Why Bryce Harper?

In this White Sox offseason on Thanksgiving Day, I want you to ask why?

Why sign Bryce Harper?  Let’s make an easy assumption.  Although there were murmurs of owner collusion last year because some free agents didn’t get paid the way they expected to, Harper has nothing to worry about. Let’s peg him for 10 years and 400 million dollars.  This would be a ridiculously stupid expenditure for the Sox.  For you Harper loving Sox fans out there, I’m asking you to be pragmatic.  Are the Sox one player away from contention?  Wouldn’t it be better to spread that money around if they’re really willing to spend it?

Now, I have read and heard some pretty dramatic predictions on contract numbers for some of this winter’s free agents.  5 years and over 100 million dollars for left handed starting pitcher Patrick Corbin?  He had one good year, and teams are going to line up to pay him that astronomical sum? J.D. Martinez got 5 years, 110 million dollars in free agency last year when the Red Sox signed him.  I know we are talking about pitcher vs. position player/designated hitter here, but Martinez has a history of greatness.  Corbin does not.

Some chatter has center fielder A.J. Pollock in Lorenzo Cain territory, which is 5 years, 80 million dollars, courtesy of the Brewers.  Cain was coming off a .300/.363/.440 slash line and 47 extra base hits, with two American League championships and one world championship on his resume. Pollock is coming off a .257/.316/.484 slash line and 47 extra base hits, but consider his track record.  87 missed games in 2014.  150 missed games in 2016.  50 missed games in 2017.  49 missed games this past season.  You’re going to give this soon to be 31 year old 80 million dollars with that injury history?

Lastly, Josh Donaldson.  The veteran third baseman is rumored to be looking for an AAV (average annual value) in the neighborhood of 20 million dollars.  He won’t command a lot of years due to his age (he’ll play at age 33 next season), but 20 million a year puts him in Eric Hosmer AAV territory.  While the Padres’ top brass may have collectively been smoking angel dust for a week in proffering an 8 year, 144 million dollar contract to Hosmer, his free agent walk year was considerably better than Donaldson’s.

Hosmer walk year: .318/.385/.498, 25 HR, 94 RBI in 162 games

Donaldson walk year: .246/.352/.449, 8 HR, 23 RBI in 52 games

Despite the fact Hosmer’s contract was ludicrous and I would bet 50 bucks the Padres regret it, Hosmer had a good year heading into free agency.  Donaldson didn’t. 

Why bring these guys up in the same breath with the White Sox?  Because you could sign all three of these guys and still have a lot of money left over for next year when the Sox are more likely to contend.

Remember, despite what the MLB experts on television and the internet suggest, a lot of pretty good players took (relatively) modest contracts last year in free agency.

Yonder Alonso, 2 years, 16 million.  Matt Adams, 1 year, 4 million. Mike Moustakas, 1 year, 6.5 million. Logan Morrison, 1 year, 6.5 million.  Todd Frazier, 2 years, 17 million. Jonathan Lucroy, 1 year, 6.5 million.  Mitch Moreland, 2 years, 13 million. 

Pollock has had one good year, and that was 3 years ago.  He’s missed 249 games since then.  Donaldson was very good, but he missed 110 games last year and he’ll be 33 years old in December.  Even the coveted Corbin, who doesn’t turn 30 until July, comes with multiple question marks. Prior to this breakout season where he had 246 Ks in 200 innings pitched, he never averaged a strikeout per inning from 2012 to 2017.  He let up 208 hits in 189.2 innings pitched in 2017, with a 4.03 ERA.  Ordinary.  In 2016, he pitched 155.2 innings, struck out 131, walked 66 (a very pedestrian K/BB ratio), and his ERA was a bloated 5.15.  I know Harvard sabermetricians that wear 200 dollar ties to work and never played T-ball don’t care about wins and losses, but Corbin was 5-13 in 2016. 5 years, 110 million for Corbin? J.D. Martinez money for a ‘maybe’ guy?

So, let’s do a balancing act.  What they should make?  Check, throw it in the contract blender.  What they will make?  Check, throw it in the contract blender.  What do we have?

Patrick Corbin, 5 years, 92 million dollars (Only one pitcher got more than 5 years last year-Yu Darvish at 6 years, 126 million dollars. Ask Theo Epstein if he’d take that back if he could.)

A.J. Pollock, 2 years, 24 million dollars, with a team option for a third year and a 1 million dollar buyout (This is too much for an injury prone post-30 center fielder, but he’ll get it.)

Josh Donaldson, 1 year, 14 million dollars (A prove it contract.  Anybody that gives him 2 years is lighting money on fire.)

I know I just tried to sell you on why these three players shouldn’t be overpaid, but if they can stay healthy (Pollock and Donaldson) and continue to improve (Corbin), they could have a significant impact on the White Sox. And the bank wouldn’t be broken by one player.  My point is, they are acquirable, and they might not cost what the experts claim they’ll cost. 

There you have it. 130 million dollars and you fill the most obvious three holes the White Sox have:  Number one starter (maybe), center field (two years should buy time to see who of Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Basabe, or Luis Gonzalez is ready to take over), and third base (Nolan Arenado is a free agent after the 2019 season).  270 million dollars left over to spend in 2020 and Bryce can do his hair flips and home run stares in New York or Los Angeles or with the north siders.  Who cares, as long as the Sox don’t waste that kind of money on the most overrated player in professional sports. 

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