White Sox

Sox Drawer: Getting to the bottom of 'the money will be spent'

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer: Getting to the bottom of 'the money will be spent'

The Sox Drawer is back for the offseason — and jam packed with questions from dedicated and clever White Sox fans who never disappoint.

More than 100 strong reached out on Twitter asking questions ranging from hot stove predictions to best tailgating beer to the continuing saga known as “When Will the Money Be Spent?”

Let’s get to it!

How should I enter next year as a fan? Are we going for it, or last year of rebuild? — @TheMarcski

A lot depends on the moves the White Sox make this offseason. I do believe they will be aggressive in their attempts to add a starting pitcher, right fielder and designated hitter. However, it takes two to tango. You can say you want to, but in the end, all that matters to the fans and the front office is, “Did you convert on the moves?”

See Manny Machado, 2019.

Even if the White Sox get, let’s say Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson and J.D. Martinez, that would be a great haul. But will that be enough to compete with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees next season? That might be a stretch. 

Assuming the White Sox successfully fill three to four needs on their roster, and with the additions of Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech, I think you should expect the White Sox to compete for a playoff spot next season.  

If Rick Renteria and several players are openly talking about such goals, there’s nothing wrong with you expecting and hoping for the same thing.

What’s one surprise move you think the White Sox will make? — @Jsegura233

A surprise move? How about this one: The Cubs pick up Jose Quintana’s option and trade him back to the White Sox. Theo Epstein seems ready to shake things up, Quintana hasn’t been the same consistent pitcher he was on the South Side, the White Sox can use a lefty starter, and Quintana only has one year and $11.5 million left on his contract, meaning the return will be nothing close to the Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease haul the White Sox got in 2017 for Q. Sounds like a win-win, right? That is, unless you’re the Cubs. Epstein would have to swallow really hard to make that trade happen, basically taking a big "L" on that high-profile trade.

What would the White Sox have to give up? Probably not as much as you’d think. Last winter, the White Sox got Ivan Nova with one year left on his deal ($9.1 million) from the Pirates for 19-year-old pitcher Yordi Rosario and international bonus slot money. And Nova was arguably better in 2018 than Quintana was in 2019.

Who knows? Maybe the Cubs don’t even pick up Quintana’s option, allowing the White Sox to sign him as a free agent.

So there’s my surprise prediction: Quintana ends up back on the White Sox. How crazy would that be?

In 2011, the White Sox payroll hit an all-time high of $128 million. Will we surpass that in 2020? 2021? When will we be a top-15 payroll again? (approximately $140-$145 million) — @grifjam106

I can’t say for certain “if” or “when” the White Sox payroll will be back at that level, but judging by their history, I foresee them heading back to that neighborhood soon. They’ve done it before. I can see them doing it again.

There are different payroll numbers floating around on the internet, but from what I have found, back in 2011 after signing Adam Dunn and Jesse Crain and re-signing Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, the White Sox finished with the fifth-highest payroll in the majors, ahead of the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Cardinals.

In 2013, the White Sox opened that season with the eighth-highest payroll in MLB, surpassing the Cardinals, Nationals, the rebuilding Cubs and Braves. Want to guess who opened that season dead last in the majors with a total payroll of $22 million? The Astros.

So will the White Sox spend big again? That leads to the next question ...

When Rick Hahn said last year and quote, “The money will be spent,” can we get clarification on that please? Thanks Chuck! — @JAC34331791

That quote is in reference to what Hahn told reporters back on Feb. 20, the day they missed out on signing Machado. Here’s the full quote from Hahn: “The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn’t money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in the best position to win some championships.”

The White Sox aren’t known for recklessly spending money. They seem to pick their spots, and when the timing feels right, they go for it. In recent years, we’ve seen this happen: in the winter of 2013, when they outbid everyone for Jose Abreu, then again in 2014, when they signed David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, and then in 2017, when they won the sweepstakes for Luis Robert.

I know these transactions were nowhere near what it took to sign Machado, for instance, but with an exciting nucleus intact and the window seemingly starting to open in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox attempted to spend a good chunk of that cash this offseason and into next offseason. You can debate what’s the best way to allocate the “Machado money.” Some fans want to spend it all at once on Gerrit Cole. Personally, I wouldn’t write a check for between $150 million and $200 million for a single arm. Ask the Red Sox about that right now with Chris Sale and David Price.

You also can’t force the issue by spending just to spend. All that said, I do believe that the payroll is headed north. How far north in 2020 and 2021? I can’t say. But if there is a time for the White Sox to start being aggressive in the marketplace in the hopes of winning again, this is one of those times.

Will the White Sox win a World Series before the Cubs do? — @cg_chi

This sounds like a great podcast. Stay tuned.

Chuck, who is your “go get him” player that will make an immediate impact for the Sox next season? — @BobMelcher1

Speaking of podcasts, last week we spoke about my “go get him” player on the White Sox Talk Podcast. That’s J.D. Martinez, assuming he opts out of his contract in Boston. He’d be the perfect bat to put in the middle of the lineup. The White Sox had the lowest DH production of any AL team last season. As we’ve seen before, not every hitter can be a successful DH. Martinez is elite at this position, slashing .293/.372/.512 in 2019. John Tomase, Red Sox beat writer for NBC Sports Boston, came on the podcast and boldly predicted that he’d end up on the White Sox. We’ll see.

What would it take for the White Sox to sponsor a little league baseball team in Amman, Jordan? — @PeregrineBloggs

Amman, Jordan, hello! White Sox fans are seriously everywhere! I didn’t believe it at first, but there is actually little league baseball in Jordan, though they look a lot older than the little leaguers we have in the U.S.

@PeregrineBloggs wrote back: “We have a little community of MLB fans of many teams. Twins, Reds, Yankees, Tigers, A’s, Dodgers and of course, White Sox." He sent the photos below. The first is him smacking a double. The second is his team, apparently named Free the Pizza.


What team is going to beat the Sox next year? — @JoshTuman

Honestly, the only team I see them having trouble with is Free the Pizza.

When will I get the Yermin Mercedes podcast? — @Wheres_Bald0

I figured this was coming. Yes, I did say toward the end of the season that I was going to do a podcast solely devoted to the baseball exploits of one Yermin Mercedes, who quickly became one of my favorite White Sox prospects of 2019. Unfortunately, my grand plan slipped through the cracks. I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve let down a small but fervent portion of the White Sox fan base. I interviewed new White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino about Mercedes. They worked together in Triple-A. I was planning on making some sort of podcast about him, but in the end, I needed more sound and perspective about this 5-foot-11 spark plug, who slashed .317/.388/.581 in 95 games with the Charlotte Knights. I’m just as curious and fascinated as you are. Let’s see where he ends up in 2020. Hopefully he’s not traded! A Yermin Mercedes podcast needs to happen at some point.

Can we just use commons sense for once? — @durag97

OK.

Chuck, really liked the time you spent doing play by play with Steve Stone. Love Jason Benetti also, but any chance we will hear you in the booth for a couple more games? — @preacherabe​​​​​​​

I had a blast calling those two games in Detroit. Career highlights for sure. It’s not up to me, but if the White Sox ask me to sub again, I will definitely say yes!

What’s the best beer to binge drink in the parking lot prior to game? — @MikeyBudz

If you ask my friends, I’m a serious lightweight in the beer-drinking department, so I’m probably not the best person to ask. However, according to a source close to the tailgating situation, “it’s quantity over quality.” So, I would suggest Coors Light or Miller High Life.

And finally ...

When will Chuck Garfien acknowledge my existence? — @toastfart

Right now!

Thanks everyone for all of your tweets. Let’s do it again next week!

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State of the White Sox: Designated hitter

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USA TODAY

State of the White Sox: Designated hitter

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and some time still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re moving on to designated hitter.

What happened in 2019

White Sox DHs were woefully ineffective in 2019, with Yonder Alonso’s midseason departure leaving few reliable options to turn to.

Alonso was scheduled to split time at both DH and first base with Jose Abreu, keeping both their productive bats in the middle of the lineup on a regular basis and allowing Abreu to rest a bit by playing in the field less. Things, of course, didn’t turn out that way when Alonso scuffled hard. Just two years removed from an All-Star appearance, Alonso batted .178/.275/.301 in his 67 games with the White Sox, contributing seven home runs and 27 RBIs before being released at the beginning of July.

Daniel Palka hit 27 home runs as a rookie in 2018, and though he was ticketed for the outfield when the season started, he always seemed best suited as a DH. But he couldn’t provide any help there, either, in 2019, sent to the minors far earlier than Alonso departed after a miserable 1-for-35 start to the season. He was dispatched to Triple-A and stayed there, with the exception of a handful of games in the middle of the summer, until September.

Without either of those guys making much of an impact, the DH spot was stocked with fill-ins for much of the season’s second half. Alonso still ended with the most games played at the position, with 42, and Abreu spent 34 games there, much to his chagrin as he doesn’t like DH’ing. Catchers Welington Castillo, Zack Collins and James McCann were third, fourth and fifth on the list at 21, 14 and 13 games, respectively. Matt Skole and A.J. Reed got their opportunities but were unimpressive in their production.

All in all, the offensive numbers from the DH spot were hideous in 2019: a collective .205/.285/.356 slash line from a position designed to add offensive damage to the lineup.

What will happen this offseason

And in digesting that rapid-fire history, it should come as no surprise that Rick Hahn has DH on his shopping list this winter.

In the long term, the best option might be Andrew Vaughn, the slugging first baseman who the White Sox took with the No. 3 overall pick in June’s draft. With questions about his defense accompanying that selection, perhaps his long-term spot is DH. But he’s not going to be ready for the 2020 team after finishing his first taste of pro baseball with five home runs between Class A affiliates in Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Still, a rapid rise through the farm system, a la Nick Madrigal, wouldn't be out of the question for 2020.

And so the DH fix will have to come from outside the organization. And, as has been discussed here many times before, the most realistic route appears to be free agency. A rash of injuries and under-performances significantly impacted the White Sox minor league depth, and past the top-ranked prospects in the organization, it’s difficult to envision the kind of package that could bring an impact player to the South Side via trade.

Looking at the free-agent market, then, there’s one superstar bat that figures to be available in J.D. Martinez, the Boston Red Sox designated hitter who’s been one of the most productive guys in the game in recent seasons. He finished fourth in the AL MVP vote after a sensational 2018 season for the world champs, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 homers and a baseball-best 130 RBIs. He won not one but two Silver Sluggers for his efforts. This season, his numbers weren’t quite as out-of-this-world: a .304/.383/.557 line with 36 homers and 105 RBIs. But that’s still some high-level production that would look really good added to the middle of the White Sox lineup.

Martinez is also much more than his “Just Dingers” nickname suggests — despite the 184 home runs he’s launched since the start of the 2015 season — apparently a terrific clubhouse influence who helped turn Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts into stars in Boston.

Of course, Martinez figures to be an expensive addition. The White Sox have the financial flexibility to afford him, but even Hahn has acknowledged that fans will remain skeptical about the team’s ability to land a big-name free agent until his front office proves them wrong. One thing working in the White Sox favor could be a limited market, with few other teams out looking for a DH. But the markets were shockingly small for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper last winter, too.

If Martinez isn’t the guy come 2020, there are other options, though few with as much potential impact or experience DH’ing. Other hitters on the market this winter include Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Hunter Pence and Brian Dozier.

We don’t know who it will be yet, but the White Sox will have a new DH in 2020.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

As mentioned, there will be a new name supposed to take up the majority of the at-bats at DH, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that person entrenched there for multiple seasons to come, especially if the White Sox are after a hitter the caliber of Martinez.

But this is a team that, like many others, values versatility, and it wouldn’t be a shock either to see other players rotated into DH’ing on a regular basis. Abreu is expected to be back, and surely the White Sox still have the same wish to keep him off his feet they did when they trumpeted the pending timeshare with Alonso before the 2019 season.

Similarly, Hahn continues to talk of the team’s desire to get Collins’ bat in the lineup more often. With defensive questions still dogging him as a catcher and McCann seemingly locked in as the No. 1 backstop for now, Collins making appearances as a DH would be a way to accomplish that goal.

But ideally the White Sox would add a bat of some sizable significance this winter, someone that would slot into the middle of the lineup on a daily basis. If they can do that, there’ll be a brand new “State of the Sox: DH” come Opening Day.

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