Now it is up to general manager Rick Hahn to find a realistic way to fill out the active roster with players who will help the White Sox return to competitiveness without putting the team in a restrictive financial position as his predecessor was wont to do.
It will not be easy.
With several holes to address, it will be imperative for Hahn to make wise decisions this offseason. Consider that there could be as many as three spots in the White Sox bullpen that need to be filled, there is more than one question mark in the outfield, they desperately need a catcher and their infield is among the worst in MLB.
As it stands, they have roughly $48 million in salaries committed to five players plus Matt Lindstrom’s buyout on the books for the 2014 season pending arbitration, per CotsContracts.com. And if the White Sox fill out their roster with players who earn the league minimum, as Colintj from SouthSideSox.com noted, their payroll will be in the neighborhood of $65 million.
Realistic with be the operative word here. That means that Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Robinson Cano, or any of the other high-profile free agent position players will not be discussed.
Almost exclusively, this conversation will revolve around the current 25-man roster. Specifically, the type of moves Hahn can make via trade, attrition or with the batting order to improve the team next year.
Beginning with the lineup, here are six realistic moves for Hahn and the White Sox.
Unless otherwise noted, all advanced and general statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
While not a “move” in the traditional sense, announcing that Adam Dunn will hit seventh could be the easiest decision the White Sox make this offseason.
It is impossible to justify batting Dunn third or fourth. He has a .197/.317/.405 slash line in three seasons on the South Side, and according to BrooksBaseball.net, he swung at and missed 44 percent of the breaking balls he saw in 2013. That may seem like an arbitrary stat, but considering the responsibility a hitter has to make contact batting third, it bears mentioning.
For as bad as Dunn is, he is the best offensive weapon on the roster. To illustrate that statement, Cee Angi put his numbers in perspective in an article she wrote for CBSLocal.com. The unfortunate reality, though, is that while Dunn can change a game with one hit, he can also change a game with one miss just as easily.
Dunn does not make consistent enough contact to bat towards the top of the order. Batting him seventh to open next season makes the most sense.
With David Purcey effectively removed from the conversation, the White Sox will need to add a late-inning lefty in the bullpen.
Signing a lefty to a one-year deal, though, accomplishes nothing. And since the bullpen is, arguably, where many games are won or lost, it would behoove general manager Rick Hahn to invest a fair—not exorbitant—amount of money in a proven veteran who will be the primary left-hander out of the bullpen for the next two seasons.
To be sure, the right-handers the Sox currently have in the ‘pen are reasonably successful against left-handed hitting, so Hahn should not overpay, but a guy like Boone Logan might forego a higher yearly salary in favor of more years on his contract. Logan has developed into a very effective reliever since he left the White Sox following the 2008 season.
Bullpen help, in general, will be at a premium this offseason. The White Sox blew 20 saves and allowed 29 percent of inherited runners to score last season. Improving those metrics may be the easiest way to increase the team’s win total.
The White Sox have proven that they can lose 99 games with Alejandro De Aza on the roster. Does it matter, then, if the player with the second-highest oWAR (1.7) in 2013 is not on the 25-man roster next season? No, it does not.
Offense aside, De Aza had a negative impact on the team’s performance last year. Pick just about any other metric (-2.0 dWAR, for example), and you will find a below-average baseball player. From striking out 147 times to his inability to play consistent defense, De Aza is simply not worth any further investment.
To that effect, MLBTradeRumors.com’s Matt Swartz projects that if the outfielder is offered arbitration, his 2014 salary could be as high as $4.4 million. General manager Rick Hahn would be wise to save that money—and the associated baserunning blunders—for use on a free agent.
Hector Santiago has just about all of the intangibles you could ask for.
He is young (25), left-handed, inexpensive, under team control until 2018 and throws five pitches—four-seamer, change, cutter, curveball and screwball—with enough authority that he can keep hitters off-balance. As a middle-of-the-rotation starter with the potential to become a solid No. 2, Santiago has immense value and would demand a major league-ready prospect in return.
As it happens, the White Sox need an outfielder (or two), a catcher and a third baseman in the worst way. Trading from an area of strength could be the fastest way to fill at least one of those holes.
Now Santiago did walk 72 batters this past season, so control is an issue, but given the positives, he would be a very attractive option for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have more than one minor leaguer who would fit into the White Sox's long-term plan.
This past season, Santiago went 4-7 with a 1.393 WHIP, 122 strikeouts and a .242 BAA in 130.2 innings in 23 starts.
There aren’t many teams that would pass on the chance to acquire a 24-year-old closer who has converted on 69 out of 81 save opportunities, according to FanGraphs.com.
There is precedence for a trade involving Reed. The Sox have traded a young closer at his peak as recently as 2011 when they sent Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander Nestor Molina. At the time, Santos said that Kenny Williams called the offer one “he couldn’t refuse,” via ESPN.com’s Doug Padilla.
So far, that deal has not really panned out for either team, but the larger point remains. The White Sox would be willing to part with Reed for a prospect they believed in. If he is dealt, Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom (assuming his option is picked up) stand at the front of the list to replace him.
With another losing season likely in store, what value is there in having an above-average closer on the roster? Not much. Trading him this offseason would seem to make the most sense.
Alexei Ramirez may never have higher trade value—from an offensive perspective, at least.
In 2013, Ramirez compiled a .284/.313/.380 slash line and finished the season with 39 doubles, 48 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 637 at-bats. Due to an overall lack of power, his OPS+ was only 86, but if he had more runners on in front of him, his RBI total would have been significantly higher.
One option for Ramirez’s services is the St. Louis Cardinals whose everyday shortstop, Pete Kozma, generated a .217/.275/.273 slash line with one home run and 34 RBI during the regular season. During the postseason, he is batting a robust .172 and committed two errors in the Cardinals Game 1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Even if the Cardinals win the World Series, they may want to fortify the position. Now Oscar Taveras is untouchable, but general manager Rick Hahn could work out a deal with the NL champions for one of their other highly rated outfield prospects—Steven Piscotty, James Ramsey and Thomas Pham— that would immediately improve the White Sox situation beyond the rim of the infield.
Trading Ramirez would also allow Beckham to move to shortstop and give Marcus Semien or Micah Johnson an opportunity to take over as the everyday second baseman.