TCS Offseason Roundtable

There is not much happening yet news-wise but Collin is bored so it’s time to roundtable. This one managed to go longer than even most roundtables, so feel free to digest it in chucks.

Collin: I think I’ve talked myself into wanting Justin Upton over any other free agent. Is that an OK thing for me to want?

Matt: Justin Upton is not an offensive acquisition. Which is to say I am not offended by your wants. Personally I would prefer Heyward, but as we’ve stated before, as Sox fans it makes sense to set your sights a bit lower than the season’s free agent prize.

James: Heyward is like a clock radio that plays white noise to help you sleep, you can save songs to, and will also transform into a hand grenade you can chuck at intruders. I would very sincerely love him and he would be amazingly great. I really only actually need an alarm clock. I have separate devices for playing music and don’t even need white noise to sleep.

Upton is a big bat and I can play him wherever. Between LaRoche, Trayce, Avi, if any of them shows signs of life I’d like to play them and put Upton where he’s needed the most. He can certainly play 150 games in a corner and be fine and good, but I’m not totally wasting him if I don’t put him in the field everyday either.

I just made a clock radio analogy in the Year of Our Lord 2015, so now the Sox aren’t getting either.

I have the same issues with Alex Gordon. He would be the best corner outfielder on the team and I would play him above Melky, Trayce and Avi anyway, but I REALLY just need some offense more than anything.

Collin: I guess my reasoning for looking past Heyward and toward Upton is because I REALLY don’t think he’s leaving St. Louis. The Cardinals are too smart of an organization to give up someone like Shelby Miller for a player they aren’t very confident they will be able to re-sign.

I know it’s not like the Cardinals to spend gobs of cash when they’re so good at building from within. But Miller is really good and they’re a pretty smart team. Don’t think they would’ve made that trade if they weren’t prepared to shell out the cash to keep him long-term.

Matt: You’re playing right into their hands, Collin.

James: It goes without saying that Heyward is so much better than anyone else that I wouldn’t care if Avi got shifted over to working the Comiskey Dogs stand to make room for him.

Collin: The fact that LaRoche is going to be on the roster makes for a frustrating roster crunch when trying to squeeze another bat/outfielder onto this roster. You’ve got to assume Melky isn’t going anywhere. Eaton obviously isn’t. If they sign an OF bat I guess the best option is keeping Trayce as your fourth OFer and then you can just get rid of Avisail.

It’s not really a bad problem because whoever you sign is obviously better than those guys, but I’d hate for the White Sox to shy away from spending money on a bat because they can’t find a spot to fit everyone. If only Jack Z were still in Seattle they could probably send LaRoche there.

James: LaRoche should be treated as untradeable until some absurd magic presents itself. I judge it by this standard: if the Sox traded for a 36-year-old 1B/DH with an exploding strikeout rate, vanishing power and totally relegated to a platoon, I would dedicate a week to excoriating them.

Matt: If LaRoche appears to be the same player at the beginning of the season I think the team will ultimately just eat the cost. The problem of course is preparing the roster for that as if it’s expected.

Collin: They ate how much money to get rid of Keppinger? You really think they’d do it again with LaRoche? I hope you’re right, but I don’t know if I see it.

Also they’re still rostering John Danks for some reason, so...

James: $8 million for Keppinger. Danks is a better No. 5 than Chris Beck or someone similar at this point.

I wonder how we start the process of discussing what they actually will do without losing sight of what they should do. I think we came to an understanding with the ‘Small Market’ crowd today, in deciding that was more a data-based descriptor--and in my opinion, a pretty damning one--than a justification for the Sox modus operandi. They definitely need to be aggressive to make it worth it for this core.

This is their window if there is going to be one with this group, and if they really are going to be hopelessly tied to their revenue and turning a sizable profit every year and not risking a shortfall, maybe they need to sell. It’d be awful and hell, even I don’t know if I would tolerate it, but living in no man’s land and pretending you’re trying to compete is a lie, both to the fans, and worse, to themselves.

But uh yeah, David Freese, Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera. That should push ‘em over the top, right?

I explained how I was OK with that in theory, but free agents decline rapidly and disappoint a lot, so when you go for decent-ish lineup fillers, when they disappoint, you get something like Keppinger when you have someone who isn’t even rosterable. Albert Pujols is a massive financial disaster, but baseball-wise, he’s still a starting first baseman. God forbid you have an owner who is running a baseball team to win titles, not add to their already massive independent fortune, and is willing to take on some of the risk personally. I know he’s not the sole owner and it’s not as simple as using Chase QuickPay to the team’s account, but Jesus.

Collin: Yeah, guys like Freese and Kendrick are fine if they’re “other additions,” but I think the White Sox have put themselves in a position where they need to toe the line somehow. They’re not the Dodgers in that they’re not going to spend a zillion dollars on every player possible, and they’re not the Astros or Cubs where they’re willing to completely tear everything down in an attempt to contend in a few years. The farm system is heading in the right direction, but that takes time, and they have a core (Sale, Abreu, Eaton, Quintana) that is good enough that you need to put talent around them to contend before they start to decline.

That’s why spending money — as opposed to making a farm system-crippling move for a guy like Nolan Arenado — is what they need to do this year. Even if spending $150M on Justin Upton hurts their finances in 2020, it makes them better in 2016, and that’s what’s important right now.

Nick: People speak generally about just…”making trades” as if you can just do that. I am also extremely wary about just because you run the risk of looking like a fan who is calling into a sports talk show suggesting that your team trade “prospects” for Bryce Harper.

However, there are options beyond free agency. I don’t think Brad Miller is very good, and I take a rather petty glee in mocking Mariners’ fans angle of “BRAD MILLER - SUPERSTAR BECAUSE fWAR.”

But, Miller is better than what the White Sox presently have in-house at a few spots on the infield, and there are other similar modest upgrades that could be found. Nate Karns landed Brad Miller - I think Erik Johnson is better than Nate Karns.

I suppose one argument against chasing huge free agents is, “Hey, the White Sox have their roster spots 1-5 or 6 filled with quality guys, they need to fill spots 7-10 to add depth to the lineup.” I’m more receptive to that than the small market farcical excuse.

However, as James pointed out, when you shop for the weaker free agents if they decline you get useless junk. Also I don’t see a very robust market there.

James: I mean, I get frustrated at the sense that a small market label could be seen as a justification, but from another perspective, calling a Chicago sports team small market is like, the sickest burn

Nick: Yeah, Collin - I am leary of the trade option in the sense that money is a much more fungible and easily attainable resource than talent, especially for the White Sox. Maybe the plan is to keep the comp pick, get three really nice players in the draft (Top 10, and maybe two more in the 30-50 range from the Samardzija pick and your second rounder) and use that to offset dealing from your system…?

Matt: I think that Hahn prefers to go the trade route, be it an actual preference or just a perceived one because of ownership’s reluctance to spend outright. That being the case I’d expect to see something done via trade for sure, and hope for a FA signing on top of that. But also kicking around trade ideas is the worst. Like there is very little baseball talk that is worse than proposing trades.

Nick: Is suggesting possible trade *targets* bearable?

Collin: CarGo! CarGo! CarGo!

Matt: I have no problem with the targets. We need targets. But when discussing really good cost controlled players on another team, shrugging your shoulders and saying “trade Danks for him,” well….all trades end up sounding that way.

Nick: Martin Prado has been suggested a few times, which makes sense (and Marcell Ozuna but obviously if the Marlins are asking for a No. 2 starter that’s kind of hilarious). Trevor Plouffe may be available.

Danny Espinosa was really angry at Washington after the way Matt Williams handled him…?

James: There’s just a ceiling to the trade route. I don’t mind trading Tim in a truly aggressive approach to the next three years, but in lieu of spending on FA it’s just mortgaging the future for the sake of being cheap. Otherwise you’re working with guys like Montas, Danish, Adams, and I think you could get like, a pretty good 3B or one really big bat with that, but you can’t finish the whole job of patching this roster.

Once you start talking about blockbuster deals with Jose Quintana you’re lopping off your arms to trade them for new legs.

Nick: The argument for trading Quintana would be based around the idea that he is at the peak of his value. But that way madness lies - the most valuable players to trade are also usually the best players to build around for the exact same reasons.

I think Erik Johnson is pretty fungible, and may actually have a good amount of value to someone. Another issue with Trade Chat, however, is that organizations value players without much MLB experience *so* differently that I have no idea what other teams think.

It’s just hard for me to get away from thinking things like, “Man, Martin Prado is so much better than Mike Olt.”

James: I was stumping for Erik Johnson to start all year because I presumed a 2016 rotation spot was opening wide for him and wanted to see if he was any good first. I don’t really think he is and certainly don’t mind jettisoning him before it gets obvious. But they also need someone to eat some back-end innings and none of their cool arms are ready to step in. Then again you could probably sign someone to be as good as Johnson for pretty cheap.

Nick: But if two years of Prado is worth Nate Eovaldi, then surely one year of $11 million Prado that the Marlins definitely don’t want to pay is worth Erik Johnson, right?!?!

Yeah, you’re right - and none of their cool arms are really “Innings Eater” types anyway, it doesn’t seem. Certainly not yet.

James: It helps that Loria has had like everyone in the Marlins FO fired (murdered?) since that trade was made.

Nick: I thought Collin really wanted to chat but I guess he just wanted to shout CarGo a bunch and then leave. It’s a strong move, don’t get me wrong, but…

Collin: Sorry I got distracted. I was talking a bunch before you got here, Nick!

James: The hillpeople are desperate and weird. Jose Re--stops self...thinks to self. Hmm...I donno if I even want to start that discussion.

Nick: I had a dream the White Sox traded for Jose Reyes. I remember being frustrated that they sacked talent to take on that money for a not-so-huge upgrade at SS given that he is unlikely to stay healthy anyway, and that that would be their only big acquisition for like 4 years.

ALSO - After I wrote this I saw that Reyes was arrested for domestic violence so uh...please never ever ever.

Argument for trading pitchers away would be as follows:

--Area of surplus;

--Area you have demonstrated an ability to replenish internally

--Way more free agent arms than bats.

Collin: I used to be on board with trading Quintana considering what you’ve mentioned above, but since Samardzija was terrible and is now gone, I’m less gung ho about it. If Quintana is traded, you’re either relying on Carlos Rodon to take “THE LEAP” in 2016 or you’re now in the market to spend money on another free agent pitcher. Would rather just keep Quintana, hang on to that strength, and spend the money on offense.

Matt: Hard to call a team that has had the recent success they’ve had a cautionary tale but would the Giants be a cautionary tale of a team that always felt they had a surplus of pitching until they didn’t?

Nick: Now they have surplus bats and I would like some of them.

Collin: OK question, would you consider an offseason where they signed Upton, Kendrick and Freese and re-signed Alexei a success?

James: Yes!

Collin: OK, let’s go ahead and do that, then. Someone call Rick.

James: I don’t think they’ll do that.

Collin: Rats.

Nick: If they sign Justin Upton I would be hard-pressed to be upset with their offseason, although a what...whatever our 3B-SS-2B combination is going to be is pretty nauseating as presently constituted.

James: In this scenario, Carlos Sanchez is the utility guy and--God forbid--isn’t someone you concede a 0-4 night to every time you give your starter a game off.

Nick: Well yeah with Kendrick and Asdrubal. Although...that’s a pretty rough defensive composition, too.

Collin: There is some excitement that comes with having Rick Hahn as your general manager. He’s proven in the past that he can get pretty creative with trades. Nobody saw Adam Eaton or Matt Davidson coming, at least that I recall. There’s probably someone out there he’s going to aggressively pursue who we haven’t even thought of.

Ethan: Hey guys! I’ve been doing homework all night so haven’t been able to be here, but I am now! 

Anyway, I entirely expect trades. I expect at least a couple of acquisitions, maybe through free agency. I have absolutely no idea what those trades or signings will be. Hahn is so tight lipped, and this market in particular I think is unpredictable- does anyone know where any of the studs are going with any degree of confidence? In most years we can predict at least a couple of those- Lester to Cubs or Red Sox, etc.- but this year I don’t know if anyone has any idea what’s gonna happen, and this Sox regime is tight-lipped by any standard, so I have a hard time making any predictions about the offseason.

That said, I do know what an offseason failure will look like. The White Sox simply cannot run out league min, replacement level players at multiple positions on opening day 2016. Right now, they have 4 of those- with Alexei gone, 2B, 3B, SS, and RF are all set to be played by your prototypical minor league replacement (if we’re being generous, we can probably call Sanchez at least a quality utility guy and therefore marginally above that). If this team- a big market team by literal definition of the phrase, if not by revenue- is not spending money to upgrade those positions in a contending year, it’s frankly bullshit. Even if two of those positions remain not upgraded (unless one of the upgrades is, like, Heyward) this team will be once again stuck in the middle- too scared to blowing up the core and rebuilding, but in the process wasting another year of the core they don’t want to blow up without getting closer to winning a title.

James: Pretty much. I would deplore a rebuild, but it’s actually the right move if you generally can’t recognize this as a competitive window worthy of cost overruns. It’s as if four years of getting your asses kicked by a truly all-in Tigers team taught Jerry nothing. Or he somehow thought his biggest mistake was the money he spent in 2011.

Ethan: I’m the furthest from an advocate from a teardown. *Especially* with a core this strong, I’d hate it. But it’s better than a half measure. I’d rather have a team suck with a plan to be really, really good down the road (something that I wouldn’t be confident in Jerry being able to commit to) than a team that’s gonna win 75-83 games a year, maybe flirt with contention a bit, and then either lose it’s truly awesome core to free agency or injuries/age and/or pay them prohibitive salaries.

James: I’m a bit older, so I’ve actually been watching middling teams with great cores since the mid-90s. I’ve even seen the “Waste a Generational Talent” movie before.

Ethan: If a Jerry Reinsdorf-lead team hadn’t happened to get literally the best player in the history of a sport with the 3rd overall pick in a draft I wonder if he’d get away with consistently fielding teams that are hurt severely by his own policies.

Nick: Jerry Reinsdorf spearheaded a negotiating position that prompted the canceling of a baseball season from which MLB never regained its position as the most popular sport and canceling the playoffs for the White Sox’ best season in like 35 years because he wanted to prove a point and get a couple more percentage points.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked while he pockets state funds and refuses to spend the ~$20-30 million to justify every choice and investment the organization’s made for 3-4 years.

James: Well this got dark fast. I am real interested in how they turn this around within the next three years, because I think turning every 1st round pick into a core piece in 18 months flat is going to be a hard way to do it.

Nick: Watch, they’ll get Alex Gordon, trade for a 3B, and re-sign Alexei and add a back-of-the-rotation starter. They will win 88 games and the Wild Card and people will shove this roundtable in our faces.

James: Ok. I’d be fine with that.

That’d also probably be maxing out with that group and possibly the high point of the next five years. And I’d wind up being less fine with that.

Nick: And it would be used as an excuse to never do anything again. Bless this team.

James: Bruce Levine--Love Bruce!--just posited a Javy Baez for Jose Quintana swap.

This is not the reason I love Bruce.

I don’t like this, Bruce.


I think trade proposals for Jose Quintana should account for how many hours I’ll have to spend sitting in my room listening to “Maps” on loop weeping to myself after he’s dealt.