Over the weekend at SoxFest, Rick Hahn had some interesting commentary in regards to the White Sox payroll. Hahn declared at the morning seminar at SoxFest that if the White Sox were in contention, fans could expect the team to add to payroll if necessary. “the money has always been there,” said Hahn. So that is the good news. Now stop drooling White Sox fans, the fact that Hahn said he would raise payroll does not mean the Sox will be splurging, but it does mean that if the White Sox are an impact player away from being a force to be reckoned with come July, Hahn will have the flexibility to swing a deal.
The undeniable bad news though is the biggest question mark in Hahn’s comments. If the money has always been there, then why not re-sign fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski? A man who had just come off of a career year at the plate. When asked about the departure of Pierzynski, Hahn said that the money that would have gone into a Pierzynski extension was instead reassigned to the contracts of starting pitcher Jake Peavy, utility man Jeff Keppinger, and reliever Matt Lindstrom.
Assuming Hahn would have re-signed Pierzynski on a one-year contract, Hahn was apparently about to dish out about $20 million on the thirty-six year old catcher. Now, I am being facetious, but if the White Sox are willing to spend on an impact bat later in the season, why wouldn’t they spend on a proven bat like Pierzynski’s now? There could be several reasons as to why the Sox passed on Pierzynski, but I am assuming Pierzynski wouldn’t have commanded as much as the $7 million dollar price tag he signed for in Texas from the White Sox.
Overall, I am pleased that the Sox see themselves in a win-now mode, despite the bleak outlook on the division. The Tigers are still an offensive juggernaut with a great complementary starting rotation. The Kansas City Royals have improved their weak rotation, which should combine with a solid bullpen and young, exciting lineup to be somewhat relevant in 2013, but yet Hahn and the Sox front office can still see themselves having a shot at this thing. Only time will tell.
Yesterday news was broke by Jon Paul Morosi that former Rockies and Orioles reliever Matt Lindstrom had signed a one year deal with the White Sox. Lindstrom, 32, split time last year with the Orioles and Diamondbacks, he compiled a 2.68 ERA, with a walk ratio of 2.7 and a strikeout ratio of 7.7.
Lindstrom could very well be the reliever the Sox have been talking about acquiring all off-season as he is a 6 year veteran, and throws pure gas. In addition the Pale Hose only had one more remaining roster spot, and it was for a reliever. I do like the surface numbers Lindstrom has put up over his career, however I do have some major concerns when it comes to this type of pitcher.
My number one concern when it comes to pitchers is league changing. When pitchers go from the National League to the American League they are notorious for getting completely shelled in the beginning of their stint. Example 1 being Ryan Dempster. Last year, Ryan Dempster was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers. Dempster had been lights out for the Cubs but with their rebuilding effort going on Dempster was more worth what he could bring in than what he put in. Before the trade, Dempster had a 2.25 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 2.3 walk ratio. After he was dealt to the Rangers, Dempster regressed heavily. In 12 starts Dempster had a 5.09 ERA, 1.435 WHIP, and his walk ratio jumped up a whole point. The competition in the AL West, with teams like the A’s and Angels combined with the designated hitter rule, was just too much for Dempster to handle. So now I begin to wonder.
Lindstrom pitched in the National League exclusively for 5 years with the Marlins and Astros. The beginning of 2012 was the first time he had been on an American League club. Even worse, it was an American League club in the best division in baseball. During Lindstrom’s time with the O’s, he didn’t fare too badly. But the fact that his walk rate with the O’s compared to the Diamondbacks was alomst 1.5 points higher is a little concerning.
I’m not saying this was a bad signing, because I do like the fact that the White Sox went after a veteran reliever with some pop. But what I am saying is that the switching of leagues is something to watch out for , as it may not be a smooth transition. Fortunately, Lindstrom is coming into a pretty weak division even despite all the improvements the clubs have made this offseason. If there is any American League division that most resembles a National League division it’s the AL Central.
Thank you for reading another edition of the Next White Sox GM. If you have any comments on the signing of Matt Lindstrom, or have any ideas of your own please comment below and have your voice heard! Spring Training opening day is only 34 days away, and pitchers and catchers report on February 10th!
The AL West just got a little tougher today when general manager Jack Zduriencik of the Seattle Mariners pulled the trigger on a three team deal that saw former Nationals outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse head to the Emerald City, also involved in the deal was Mariners catcher John Jaso who went to Oakland. Oakland then sent minor league pitchers AJ Cole and Blake Treinen to Washington, who will also receive a player to be named later from Oakland. Morse was being shopped after Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoache to a two-year deal. With Morse’s first base position filled, and Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and the newly-acquired Denard Span patrolling the oufield Morse was out of options. Though he could have played second base and been part of a stacked lineup, Rizzo saw more value in the talent that Morse could bring in than having the extra offense lying around in the lineup.
Michael Morse brought back former Nationals prospect AJ Cole, who was traded away in the Gio Gonzalez deal last year. The year he was traded to the A’s the Nats sold on him high with Cole being the fifty-seventh ranked prospect according to Baseball America. In 2011 at Single-A Hagerstown Cole pitched to a four win and seven loss record, a 4.04 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.2. Solid stats, but they could have been better. What most likely attracted the eye of A’s GM Billy Beane was Cole’s outstanding walk rate which was a relatively cool 2.4 and his high strikeout rate which was at 10.9. In comparison David Price’s career walk rate is 3.0 and his career strikeout rate is an 8.3.
Now more on Michael Morse, who will head to a smaller Safeco field, and be placed in the middle of a now formidable Mariners lineup. Before this offseason the Mariners need to address their offensive needs, and badly. Their best hitters were designated hitter Jesus Montero and third baseman Kyle Seager. However, GM Jack Zduriencik has vastly improved their anemic offense by adding former Angel Kendrys Morales and signing former Mariner great Raul Ibanez. Morse just seems to be the cherry on top. Yet there still lies a problem. As noted by MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi: Jesus Montero, though not the subject of the deal is the key player to making this trade work.
But why is Montero so key? Well that’s because Montero, though listed as a catcher, does not actually catch. Of the 135 games Montero played last year, he was the starting catcher for 55 of them, catching 40% of Seattle’s games. With the DH spot now being occupied by a revolving door of Morse, Morales, and Ibanez; Montero will have to find at-bats elsewhere. But the problem is, the elsewhere might not be catcher for the Mariners, it might be designated hitter elsewhere.
Montero’s fielding numbers at the catching position are not promising. Last year he let up 7 passed balls, in addition to not really being a brick wall behind the plate, Montero also only threw out 25% of base runners attempting to steal on him. In comparison, 35 year old catcher AJ Pierzynski only let up 8 passed balls in about 71 more games than Montero, and Pierzynski also threw out about the same percentage of base runners. Now don’t go saying “well, Pierzynski is one of the best catchers in the game and got by.” That is not the right logic here, Pierzynski is about 14 years older than Montero and had one more passed ball allowed than Montero, while being the backstop for 71 more games than the younger Montero. In order to get the same kind of at-bats a young power hitter like Montero will need, Jack Zduriencik will most likely need to look elsewhere. The good thing is that a player like Montero still holds significant value considering he won’t be arbitration eligable until 2015, and isn’t a free agent until 2018, which still gives the team receiving him about 5 years of cheap control on Montero.
Now we move on to the Moneyball A’s, who essentially gave up prospects AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, and a player to be named later for catcher John Jaso. Yes, the A’s did a three-for-one trade for John Jaso, That’s what I said when I first heard about the deal, and thought Billy Beane had gone mad. But upon further investigation I started to warm up to why Beane did this deal. Though Cole was an elite prospect upon coming to Oakland, he left under much worse circumstances.
Upon his arrival Cole was placed in Single-A ball with Oakland’s Burlington affiliate. Nothing had changed, Cole improved his whip to a 1.0, dropped his walk rate to a 1.8, and had a dazzling 9.6 strikeout rating, all while maintaining a 2.07 ERA. But then Stockton happened. Cole was promoted to A+ ball, and just fell apart. He was not the same pitcher that left Burlington. Though maintaining a 2.4 walk rate, Cole’s strikeout rate decreased to a 7.3 and his home run rate increased a full point to 1.7. Cole’s ERA also ballooned to a near an 8, and he lost all but one of his starts which was a no decision. Now this by no means indicates that Cole is done, considering his size of good work versus bad work is still about 38 starts to 7, but if Cole did continue to tank then Beane would have been SOL (so out of luck). Thus, it pained Beane to part with a promising prospect of Cole’s caliber, but he got someone who could help the big league club in Jaso.
Going into the 2013 season Beane had planned to have Derek Norris and George Kottaras battle it out for the starting catcher job. Norris who came over with Cole in the Gonzalez trade had had a decent year at AAA Sacremento, grinding out a slash line of .271/.329/.477 (avg./obp.%/slg% for those who aren’t familiar), Norris also tacked on 9 home runs and 38 RBI’s. Oh, and not to mention this was all done in less than 250 plate appearances.
Kottaras, the other man battling for the job, came over in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Though Kottaras doesn’t hit for a high average, he is known for getting on base, something that sources tell me Billy Beane really likes a lot. With Beane ready to let the two duke it out for the job, the opportunity to acquire Jaso came up. Beane had been chasing Jaso for months, and would only let Cole go for Jaso. Jaso was Beane’s man. Jaso is probably thought of so highly by Beane because of his insanely high on-base percentage, which flirted with .400 last year (.394). Having Jaso, who is staying in the same division he played in with the M’s is probably all the more insurance for Beane, as the adjustment period won’t be as long as if he had switched divisions or leagues. Not to mention that 2013 is the first year Jaso is arbitration eligible, and he won’t be a free agent until 2016 which gives Beane so time to think of a creative way to keep Jaso on the cheap.
All in all, I like the deal for all parties involved as the M’s improve their lineup, the A’s get their starting pitcher, and the Nationals stock their system after losing a draft pick from signing reliever Rafael Soriano. This trade was truly a masterpiece, and kudos to Beane, Rizzo, and Zduriencik for making the trade work and make sense for all parties involved.
White Sox News:
- In White Sox related news, second baseman Gordon Beckham and center fielder Alejandro De Aza filed for arbitration. mlbtraderumors.com anticipates a $3.1 million salary for Beckham and $1.7 million for De Aza.
- Javier Vazquez is also still on the market, the White Sox, Nationals, and Red Sox are considered front runners, with the Nats showing the most interest.
Thanks for reading another installment of the Next White Sox GM, if you have any thoughts on the trade or a question anything else in general please leave a comment.
This is not actually according to a rival GM, but I needed a witty title for what I would make headlines of posts that don’t involve the White Sox, considering they are not always making news, and some moves that other teams make are great to write about from a GM’s perspective. So here goes the first in the series of “According to a Rival GM.”
With the stove heating up for Shawn Marcum, and the Tigers receiving offers from multiple teams for Rick Porcello, Scott Boras and client Kyle Lohse are relegated to the sidelines. As of right now it is January 14, 2013, and Lohse has still not found a place to play next year. But Lohse should not be worried, he wil pitch somewhere next year, as demand for a a pitcher who can get batters out and keep runners off the base paths. The problem that Lohse faces however is that signing him means that the team that does so must yield a draft pick to do so. And for the double whammy, Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, is one of the most ruthless negotiators in the business; Boras will not rest until he has squeezed every dollar out of the team that he can. Despite all the factors working against Lohse, I believe that the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies have both the financial flexibility and the willingness to forfeit a draft pick necessary to sign Kyle Lohse.
The Baltimore Orioles need pitching and badly. They have been linked to several free-agent pitchers this off-season, and the trade market for pitching has always included the Orioles. Lohse could very well be their last chance to upgrade their pitching staff, and make another run at what looks to be another very strong AL East. If Lohse can be the missing piece to the Orioles making a deep playoff run there is no doubt in my mind that they would forfeit the cash & the pick to sign Lohse, however, I could only see them signing him for no more than three years as Lohse is thirty-four, and can start to lose his stuff at any point.
Contract Prediction for Lohse-to-Baltimore: 2 years/$24 million with a club option in 2015 worth $13 million.
The Phillies are also a team I could see attempt a run at Lohse. The Phillies are an aging team, whose championship window is closing with premier players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Cliff Lee getting up there in years. In the past the Phillies have shown a willingness to part with prospects and draft picks, see the Roy Halladay trade, and Cliff Lee signing. With the signing of a pitcher like Lohse the Phillies could push Kyle Kendrick to the fifth spot in the rotation, knocking out John Lannan, and have a rotation of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Kyle Lohse, and Kyle Kendrick. However, to get a rotation that stacked will cost money which is something that the Phillies have, especially playing in a big market and having a very supportive fan base. Because of this flexibility the Phillies can more effectively eat bad contracts and move on, so I think they would have more guaranteed years but slightly less cash.
My contract prediction for Lohse-to-Philadelphia: 3 years/$30 million with the contract being front loaded so that Lohse would be easily dealt in his later years of the deal.
Thanks reading my non-White Sox related post, the Sox have been very quiet lately and I hope they can make a splash soon considering we still have trade chip Gavin Floyd and holes at third base and in the bullpen. Not to mention we still have not acquired the left-handed bat we have been searching for all off-season.
Rumors broke last yesterday evening that the White Sox have been in discussions with the Diamondbacks regarding one of their outfielders. The reason being the D-Backs now have a surplus of outfielders in the wake of their signing of former NLCS MVP Cody Ross. Initial discussions between the two sides apparently involved a swap of some sort involving Alexei Ramirez going to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Justin Upton. However, as talks progressed the Diamondbacks felt more comfortable dealing Kubel rather than Upton, so now the White Sox are presumably in talks with D-Backs GM Kevin Towers regarding Kubel.
Kubel will make $7.5 million dollars in 2013, and the team that possesses him would have a $7.5 million club option for him in 2014. Kubel ranked 4th last year among qualifying left fielders in bases on balls last season with 57; only Martin Prado, Ryan Braun, and Matt Holliday had better eyes than Kubel. Kubel was also a doubles machine last year with 30 two-baggers. In addition Kubel also pelted 30 home runs with 90 RBIs, while sustaining a .327 on-base percentage, which would have been the 7th highest on-base percentage had he been with the Sox, just behind slugger Adam Dunn. Kubel will also turn 31 this upcoming season, and would be 32 by the end of the life of the contract, just leaving his prime production years.
Kubel would most definitely be an upgrade for the Sox, and I belive they should pursue him as he would be essentially replacing recently signed former White Sox AJ Pierzynski’s numbers. But there lies an issue, the Sox already have their outfield set with Dayan Viciedo manning left, De Aza running center field, and Alex Rios patrolling right; there is also no room in the designated hitter role as Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko will be sharing time there this season. Assuming the Sox do not need to trade any major league talent for Kubel, which they shouldn’t, the Sox will probably resume the Viciedo experiment at third base and insert Kubel into left field. If the Sox do require major league talent to land Kubel I will assume that Viciedo would be the talent heading to Arizona, but Arizona would need to include prospects of their own or include money in the deal to offset the loss of a controllable young talent the Sox would giving up for an aging, already free-agent eligable outfielder.
The White Sox need to make a move, especially with the division around them getting better. As I type this article the Indians are finalizing a four year, $56 million contract with Nick Swisher. The Royals have a significantly better starting rotation, and assuming their young core of talent, including Butler, Moustakas, and Hosmer continue to progress, they will be scary. The Tigers signed Torii Hunter, and re-signed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Both moves improved the team as Hunter is a consistent hitter and gold-glove winning outfielder, and Sanchez reinforces the back-end of an already very strong rotation that includes former MVP Justin Verlander, power pitcher Max Scherzer, and the lights-out Doug Fister. If the White Sox can add Kubel they can improve the middle of the order and hide their weaknesses more effectively (Tyler Flowers). The addition of Kubel would create a lineup that looks a lot like this:
1. CF De Aza
2. 2B Keppinger
3. DH/1B Dunn
4. 1B/DH Konerko
5. LF Kubel
6. RF Rios
7. 3B Viciedo
8. SS Ramirez
9. C Flowers
This type of lineup would put a lot less pressure on Flowers to produce considering he has a very talented Ramirez in front of him and a clutch Alejandro De Aza hitting behind him. Flowers could essentially just work on his hitting, and not worry about producing all the time.
Thanks for reading another report from the front office! Please leave feedback and other comments below! Happy Holidays readers!
Wednesday afternoon Rich Hahn and the White Sox made their version of a splash at the Winter Meetings by signing journeyman Jeff Keppinger to a three year, $12 million deal. The move fills the previous hole the South Siders had at third base, but after having a great player like Kevin Youkilis manning the hot corner, Keppinger leaves a lot to be desired. This entry will focus on analyzing the player Hahn signed, looking at the alternative options Hahn had in free-agency and in house, then breaking down how good the signing was, and making a prediction.
Last year Jeff Keppinger had a breakout season with the Tampa Bay Rays compiling a .288 batting average, .367 on-base percentage, and 40 RBIs in 418 plate appearances. Keppinger also can play multiple positions, in 2012 alone Keppinger appeared in 50 games at third base, 27 at first and second base, and also DH’d in 20 other games. This versatility combined with his breakout performance made Keppinger a prime candidate to fill the any team’s third base vacancy; and trust me when I say that there are a ton of vacancies of the position. In addition to positional flexibility Keppinger came into his own offensively last year posting a 2.4 WAR, (Wins Above Replacement) which is almost a full run better than his previous high with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. However, there are always downfalls to any deal, and Keppinger is no different. One problem is that Keppinger, like AJ Pierzynski, just had his best season and his is starting to get up there in years. Now does that mean he can’t reproduce the season he had last year? No, but we also can’t expect him to maintain the production he just had last year into his third year and last year of his deal at age thirty-six. Now let’s take a look at other options the White Sox had.
Youk was the incumbent to the position heading into the off-season. Rick Hahn stated publicly that he wanted to bring back both Youk and AJ is possible, but most analysts knew that both play a position of need, and would be priced out of the White Sox price range. However, Youk did have an amazing run during his time on the South Side, in his tenure he hit 15 home runs and drove in 46 runs, and not to mention had the highest WAR of any Sox third baseman since the great Joe Crede. Youk was embraced on the South Side and fans, including myself wanted and continue to want him back, but his option the upcoming season was an astronomical $13 million. Thinking he could pay less for the aging third baseman Hahn declined the option and let Youk hit the open market, which is where the Sox have run into problems. The Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees also both need third baseman due to Lonnie Chisenhall not being able to completely shoulder the starting job, and because Alex Rodriguez is yet again having hip surgery in New York. With this unexpected competition from the Indians who have money to spend because they DON’T spend and the Yankees, who always seem to have bottomless wallets, the White Sox found themselves between a rock and a hard place. The last reports I heard from ESPN was that the Yankees offered Youkilis a 1 year deal for approximately $12 million, which is only $1 million less than the Sox would have paid him had they picked up his option, which is what detered Youk’s return to the South Side.
The former all-star third baseman hit free-agency yet again this off-season. In 313 plate appearances Chavez hit 16 home runs and drove in 37 runs, very good for a guy who isn’t an everyday starter, though I would like to point out that the short porch in right field at Yankee stadium definitely inflated his home run total. In addition Chavez is 35 years old and he will only start to decline faster, so it’s probably a good thing that Arizona snatched him up before the White Sox could because, after Chavez signed it came out that his decision came down to the White Sox or D-Backs, but since Arizona was closer to his home he signed there. All in all it was probably in the best interest of the Sox that he was taken off the market.
Another option similar to that of the Keppinger signing was Jack Hannahan. A career .234 hitter, Hannahan was not the most attractive option for the team, but he would have come cheap. Reports are still floating around the Hot Stove that the White Sox are still interested in Hannahan despite the Keppinger signing, but I can’t see the Sox signing him because the need at the third base position around the league. Not much to say there.
29 year old Mark Reynolds fits the mold of players the White Sox usually try to acquire. Low average but hits for power, and moving to home-run friendly US Cellular Field would only increase those power numbers. Unfortunately, Reynolds missed some time last year due to injury that concurrently lead to a drop off of his power numbers. In 2011 Reynolds hit for a .221 average, 37 home runs, and drove in 86 runs, only a year later, in 20 less games Reynolds again hit .221, but saw his home run and RBI total drop to 23 and 69 respectively. Despite Reynolds fitting the mold of an ideal White Sox offensive third baseman, he does not fit the mold of a defensive third baseman the White Sox need. In 2011, Reynolds played 114 games at third, in 2012 he played 15 games at third, switching to first and playing there for 108 games. So with that Reynolds is out.
Okay, stop rolling your eyes at me right now. I realize that Kenny Williams had a man crush on the guy when he was last a free agent, but Figgins is a legitimate candidate here. In 66 games last year Figgins compiled a .181 average, 2 home runs, and 11 RBIs. Not impressive numbers, I know. But let’s also remember three things here: 1) Figgins hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time since his bust 2009 season, and not being able to play does wear on you 2)When Figgins did play; what protection did he have? The Mariners “potent” lineup doesn’t really have a plethora of hitters who strike fear into the heart of Major League Baseball which didn’t allow Figgins to get many good pitches to hit, because pitchers weren’t afraid to face the next guy 3) Figgins was playing in Safeco Field one of the most notorious pitcher’s parks in the league, a move to more hitter friendly US Cellular Field might do him good. Now here is the catch, I am not lobbying here for him to start, but what could it hurt to sign him to a 1 year, incentive laden, low-risk contract and see how he can perform as a super-utility guy? I think it would be worth the risk, and I would support Hahn signing him to a low-risk deal.
Morel was flat out terrible in 2012. He was the heir apparent to the third base job, and he screwed it up. Of course he does have a couple of things working for him: he is only 25, he can still improve with coaching, and he has a great glove. With the Keppinger signing I expect the Sox to let Morel continue to regain confidence in Triple-A and hopefully in 2013 the Sox can give Morel another shot at the job, but it is a long shot.
Ultimately, with what Hahn had to work with he made a very good signing. He signed one of the better options the market had to offer, and he got his man at fair price. Despite getting the player he wanted I still have to say that I disagree with the amount of years Keppinger got. In a perfect world I would have tried to work out a 2 year deal worth $8 million with a performance based option that would vest if he reached certain goals and statistics.
Finally, my prediction for this upcoming year for Jeff Keppinger is for him to start for the Sox at third base. He will hit for somewhere around a .270 batting average, 14 home runs, while driving in 71 runs.
Well hope you guys enjoyed another installment of the Next Sox GM, until next time. Thanks for reading!