2018 has its stars, but waiting game may be best
Harper, Machado, Keuchel, and many others in this year’s free agent class would all look good in black, and not many would complain if one, two, or more of these stars donned the Sox’ colors next season. For more than 2 years, 2018 has been charged as arguably the best free agent class of all time. Couple that with a White Sox rebuild and a current $14.3 million on the books for 2019 pre-arbitration, which will likely end up around $55-60 million after all have been tendered deals, it’s easy to say now is the time to spend.
If the Sox choose to spend now, few would object; however, it may be more beneficial for this team to wait to spend until the winter of 2019. There are still a lot of questions to answer before the franchise begins their contention window, which has been tabbed to start as soon as 2020. The White Sox have options, which is great. Here is why it is better to wait one more year to spend.
Internally, the White Sox still have a ton to figure out, which should steer them away from some of the bigger names out there until the unknown is answered. Where is Yoan Moncada going to play? Rich Hahn hinted at the possibility of looking at him as a third base option in one of his final news conferences of the season, and echoed that as a possibility prior to this week’s GM meetings. Is Tim Anderson the shortstop for the long-term? His defensive play the second half of 2018 would make it real difficult to move him at this time. He is close to breaking out offensively, and moving him to say, centerfield, probably isn’t in the club’s best interest at this time. Can Daniel Palka become the DH of the future, or did the Sox catch lightning in a bottle? Do you extend Jose Abreu, or wait to see what he can do in 2019 following his injury plagued season? Will Nick Madrigal become the club’s second baseman of the future and begin a fast track to the major leagues, prompting a position move of Anderson or Moncada?
These are just some questions that Hahn and Sox management will have to answer, along with assessing the future projections of Robert, Adolfo, Collins, Burger, etc, and the plethora of pitching talent in the minor leagues. At this point, the Sox are caught in the middle of what is most pressing, and one more season of development with these youngsters, both major league and prospect wise, will answer a lot of questions.
Machado & Harper
As great of young superstars as these two are, it is a long shot for them to sign with the South Side, for a number of reasons. Even if the Sox can offer the most money, the two are going to have options to play for a ready-to-win now team. While sources have confirmed the club’s interest in both of the superstars, that’s all it is. Interest does not equal commitment. Manny Machado, who has his character and work ethic issues, does not appear as the poster child of the Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit mantra, and he more than likely will not want to play third base on a losing team, with his desire to be a shortstop. Statistically, he checks off plenty of boxes, but there are too many questionable intangibles.
Consequently, it’s not out of the question Hahn will inquire/withdraw from the bank in regards to Bryce Harper. This could be an easier sell and a better fit franchise wise, due to the fact that the outfield has been a revolving door, and other than Eloy, other outfield prospects have yet to force Hahn’s hand. This would allow them to move on from the inconsistency of Avisail Garcia sooner rather than later, but Hahn will have to sell Harper on the idea that the Sox’ window to win championships will be larger and longer than the Cubs and Yankees, to name a couple. Initially, this appears to be a hard sell at this time for upper management, and appears to be unrealistic. Additionally, the 2019 free agent class offers plenty of serviceable options, or again, there are some internal question marks that Hahn needs to answer about who may be able to lock down this spot for the 2018 season and the future.
Class of 2019 Nothing to Ridicule
With all the attention to 2018, next year’s free agent class has taken a back seat, and rightfully so, but there are some big names that would propel the Sox to the top of the class, as they enter their proposed championship window, beginning in 2020. Along with the big names, they won’t require the record-setting contracts Machado and Harper may demand, allowing the Sox to strategically spend big time money on multiple guys if they so choose. Here are the projected 2019-20 free agents, with the men listed below who possess no vesting options by their club or themselves, by potential position of need for the Sox (age in 2020 in parenthesis).
C – Not Much for names. Can Narvaez be the guy? Does Collins have a chance?
- This could be a trade route the Sox elect to go when we get to 2020 if no one pans out.
1B – Abreu (33), Goldschmidt (32), Flores (28).
- If they move on from Abreu, Goldy is your man.
2B – Guessing it will either be Moncada or Madrigal by this time.
SS – Bogaerts (27), Gregorius (30).
- If you move Anderson, either Madrigal shows he can play SS, or sign one.
- Based on what we’ve seen, Anderson seems poised to win this position at this point.
3B – Arenado (29), Rendon (30).
- Must sign one of these if Moncada does not get moved to 3B. Even if Moncada moves to 3B, Arenado would be worth signing due to Yoan’s flexibility. Arguably, Arenado is more appealing than Machado, despite the age difference.
LF – Eloy will have this on lockdown.
CF – Hicks (30), Hamilton (29).
- If Anderson stays at SS, sign one, or maybe a prospect emerges by this point.
RF – Castellanos (28).
- Big time underrated and knows the AL Central. Weakens a rival and instantly makes Sox better.
SP – Cole (29), Hernandez (34), Odorizzi (30), Porcello (31), Sale (31), Verlander (37)
RP – Can always find quality relievers if needed
Looking to Contend in 2020, not 2019
While no one wants a repeat of 2018, the Sox are not looking to contend in 2019; they are looking to compete. That is why signing second or third tier guys from the 2018 class bridges the gap before the championship window arrives. If Kopech was healthy, maybe Hahn makes a run at things a year early, but why not shoot to compete in 2019, to entice prospective free agents following 2019 to join the Sox for their championship window? Maybe the Sox try signing a Keuchel or an Eovaldi this year (a year earlier than they would like and follow a similar route that the Cubs did with Lester), but that still isn’t needed, even though it’s enticing. And, the genius that Hahn is, could sign a Donaldson to a 1-year deal, to potentially flip him at the deadline, or a Curtis Granderson, or an Adam Jones to hold a spot for now.
Use “band aids” for one more year, allow the prospects to get a year-older, compete more so than 2018, and hit it hard with the class of 2019, in which Hahn’s final questions should be answered. 2019’s class is full of championship caliber guys. Could you imagine Goldschmidt/Abreu and Arenado holding down the corners, along with stealing Sale back? Or, take your pick from a list of great SP in 2019 to join a rotation of Kopech, Lopez, Cease, and Rodon. Then, picture a year of growth from Moncada, Anderson, and the other young studs in the Sox’ system. Could be scary good. 2020 is the year the window opens, not 2019. Stay the course. Patience is a virtue. As Sox fans, we can handle one more year of the rebuild.
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