The White Sox have signed Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez this winter, extended Jose Abreu and acquired Nomar Mazara in a trade with the Rangers. Even with those additions, GM Rick Hahn said on a conference call to introduce Keuchel today that he has space to add further players and is also planning to keep some resources set aside for midseason acquisitions (Twitter link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times).
Between Keuchel, Grandal, Encarnacion, Gonzalez and Abreu, the White Sox added $65MM in payroll to the 2020 books — to say nothing of a $5.7MM projected arbitration salary for Mazara. In all, they’ve doled out a guaranteed $195.5MM plus Mazara’s impending salary, wherever it may land.
It’s the most aggressive offseason from the Sox since a 2014-15 offseason that saw them spend a combined $134MM on David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke, Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham in addition to their acquisition of Jeff Samardzija. But even with this winter’s slate of additions, the Sox have just $122MM committed to next year’s payroll. That’s thanks largely to a young core of pre-arbitration or already-locked up talents, including Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez and Aaron Bummer.
That affordable crop of rising stars and the expected contributions from a slate of pre-arb players and top prospects — Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal — gives the Sox some long-term flexibility, too, although perhaps not quite as much as one would think. Chicago has $67MM on the books for 2021, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, not including arbitration salaries for Mazara, Moncada, Giolito, Bummer, Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez. And in 2022 they actually have more money on the books than in 2021 ($72.75MM), thanks to the backloaded nature of Abreu’s contract and some built-in raises in the Anderson and Jimenez extensions. Add in second-time arbitration raises for Moncada, Giolito and Bummer, and the Sox’ 2022 payroll could already be expected to come in north of $90MM.
None of that is to say that the Sox are facing some sort of logjam down the road, but speculatively speaking, those mounting long-term commitments could make a shorter-term pickup preferable when looking to augment the 2020 club. Hahn confirmed today what was reported last week (Twitter link via Van Schouwen): the Sox are looking to improve the team’s bullpen for the upcoming season. With most of the top relievers off the board, a short-term deal with a free agent along the lines of Will Harris or Steve Cishek (among many other still-available arms) seems to be a sensible pursuit. Surely the Sox will also explore the trade route as well when looking for relief reinforcements.
The exact route the ChiSox will take probably isn’t even clear to Hahn and his staff just yet, but today’s comments only reaffirm that the club isn’t done just yet.