White Sox Making Noise at Winter Meetings

by Bert Beiswanger

Sox logoA few weeks ago, I mentioned to some folks that the Chicago White Sox needed to be careful not to waste these years. The White Sox have some of the best deals for star players in baseball with Chris Sale (third in Cy Young voting) and Jose Abreu (fourth in MVP voting). They need to take advantage of this time and not waste the discounted Sale and Abreu years.

Apparently, that’s what General Manager Rick Hahn and the White Sox organization have in mind – strike now while they have two of the top 15 – 20 players in baseball on contract-friendly terms.

Jeff Samardzija will wear a different color of Chicago pinstripes in 2015

Jeff Samardzija will wear a different color of Chicago pinstripes in 2015

Tuesday morning, we learned the White Sox completed deals to acquire starting right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija from Oakland for infielder Marcus Semien and others. Chicago also signed free agent closer David Robertson, who had a very good year last year with the Yankees. These moves are in addition to the previous signings of reliever Zach Duke and first baseman/DH Adam LaRoche.

It’s early in the off-season, but the “other team” in Chicago is leaving its mark on the Winter Meetings and the off-season, too. And it was the White – not Red- Sox stealing all the headlines on MLB Network Tuesday morning.

The Robertson deal seems like a bit too much for my taste (4 yr/$45 mlllion for a reliever). But at least White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper knows who his closer will be every day, something he didn’t know in 2014. And the team certainly is in the financial position to take on this contract.

Oakland traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel late last year. The Cubs got top prospect Addison Russell and Billy McKinney in return. Now that the dust has settled somewhat and the Cubs have since re-signed Hammel, the A’s basically traded Russell for Semien… that’s one way to look at it, anyway. It’s certainly fun for Chicago fans to be on the other end of these deals right now.

Back to the White Sox, four of their best core players – Jose Abreau ($8 mill next year) , Chris Sale ($6 mill next year), Jose Quintana ($3.5 million next year) and Adam Eaton ($500k in 2014) –  are on some of the friendliest contracts a team can have:

  • Lefty Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in baseball, doesn’t earn north of $10 million until 2017 and isn’t an unrestricted free agent until 2020.
  • Abreu makes an average of $10 million until 2020.
  • Quintana, a solid #2/#3 starter, won’t earn over $10 million until 2019 .
  • In addition, all-star shortstop Alexei Ramirez will make $10 million in 2015 – a pretty solid deal given his output.

This is how you work a roster, and this is how you are able to have the off-season flexibility the White Sox have. But the White Sox still have decisions to make at various positions:

  • Is Dayan Viciedo the answer in left field? I get the feeling the Sox will at least explore an upgrade there . Viciedo has a lot of talent, but the front office may be tired of waiting. And he’s had a fair audition for the position long-term. If the White Sox can get better defensively and add more consistency hitting-wise, they will.
  • With last year’s opening day starting second baseman, Marcus Semien, shipped to Oakland and Gordon Beckham traded last year, who will open 2015 at second base? It could be former Indiana Hoosier and Indianapolis Park Tudor grad, Micah Johnson.
  • Who’s will be the catcher? Will the Sox stay with Tyler Flowers? There certainly aren’t many cather options on the free agent market.

The White Sox aren’t done. But I like the flexibility of the current roster. It has allowed the organization to be active now and in the future. And I like the flexibility of the deals the Sox are taking on. It’s been a responsible rebuilding process so far.

Follow on Twitter @BertBeis

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