- Despite the additions already made this offseason, the White Sox could use some more rotation depth, a closer, and a designated hitter, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Andrew Vaughn could be called upon to fill that designated hitter role or to spell MVP Jose Abreu at first base. Vaughn figured to be a fast-riser when the White Sox made him the No. 3 overall selection of the 2019 draft, and he made it to High-A in his first professional season. Had there been a minor league season in 2020, Vaughn might be ready for the Show, but under the circumstances, the Sox could look for a stopgap solution to give Vaughn some seasoning time and further build their offensive depth.
White Sox Rumors
1:47pm: Colas will work out for teams early in 2021, reports ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (Twitter links), but there’s a “real shot” he’ll wait a year to sign in order to get the largest deal possible. Upwards of a third of the league has some interest in Colas, McDaniel adds, with the White Sox and Astros among the interested parties.
8:50am: Major League Baseball has declared outfielder/pitcher Oscar Colas a free agent, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 22-year-old was recently declared a free agent by Japan’s SoftBank Hawks after an ugly dispute between player and team. Colas and his family publicly alleged that he was deceived when signing his original contract — a deal he believed to be three years in length but one that held several club option years. Jim Allen outlined the saga in a thorough piece for the Kyodo News earlier this summer, and fans unfamiliar with Colas and his story will want to read Allen’s story for full context on the situation.
Turning to the future for Colas, he’ll now be eligible to sign with a team beginning on Jan. 15, 2021. That’s the official kickoff date for the 2020-21 international signing period — a date that was pushed back from its typical July 2 commencement as teams placed their focus and resources elsewhere while seeking to ramp up for shortened 2020 season.
Given his age and lack of professional experience, Colas is restricted to signing a minor league contract and is subject to international bonus pools. A team cannot exceed its league-allotted bonus pool in order to sign Colas, and teams aren’t allowed to trade international pool space for the 2020-21 period (another concept agreed to as the league sorted out return-to-play conditions prior to the season).
That, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler explained yesterday, leads to a tricky situation for Colas. Using the White Sox as an example, Badler writes that between outfielder Yoelki Cespedes, who recently agreed to sign with the Sox once the signing period officially begins, and prior agreements with righty Norge Vera and others, most of the ChiSox’ pool is already used up. Most teams throughout the league are in a similar spot, per Badler.
That’s not uncommon, as most deals for international amateurs are agreed to months or even years in advance. But it’s also not a good thing for Colas, who is only now becoming a free agent at a time when most teams have committed the bulk of their signing pools to other players. Badler suggests that Colas could consider waiting all the way until the 2021-22 signing period to agree to terms with a deal, although it’s likely that some clubs will try to sway him to sign sooner than that.
There’s a good bit of hype surrounding Colas, some of which stems from the dubious “Cuban Ohtani” moniker associated with him. That seems an unfair and frankly misleading nickname to place on a player who, despite reportedly possessing a fastball that can touch 95 mph, has pitched just 3 1/3 professional innings, all of which came as a 19-year-old during the 2018-19 Cuban National Series. Colas didn’t pitch during his time with the Hawks. Ohtani, meanwhile, had 543 innings of 2.52 ERA ball with 624 strikeouts in NPB by the time he jumped to the Majors as a 23-year-old.
Colas spent the bulk of his time in Japan with the Hawks’ minor league club in the Japan Western League, which is certainly sensible given that he was just 18 upon reporting to the Hawks for his first season. He struggled in his first Western League campaign but raked at a .302/.350/.516 clip in 2019, earning a promotion to the Hawks’ big league roster as a 20-year-old. Colas homered in his first plate appearance after the promotion and went 5-for-18 with that homer, a walk and six strikeouts in 21 trips to the plate. During his first two years with the Hawks, he’d also suit up during the winter for his pro team in Cuba. Overall, in parts of three seasons in Cuba’s top league, Colas is a .305/.381/.487 hitter.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen doesn’t have Colas near the top of his international prospect rankings, writing that he’s a “more stable prospect as a lefty first base/designated hitter/right field type” than as a pitcher. That’s not to say that a team won’t try to develop him on the mound, but comparisons to Ohtani simply don’t seem appropriate.
For all the intrigue surrounding the 22-year-old Colas, there’s also considerable uncertainty, both as to when he might actually sign and whether clubs will view him as a legitimate two-way option or prefer to focus on developing his abilities as a hitter and outfielder.
The White Sox have agreed to a $2MM bonus with outfielder Yoelki Cespedes, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. The deal will be official on January 15 when the 2020-21 international signing window (delayed from last July 2 due to the pandemic) opens.
As the half-brother of former All-Star Yoenis Cespedes, the 23-year-old Yoelki carries some notable family ties and a lot of potential. MLB Pipeline ranks Cespedes first in its list of 2020-21 int’l prospects, noting that he has put on “at least 15 pounds of muscle” for “more power and explosive bat speed.” Cespedes has recently overhauled his swing to closely resemble his brother at the plate. Pipeline’s scouting grades (on the 20-80 scale) indicate five-tool potential for Cespedes, with a 50 grade for his hitting being the lowest score — his fielding and power earned 55s, while his running and throwing arm earned 60s.
Not all scouts are quite this optimistic about Cespedes (as we observed back in March when Cespedes was declared a free agent), though naturally more recent evaluations on Cespedes aren’t really available given how the pandemic curtailed scouting activity for months. Obviously the White Sox felt comfortable enough in Cespedes’ ceiling to give him $2MM, one of the higher bonuses given to any player in the 2020-21 international class.
As Badler notes, with Cespedes’ deal now taking up much of the available space in Chicago’s international signing pool, the White Sox could be out of the running for Oscar Colas after previously being rumored to have interest in the outfielder. Colas’ availability was tied up in a dispute with Japan’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for months, and while that dispute was recently settled, there hasn’t yet been any word on whether or not MLB has officially made Colas a free agent. It could be that the Sox simply decided to allot their int’l funds towards a player they already knew was available rather than continue to wait on Colas.
Over four seasons in the Serie Nacional, Cespedes hit .287/.352/.416 with 12 homers over 803 PA, beginning in Cuba’s top league as a 17-year-old. He also played for Cuba during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, as the youngest member of the team’s roster.
Dec. 21: A Maricopa County judge has accepted La Russa’s guilty plea for reckless driving, per Jon Seidel of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter thread). He’s been sentenced to a day of jail time, which has been commuted to home detention, and 20 hours of community service. He’ll be fined $1,383 as well. La Russa also recently went through alcohol counseling, according to his attorney.
Dec. 13: White Sox manager Tony La Russa has agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor under Arizona law, stemming from his February arrest, reports James Fegan of the Athletic. La Russa was originally charged with two counts of driving under the influence, class 1 misdemeanors.
La Russa’s plea agreement calls for him to serve one day in jail, Fegan reports. However, the state stipulated a willingness to approve work release or house detention in lieu of jail time, so long as the presiding judge approves. The parties’ agreement also calls for La Russa to pay a fine of $1,383 plus incarceration expenses, as well as completing twenty hours of community service. The parties are set for a telephonic hearing in front of a judge to conclude the matter on December 21, Fegan adds.
The White Sox hired La Russa in October. The organization was aware of the charges against him at the time and is not expected to make a change in the dugout.
In a class of his own atop the free agent reliever market, Liam Hendriks is unsurprisingly drawing widespread interest. The White Sox, Mets and Blue Jays have been tied to Hendriks within the past week, and Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Dodgers and Astros have joined them among those pursuing the right-hander. Hendriks is looking for a four-year deal, Passan adds.
Over the past two seasons, Hendriks has arguably been the best reliever in baseball. He’s pitched to a 1.79 ERA across 110.1 relief innings since the start of 2019. In that time, Hendriks struck out 38% of opposing hitters against a 5.7% walk rate and held batters to a .192/.240/.289 slash line. No reliever (minimum 50 innings) has a better park-adjusted ERA, and only Josh Hader, Nick Anderson and Kirby Yates have a higher strikeout minus walk percentage.
Quite obviously, every team in the league would benefit from the addition of Hendriks to the back of the bullpen. The Dodgers’ bullpen was quite good in 2020; nevertheless, that’s the area of the roster that has given the team a bit of trouble in prior seasons and is the easiest spot to add depth as they look to mount another World Series run.
The Astros’ interest in Hendriks also isn’t surprising. Houston’s bullpen was decimated by injuries this past season and looks in need of some outside help. The Astros are facing the potential free agent departures of George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick, though, with few obvious in-house replacements beyond Kyle Tucker. It remains to be seen if there’ll be requisite payroll space for the Houston front office to add top-of-the-market relief help while also sufficiently addressing the outfield.
Widespread interest notwithstanding, Hendriks finding a four-year deal at a strong average annual value might prove to be a tough task. He turns 32 in February, which figures to give some teams pause. The early stages of the offseason also haven’t been particularly kind to relievers. Every team in the league passed on Brad Hand’s $10MM option at the start of the offseason. Trevor May settled for a two-year, $15.5MM deal with the Mets; similarly productive relievers (Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly, for instance) found three-year pacts in past winters. It’s possible Hendriks’ recent brilliance causes teams to view him as an exception, but the general trend seems to be that of a depressed bullpen market. One factor in his favor: the A’s did not issue him a qualifying offer, so the team that signs him will not have to forfeit draft pick compensation.
This has not been an especially active Winter Meetings week, but the Rangers and White Sox did swing a major trade on its first night. The deal saw Chicago acquire right-hander Lance Lynn from Texas in exchange for righty Dane Dunning and lefty Avery Weems.
It was an aggressive move by the White Sox, who just reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Lynn finished near the top of the American League in Cy Young voting in each of his two seasons with the Rangers, so he should help give the White Sox rotation one of the majors’ best top threes. They already had Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, who joined Lynn among the AL’s most effective starters in 2020. Lynn will now reunite with new manager Tony La Russa, who was the Cardinals’ skipper when the hurler debuted in 2011.
While Lynn has long been a quality arm, another plus is his highly affordable salary for 2021. With $8MM coming his way next season, the 33-year-old won’t make much of a dent in Chicago’s payroll. The problem is that the White Sox did have to surrender a couple of promising younger pitchers to acquire him.
Dunning, a former first-round pick, made his big league debut last season after a rather impressive minor league tenure. The 25-year-old held his own in Chicago, where he logged a 3.97 ERA/3.99 FIP with 9.26 K/9, 3.44 BB/9 and a 45.1 percent groundball rate in seven starts and 34 innings. That’s a small sample size, but Dunning’s track record makes it easy for the Rangers to dream that he will be a key cog on their roster. He’s under control for six more seasons, so it’s possible Dunning will be in the Lone Star State for the long haul.
Weems does not seem to have Dunning’s potential, nor has he appeared in the majors yet, but he also has a chance to be a useful piece. The 2019 sixth-round pick from the University of Arizona shut down rookie ball hitters that year, when he recorded an outstanding 2.09 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 60 1/3 frames. Baseball America’s Josh Norris wrote after the Lynn trade that Weems’ future is probably as a reliever, but he “could move quickly to the upper levels.”
The White Sox are clearly banking on Lynn’s presence helping them contend for a World Series title in 2021, whereas the Rangers – who are in a rebuild – acquired two controllable players in letting him go. How do you think the two teams fared in the deal? (Poll links for app users: White Sox, Rangers)
Dec 10: The White Sox have formally announced the signing via a press release, tweets James Fegan of the Athletic.
Dec 8: The White Sox have brought a familiar face back to the South Side, as NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien (Twitter link) reports that the Sox have signed outfielder Adam Eaton to a one-year, $7MM contract. The deal contains a club option worth $8.5MM for the 2022 season, with MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reporting that the option has a $1MM buyout. Eaton is represented by Diamond Sports Management.
Eaton previously played for the White Sox from 2014-16, emerging as a reliable and productive everyday outfielder over those three seasons. With Chicago embarking on a rebuild, Eaton was traded to the Nationals almost exactly four years ago to the day in a very notable deal that brought the Sox a trio of young arms — Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez.
Flash forward to today and Giolito is the ace of Chicago’s staff, Lopez is on the roster though perhaps looking at a move to the bullpen after struggling as a starter, and Dunning was just traded to the Rangers yesterday in the swap that brought Lance Lynn to Guaranteed Rate Field. Between adding Lynn and Eaton within 24 hours, the White Sox have now checked two notable items off their offseason to-do list.
After Nomar Mazara didn’t produce much in 2020, the White Sox were known to be looking at outfield help, with such names as Michael Brantley and Joc Pederson linked to the team. (USA Today’s Bob Nightengale also reported this morning that Eaton was “on their radar.”) With Eloy Jimenez in left field and Luis Robert in center, Eaton will be slated for right field, his regular position over the last three years in Washington. Adam Engel, coming off a strong 2020 season, now looks to be set for fourth outfielder duty, though the right-handed hitting Engel could spell the left-handed hitting Eaton when a southpaw is on the mound.
Eaton’s lefty bat will provide some balance to a White Sox lineup that leans to the right, though Eaton will be looking to rebound from his worst offensive season as a starter. He hit .226/.285/.384 over 176 plate appearances for the Nats last season, with his lowest walk rate (6.8%) since 2013. Between this lack of hitting and a tough year defensively (-6.1 UZR/150, -6 Defensive Runs Saved over 335 innings in right field), Eaton was a sub-replacement level player, with -0.5 fWAR. These numbers led the Nationals to decline their club option on Eaton’s services for 2021, instead buying him out for $1.5MM.
The White Sox are clearly hoping that Eaton’s struggles were due to the abbreviated and unusual nature of the 2020 season, and that he’ll produce something closer to his usual numbers (.289/.367/.423 over 3066 PA from 2014-19) under somewhat more normal circumstances next season. The one-year deal doesn’t represent a huge investment on Chicago’s part to see if the 32-year-old Eaton can bounce back, and by signing Eaton rather than investing in a more expensive option like Brantley or Pederson, the Sox now theoretically have more money to spend on other potential roster moves later in the winter.
It’s been a busy couple of days for the White Sox, who acquired Lance Lynn in a trade with the Rangers and then signed Adam Eaton to a one-year, $7MM deal. However, the Pale Hose aren’t done yet, as The Athletic’s Jayson Stark (Twitter link) reports that the team might still add to both the rotation and outfield even with Lynn and Eaton already in the fold, with Michael Brantley still a potential target. Turning to the bullpen, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the White Sox “have their sight set on” free agent closer Liam Hendriks.
Since Alex Colome is a free agent, Hendriks would be a natural replacement and even an upgrade for save situations. Hendriks has been nothing short of dominant over the last two seasons with the A’s, posting a 1.79 ERA, 13.1 K/9, and 6.71 K/BB rate over 110 1/3 innings, racking up 39 saves in the process. MLBTR projected Hendriks as the top free agent relief pitcher available, though with so many relievers flooding the market, it remains to be seen how sizable a contract Hendriks can land.
There hasn’t been much buzz about the Australian right-hander to date, quite possibly because teams are still weighing all the available bullpen candidates before making a move for likely the most expensive option. Still, Hendriks also has fewer red flags than just about any of the other free agent relievers, so an aggressive team like the White Sox might just want to address their ninth-inning vacancy as quickly and simply as possible. Aaron Bummer or Evan Marshall are in-house candidates for save situations, but the Chicago bullpen would certainly be strengthened overall with the addition of another established stopper.
In contrast to Stark, Nightengale suggests that the White Sox have moved on from Brantley for budgetary reasons, though “they would have preferred” Brantley to Eaton. That said, in a year when the White Sox clearly seem to be in win-now mode, maybe they’re willing to splurge on both Eaton and Brantley to make the lineup as strong as possible. Brantley and Eloy Jimenez could split time between left field and DH, and while it had been widely speculated that the Sox could turn to star prospect Andrew Vaughn as a DH candidate in 2021, the team might prefer an established veteran bat in the lineup rather than a promising but unproven rookie like Vaughn.
Adding another starting pitcher would similarly put more veteran stability in the rotation, with this hypothetical new starter slotting into the fourth spot behind Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lynn. The White Sox might prefer having Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and Reynaldo Lopez competing for just the fifth starter’s job rather than counting on two rotation spots to be covered by those three young hurlers.
TODAY: The White Sox and Rangers have officially announced the trade.
10:59pm: The White Sox are acquiring right-hander Lance Lynn from the Rangers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Righty Dane Dunning is heading to Texas in the return, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweets. The Rangers will also receive a second player, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. It’ll be another young pitcher, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
This is a major pickup for the White Sox, who are landing one of the most coveted arms on the trade market. Lynn was an innings-eating stalwart with the Cardinals for a large portion of 2011-17. Lynn then signed a one-year, $12MM contract with the Twins, and though he didn’t fare especially well with the club, he rebounded after a second-half trade to the Yankees and has continued to hold his own since then.
Lynn signed a three-year, $30MM guarantee with the Rangers before 2019, and that deal worked out brilliantly for the club. He posted a terrific 3.57 ERA/3.43 FIP with 10.31 K/9 and 2.59 BB/9 in 292 1/3 innings as a member of the team. The 33-year-old could have continued to serve as an asset for the Rangers’ rotation next season, but with the Rangers in a rebuild, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and new general manager Chris Young elected to go in a different direction.
At one year and $8MM, Lynn will give Chicago – which is coming off its first playoff berth since 2008 – an affordable and effective No. 3 to plug into its rotation behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. The White Sox also have Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez in line to compete for starting spots next year.
Considering the Rangers appear unlikely to vie for a playoff spot next year, their return looks good for one season of Lynn’s services.
Dunning, who will turn 26 later this month, is a former first-round pick and an an ex-top 100 prospect who is coming off an encouraging debut with the White Sox. Chicago originally acquired Dunning (not to mention Giolito and Lopez) from the Nationals for outfielder Adam Eaton in December 2016.
Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, but he garnered his first experience in the majors a year ago and posted a 3.97 ERA/3.99 FIP with 9.28 K/9 and 3.44 BB/9 in 34 innings. Texas is certainly hoping Dunning will build on that effort and become a long-term member of its rotation. He’ll have ample time to reach that goal, as he’s controllable through at least the 2026 season. Given Lynn’s status as a one-year rental, adding an immediate rotation replacement with some early big league success and a good bit of upside is a nice outcome for Texas.
The Rangers also have high hopes for the 23-year-old Weems, a 2019 sixth-rounder who threw 60 1/3 innings in rookie ball that year. While Weems posted stellar numbers then (2.09 ERA, 11.0 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9), albeit against much younger competition, he is not regarded as a premium prospect at this time. He’ll give the Rangers another fairly polished college arm to add to their ranks, however, which is important for a farm system that is thin on pitching.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Despite a clear opening in their outfield, the White Sox are “extraordinarily unlikely” to sign George Springer this winter, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The longtime Astros slugger has plenty of interest elsewhere, and Passan suggests that the ChiSox aren’t keen on paying “center-field prices for a corner outfielder.”
That’s perhaps an overly simplistic means of describing the situation, given that there are plenty of highly paid corner outfielders — some whose current contracts top whatever Springer will eventually command in free agency (e.g. Bryce Harper). However, it’s also fair to say that a considerable portion of Springer’s value is tied to the fact that he is not only a vastly above-average hitter but an above-average defender at a premium position. By all indications he’d be a strong defender in right field as well, but it seems his asking price and the Sox’ valuation of a corner outfielder — even an extremely well-rounded one — don’t align.
Right field is still a glaring need for a White Sox club that predictably non-tendered Nomar Mazara after a miserable debut season on the South Side. Fleet-footed Adam Engel gives them an option, although his track record prior to the 2020 season was that of a replacement-level player. At the very least, a left-handed bat to pair with Engel in a platoon setting would be sensible for the Sox to pursue.
To that end, it’s worth adding that The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal lists the White Sox as one of the teams with “at least some” interest in free-agent slugger Joc Pederson. Passan suggests that perhaps Michael Brantley could be a fit as well, although Brantley has just 58 career innings in right field. He’s spent the bulk of his career in left field with some frequent work in center field as well during his younger days. (NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien makes a pitch for the Sox to bring Adam Eaton back into the fold, although that’s purely an opinion piece and not an indication that the two sides have actually spoken about a reunion.)
Pederson isn’t a new name to be connected to the White Sox. There’s been little to solidly connect the two sides up to now in the current offseason, but this is now the third consecutive offseason that has seen the White Sox reported to have interest in Pederson. The Sox and Dodgers talked about a potential Pederson swap in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 offseasons, although they obviously weren’t able to come to an agreement.
For the Sox, Pederson would likely be a pure platoon partner for Engel, as his career .191/.266/.310 slash against lefties is difficult for any club to stomach. He doesn’t hit for a high average against righties, either, but Pederson walks at a near-13 percent clip and boasts top-of-the-scale power when he’s holding the platoon advantage, as evidenced by a .238/.349/.501 batting line (128 wRC+). Brantley would be more of an everyday option, as he generally hits for average and gets on base regardless of opponent, although the bulk of his power comes against righties only. Again, though, it’s not an ideal defensive fit for Brantley, who’d probably require some time at DH as well.
Adding a lefty bat is in many ways a sensible approach for the White Sox, whose lineup is rife with right-handed bats. Outside of switch-hitters Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal, the Sox’ starting lineup is entirely right-handed; Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert all bat from the right side, as does top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who could factor into the team’s DH mix at some point in 2021.