White Sox likely to prioritize trades over free agency as they navigate pay constraints

White Sox likely to prioritize trades over free agency as they navigate pay constraints

The White Sox enter the offseason looking to bounce back from an average season. It was a major disappointment for a team that entered 2022 as AL Central favorites, leaving the front office to regroup in a renewed effort to compete for the division.

It doesn’t look like Chicago will have much wiggle room to make many free agent acquisitions. General Manager Rick Hahn told reporters yesterday that trades were the likeliest path to improve the roster (link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times). Hahn said the team will open 2023 with a similar payroll to this year. Chicago opened the 2022 campaign with a payroll of around $193 million, according to Cot’s baseball contracts, but The Athletic’s James Fegan reports the club is looking at a figure of more than $180 million to start the season. next season.

There’s no indication that $180 million is a hard cap for the Sox’s front office, but anything in that range would limit Hahn and his staff to accepting many large salaries. Chicago has about $139 million in guaranteed commitments on the books next year, including option buyouts for AJ Pollock, Josh Harrison and Dallas Keuchel, according to Roster Resource. Arbitration-eligible players are projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for about $26 million in additional salaries, and pre-arbitration players completing the roster would cost about $10 million. Without tender Barrier Man would reduce that figure by a few million dollars, but the Sox still have about $173 million allocated to the roster before looking outside the organization.

Much of this money is committed to key players coming out of the years. Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada and Lance Lynn each has salaries in the range of $18 million. Grandal and Moncada have had tough campaigns in 2022 and would be impossible to move on without eating a noticeable chunk of their wages. The Sox could probably find a taker for Lynn, but dealing with him would only weaken a starting rotation that is already one of the team’s biggest question marks.

Dylan Quit is locked at the top of the staff, with Lynn and Lucas Giolito the following. Giolito is expected to earn a salary of $10.8 million in his final year as an umpire. He’s coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, but there’s no way the Sox will turn him down and a trade seems like an unlikely drop. Hahn expressed confidence in the right-hander’s ability to rebound, noting his work ethic and his relationship with pitching coach Ethan Katz (via Van Schouwen). Michael Kopech numbers to lock in the fourth rotational spot, but Chicago will have to replace the free agent Johnny Cueto. Hahn suggested david martin could compete for fifth place, but admitted that filling it in from the outside would be ideal. The GM suggested Reynaldo Lopez and jimmy lambert — each of whom started in the past — have been locked in the bullpen at this point.

The relief corps should be the backbone of the club, with Liam Hendricks, Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly and López taking high leverage rounds. Chicago has invested heavily in this area over the past few offseasons, but another splash there seems unlikely given payroll limitations and needs elsewhere on the roster.

On the positional side, second base and right field have been lingering issues. Chicago bought out Harrison, leaving them with a combination of Theiry Garcia, Lenyn Sosa and Danny Mendick as favorites for playing time from second base. Jean Segura is the best option in a weak free agent class there, while players like Cavan Biggio and Kevin Newman could be achieved via trade.

Right field was unexpectedly released by Pollock who declined his player option yesterday. Andrew Vaughn played there but is heading to his natural first base position with Joseph Abreu very likely to go to free agency. Engel, Gavin leaves and Mark Payton are part of a lackluster collection of internal options. Hahn name checked Oscar ColasComing off a .306/.364/.563 performance in Double-A, as a candidate for the right position on the court, the 24-year-old has only seven games of MLB experience.

Business opportunities in the right area include Theoscar Hernandez, Anthony Santander, Max Kepler and Jake McCarthy. Given Hahn’s comments, diving into this market seems more likely than a race to André Benintendi, Mitch Haniger Where Joc Pedersenalthough platoon options like Wil Myers, Robbie Grosman and Tyler Naquin would be doable in free agency for a few million dollars.

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