Going through April and May without baseball is awful. I hope we never have to do it again.
At this point, I’m still optimistic there will be baseball in 2020, and I know you have questions about the season. Let’s kickoff our first White Sox mailbag together:
Assuming the season starts at the beginning of July, when do you think Nick Madrigal would be the starter at second base? — David R.
This is a great question that is even more complicated now than it was back in March. Putting service-time issues aside, Madrigal still has more development to do at the minor league level, and now there might not even be a minor league season. So how does he go about getting that development? I’m sure that is a big question for general managers across the league right now as the owners and players try to hash out a playing agreement for 2020.
There’s been momentum building toward the idea of a 20-man “taxi squad” to complement 30-man major league rosters, but I have significant questions about how such a squad would work. How do you keep those players fresh? Considering pretty much all of them will be minor leaguers, how do you keep their development going? If you’re going to call up a pitcher from the taxi squad, how do you throw him into a major league game if he hasn’t faced a live batter since March? Those players need to be playing games in some capacity, perhaps back in Arizona.
Madrigal is close, but he didn’t have a great spring training and now he’s been inactive for two months. The White Sox will put him in the best position to succeed, and that will likely depend on this taxi-squad situation. If he can’t adequately develop at the minor league level in 2020, perhaps they’ll decide he can finish off his development in Chicago. That’s always risky, though.
Madrigal isn’t the only high-profile MLB prospect in this situation. You just hope their careers aren’t negatively impacted by this whole situation. My guess is the ones destined for success will figure it out, but you don’t want to do any long-term damage. At this point, I would still expect to see Madrigal in a White Sox uniform by September, but the longer this delay goes, the greater the chance his major league debut is delayed to 2021.
With the 20-man taxi squads, should we expect Andrew Vaughn to be a part of that? — Luke M.
I’m not sure I would expect it, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. It depends on the rules involving the taxi squad. Are the taxi squad players the only ones who will get any kind of development this season? If so, I would certainly put Vaughn on that squad. But will taxi squad players be accruing major league service time? I wouldn’t think so, but until that is hashed out, it’s hard to know for sure.
The bigger question is whether or not Vaughn will contribute to the major league club at all in 2020, and that seems like a long shot, especially when you consider he hasn’t been playing minor league games the last two months. Still, between the expanded 30-man roster and 20-man taxi squads, that’s 50 players to account for, and it’s possible Vaughn is included in that group.
What happens to one-year contracts for this year? Do they roll over to 2021? — Adam K.
They do not roll over. That was already negotiated in the March agreement between the players and the owners. So if zero games are played in 2020, a player like Mookie Betts will still hit free agency this coming winter and theoretically might never play a game for the Dodgers.
For the White Sox, it means James McCann and Alex Colome will hit free agency no matter how many games are played. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez will be arbitration eligible. Yasmani Grandal’s big four-year contract will just have three years left on it.
Some players will benefit by hitting free agency sooner. Others might lose more money because of the way their contracts are loaded in 2020. But overall, it was in the players’ best interests to accrue full-service time this year, and that’s what the MLBPA fought for and received in March.
Does McCann become more valuable on the trade market due to a shortened season? Do you think the Sox would change their symbol/jersey in the coming years? This is the longest they have ever kept one style. — Typical Sox Fan
Two-parter here, but I like both questions so it’s all good. Before I address McCann specifically, the idea of trades during this potential season is interesting. If players are all being tested the same way across the league, then it wouldn’t necessarily be a big issue to move a player from one clubhouse to another, but it’s a different story for that player’s family. People are still moving during this pandemic, but it’s not exactly ideal. There’s also going to be limited minor league development going on, so how are prospects going to be valued in potential trades? Every baseball rabbit hole I go down only generates more questions.
As for McCann, I’m not sure the value changes much. If catchers are valued more in a shorter season, then that also means McCann’s value to the White Sox increases. If there are fewer off days in the season, then McCann will be needed to spell Grandal more. Like any season, McCann’s trade value will depend on how he is playing and what position the White Sox are in when the trade deadline rolls around. Considering the playoffs could be temporarily expanded to 14 teams, there’s even more reason to believe the White Sox will be contenders this year, which means trading McCann wouldn’t make much sense.
As for the uniforms: Why change them? It’s hard to believe, but this is the 30th season the White Sox have been in their current uniforms. Considering their unis have changed so much over the long history of the franchise, 30 years is an eternity. But it also means they’ve found uniforms that work. The home pinstripes are a classic that withstand the test of time, and the current logo has been culturally significant and popular since it debuted in 1991. Too many teams struggle to find the right uniform combination and constantly change them because they need to. The White Sox aren’t one of those teams — not anymore.
That said, I would personally love to see the diamond sock logo return to the road unis and the script “White Sox” unis they wore from 1987 to 1990 used as throwbacks every once in a while.
Adam, you cover both the White Sox and the Bears. Which current White Sox player would have the best chance of succeeding in the NFL, and who on the Bears do you believe could make a living in MLB? — Legendary Chicago radio host Harry T.
Harry! Well, Adam Engel was a good enough high school football player that Bret Bielema offered him a scholarship at Wisconsin. Engel chose to play baseball at Louisville instead. But I once had someone tell me that if Luis Robert was born in the United States, he would be playing football at Alabama. I don’t think it was meant literally, but it speaks to his speed and athleticism.
As for the Bears, I’m going to keep working on Kyle Long’s baseball comeback with the White Sox. But since he’s retired from football, I have to go with rookie tight end Cole Kmet. White Sox scout J.J. Lally loved him coming out of St. Viator High School, and his comp for Kmet was Aaron Judge. That’s pretty high praise.
So how about a Cole Kmet-Luis Robert trade? Perhaps Robert could slide in and start at wide receiver right away. Pretty sure Rick Hahn isn’t making that deal, though.