White Sox Great Offseason
Rick Hahn and the Chicago White Sox flashed what they are capable of this off-season, after a 3 plus year rebuild. Times are finally changing on the Southside. In an attempt to fully understand each move, I have rated them accordingly. On a scale from A+ to F, here’s how the Sox made out this hot stove season.
Signing: C Yasmani Grandal:
-Four years, $73 million (2020-23)
-2019: (MIL) 153 G, .246/.380/.468, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 109 BB, 2.5 WAR
Excellent pickup to secure a spot the Sox have had trouble with since 2012, Yasmani Grandal is arguably the best catcher in baseball. After James McCann showed signs of weakness in his all-star season (.226 BA over the last 55 games of 2019), Hahn adds depth at the position. This deal is more than safe given Grandal´s consistency over his career, although $18.25 Million annually is steep for an aging catcher.
Signing: 1B Jose Abreu
-Three years, $50 million (2020-2022)
-2019: 159 G, .284/.330/.503, 33 HR, 123 RBI, 319 TB, 2.4 WAR
Jose Abreu has served as an anchor in the Chicago White Sox lineup since his Rookie of the Year, 2014 campaign. After a down year in 2018 and rumors of possible trades revolving around him, Abreu recorded 33 HR and an MLB high 123 RBI in 2019. A 50 million dollar and three-year extension for a 33-year-old first baseman has its woes, especially considering Abreu´s injury-riddled 2018, but if his next three seasons are anything like 2019, this deal is a steal.
Trade: RF Nomar Mazara
The White Sox acquire right fielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Steele Walker. Mazara in 2019 with the Rangers played in 116 games. His slash line was .268/.318/.469 with 19 HR and 66 RBI. Mazara also scored runs and had a 0.7 WAR. Walker as a minor leaguer played in 120 games and had a slash line of .284/.361/.451 with 10 HR and 62 RBI, with 13 SB.
This trade was interesting. Rick Hahn saw the chance to acquire a 24-year-old outfielder who has been consistent, albeit failing to produce to the standards surrounding him as a top prospect. Mazara has been extremely consistent, posting an average OPS between .739 and .786 every season since his debut in 2016. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but serviceable.
Mazara posted career highs in runs, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, defensive WAR and a career-low in strikeouts, also doing all of this in only 116 games. Walker was the player going back to Texas, a 23-year-old in A-ball, is only a year apart in age from Mazara. The difference being that Mazara already has four years of MLB experience.
Signing: LHP Gio Gonzalez
-Two years, $5 million (2022-21)
-2019: (MIL) 19 G, 17 GS, 3-2, 3.50 ERA, 78 SO, 1.9 WAR, 1.294 WHIP
Gio Gonzalez, 34, proved his worth in 2019 after an excellent run down the stretch for the Brewers in 2018. Gonzalez will need to stay healthy to serve in the rotation, which he will as a back end, innings-eater while the Sox figure out how to use Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon when he returns. Health and age are the only variables weighing down this signing, as the price is cheap for a possibly high reward.
Signing: LHP Dallas Keuchel
-Three years, $55.5 million (20-22) & 23 team option
-2019: (ATL) 19 G, 8-8, 3.75 ERA, 91 SO, 2.1 WAR
The former AL Cy Young award winner got the payday he wished to receive in 2019. Following the fiasco that the 2018-19 offseason brought, Dallas Keuchel signed with the Braves in July of 2019. Keuchel performed slightly better than in 2018, even in 92 less innings and entered this free agency as a marquee name given the lack of pitching depth outside of Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, and earned himself a good payday.
This move was made for the simple fact that pitching will be scarce in free agency for the next few years, and signing Keuchel provides a good middle of rotation arm for less than superstar money for three to four years. There is an issue with the simple fact that Keuchel is 32 and has dropped off significantly from his 2015 or 2017 form, but given the circumstances, I suppose Hahn was forced to make this deal. A pitcher with only 19 starts and a 3.75 in the prior year is not worth $18 million annually over three years, but needs are needs.
Signing (Extension): CF Luis Robert
-Six years, $50 million (2020-2025), 2026, 2027 club options
–2019: (minors) 122 G, .328/.376/.624, 31 HR, 92 RBI, 36 SB, 31 2B, 11 3B
Luis Robert, 22, has been a phenom since signing as an international free agent in 2017, but took his talents to a whole new level in 2019. Robert, between three levels of minor leagues, put together ridiculous numbers. Robert has contact (.328 BA), power (31 HR), speed (36 SB), and is an extra-base hit machine (31 2B, 11 3B). His fielding was not immaculate, but seven assists and only four errors in over 800 innings in centerfield proved he can man the position. Robert is now locked in through 2025, with two club options for 2026-2027, further delaying his free agency. Keep in mind that Robert has not played a single MLB inning.
Signing: DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion
-One year, $12 million, 2021 club option.
2019 (SEA/NYY): 109 G, .244/.344/.531, 34 HR, 86 RBI, 58 BB, 2.8 WAR
Edwin Encarnacion, 37, is one of the least appreciated sluggers of the last decade. Starting off as a serviceable third baseman, he broke out with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, hitting 42 home runs and 110 RBIs. Since 2012, Encarnacion has hit 32 or more home runs in every season between the Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and New York Yankees. Encarnacion is 37 and struggled with a wrist injury in 2019, but a one year deal eases the tension. A 2021 team option proves to possibly be an excellent move similar to the Nelson Cruz deal with the Minnesota Twins in 2018.
Signing: RHP Steve Cishek
-One year, $6 million, 2021 team option
2019 (CHC): 70 G, 2.95 ERA, 7 SV, 57 SO
Steve Cishek has been an extremely reliable reliever since his first full year in 2011 with Florida, recording an ERA of 3.58 or under in every season of his career, reaching a career-best in 2017 with 2.01. A career ERA 2.69 ERA in 556 innings, Cishek has been a rock in the back end of the bullpen for the then Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs and the Mariners. The deal has no plausible discrimination except for the fact that Cishek did see an increase in H/9 and HR/9 compared to his 2017-18 numbers. Cishek will likely serve as a setup man to Alex Colome, and adds some closing experience (132 career saves). Like Encarnacion, Cishek is coming on a one year deal with a club option for 2021.
The Chicago White Sox are ready to compete and compete now. The talented young lineup now features some renowned veterans. Reaching the postseason is now the main goal, as the White Sox haven’t done so since 2008. Hahn flashed the Chicago White Sox payroll this offseason, but will it pay off? The Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and the Cubs have all built contenders from the rebuild formula, and the White Sox are next.