While Southside Showdown put out an offseason plan that’s currently being slashed to ribbons by the harsh winds of reality, this new series allows for our writers to identify individual players they would like to see the White Sox pursue this offseason, why they would be good additions and how the Sox should go about getting them. Every writer is pursuing their own dreams here, so expect differing opinions.
Today brings a guest post from a friendly face from the glory days of the Sox blogosphere and, well, he wrote his own blurb:
Mike DePilla has written about the White Sox and major league baseball for several formerly-awesome sites that have gone the way of the World Series day game, including the Chi-Town Daily News, the SportsMixed Network and White Sox Watch. When he’s not whining about sacrifice bunts, he’s eating pizza, listening to Wilco and correcting your misused apostrophes.
The pundits, the message boards and the bloggers, in a rare moment of harmony, have all agreed that, for the White Sox, signing Curtis Granderson to play outfield would be about as smart as hiring Oney Guillen to manage social media.
And the thinking is reasonable: coming off a miserable 99-loss season with little hope to contend in 2014, GM Rick Hahn has made it clear that maintaining his draft picks and acquiring young, long-term talent were top priorities this winter. Curtis Granderson will be 33 years-old on Opening Day, is coming off an injury-shortened and disappointing season and would cost the White Sox their second round pick in next year’s draft.
So I know I have my work cut out for me here, but just bear with me. Though a pretty significant chunk of evidence points to avoiding Granderson, I am going to make the case that the Sox should sign him, or at least seriously consider it. And not just to be stubborn or contrarian either. It is a move that could benefit the team in many ways.
The case for Granderson is based on three things: 1. the Sox desire to maintain a competitive team with engaged fans in the near term, 2. Granderson’s deflated market leading to an economically-sensible contract and 3. the ripple effect of recouping the opportunity cost of the lost draft pick.
The first thing to consider is the White Sox situation. They are coming off a lousy season in which offense was as hard to come by as praise for sabermetrics from Hawk Harrelson. Looking forward, it is easy to say the Sox should look to get younger and rebuild. But what will their timetable be?
The White Sox will not be undertaking a “scorched earth” rebuild; that is, the kind where they tear down everything and build from scratch. It is not their style and, simply, that is just not something they are going to do—not now, not ever. Besides, with a farm system as thin as the White Sox, that process would take at least five years. They have no comparative advantage in that epic task anyway. Building the farm system is a priority, but the major league team has to be populated with major leaguers.
Jerry Reinsdorf and Rick Hahn have both plainly stated they were embarrassed by 2013 and aren’t planning on punting 2014. They plan to be competitive in 2014. Now, whether they could actually win anything significant in 2014 seems dubious—even an optimist would have to consider 2014 a transition year. But the fact is the last time the Sox looked this bad they followed up a 90-loss 2007 season by acquiring Orlando Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez, all of whom were major leaguers, and stunningly made the playoffs in 2008.
In the first two years of the Two-Wild Card Era, the Orioles, Red Sox and Indians have all followed up 90-loss seasons with playoff appearances. It’s not likely for the Sox, but it’s not impossible. And it’s certainly reasonable that the team can seriously compete at least by 2015. It’s a selling point, from a proud front office to an eager fan base.
While expensive veterans aren’t necessarily targets for a transition team, worthy assets with surplus value are. Signing Granderson, besides representing a little olive branch to the fans, adds an asset to the organization. He makes your team better on the field, he makes your fans come to the park, and he can be traded for other assets at a point down the road. Business-wise, it makes sense.
Value-wise, things get even more intriguing when you consider the ramifications of the dreaded qualifying offer.
Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, mid-tier free agents coming off excellent seasons, were penalized big time last off season for being tied to draft pick compensation. Both eventually found homes, but for less than what they wanted. Bourn, who was seeking upwards of $80-100 million, got four years/$48 million guaranteed; Lohse settled for 3 years/$33 million. In both cases, the AAV (average annual value) was less than the qualifying offer, which was $13.3 million last year. Lohse’s AAV was actually a pay cut from his 2012 salary with the Cardinals—a season in which he went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and finished top ten in the Cy Young voting.
Granderson is in a similar situation: teams may not value him enough to give up a draft pick. The difference is that Granderson is coming off a down year—one in which he only played in 61 games and hit .229/.317/.407. There might be a market for him based on his past accomplishments. And then again, considering all that negative age/injury/draft pick stuff, there might not be.
In that regard, his best bet might have been accepting the Yankees one year, $14.1 million offer (too late for that now). Like Bourn and Lohse, it’s unlikely he’ll get a higher AAV. What if he finds no big offers at all? The comparative advantage for the Sox is that their first round pick is in the top ten and is thus protected. They would only have to give up their second round pick, and they have the room to add payroll.
So imagine if the Sox were able to snag him for two or three years at about $12 or 13 million per. From a pure numbers standpoint, he will be more than worth the deal if rebounds to his level from just a few years ago. In terms of WAR, his 5-WAR prime may have passed, but it is very plausible to see him return to a 3-WAR player for the next couple of seasons, which would be a bargain at that rate.
A good rate on Granderson’s contract does more than bring a hometown hero to the Cell. It gives the Sox an undervalued asset that can look pretty tradable in a year or two if the Sox fall out of contention. Those are the kinds of contracts teams want to accumulate—not long term albatrosses like Jayson Werth, Josh Hamilton and Andre Either for example. (In 2015, Werth will be making $21 million, Hamilton $23 million and Ethier $18 million. At $13 million, Granderson would look like a steal.)
It was just three years ago that the Mets traded 34-year-old Carlos Beltran to the Giants midseason for top prospect Zach Wheeler. Beltran was better than Granderson, but was making $19 million. While the Sox probably couldn’t fetch a prospect as good as Wheeler in a potential 2015 Granderson trade, they likely could get a prospect back about on par, value-wise, with the 2nd round pick they lost in 2014. In the shorter term, it would also allow the Sox to trade Alejandro De Aza (or Dayan Viceido), who could bring back something valuable that would also offset the loss of the 2nd round draft pick.
Point is, the value is there. As a player, as an olive branch, as a widget commodity: Granderson is valuable in all ways. As a bonus, the guy is one of the best-spoken and most likeable guys in the league and would be a pleasure to have in the clubhouse and representing Chicago. All this is assuming the Sox do their homework think he can bounce back from his somewhat fluke injury-ridden down season.
The Sox have made it clear they are not simply punting on 2014. While that doesn’t mean they are going “all in” (there’s a phrase no Sox fan ever wants to hear again), they never will go for the “scorched earth” style of rebuild. They are not going the route of the Marlins, Astros or Cubs. In signing Jose Abreu, the Sox have already made their big move. But another “statement” move is not out of the question. Really want to stretch it? They could sign Granderson and trade for Chase Headley to play third base, which would really give the team credibility and would work in the long term as well.
The possibilities exist that the Sox will find another outfielder elsewhere in a trade, or that Granderson’s market will develop robustly out of the Sox price range. Assuming neither of those scenarios pan out, the UIC grad could give the Sox surplus value on a bargain contract, jumpstart the team’s effort to credibly compete in the next three years (nominally in 2014 and credibly onward), become an attractive trade piece, mentor young players and give the fans a hometown kid to root for. Not all of those things carry the same value, but put them together, focus on the most important ones, and you may have found a good use for $13 million over the next couple of seasons, even if does cost a second round draft pick.