TCS Morning 5: About that Erik Johnson piece

Tom Verducci's latest piece, very surprisingly on the topic of Erik Johnson, contains some hard information on his, up to this point, mysterious decline and surprising relative to form. After his disastrous 2014 filled with velocity loss, control problems and a summer of getting tuned up at Triple-A Charlotte that left him fearing he was on his way out of the organization (which seems a bit panicked), Verducci reports that Johnson sought the help of a private pitching coach to clean up his mechanics.

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White Sox acquire reliever Kahnle from Rockies

While we all continue to stare at the massive void that is the increasing likelihood that the White Sox will make no more than a series of minor moves this offseason, the team itself began that process on Tuesday when it acquired righthander Tommy Kahnle from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for minor league pitcher Yency Almonte.

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TCS Morning 5: Is It The Winter Meetings Yet?

Adam Engel is the 2015 Arizona Fall League MVP thanks to a ridiculous .403/.523/.642 batting line over 19 AFL games. Engel joins recent past AFL MVPs Greg Bird, Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado, but also Chris McGuiness, Grant Desme and Sam Fuld, the latter of which might be the best comp for him.

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TCS Morning 5: White Sox could be swayed to trade a bad player

The encouraging part of the Dan Hayes' report that the White Sox are open to trading Avisail Garcia is that it shows the White Sox are aware of what we are seeing on a daily basis, that Garcia is: currently awful, showing no progress, and an increasingly poor bet to put things together offensively to a degree that will overcome his mounting shortcomings elsewhere.

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TCS Morning 5: The Sox are just screwing with us at this point

1. So... think it would be past time to do something like this...

Normally Plan A is the best plan, Plan B is the backup, and Plan C is...

Ok, so here are my most likely explanations for these, uh, quotes from dear friend Kenny Williams, and trust that these are actually in order of most likely to be employed.

A) STAY OUT OF WHITE SOX BUSINESS--The organization that prides itself on being as transparent as a block of wood is making sport of giving indecisive and unrevealing quotes to the press, under the guise of protecting trade leverage. It's not enough to just not reveal who we're targeting, let's pretend we don't even know what the basic state of our team is.

97% chance this is the case.

B) Massaging the money out of Jerry is a marathon, not a sprint, and so until he actually commits to spending, hell, they may be rebuilding for all they know.

This is depressingly realistic to me, but at least Kenny is having fun with it.

2.8% chance this is the case.

C) They are actually incompetent.

Ya never know.

Not because being situationally dependent on rebuilding or buying in based on free agent or trade opportunities is dumb, but because you'd have to be dumb to independently assess that this was not the time for the Sox to buy in unless they face significant financial restrictions.

0.2% chance this is the case.


Any news like this during a relatively quiet day, or just during hot stove season at all, is bound to get mocked. We want the Sox to go get a big bat, and they signed a guy who was a kinda-interesting part-time bat for a team like the rebuilding Cubs to sign three years ago. But, in mocking this, we overlook two things:

A) There are no bad minor league contracts. Dan Black is in South Korea. Someone has to fill the void and hit some dingers to keep Charlotte fans happy.

B) Scott Hairston in the White Sox organization has some really cool history. As Steve Peters detailed on South Side Sox, if he ever got called up, Scott would be the third Hairston generation to suit up for the Sox, and his grandfather Sam was the first black player the Sox ever signed.

3. August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs had a deep dive into the possibilities for the Sox trading Jose Quintana to fill their offensive needs in the offseason. It's a good primer on what they are likely to do if all the limitations prescribed to them hold up: which is to say I have a litany of objections that I don't want to be seen as a wholesale rejection of piece.

Specifically here, FanGraphs is using a projection based on the Sox previous payrolls to estimate they only have $20 million of spending room, and cites the disastrous results of last year's offseasons as holding them out of free agency. The latter I assume is Fagerstrom trying to project how ownership might react, but it'd be an indefensible reasoning for Reinsdorf to take, just as the Sox ownership justifying thriftiness bases on previous lean years and failing to recognize the opportunity they have with this core--which is a central element of Fagerstrom's premise!--is indefensible, but the assumption here is that the Sox are not spending, and how they might work around it.

The shiny, fun, central element of this piece is a comparison between Quintana and Cole Hamels, who are nearly identical statistically, but with Quintana being younger and signed to a very cheap contract. On the strength of this, Fagerstrom argues that a package similar to the huge haul the Phillies got is the best way for the Sox to meaningfully transform their offense. That's fun to hear, and Quintana's contract certainly could push his value up in that territory, but Hamels' stuff grades out significantly superior to Quintana's, he has a longer track record and has proven his abilities at the highest level of MLB competition. If you don't think that matters for his trade value, and that it's all about their last three years of FIP, you're willfully deluding yourself. And it's worth mentioning especially for the alleged purpose of this trade, that the Phillies got a lot of MLB or near-MLB-ready bats, but they didn't get guys who will dominate in 2016.

Willful delusion is a similar description that could be offered to the plan of tossing up two spots of the rotation to Erik Johnson, Frankie Montas and Chris Beck to sort out, but if the Sox really aren't going to find another way to help their offense, it's less hopeless than their hitting situation. As Dan Hayes mentioned, the Sox are holding out for "a small army of bats," so if they get what really pries Quintana from their fingers, it could at least achieve the feat of curing their offense fast than it would ever improve on its own.

4. Chris Sale's wacky and historic and still kinda disappointing season earned him a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting. Between his W-L record and his ERA, we probably cannot be too worried about the inclusion of advanced statistics in award races if Sale is finishing fourth.

Dallas Keuchel had a great and deserving season and dragged his team to its first playoff berth in a decade, but is also not the cluster of future Hall-of-Famers having great seasons that Jake Arrieta had to beat out to win the NL crown. To feel like this year was one of Sale's best opportunities to win and that it was scuttled by weird injuries, bad defense and inconsistency would not be wrong.

5. And finally, an electrifying moment of White Sox blog synergy in regard to hitting coach fan-fiction.

TCS Morning 5: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

"You don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul," has become a recognizable Rick Hahn phrase during his three-year reign, and it's not my favorite one to hear, since it's deployed as an explanation on why he's hesitant to do something. GMs are always more fun when they're making moves, even if they're doomed to fail. 

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TCS Afternoon 5 - The Calm Before the Storm

The title of this article is in reference to the MLB hot stove as a whole, not necessarily the White Sox. The last week has seen a flurry of debate surrounding various quotes from the organization. Twitter and our staff have been speculating wildly about what the White Sox will or won't do.  It is unclear what will happen, although I have my suspicions.  However, there have been some small moves that may give us a clue as to what sort of marketplace Rick Hahn will be navigating this winter.

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TCS Morning 5: Who knew the best shortstop in the AL was available?

Collin did the thankful job of recapping the Alexei situation so I didn't have to Thursday, which is good, because that means it didn't devolve into 900 words of blubbering, fan-hating snark, and a 10-minute video posted at the end that's just me pointing my finger at the camera and hissing.

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If not Alexei, then who?

The White Sox declined the $10 million option on Alexei Ramirez on Wednesday, a somewhat surprising move that seems to create another black hole on an offense that already has question marks at second base, third base, catcher and right field.

Of course, it’s entirely possible we still see Ramirez in a White Sox uniform in 2016. The White Sox had to act on his option by Wednesday, and with teams able to come to terms with free agents starting on Saturday, they may still come to terms on a deal before everything is said and done.

Ramirez had the worst season of his career in 2015 and, as essentially a replacement-level player who will be 34 for basically the duration of the 2016 season. He’s also only a year removed from being an All-Star caliber shortstop and, quite frankly, there aren’t a ton of appealing options outside of Ramirez should the White Sox choose to go in another direction.

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