After acquiring Todd Frazier this afternoon in exchange for Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas and Micah Johnson and getting Brett Lawrie for J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin the White Sox have firmly made it clear their intent to contend in 2016 instead of tearing it down for a rebuild.
First, it'd be beneficial to recap the team's offseason to this point.
Jeff Samardzija — Declined qualifying offer, signed $90M / 5 years to the San Francisco Giants
Alexei Ramirez — Team option declined, currently a free agent
Tyler Flowers — Non-tendered, signed $5.3M / 2 years with Atlanta Braves
Geovany Soto — Elected free agency, signed $2.8M / 1 year with Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Gordon Beckham — Elected free agency, signed $1.25M / 1 year with Atlanta Braves
Matt Albers — Elected free agency, currently a free agent
Trayce Thompson — Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Todd Frazier
Micah Johnson — Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Todd Frazier
Frankie Montas — Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Todd Frazier
Adrián Nieto — Signed minor league deal with Miami Marlins
Junior Guerra — Claimed off waivers by Milwaukee Brewers
Yency Almonte — Traded to Colorado Rockies for Tommy Kahnle
J.B. Wendelken — Traded to Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie
Zack Erwin — Traded to Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie
Myles Jaye — Traded to Texas Rangers for Will Lamb
Todd Frazier — Acquired from Cincinnati Reds for Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson
Brett Lawrie — Acquired from Oakland Athletics for J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin
Tommy Kahnle — Acquired from Colorado Rockies for Yency Almonte
Dioner Navarro — Signed $4M / 1 year contract
Alex Avila — Signed $2.5M / 1 year contract
Jacob Turner — Claimed off of waivers from Chicago Cubs, non-tendered, resigned to $1.5M / 1 year contract
Will Lamb — Acquired from Texas Rangers for Myles Jaye
A lot has left the system, but there's no doubt that the Sox have strengthened their MLB roster. Here are the next moves facing the Sox.
Deciding on a shortstop
Frazier and Lawrie combined for 51 homers and 149 RBIs last year vs. 21 homers and RBIs from the White Sox third and second basemen last season — where the Sox ranked 29th and 30th in MLB production going by fWAR. A powerless infield is suddenly dripping with power, even considering Tyler Saladino or Alexei Ramirez play at shortstop. The thing is, who will be the double-play partner for Lawrie?
Alexei Ramirez showed up in his No. 10 White Sox jersey, though he's a free-agent. pic.twitter.com/mKKrcWq2R3
— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) December 16, 2015
Ramirez brings veteran experience, but had a dismal first half of the season, though it was followed up with an acceptable second half. Cold weather, the death of Minnie Minoso (mirroring the death of Ramirez' father-in-law in 2013), contagious bad starts throughout the lineup — there are plenty of reasons why Ramirez could have been as bad as he was. He could also just be getting old and hitting his decline. After eight years on the South Side, we know what we're getting with Ramirez — which is that you either get stellar moments out of Alexei or head-scratching moments from him.
On the other hand we have Tyler Saladino who flashed dazzling leather at the hot corner, but left much to be desired with the bat. Long projected as a utility player by Future Sox, Saladino's bat could be more easily hidden with Frazier and Lawrie in play. One reason to look at Saladino for the bench is that he'll play plus-plus defense anywhere in the outfield, while Carlos Sanchez' plus-plus defense at second base doesn't translate to short or third. Saladino also serve as an effective pinch runner off the bench.
Whoever the shortstop is, they'll be serving as a place holder until Tim Anderson arrives. Right now, the best move would be to sign Ramirez to a 1 year deal with an option while moving Saladino to a super-utility role and having Carlos Sánchez rebuild value in AAA while being ready for a call up.
Signing an outfielder
The #WhiteSox still looking to upgrade the lineup, GM Rick Hahn says, and could be in market for splashy free agent such as Upton or Cespedes.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 16, 2015
Despite the moves for Frazier and Lawrie, Rick Hahn isn't satisfied — with good reason. The Sox lineup still has weaknesses despite improving at three positions. The obvious candidate to be replaced is Avisail Garcia. Garcia was the third worst player in baseball last year going by fWAR despite being third on the team with 13 homers, a couple home run robbing highlights and a pair of walk-off walks. Garcia's low OPS and bad defense made him a black hole for the White Sox and with an option left, he seems destined for Charlotte as the Sox have been tied to Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton.
Both outfielders are career .271 hitters, though Upton's career OBP of .352 is much higher than Cespedes' .319 as Upton walks a good deal more. Both provide a powerful right handed bat and a significant upgrade in right field, though Cespedes has more range and his famously powerful arm.
Upton has a draft pick attached to him, Cespedes doesn't. Upton is two years younger, Cespedes has AL experience.
There are plenty of pros and cons to each player, but assuming both get a six-year deal over $120M, Upton is the safer bet to live up to that type of money and provides the much needed ability to draw a walk to the lineup. Expect the Sox to break out their largest contract ever to Upton, dwarfing Jose Abreu's current record of $68M / 6 year deal.
With Samardzija, Albers, Wendelken, Guerra and Montas departing the Sox have lost a number of arms from their rotation and depth from their bullpen. Erik Johnson will likely take over Samardzija's spot in the rotation as the lone right-handed starter, but Montas was the likely first man up for the rotation. That responsibility will now fall to Chris Beck and Jacob Turner, who could very well make the roster as a long man and replace Albers.
Beck made his major league debut last year and Turner is a former top prospect in baseball and is a classic "Coop will fix 'em" case. The big name in the system for a starting spot is clearly No. 1 prospect Carson Fulmer, who will likely begin the year in AA and was one of two prospects the Sox were unwilling to move for Frazier. While Fulmer is advanced, he isn't as advanced as Carlos Rodon was, so it would be difficult to see him following the same path. If he does progress quickly though, Fulmer could very well be making his debut midseason with the Sox.
Tommy Kahnle strikes out a ton of batters, but also walks a ton. Like Turner, the Sox are likely banking on Don Cooper tinkering with Kahnle's mechanics and arsenal. If so he could slide into the bullpen behind David Robertson, Nate Jones, Zach Duke, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka and Dan Jennings.
The White Sox are going for it in 2016, much like they did in 2015. Like last year, there are still holes to fill after the splashy signings and trades that Hahn pulled off for Samardzija, Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera and Duke. Unlike last year, it seems the White Sox won't be satisfied until no stone is left unturned.
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