The Chicago White Sox have always been averse to risk in the 16-year-old marketplace but the tactics that have been used this year are shameless in nature. Trading fake money to save real money is now part of the Reinsdorfian business model and it should cause a stomach ache for those observing the festivities. Discarding Welington Castillo for a 23-year-old non-prospect looks fine on the surface but what actually took place appears to be an ominous beginning to an off-season with significant expectations on the horizon.
On Thursday, the White Sox traded 32-year-old catcher Welington Castillo along with $250K of international bonus pool space to the Texas Rangers for 23-year-old utility player Jonah McReynolds. The 5’11” 165 pound former 13th rounder played mostly third base in his third season with Low-A Spokane in the Northwest League. In 56 games, McReynolds hit .239/.327/.391 with 6 home runs and a 35% strikeout rate. He did post a 109 wRC+ but he’s old for the level and has repeated multiple times. Jonah attended Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Virginia and projects as organizational depth for the White Sox.
Back in July, Rick Hahn completed a similar transaction with his buddy Jon Daniels when the White Sox sent Nate Jones to the Rangers. I called that travesty of a deal an “egregious misappropriation of funds” and what occurred yesterday could be summarized commensurately. The White Sox were afforded a bonus pool of $5,398,300 to spend on the international market this year. On July 2nd, the franchise signed six players including Cuban infielder Yolbert Sanchez. Sanchez, a 22-year-old infielder, was given a bonus of $2.5 million and his age provides less perceived risk by those making decisions at 35th and Shields.
The current international signing period runs until June 15th, 2020, and the White Sox have decided to punt on signing more players that may become available. In the two trades with Texas, the White Sox have forfeited the right to spend $1.25 million of a finite amount of spending power. The Rangers went over budget and needed the cash to complete some deals they’d already agreed upon. The White Sox weren’t going to use the money anyway so they used it to appease ownership once again. That’s the root of the problem however. If Marco Paddy can’t find international amateurs to spend $1.25 million on, then why is he employed by the organization?
It’s possible that the uncertainty in the signing timeline of Luis Robert in 2017 set the international scouts back in their pursuit of talent. The international market is referred to as the “wild west” due to the consistency of rules being skirted and players agreeing to deals before turning 15 in many cases. The organization may truly feel that they weren’t going to spend the extra bonus pool space anyway, so they salvaged that reality by preferring this outcome to the alternative.
The White Sox spent the 2017 and 2018 international periods trading away their unusable bonus pool space for prospects with a modicum of value. Those trades were fine as one of the realities of the Luis Robert addition. 2019 was supposed to signal a different path though. The organization was out of the proverbial penalty box and able to actually use the funds toward adding to the lower portion of the farm system. By choosing this path instead, they’ve opened themselves up to criticism from the outside. A team in the industry’s 3rd largest market continues to act and operate like a mom and pop operation right under our collective noses.
Using international bonus pool space to save $1.75 million on contract buyouts instead of just flexing their large market muscles should be construed as nothing short of organizational negligence. Nate Jones and Welington Castillo weren’t going to be playing for the White Sox anymore regardless. Ownership has a fundamental issue with paying players to not play baseball but the fanbase should have a fundamental issue with the organization not understanding the benefits of the resources they’ve been provided. If the club is pinching pennies to save $500K, why should anyone have faith in this front office to land their desired targets in the free agent marketplace this winter? There’s evidence that Marco Paddy can identify talent. Optimistically, an impending international draft can save the White Sox from themselves and hopefully soon in their case.
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