The World Series has finally started, meaning we're somewhere around a week or so away from baseball going out to buy some smokes and disappearing for months. But that does at least mean it's finally hot stove season. And when your favorite team has been bad for two years running, hot stove season winds up being far more fun than it actually should be.
I've created an offseason plan each fall for the past five years now because it's important to have hobbies when you live in Kansas. I've done my best to stay realistic with it every year, because if you don't then the already pointless exercise becomes completely worthless and you've wasted an afternoon and everyone's time. And that's no good.
The 2015 Chicago White Sox might actually compete for a playoff spot, which is somewhat amazing. As of right now, there doesn't appear to be a truly dominant team in the AL Central next year. I don't think 2015 is the year the Sox break back into the postseason though. I see it as more of an 84-86 win year that sets up 2016 very nicely. With that in mind, I'm not really shooting for the moon with my moves. I'm not as interested in raising the team's ceiling as I am the floor. No more handful of bench spots given to negative WAR players.
1. 3B Chase Headley (4 years/$68MM).
That comes out to an average of $17MM per year, which is as high as I'd be comfortable going. If you believe that the current going rate for 1 WAR is ~$7MM, Headley will need to be worth 9-10 WAR over those four years for the Sox to break even. He's been worth 7.2 over the past two seasons alone. Headley's a switch-hitting bat that should provide 15 or so homeruns and an above-average OBP. He's also a defensive wizard. A left side of the infield made of Headley and Alexei Ramirez is not going to let many groundballs through.
2. C Jeff Mathis (1 year/$2MM).
Tyler Flowers played well enough last season to keep the starting catcher's job for at least one more season, so there isn't really much need to go out and grab Russell Martin. But the Sox do need a backup catcher. Adrian Nieto acquitted himself as well as someone who'd never played above A ball could have been expected to, but he needs more seasoning in the minors. Josh Phegley is AAAA filler. So I'm fine with a guy like Mathis on the bench. He's an awful hitter, but he's a good defender and a great pitch framer. Remember when the Angels decided they liked him more than Mike Napoli? Good times.
3. SP Justin Masterson (1 year/$11MM).
Masterson was in line for a solid payday this winter before seemingly forgetting how to pitch effectively. Pretty poor career planning right there. Career highs in BB/9, BABIP, and HR/FB combined with a decrease in strikeouts and a career low LOB% are a good recipe for a lost season. Masterson struggled with injuries, which could be the main reason for his horrid year. I fully expect him to sign a one year contract with the hopes of bouncing back and earning a bigger contract the following winter. A season with Coop and Herm could work wonders for the groundballer.
4. RP Luke Gregerson (3 years/$19MM).
It's generally a poor idea to overpay for bullpen help. Relievers tend to be fungible and flighty beasts. A great deal of this past season's bullpen issues came from losing the top two pitchers to injury, forcing everyone else to take a step up that most were not ready for. That's where Gregerson comes in. Luke is a strike throwing groundballer who doesn't give up very many homeruns. The fact that he's a local is just icing on the cake.
5. RP Neal Cotts (2 years/$4.5MM)
The Sox need a lefty reliever with some semblance of competency. Cotts has seemingly resurrected his career. The former bullpen hero from '05 also helps placate the meathead fans. It's a win-win!
1. "OF" Dayan Viciedo to Seattle for RP Brandon Mauerer.
This trade was heavily rumored about in the second half of the season, before the Mariners decided that just missing out on the playoffs looked like more fun. Everyone knows what Viciedo is at this point in his career, but much like Wily Mo Pena before him, teams are going to hold out hope that he'll manage to put it together. There is pop in that bat. He hit one fewer homerun than the entire Mariners starting outfield last year. GM Jack Z is a borderline crazy person who filled his corner outfield, first base, and DH slots with guys who can't hit or stay healthy last season. Viciedo is a perfect fit. In return, the White Sox get a young reliever who couldn't quite hack it as a starter and has fallen out of favor in Seattle. Think of this as the Joe Borchard for Matt Thornton trade part two.
2. 2B Micah Johnson and SP Nolan Sanburn to Colorado for OF Charlie Blackmon.
This is a prime example of raising the floor. Blackmon is only going to be a 2-3 WAR kind of player, nothing more. But on a team with guys like Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Chase Headley, and Jose Quintana, 2-3 WAR guys that make almost no money are fantastic things to have. So why would the Rockies want to get rid of him? Blackmon turned 28 in July, the Rockies won't be very competitive over the next two years, and their outfield is more log-jammed than a lumber mill. Blackmon is the oldest of the corner outfielders and the likely odd man out. In return, the Rockies get their potential second baseman of the future (I do not believe in DJ LeMahieu) and an interesting pitching prospect in Nolan Sanburn. The White Sox get a decent defensive left-handed corner outfielder with wheels and surprising pop.
Opening Day Roster
C- Tyler Flowers
1B- Jose Abreu
2B- Marcus Semien
SS- Alexei Ramirez
3B- Chase Headley
LF- Charlie Blackmon
CF- Adam Eaton
RF- Avisail Garcia
C- Jeff Mathis
CI- Conor Gillaspie
UTIL- Carlos Sanchez
OF- Moises Sierra
OF- Trayce Thompson
LHP: Chris Sale
LHP: Jose Quintana
RHP: Justin Masterson
LHP: John Danks
RHP: Hector Noesi
CL: Luke Gregerson
RP: Zack Putnam
RP: Jake Petricka
RP: Javy Guerra
RP: Brandon Mauerer
RP: Eric Surkamp
RP: Neal Cotts
Is this a perfect team? No, far from it. The bench could be stronger and there is no true DH. I'd rather use the position as a rotating day off instead of going after Adam LaRoche (likely a bad idea) or Victor Martinez (likely a horrible one). But the lineup should be a strong improvement on the previous year. Noesi holds down a spot in the starting rotation until Carlos Rodon is ready to be called up. Complete with the leftover money being paid to Jeff Keppinger, the $250K buyout of Felipe Paulino, and the $600K spent on Nate Jones' DL vacation, my total payroll comes out at $96.8MM which feels fairly reasonable and gives the team some wiggle room in case other moves need to be made.