smith is plenty familiar with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer as their primary catcher at AAA Charlotte this past season before all earned promotions later in the 2017 season.
Oh, the ‘face of the franchise’ remark was made by one of the Sox announcers. The last time I recall someone using that term when referencing a Sox player they were talking about Gordon Beckham…and we know how THAT went.
Well, at least Beckham had some success as the “hair of the franchise”. lol
Brett The Wolfman
Since we will have no payroll next year why can’t we sign a great free agent with a contract that has 30 million the first year and then 10 million the 2nd year and 5 million in years 3 and 4? So we will pay his big contract for the first year and with the amazing contract the next 3 years we could trade the player for great prospects since he would be a star with 20 milllion owed to him for 3 years. So it would be a 4 year 60 million contract but we would pay half of it the first year. Is this allowed? Could we do that with a great hitter and great pitcher