If the Chicago White Sox are serious about contending they need to do the following things: extend Yoan Moncada before he goes to arbitration in 2021, extend José Abreu before the end of the 2019 season, and finally, sign Khris Davis next offseason.
Look, we know the White Sox let us all down by not signing a marquee, young free agent because of financial restrictions set by their owner, although they may not necessarily admit it. The Sox sound like they are definitely banking on their talent internally to fill the rotation and the back end of the bullpen. This is a gamble because we would need Rodon to pitch well (should possibly be extended if he’s healthy this season), Lopez to improve from last season, and Giolito to become who everyone thought he was when he was drafted. On their own, these seem doable, but all of these occurring in unison is where the White Sox my see a pothole in their road to success. They need to determine what their course of action would be to improving their already somewhat top-heavy lineup. The above helps solve that issue.
Through the first week of 2019 regular season action, Yoan Moncada is doing everything we expected of the guy we traded Chris Sale for. Yes, it’s early, but he has a totally different approach. We always knew he had a good eye, but he struck out a lot more last year (217 K’s to be exact) due to being a little overly patient and not getting the benefit of the doubt from the umpires. This is baseball. If you’re not Joey Votto or Frank Thomas, you should swing on borderline pitches when you’re not an established “walker.” You can see that by the numbers: 23 plate appearances, three walks, three strikeouts, and a .522 OBP. His selective patience is paying off. For example, the dude hit a ball 439 feet on a borderline pitch at the letters on an 0-2 count yesterday. 2018 Moncada lets that pitch go by and possibly strikes out. He’s a different player. After the Sox set the precedent by locking up their young stud, Eloy Jiménez, and the Braves extended Ronald Acuña, more young prospects will be extended. Not to mention, a multitude of established, would-be free agents have already extended with their respective teams: Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts, Justin Verlander, Nolan Arenado, etc. Lock up Moncada if you plan on having him around for the next several years.
The White Sox need to also extend José Abreu. The current crop of American League infielders is subpar, to put it lightly. There’s a reason Abreu made the All-Star team last year as a starter in his worst statistical season. That said, even outside the A.L., strong hitting first basemen are hard to come by, which is unusual given how many guys are hitting home runs. Not counting an injury-driven 2018 campaign, Abreu is a 3.7 bWAR player on average throughout his career. That is good. He has been the best player on the team the last few years, and he wants to be on the White Sox for the rest of his career. More than likely, he will probably be a $22-25 million/year player to meet in the middle with the team for an extension. My take is that the White Sox aren’t giving him what he desires, and he and his agent value his production at a much higher level than the team does. Pay the man. You won’t be getting a better first baseman through free agency. You already have one in house.
The Sox need to sign Khris Davis. This is one of the only 2019-2020 free agents I can see not extending with his current team: the Oakland A’s. We know the A’s. They have much less money to work with than the White Sox. The Sox can play him in the outfield and at DH, rotating with Abreu (once they extend him). Davis will undoubtedly produce much more offensively than defensively, but the value he would bring from an outfield position would outweigh his lack of defense. Frankly, the White Sox don’t seem to care about defense anyways when they start Eloy and Palka in the outfield at the same time. My opinion has always been: get the best players you can and figure out what the hell to do with them position-wise later. The Brewers swapped two subpar fielders between 2B and 3B the last two seasons: Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw. It won’t matter. That team could likely win the NL Central again.
Let’s look at stats. Davis has a career 122 DRC+. If you’re wondering what that means, see the following web page: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/drc-deserved-runs-created/. Per Baseball Prospectus, this is an advanced hitting metric called Deserved Runs Created +. It tells you how much better than average the hitter is. 100 is average. Davis is 22% better than average. This is essentially a revised version of Weighted Runs Created + because it is more descriptive and properly shows how effective a hitter is, given his production. If you want to keep it simple, Davis hit 42 homers in 2016, 43 in 2017, and 48 in 2018. Imagine those numbers in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field. Regardless of his age, I think this is the appropriate move for the White Sox if they are not willing to give someone $300 million over ten years.
Obviously, the Sox have to improve on multiple aspects of the game, but this is a start to improving their roster for the long run and showing allegiance to what should be the “building blocks” of the rebuild. Moncada, Abreu, and Davis at leadoff, #2 hitter, and #4 hitter is a daunting task for an opposing pitcher. Get it done, White Sox. We need this!
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