White Sox

With two new multi-year deals, what will White Sox lineups look like in 2020, 2021 and 2022?

With two new multi-year deals, what will White Sox lineups look like in 2020, 2021 and 2022?

The White Sox just spent $123 million in two days. But there's still a lot of work left to do.

Even after adding Yasmani Grandal on a four-year contract (the richest deal in team history) and giving face of the franchise Jose Abreu a three-year extension, Rick Hahn's front office still has problems to solve in the starting rotation and in right field. The South Siders aren't closing the door on adding a more "everyday" style DH, either.

But those long-term contracts do cement a pair of middle-of-the-order hitters on the White Sox roster for the foreseeable future, growing a core that looks rather formidable after breakout seasons for Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jimenez in 2019.

So while the 2020 picture still has some holes in it, let's gaze into the future and try to figure out what the White Sox lineup will look like in the coming years.

2020

1. Luis Robert, CF
2. Tim Anderson, SS
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Yoan Moncada, 3B
5. Eloy Jimenez, LF
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. RF
8. DH
9. Nick Madrigal, 2B

Two big question marks still exist when it comes to forecasting the White Sox lineup for the upcoming 2020 season: Who will play right field, and what will the team do at DH?

The first is a total mystery, as Hahn will almost certainly search the free-agent and trade markets for a new right fielder. Nicholas Castellanos is the best available free-agent outfielder — though some prefer Marcell Ozuna — but comes with questions about his defense and will surely cost a pretty penny. If the White Sox are hell bent on adding a left-handed hitter in that spot, the most discussed options are Kole Calhoun and Corey Dickerson. The trade market has countless options, depending on what the White Sox are willing to give away in prospect capital. Don't expect them to deal away any of their highest rated prospects in a trade for a player with just one year of control remaining like Mookie Betts. Whether the White Sox go after a long-term or short-term fix in right field also is an unknown. The former is preferred, but the latter could be an option depending on how the rest of the offseason plays out.

The second of the question marks, DH, at least has comes with an in-house option now that Grandal is in the fold. If the White Sox can't find a better external option, they could be comfortable with a rotation of Abreu, Grandal, Zack Collins and James McCann at DH. But as Hahn said Thursday, there's "a lot of offseason left." Abreu, it should be noted, is expected to contribute as a DH on as regular basis as he did in 2019. Even though he has expressed a dislike for the position, he played 34 games there this past season.

It might not be realistic to expect Robert and Madrigal to be installed at their respective positions on Opening Day, but both project to be everyday players for much of the 2020 season, Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. Jimenez isn't going to a new position for now, with Rick Renteria saying over the summer, "it would be, I think, derelict on my part and on our part as an organization to limit the ability for him to play on both sides of the baseball." Moncada has a lot of athleticism and versatility, allowing the White Sox to at least consider a potential pursuit of star free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon. But Hahn said last week the team has no desire to switch Moncada's position for the second consecutive year.

1. Lucas Giolito
2. new SP
3. new SP
4. Dylan Cease
5. Reynaldo Lopez/Michael Kopech

The White Sox are going to add two starting pitchers this offseason. They're already rumored to be in pursuit of Zack Wheeler, who would slot in nicely alongside or just behind Giolito at the top of the rotation. His arriving on the South Side is no lock at the moment, so I won't ink him into the long-term projection just yet. But he's a kind of pitcher who would line up with the team's planned contention window. Hahn could look for two pitchers who fit that description, or he could go long-term with one and short-term with another. He's got options, and there's no knowing which options will end up the final results right now.

Hahn said in September that Giolito, Cease and Lopez have rotation spots for 2020. Kopech, meanwhile, will be on some kind of innings limit next season in his return from Tommy John surgery. After missing the entirety of the 2019 campaign, the White Sox could limit his big league usage in a number of ways: starting him in the minor leagues, skipping some starts or having him throw out of the bullpen. Bottom line: Kopech will not make a full 30-plus starts in 2020. Lopez is an interesting case, as he struggled mightily to find consistency in 2019. How long will he be allowed to keep searching for it if the White Sox are intent on contending for a playoff spot in 2020?

2021

1. Luis Robert, CF
2. Nick Madrigal, 2B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B/DH
4. Yoan Moncada, 3B
5. Eloy Jimenez, LF
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. Andrew Vaughn, 1B/DH
8. RF
9. Tim Anderson, SS

It's impossible to say right now what kind of position the White Sox will be in after the 2020 season, but it's perfectly fair to assume that even if the contention window doesn't open in 2020, it should be fully open by 2021 — if everything goes according to plan, of course.

There are so many things that are difficult to predict, such as whether someone takes a step backward and the team needs to address a position they didn't think they'd have to, or if a breakout season from someone I've placed further down in the batting order necessitates them being the new cleanup hitter. If Hahn takes a short-term approach to right field or DH this winter, does he search for a long-term solution next offseason? Does one of the myriad outfield prospects who were plagued by injuries and under-performance in 2019 explode for a huge season in the minor leagues in 2020, forcing himself into the long-term forecast?

What we do know if that all the guys currently projected to play everyday roles in 2020 are under contract for 2021, too. Robert, Madrigal, Abreu, Moncada, Jimenez, Grandal, Anderson. They're not going anywhere. (I flip-flopped Anderson and Madrigal in the batting order just because Madrigal's elite bat-to-ball skills, should they stay that way once he reaches the big leagues, would figure to make him a valuable hitter near the top of the order behind Robert and ahead of the big boppers. And Anderson could fill that "second leadoff hitter" role that has been used by teams in the past. Renteria and the White Sox could certainly have different ideas.)

The big change, though, could come in the form of Vaughn's arrival at the major league level. The White Sox made him the No. 3 pick in June's draft, and as an advanced college bat, he could be on a similar path to Madrigal, who went from No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft to the doorstep of the majors by the end of his first full season as a pro. If that's the case, a 2021 arrival date for Vaughn is not at all out of the question. Maybe he arrives even earlier, at the tail end of the 2020 season, if he has a monster campaign in the minors and the White Sox could use some late-season thump in the middle of a playoff push. But that would go against how the White Sox have patiently handled their prospects during this rebuilding process.

As for where Vaughn is forecasted to play, don't think that the Abreu extension is a bad sign for him. He's a first baseman, like Abreu, but both have questions about their defense there. Abreu is a diligent worker when it comes to his defense, even if the defensive metrics don't show entirely positive results. Abreu doesn't like to DH but will. Vaughn was drafted with questions about his defense, and some speculated he'd end up a DH down the road. The White Sox don't like talking about youngsters as full-time DHs — see the comments on Jimenez — so maybe they can finally pull off the first base/DH platoon with Abreu and Vaughn they tried with Abreu and Yonder Alonso at the outset of 2019. Or maybe Abreu is convinced by 2021, his age-34 season, that he's best suited as a regular DH and hands the first-base reins over to Vaughn.

There's still that mystery in right field, only because we don't know who will be there in 2020. Prospects like Micker Adolfo or Luis Basabe or Blake Rutherford could prove themselves major league ready by the time spring training 2021 rolls around, and if this winter's addition is a short-term one, the door will be open for one of those guys. Or maybe a short-term addition simply yields to the search for another free-agent replacement a winter from now. Or maybe Hahn adds a right fielder on a multi-year deal this offseason, and that guy is in the plans beyond 2020, as well.

1. Lucas Giolito
2. 2020 SP
3. Michael Kopech
4. Dylan Cease
5. 2020 SP/new SP/Dane Dunning/Jimmy Lambert/Carlos Rodon/Reynaldo Lopez

I would not be at all surprised if the two starting pitchers Hahn adds this offseason are on multi-year deals and the rotation doesn't require any additions next winter. In fact, we might be debating who the White Sox have to exclude from the big league rotation, as Dunning and Lambert will be fully recovered from their Tommy John surgeries by then. Don't forget, too, that Rodon will be in his final season of team control come 2021. It's difficult to figure out what to expect from any of those three Tommy John recipients in 2020, but even if none of them makes an impact then, they'll all be options for 2021.

Giolito, Kopech and Cease all figure to be the owners of secure big league rotation spots by then. Lopez could be, too, though he's the biggest long-term question mark after his rough 2019 season. At least one of this winter's additions should be a long-term one, so he'd take that No. 2 spot, or perhaps lower if Kopech or Cease really break out in 2020 the way Giolito did in 2019. Should the White Sox make a short-term move with their second starting-pitching addition this winter, they might be on the hunt for another free-agent or trade acquisition next winter.

If everything goes right, it points to Hahn finally having that "good problem" he's always referencing of too many quality starting pitchers. That could make the White Sox able to upgrade their roster with trades involving the guys who don't make the cut, though depth would remain important, as the parade of ineffective fifth starters showed in 2019.

2022

1. Luis Robert, CF
2. Nick Madrigal, 2B
3. Yoan Moncada, 3B
4. Eloy Jimenez, LF
5. Jose Abreu, 1B/DH
6. Andrew Vaughn, 1B/DH
7. Yasmani Grandal, C
8. RF
9. Tim Anderson, SS

Again, same situation as the 2021 forecast. Robert, Anderson, Abreu, Moncada, Jimenez, Grandal, Madrigal and Vaughn will all still be under club control. There could be plenty of variation in the way the batting order shakes out depending on who's not and who's not by then. Vaughn, in particular, would figure to be placed in a spot that takes advantage of his power should he meet the expectations that accompanied him when he was drafted. Abreu, in his age-35 season, might be surpassed by Moncada and Jimenez as the primary offensive threats in this lineup, though Abreu has been so consistent in his major league career so far, that minimal regression wouldn't be a shock.

The right-field question can't be answered until we know the plans for 2020 and what kind of bounce-back seasons might occur among the prospect group over the next two years. There's a possibility Hahn could be going back to the free-agent or trade drawing board, even two offseasons in the future. Who knows?

The 2022 season should be the thick of the White Sox contention window, and they figure to be a team with realistic championship aspirations by this point. Teams like that tend to make big upgrades every winter (not to mention at the trade deadline), so it's quite possible there's a huge future piece that we're not accounting for just because this is what we're projecting in the present. And that could shake things up dramatically.

But thanks to the contracts announced in the last two days, we know that Abreu and Grandal will be part of these lineups.

1. Lucas Giolito
2. Michael Kopech
3. 2020 SP
4. Dylan Cease
5. 2020 SP/2021 SP/new SP/Dane Dunning/Jimmy Lambert/Reynaldo Lopez

Again, there's too much mystery to make a true projection. Maybe that free-agent pitcher signed this winter eclipses Giolito and is the staff ace. Maybe Kopech rises to that No. 1 spot. Maybe Lopez or Dunning or Lambert or, heck, even Jonathan Stiever become a rotation lock. Maybe there's a future free agent in an offseason to come who the White Sox can't pass up the opportunity to sign. (Rodon is set to hit free agency after the 2021 season, which is why he's not on this list.)

I'll put Giolito and Kopech and Cease in there now. But there are so many possibilities, which is both a good thing and a potentially precarious thing for the White Sox. Best-case scenario: They have too many good starting pitchers and are able to trade one or more of them away to upgrade the roster elsewhere. Worst-case scenario: They have to repeatedly return to the free-agent and trade markets to find new solutions.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

The crew wraps up the final day of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Ryan McGuffey talk about a rumored deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox (2:41) that would move some pieces around.

Rick Hahn speaks for the final time in San Diego and the guys react to his comments.

Later, they debate why fans are disappointed with the White Sox and the outcome for the team at the end of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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