MLB Free Agency is in full swing and no one has been more active than the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, but based on their activity this off-season, the South-Siders are gunning for a postseason berth in 2020.
The White Sox have made five signings so far: Dallas Keuchel (SP), Yasmani Grandal (C), Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH), Gio Gonzalez (SP), Cheslor Cuthbert (3B-Minor League Deal). They have also re-signed Jose Abreu (1B) and James McCann (C/DH) and added Nomar Mazara (OF) via trade. The White Sox now have two veteran starting pitchers added to rotation of some really talented young arms. These veterans will not only help on the field, but off the field in the development of the other young pitchers on the staff.
The rotation as it stands right now is Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Gio Gonzalez. There are questions with the fireballer Kopech coming off Tommy John surgery, but they have more young pitchers waiting- Carlos Rodon (also coming off Tommy John), Dylan Cease and Dylan Covey are all young and have big league experience. Cease is one of the Sox best prospects and for both him and Rodon to be fighting for spots in the rotation speaks to the depth in major league ready talent that the Sox haven’t had in years.
Grandal himself is going to add another element to this young pitching staff. James McCann was great with the bat last year, but he was the worst catcher in the MLB in terms of framing. He cost the White Sox an estimated 16 runs last year on his framing alone (the next lowest was 9 runs). They re-signed McCann, but look to use him more as a backup and DH in 2020. As for Grandal, he was tied for second in the MLB in framing in 2019 and saved the Brewers an estimated 13 runs over the season. In the change from McCann to Grandal, that is an extra 29 runs for the White Sox this year just from catcher defense!
The White Sox also have a very young and talented group of hitters in Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Nick Madrigal. Adding Nomar Mazara, Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal along with re-signing Jose Abreu and James McCann makes this a lineup that has huge upside.
Now let’s look at what teams around the league have done so far in free agency. The graph below shows the amount of WAR lost from the 2019 season by team. Pitchers are shown in dark blue, while position players are in light blue. (Note: this shows all contracts ended so if a player re-signed with a team he is still shown here as lost- such as Strasburg with the Nationals).
The graph below shows the amount of 2020 projected WAR added so far by teams.
You can see the White Sox have added the most WAR by far this offseason, while also losing a total of negative WAR from last year’s teams, meaning they are significantly better than they were last year and the players they lost combined to be below replacement level. For a better look at that, the chart below shows the top 10 in the difference of projected WAR added from the amount lost from 2019.
The White Sox are blowing other teams out of the water on this chart. The Reds with the signings of Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley come in second, while Texas with Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles are third. Toronto is fourth with Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Travis Shaw. Even with big signings like Gerrit Cole to the Yankees and Anthony Rendon to the Angels, those teams haven’t improved as much. The Yankees are already really good and have also lost pieces like Didi Gregorius, Edwin Encarnacion and Dellin Betances. The Angels have signed Anthony Rendon and Julio Teheran while losing Kole Calhoun, which is enough for 5th on this list, but not near the improvement the White Sox have made.
Now to look more into what teams are paying for this year’s free agents. The chart below breaks down the amount of money paid per win. The teams at the top of this list are overpaying while the teams at the bottom are underpaying for the free agents they have acquired. League average sits around $5.7 million, the Dodgers lead the list of teams overpaying players this off-season. They have only made one signing and it was reliever Blake Treinen, who signed a 1-year $10 million deal and is only projected a WAR of 0.7 in 2020. Many of the teams near the bottom may have not spent much money at all this off-season so it’s not necessarily good to be all the way at the bottom either.
This is not a measure of how good the team will be next year, just how much value they are getting per dollar spent. Now, of course this doesn’t show how much each team has spent in total. The next chart will show that breakout. You’ll notice although the White Sox have paid a lot, they aren’t overpaying for what they are getting. Another positive for the White Sox this off-season.
This chart shows the total each team has spent this off-season on Major League contracts. The second column shows how much is spent on just the 2020 season while the third shows how much was spent in total.
The White Sox have spent the most on the 2020 season, but they’ve used their money well and improved their team by more than anyone else.
There’s been a lot of early movement in this year’s free agency. There are still some big names out there in Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, but the White Sox have put the money to good use. Looking at the AL Central- the Royals and Tigers have been dreadful and the Indians have traded Corey Kluber and been rumored to be shopping Francisco Lindor. This should help boost the White Sox win total so that even if they can’t knock off the Twins for the division, they will have an advantage in the wild card hunt. Especially since the AL East will be loaded with the Blue Jays looking strong alongside the Yankees and Rays, and the Red Sox are never a pushover. We’ll have to wait for the season to see if the White Sox can bring it together and make a run at the AL Central crown, but one thing is for sure, the front office is buying in and White Sox fans should be excited for seasons to come.