TCS Roundtable: Are the White Sox going to spend money?

This is the third roundtable of the day in reaction the Todd Frazier trade. Congratulations for still being alive. This is mostly where we gripe about the need to sign Justin Upton. It's also where you see the sanity of all involved begin to fray. Earlier installments are here and here.

James: Hahn was/has been his normal self when talking about Upton, etc. and didn’t rule anything out, but it’s worth noting that the beats are still universal in their expectation that the Sox will not pursue a major free agent, and as active as the Sox have been, they have been very right on in predicting no big spending, since it has not happened yet, and until it does, they’re still a team that has not handed out even a $70 million deal. The contract the Tigers gave burnt-out Victor Martinez is as big as the largest Sox contract ever. And is more AAV.

Nick: I certainly complained plenty about the White Sox on Twitter over the last month or so, but that was largely couched in taking the team’s quotes at face value. I.e. “All we’re hearing from the team is oh jeeze we can’t really do anything” while the roster was unusable, and so you can either say, “That’s just posturing / managing expectations” or take it as true. Not hard to assess the two.

I continue to be very impressed with Hahn, particularly considering the scorched earth he inherited he’s rebuilt at multiple levels with impressive speed. After all, he got Lawrie for a 4th round pick from last year and a spare part minor league reliever he got as the 4th piece in the Peavy deal.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed is how much less valuable Lawrie is at 2B than he is at 3B. But, if you’re accepting Glove Only at SS, it makes sense to take Lawrie and turn him into “Above average bat at 2B” instead of “Above average glove at 3B.”

There are other cascading effects - Carlos Sanchez now becomes a fallback option at SS and the primary utility guy - which is SO much better than the Gordon Beckham / Emilio Bonifacio expensive monstrosity of last year.

I am scared that Trayce’s departure would mean more Avi, but taking Lawrie and Frazier is a clear sign that they’re trying to win with this core. It could very well be that the quotes about not spending were to keep expectations low while they explored seeing if they could add credible secondary options before they tried to commit to a big outfield bat. If they couldn’t add a Frazier and Lawrie without giving up key parts of the MLB roster, perhaps it WOULD be a bad idea to sign a $100+ million bat. Now it makes a lot more sense.  

James: They have never come close to one, so it’s not unreasonable to consider it just might not be part of their organizational philosophy to ever make that kind of outlay.

Nick: Given these moves, would Alex Gordon make more sense than he did before? You’ve now added two RHBs and probably downgraded your defense at 2B and C. Is it simplistic of me to say, “Maybe we prefer the LHB with an elite glove” -- he’s also not gonna cost $100 million. Probably more like $80-90.

James: The elite glove is going to be 32 and strained his groin last year, though

Nick: Yeah, it’s not what I would do, but there’s a logic to it. The defense was really bad last year. You’ve probably downgraded at C, and Lawrie is better at 2B than Micah but probably worse than Sanchez defensively. I suppose either Upton or Cespedes would ALSO be huge defensive upgrades on Avisail anyway.

James: They already don’t want to spend money, so the fact that their window isn’t going to be seven-to-eight years long anyway might increase their desire to have someone who is cleared off their books sooner than Upton would be. Gordon is getting five years at most, I would think, and the Sox would probably fight hard for four.

Nick: Regardless of the risk, even if they “only” add Alex Gordon at this point, aren’t they a playoff contender at that point? Is that aggressive of me?

I know people will say, “Well they won the offseason last year” but coming in from last season to this one they have Rodon in the rotation, and Melky and Robertson and the bullpen all together.

James: No, that is not unreasonable.

Nick: There is the same problem as last year - and all the years before - which is that if anything goes wrong on the position player side they have nothing in house to come up and fix it.

James: That problem really can’t be fixed any faster than it is being fixed.

Nick: And while the starting rotation should be fine as presently constituted, any setbacks or injuries to anyone is frightening too. I don’t really think much of Chris Beck or Tyler Danish or Turner. Fulmer is cool, but he arrives when he arrives, not just if Danks tears an ACL in spring training or something. Although there are plenty of bargain bin arms out there that they can add as depth later in the offseason if they want.

James: At least we’re asking for things to break right in terms of depth and not guys who are already guaranteed 140 starts.

Nick: Are there any other Frazier / Lawrie-style trade candidates out there for the OF if they don’t go the FA route? Again, not what I would want to do, but there’s clearly a lot of reluctance to signing Upton / Cespedes in terms of this organization’s history, profile, ownership, etc. Don’t say Jay Bruce.

James: I’m interested in Bay Jruce.

Nick: Okay fine. With Trayce gone, though, we are back in the weird position where there isn’t a RHB off the bench to save the lefties from lefty relievers - other than Navarro, and obviously Ventura doesn’t like burning his backup catcher as a PH.

James: I am not. Two bad years in a row is a thing I’d be fine with the 2014 Sox trying to turn around, not next year’s team.

HE’S GOT A BLATANT CATCHING PLATOON I SWEAR TO GOD IF HE CAN’T MANAGE IT---I donno, I donno what I’d do. I don’t want to see what I’d do.

Nick: And again, perhaps I’m focusing on details ahead of the major pieces. Lefty mashing pinch hitters should be easy to find on the scrapheap.

Ethan: Hey study break. Looks like i missed a lot so I’ll probably just repeat what someone else said. So with that said they should just sign Justin Upton.

James: The Rockies are the obvious rebuilding team with outfielders that have been in discussion. The Brewers are also terrible and selling, but probably don’t want to deal Khris Davis, and he would cost more because he’s in pre-arb, and is basically the same low-OBP power dude you just acquired twice. They’d be better off signing Upton than trying to eat Braun’s deal, and I would say Reddick should be available if I could ever figure out what the hell Billy Beane is doing.

The Phillies would probably give you Odubel Herrera if you pressed them for him, but then you would have Odubel Herrera, which is not so great.

Nick: Does everyone on our staff prefer Upton at this point? To Cespedes?

James: As a pure player, yes. As a point of just being spiteful that they shouldn’t sway their decision on the biggest contract in their history and a centerpiece of the offense over a friggin’ comp pick, also yes.

Like, they could sign Cespedes, after Upton got crazily overbid on by a desperate Orioles team or something, and say in their presser “Actually, our internal evaluations graded Yoenis over Upton the whole damn time” and I would still be like “Did you guys do this for a friggin’ comp pick? Did you? You did, didn't you?”

Ethan: Ok, caught up now (on this chat, not my studying). I prefer Upton to Cespedes not because I think he will produce more in 2016 but because I think any contract you sign him to best lines up with the core. The big pieces are all 25-27 signed for 4-6 years, and adding a to-be 28 year old dude (yes, Justin Upton is younger than Jose Abreu despite seemingly having been around forever) just seems to make more sense. There also isn’t a two year period in Upton’s career where his OBP has been sub-.300, while Cespedes in 2013/14 combined was just below that. Upton is the safer play and has youth on his side, even if he won’t win home run derbies and might not ever put up a season as good as Cespedes’ 2015.

Nick: Yeah, I mean, you’re buying high on Cespedes and in a way buying low on Upton. I’m sure that hasn’t escaped the notice of their agents and the GMs so it’s not like I have stumbled across some secret here, but I think Upton is just the better fit in pretty much every way.

Ethan: Cespedes has athleticism to play CF, for what it’s worth, and Upton is very meh defensively (even if he’s a huge upgrade over Avisail). The Sox have a CF, though, so that’s not really the issue here.

James: Upton was a Gold Glove finalist this year! (I donno, man. That’s better than being universally reviled, I guess)

Ethan: why do you spell “dunno” wrong

James: I donno.

Nick: Earlier I saw the tweet “id rather have gordan” re: Alex Gordon and then a follow up tweet correcting the “I’d” and leaving “gordan”

Regardless, if you’d told me that the White Sox could add Lawrie and Frazier and the only meaningful pieces they’d give up to do so are Trayce and Montas, I’d be pretty thrilled. I guess that is what happened. The offense now has plus bats at CF, 1B, and 3B, as well as credible bats at LF and 2B and possibly catcher. 66% of a real lineup is so much nicer than 22%.

Ethan: I said this on twitter earlier, but the Sox desperately need Melky to be the player they signed him to be. Not a star, maybe not even quite a league average regular, but a guy who gets on base plenty at the top of the order with a little pop. That position cannot be a complete black hole again if they want to contend in 2016, especially with the rest of the roster currently being fringy.

Nick: Yeah, but how cool is it that after Eaton-Melky-Abreu you have Frazier-Lawrie instead of like...Avisail and Death

I agree completely on Melky, btw. Fortunately he has shown random blech years like last year and bounced back before.

Ethan: But most of those years he was hurt, and was also much younger.

Nick: Other than spinal tumor year in Toronto, do we have any other down years we can explain with injury? It wouldn’t surprise me if his profile didn’t just lend itself to this sort of thing. He relies a lot on putting the ball in play, which leaves you more vulnerable to fluctuations of luck than other profiles might.

Ethan: Eh, maybe that’s the only one, but that’s also the only recent bad year he had before this. My concern is just that he’s aged out of the point in his career where he can be a solidly above average defensive player.

James: He had that one year of being fat in Atlanta. Who among us has not done that, though?

Ethan: Are we completely counting out LaRoche being anything at all? Obviously the chances aren’t any good that he’s who they thought they were getting, but maybe he has one more year in him with a healthier back? Obviously not something you can count on whatsoever.

Nick: I’d love it if they found room to find him a true platoon partner. I could see him having a better year next year, particularly if limited to RHPs only. What about Chris Carter?! Steve Pearce?

James: I fear his platoon partner is already on the roster and his name rhymes with...Flabbleswail.

Nick: Even if Avisail made modest improvement next year I’m just so freaking sick of him and hate watching him play.

James: I think he’s more likely to be bouncing around in a reduced role than purged so they can bring in Chris Carter, though.

If I ever went into a dissociative fugue state, it’d be because my personalities split along the line of debating what the White Sox should do and what they will do.