CHICAGO, September 11, 2013 — Tagging Up began a late season review of the MLB teams that have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in a series called Better Luck Next Year. Today, the Better Luck Next Year series focuses on the South Side of Chicago. Better Luck Next Year, White Sox.
What Went Right: The major positive turn of events on the South Side of Chicago seems to be that the White Sox now have a plan. Chicago entered the season with a bloated payroll with high priced talent like Alex Rios, Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton. The club managed to trade all three and the rebuilding process began. While people may argue over the quality of the prospects brought back in the trades, the White Sox had one of the worst farm systems in baseball, 29th according to Baseball America entering the year, so this shift in mentality is hopefully more a sign of the approach the team will employ going forward.
During spring training the White Sox gave Chris Sale a five-year $32.5 million extension and Sale has done nothing but make them look smart for that decision this year. Sale, who has a 150 ERA+, struck out one of four batters he faced and lowered his walk percentage to 5.2%. Sale has pitched tremendously, but he has received little run support, getting 3.26 runs/game, which is 78th in the majors and explains how he has an 11-12 record. Chris Sale is getting support for the AL Cy Young from some in the SABR community, but winning will be a long-shot.
Another positive on the South Side is that Don Cooper is still around working his magic. It is debatable how much a pitching coach can contribute, but both Hector Santiago (30th round draft pick) and Jose Quintana (free agent) have seemingly come out of nowhere to produce great results and provide cheap quality production for the rotation. Santiago has a 126 ERA+ while Quintana has a 117 ERA+ and neither is eligible for free agency until at least 2018.
What Went Wrong: Father Time kept marching as both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn have reportedly pondered retirement after experiencing down years. Konerko has posted an 82 OPS+, his worst since 1998, and will be a free agent after this year. He has gone back and forth about retirement, but if he does come back, he will likely have to take a large pay cut. His performance does not justify the $13.5 million he is being paid this year.
Adam Dunn is under contract for another year at $15.5 million. In his three years with the White Sox, Dunn has now produced the three worst years of OPS+ (54 in ‘11,113 in ‘12,102 in ‘13) of his 13-year career.
It is not just those two who have disappointed, but Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham, Conor Gillaspie, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers, and Josh Phegley all failed to produce more than 1.4 WAR. Flowers and Phegley are actually producing at below replacement level.
The John Danks extension is not going well. In the 2011 offseason, the White Sox, like many teams, tried to lock up one of its young players and gave John Danks a five-year $65 million extension that will run through 2016. The timing of the deal seemed odd as Danks produced a league average ERA+ of 100 in 2011, the season before signing the extension and has produced ERA+’s of 76 in 2012 and 98 this year, far below the level expected when he was offered the extension.
What To Look For in 2014: The White Sox offseason will be interesting as they will have money to spend but seem to be in a rebuilding mode. If they can resist the urge to immediately spend all of the money they were able to clear this year, it will likely be in their long term interest. However, with little on the cusp of being promoted from their farm system, the front office may try to make a splash in free agency to keep fans interested. Whether they bring in a free agent or not, it is likely to be a long summer next year on the South Side while they rebuild their farm system.
Free Agents and Options: Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd (Club Option) and Matt Lindstorm (Club Option)
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