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Let's Look Ahead To 2021

I have seen some iteration of the line below floated by many people on social media:

If someone told you the White Sox would go 35-25 and lose first round back in March, you'd be elated and take that all day

Now that might be true. I tried my hardest to temper expectations for this season and often said that I thought the Sox would be slightly over .500 and push for a wild card in 2020. I knew the Twins would still bash and I knew the Tribe still had an awesome staff and great 1-2 punch in Ramirez/Lindor. So am I happy with 35-25? I guess. But I'm not content. If anything, the 4-11 stretch to end the season and the loss to the A's in the wild card round left a bad taste in my mouth because I know how close they are to being a complete team and their loss was a result of not being complete. But it's close. So, so close. 

If the Sox lose in the playoffs next year, I want it to be because they got beat on the field and because the other team simply got the better of them. Not because there are hypothetical holes in the lineup, pen or rotation that should have/could have been addressed. Dallas Keuchel is a good example; he had the worst start of his 2020 season by far in the wild card game. The timing of that bad start sucked, but overall the signing has been a great one thus far and the Sox aren't 35-25 without him. What I can't live with is not being confident enough in the team's 3rd starter that he's yanked after 2/3 of an inning in an elimination game because they didn't move for or sign one they're confident in after surrendering a few base hits. 

No idea if that made sense or not. It does in my dumb brain though. Beyond that, let's talk about what I think the Sox should be doing moving forward.

Let's start with Ricky Renteria:

Giphy Images.

I said this on the live stream with Dallas and Jared - I searched "fire Bob Melvin" on Twitter to see what A's fans thought of their manager. I didn't really find shit. There hasn't been much public outcry at all with his job performance. Do the same with Renteria and you'll find out he's not the most beloved manager in the league. That, and the franchises best player ever called him out after the game 3 loss:

I don't think managers should matter for shit in MLB. If a team is pissing all over the ball and their pitching cruising, the manager will kick his feet up in the dugout in silence more or less. Just let the game play out. It's the exact opposite of all other major sports. That said, Renteria doesn't have a great feel for making tactful moves. The lineups were consistently weird throughout the whole season and often times put the team in a mathematically worse position to win baseball games. That, and his ability to make a pitching change was brutal through 63 games. 

Now, Renteria didn't walk 100 hitters in game 3 of the playoff series. Renteria didn't strand runners like crazy. But he shit his pants a few different times and as Hurt said, couldn't adapt on the fly when plans 1, 2, 3 etc. didn't work out. It was really bad and I'm of the opinion that it shouldn't be tolerated moving forward. For instance, Carlos Rodon should have never been put into the two situations he was put in to wrap up the year. He hasn't pitched out of the pen since 2015, so why the fuck would you throw him in in two pressure packed situations? All it's doing is setting up both him and the team to fail. Yes, Rodon has to buck the fuck up and make pitches, but as manager, Renteria shouldn't have even given him the opportunity to fail like he did. It was bad, bad managing. Again, gotta have feel for the game. 

If I'm in charge, I'm moving on from not only Renteria, I'm finding a whole new staff. Yes, that means Coop is out too, and I don't want someone with former ties to the organization. I don't know who would compose that staff, maybe someone like an AJ Hinch, but Renteria ain't it for me. I'm sorry, but that's just the truth. I know players love him, and as they should because he's a good dude, but they can love someone else…. hopefully. 

Then we get to James McCann:

AP. Shutterstock Images.

I love James McCann. He does so many things well that stats don't measure. His a consummate professional and was the White Sox "from trash to gold" signing that most successful rebuilds have. He calls a masterful game, does his homework on opposing lineups as good as anyone, and is beloved by the pitching staff. 

He's also a free agent though. Would I like to have him back? I would LOVE to have him back. But it'll have to be in the current role he's in now and I'm not sure he wants to do that. He's earned the opportunity to catch 125 games a year as a starter for some team paying him starter money. 

It's important to know that I'm operating under the assumption that free agency salaries won't be suppressed this winter due to the pandemic. I have no idea if they will or won't be, nobody outside of front offices does, and we will get to this in a moment. If I were to guess though, McCann will get something like 2 years, $25MM and it won't be from the White Sox. 

The Hurt agrees and wants McCann back: 

I just don't see them paying that kind of money to a backup catcher, no matter how good he's been or how much the staff loves working with him. Not in a pandemic offseason, not in a normal offseason.

That, and he was pretty ehhhh in September:

He was bad in the 2nd half of 2019 as well. If I'm the Sox, I'm extending the ~$18MM qualifying offer. If he takes it, cool. It's a 1 year deal and he can catch 2-3x a week in 2021 just as he did in 2020, even if you're paying him a lot of money to be the backup. I truly think that's the best role for him. If he doesn't take it (I do think he would) then that's fine too. Get the comp pick for him.

And hopefully they sign a starting pitcher to throw to him:

Adam Hagy. Getty Images.

That's Trevor Bauer. Trevor Bauer is one of the best pitchers in baseball. The White Sox need better starting pitchers. Gio and Keuchel are a great 1-2 punch at the top, but the depth is scary. Dunning flashed, but has middle of the rotation shit. Kopech will be back, but hasn't pitched in a big league game in 2+ years. Crochet will be a reliever IMO, though a scary good one should he stay healthy. Stiever ain't ready. Rodon hasn't stayed healthy at all. They NEED another starting pitcher and have the opportunity to sign one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball.

Bauer is a weird case though, as he's a complete wild card personality. I don't think he's a "bad" guy at all, I love how obnoxious he is in fact. I just recognize he's an acquired taste and you either love him or hate him. He could mesh great in some clubhouses, awful in others. There are no shitheads or egos in the Sox clubhouse and they will not be looking to add any shit heads or egos to it. 

Bauer yucks it up with Tim Anderson on Twitter here and there though, so those two personalities could maybe co-exist. If the players sign off on him, which I think they would, the Sox should be all in on this guy. He's as low an injury risk as there is for a SP and would perfectly complement Gio and Keuchel at the top of the rotation. Should the players sign off on him as a dude, I'd do whatever it takes to get him to Chicago, be it a 1 year deal or multiyear deal. Just throw whatever dollar amount and term length at him that he wants. This should be priority number 1 on the free agent front this winter. 

Beyond him you're looking at guys like Jake Arrieta who's 35, Tyler Chatwood who's lol, Chris Archer who stinks and hasn't pitched in forever, and other guys like that. They'd all be fine as depth guys, just not as marquis signings. Trevor Bauer puts you over the top; the rest of the 2020-21 free agent SP crop doesn't. 

Go all in for him. Please god, go all in for him. And Carlos Rodon? Gotta get him healthy in his final arb year before he's a FA. I have no idea if they're going to tender him or not though. If they don't, that's another shot at their SP depth. That makes a Bauer-like acquisition all the more important. 

And after the Sox address their SP depth, they need to address RF/DH:

Giphy Images.

The White Sox have tried to acquire Joc Pederson like 100x and have failed to do so. Mazara had a few big hits at the end of this season, but it's clear he ain't the player everyone thought he was when he broke into the league as a 20 year old and I expect the White Sox to non-tender him. 

Pederson fits a lot of needs; left handed RF that walks at a great clip and has great power. He's had a wRC+ of 116 or better in 4 of the last 5 seasons, and the one outlier was a year he had a 100 wRC+. Dude's a very good offensive player. Not a super star, but a very good one. He was bad this year in the shortened season, but a lot of people were. In 60 games, if you have a bad 20 game stretch, your final numbers will look way worse because you don't have the time to dig yourself out of it. 

Sign Joc. Platoon him with Engel. There's your RF for the next however many years. I'm not gonna guess what he'll get on the open market, but money should not be an issue in any way for the White Sox. They have a LOT of money coming off the books and even if they add big, they'll still be hovering around 10th in total payroll in baseball. Again, we'll get to this later. 

Beyond that, other options include Marcel Ozuna (who had an MVP type season for ATL) and George Springer. I think they want LH pop though, so Joc is the better overall fit. They may also add a reliever or two, but the White Sox bullpen is great and only needs minor augmentation. Colome is a free agent too, and I'm trying to bring him back. Everyone points out his peripherals, but he's been nails, all things considered. I don't think he'll have some massive free agent market, so I'm doing everything I can to bring him back. 

I am also extending Andrew Vaughn this winter:

Pull the Eloy/Robert and extend him. Get him in the lineup opening day. Eloy was 6 years, $43MM guaranteed with two club options. Vaughn wouldn't get that, but something like 6 years, $35MM with two club options for $14MM and $16MM should do it. That's a great deal for him and again, don't be fooled - these are EXTREMELY player friendly deals the White Sox have signed their core guys to. Unless they play like MVPs, which we all hope they do, they're guaranteeing themselves more dinero signing these deals then taking a chance at big arbitration payouts. That's just a fact.

And signing Vaughn to one of the White Sox patented pre-arb deals kills two birds with one stone; it allows them to split up him and Abreu at 1B/DH, which allows them to decline Encarnacion's 2021 option in which there's no buyout at all. E5 was brutal this year and if Vaughn is as good as the sox think he will be, the lineup will be even more scary in 2021 than it was in 2020. Vaughn could very well turn into the Sox best all around hitter. His hit/power/patience combo is scary good. Think about this hypothetical lineup:

1. Anderson SS
2. Moncada 3B
3. Abreu 1B/DH
4. Grandal C
5. Eloy LF
6. Robert CF
7. Vaughn 1B/DH
8. Pederson RF
9. Madrigal 2B

Pretty fucking good right there. There's a LOT of power in that lineup. Ball go far, team go far. 

Then we gotta get Michael Kopech back and ready to go:

Giphy Images.

Don't listen to shit about what you hear about Kopech, his mental state, his marriage, or anything else from anyone in the media. He's going to be back in 2021 and he's ready to dominate. Consider me a primary source on this more or less. I don't know if we can expect much more than 150IP out of him (if that), but he's still got that billion dollar fastball and can absolutely be the best pitcher on the staff as early as next year. That's not me saying I think he will be, I'm saying the talent is there for him to be just that still. It never left him. He's a huge wild card for next year and if taps into that all world potential, the White Sox wouldn't have a single hole in their starting staff, assuming they go all in for Bauer (major assumption, obviously) 

We also gotta get Moncada back to his 2019 form:

Moncada was bad this year. I am pissed at him for being bad this year. He had a built in excuse with his covid diagnosis, but he was also ripping it up at bars in the region pretty frequently. I will not accept covid as an excuse if he's healthy enough to rip it up in NW Indiana bars as much as he seemingly was. 

Get your shit together, Yoan. You have all the talent in the world and if the Sox aren't going to be perennial 1 and done in the playoffs, you need to be the 2019 version of yourself. Not the 2018 and 2020 versions. 

There's your 2021 outlook

There really isn't THAT much work to do. This team is going to be very good for a very long time. My biggest fear is that the organization won't spend at the top of the market and make that Jon Lester type singing that would be the final lynchpin on a loaded roster, but as an eternal optimist, I choose to believe they will. Might not be Bauer, and it might not be a signing at all, but I do think they make a big splash someway, somehow this winter. Their 2020 success and wild card series loss should leave them wanting a LOT more. From Reinsdorf through the front office and to the 26 man roster. 

I LOVE the spot the Sox are in for the next 5+ years. LOVE it. You should too. They're going to be perennial contenders for the first time in my lifetime and that's not a promise, that's a fact. Cannot wait for opening day 2021. I hope to god we're in lot B getting obliterated talking about how loaded this roster is. 

This… this just cannot be an excuse for not going big on signings or acquisitions this winter though: 

Fuck out of my FACE with that. I really hope the Mookie Betts extension of late July scares other organizations away from using the pandemic as an excuse to not spend. The Dodgers spent big and the White Sox can too. We're not talking about $400MM either. We're talking about a fraction of that. I know each team has a different financial outlook, but if the Sox invest in Bauer/Joc/whoever else, then their payroll is basically set in stone for years on end and it still won't come close to being on an LA, NYY, Cubs level. They'll save $18.5MM with Gonzalez and Encarnacion not returning in 2021 anyways, plus Colome and McCann could be off the books too. There should be PLENTY of money to spend. Plenty of it. Don't bullshit us and tell us money is an issue when it shouldn't be. 

Year one of the window is in the books. Let's go win the division next year and bring home a commissioner's trophy to top it off. The talent is there to do just that and that is not an embellishment.

PS - Live now if you wish to discuss.

Or not.