Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn went to work this offseason.
Hahn signed or traded for a new center fielder, a new first baseman, a new starter, the third baseman of the future and three new relief pitchers. He also brought in Todd Steverson to replace Jeff Manto as the White Sox hitting coach, which could turn out to be a critical hire.
Sure, he gave up a ton to get what he got, but the franchise needed to head in a different direction. So after all the activity this past offseason, who is going to be in uniform for the Opening Day tilt against the Minnesota Twins?
Let's cut through it and take a look at projections for the 25-man roster at the beginning of spring training along with each player's ZIPS projections, courtesy of Carson Cistulli over at FanGraphs.
|Alejandro De Aza||.265||.723||13||56||81||.314||1.7|
Let’s start by addressing the hot corner where Conor Gillaspie gets the nod over Matt Davidson. Yes, Hahn traded a top-flight reliever in Addison Reed to acquire the third baseman. That doesn’t mean he’s a shoe-in to make the 25-man roster.
Matter of fact, it is unlikely.
Even though Hahn said “it certainly is possible he breaks with us Opening Day," according to CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes, he should open the season at Triple-A Charlotte because it will allow him to get more work in on defense and stave off both arbitration and free agency for another season. Truth be told, the financial implications of assigning Davidson to the minor leagues far outweigh the defensive ones.
Larry over at South Side Sox summed up how money will impact Davidson’s roster status:
If he is on the Opening Day roster, and remains on it the whole season, he'll have accrued well over a year of service time and be on track to be a free agent after the 2019 season. But, if instead the White Sox have him 'work on some things' at Charlotte until 61 days have passed, he won't and the White Sox will control him until through 2020.
Regarding the rest of the starting lineup, it is set unless Hahn pulls off a last-minute trade involving Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo. If that happens, expect Jordan Danks to become the fourth outfielder. Jared Mitchell could make a case for consideration, but the White Sox will want to see some sustained results at Double-A or Triple-A before starting his arbitration clock.
The only question regarding the bench is whether or not Adrian Nieto will be on the Opening Day roster. At this point, he gets the nod over Josh Phegley for two reasons.
First, the White Sox are going to see how well Nieto performs in limited regular-season action before offering him back to the Washington Nationals as part of the Rule 5 draft process. The relatively minor cost ($25,000 net loss before salary) associated with cutting him should not preclude the team from taking a wait-and-see approach with the young catcher.
Second, Phegley will benefit greatly from the extended playing time he will receive at Triple-A Charlotte. The former Indiana University-Bloomington standout could still be the catcher of the future, and the White Sox will take the prudent approach by getting him as many minor league at-bats as possible.
|Chris Sale, LHP||16-9||204.3||9.87||2.16||3.17||3.23||5.7|
|Jose Quintana, LHP||9-7||187.7||7.24||2.78||3.98||3.99||3.4|
|Erik Johnson, RHP||8-9||129.7||7.56||3.96||4.58||4.72||1.4|
|John Danks, LHP||6-9||123.0||6.29||2.85||5.12||5.04||0.5|
|Felipe Paulino, RHP||3-3||61.3||9.25||3.96||4.40||4.51||0.7|
Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson, John Danks and Felipe Paulino will be the men who take the mound every five days for the White Sox. Now the back end is not set by any means, but pitching coach Don Cooper said Johnson was "penciled in pretty firmly" into the rotation (per ESPN.com's Doug Padilla). Johnson as the No. 3 makes sense.
After all, someone has to break up the monotony of three straight left-handers, and who better (for the moment) than the home-grown workhorse? Then again, Felipe Paulino could prove that his surgically repaired right arm is fine and take the spot away. Regardless of what happens with the third starter, safe money goes with Danks in the fourth spot.
All that said, there will be a competition in camp for the final two spots in the rotation. As of right now, though, it is hard to imagine Andre Rienzo, Chris Beck, Dylan Axelrod or anyone else taking a spot away from Paulino or Johnson.
|Daniel Webb, RHP (Closer)||62.7||7.61||5.60||4.74||4.85||-0.1|
|Nate Jones, RHP||71.0||9.63||3.80||3.68||3.60||0.8|
|Matt Lindstrom, RHP||52.7||7.17||3.07||3.76||3.61||0.5|
|Scott Downs, LHP||37.3||7.48||3.86||3.86||3.78||0.3|
|Mitchell Boggs, RHP||70.0||6.17||4.63||5.27||5.29||-0.8|
|Charles Leesman, LHP||107.3||7.13||5.96||6.29||6.12||-1.1|
|Ronald Belisario, RHP||66.7||7.15||4.18||4.32||4.03||0.2|
There are two spots/roles that will be determined over the next four weeks.
The most pressing role is who ends up closing games for the White Sox. Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom are the ones garnering the most press, but Daniel Webb is the best fit.
Webb has the arsenal (high-90s fastball and effective off-speed repertoire) for the job, while Jones and Lindstrom both have immense value as setup men and struggle in higher-leverage situations. Jones is not very good with men on base. In 114 games with runners on, he has a .300 batting average against (BAA), an .815 OPS against and has surrendered 84 runs.
In long relief, Charlie Leesman has the edge over Axelrod and Donnie Veal. Veal is too streaky and cannot pitch multiple innings. And even though Axelrod can pitch in long relief, he proved last season to be quite hittable.
To be sure, there is still quite a bit of time until the regular season begins. Maybe Hahn will find a trade partner for De Aza or Adam Dunn; then again, maybe not.
More will be revealed.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.