With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the slow-moving market might begin to see some action in the coming weeks, and according to multiple national reports, the White Sox will be a team to watch when it comes to the pursuit of the crown jewels of this year’s free-agent class, Trevor Bauer and George Springer.
While Jerry Reinsdorf spent time late this summer seemingly laying the foundation for a quiet offseason with his statements about the financial losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting fans out of the stadium for the entirety of the 2020 campaign, national writers like Ken Rosenthal, and Bernie Pleskoff seem to think that the Sox will indeed be spenders this winter.
The consensus opinion among those that believe the White Sox will be in on the top-tier players this winter, is that Jerry Reinsdorf will spend money to ensure that his pal — and new White Sox skipper — Tony La Russa has the weapons to win in 2021. Obviously, Reinsdorf has hitched his wagon to La Russa, even amid his pending criminal case for a DUI in Arizona, so the chairman is likely going to need TLR to lead the White Sox in the direction of a World Series run to quell the public uproar over the hiring and the DUI case.
For that to happen, the White Sox are going to need to address their gaping holes in the rotation and right field this winter. Enter Bauer and Springer, the two best players available to fill those holes.
Both will come at a premium price tag no doubt. FanGraphs’ Roster Resource tool has Bauer at the top of their market predictions with a projected AAV of $29MM, with Springer right behind him at $22MM.
MLB Trade Rumors has Springer heading to the Southside in their 2020-21 Free Agency Predictions on a five-year, $125 million deal. That would work out to an AAV of $25MM, slightly higher than what FanGraphs has Springer at, but still in the same ballpark. MLBTR has Bauer heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a four-year deal worth $128MM ($32MM AAV).
The White Sox handing out not one, but two $100-plus million deals this winter is just about as likely Tony La Russa ditching the sauce, so we’re going to focus on selecting just one of these two players as the most logical option for the Pale Hose.
Since we’ve spent so much time sparring in the court of public opinion on the White Sox the last few weeks, and White Sox fans are pretty informed when they’re not in-fighting to the death on social media, I’m going to present these cases made by the fans in a fashion that Tony La Russa should be familiar with, a courtroom proceeding.
The Case for George Springer
Nomar Mazara was simply awful as the everyday right-fielder for the White Sox in 2020, mustering a 68 wRC+ in 42 games. His dismal .589 OPS and his 52 percent ground ball rate just isn’t going to cut it moving forward.
Springer is the clear-cut top outfielder available, and he could slot into the right-field spot full-time and even slide over to center field when Luis Robert gets a day off.
Springer himself had a strong 2020 campaign, slashing .265/.359/.540 with 14 home runs, 32 RBI, 146 wRC+, and 1.9 fWAR. Adding that kind of offensive production to an already potent lineup could make the Sox the favorites to have the top offense in baseball in 2021.
The ‘Witness Testimony’ section will be the argument for Springer featuring the thoughts of White Sox fans that interacted with Monday night’s poll asking fans which of the two stars they would prefer.
Springer is the safer investment: “The argument for Bauer is that pitching is the bigger need. But for a huge investment like this, I think it’s a big mistake to take the worse investment to satisfy a need. You just want the best, safest investment and that’s going to be the position player.” – Jeremy (@JeremyB1)
Starting pitching depth is greater than outfield depth in the White Sox organization: “The White Sox have greater SP depth than outfield in the minor leagues. A trade for a pitcher would be easier in IMO. Springer is a premier bat and would be a good fielder in RF and make the lineup that more devastating.” – @mpovilaitis1
Clubhouse Chemistry: “I picked Springer because I think Bauer is a distraction and an idiot. He’s a toxic clubhouse presence and he’s selfish. Remember the trash can cleats he wore when he pitched against Dallas this season? (Nomar Mazara hit a home run off of him so…is he even good?)” – Lauren Wilz (@LWilz)
The ‘Cross-Examination’ section will be the argument against Springer featuring the thoughts of White Sox fans that interacted with Monday night’s poll asking fans which of the two stars they would prefer.
The White Sox could fill the right field void at a lesser cost: “I’d like a left-handed bat at RF and Brantley is a perfect fit for this team on like a 2-3 year deal for a fraction of the cost of Springer.” – John Chambers (@YoanMoncada10)
While a position player might be a better investment when speaking in general terms as Jeremy pointed out, George Springer only has one season in which he played a full 162 games (2016), and five in which he played 140 or fewer games.
Despite that, he’s still an everyday player who will impact the Sox lineup on a day-to-day basis.
Even with there being a considerable amount of uncertainty with the names that follow Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of the rotation, the White Sox boast a bevy of talented young arms that could solidify the rotation internally in the long-term, while the outfield depth in the system is severely thin.
Springer could fill the outfield void for the next 4-5 years and the White Sox can seek a more affordable option for the rotation while the glut of young arms already in the organization develop into reliable mainstays in the rotation.
The Case for Trevor Bauer
Like Springer in the outfield, Trevor Bauer is the clear-cut best arm available on the open market this year. The 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner pitched to the tune of a 1.73 ERA in 73 innings of work with the Reds this past season.
Bauer struck out opposing hitters at a healthy 36 percent clip while walking opposing hitters at a mere 6.1 percent rate in 2020 while racking up 2.5 fWAR.
Bauer wouldn’t just be a stop-gap addition to the rotation, but rather a ‘1A’ to Lucas Giolito at the top of the rotation.
Bauer catapults the White Sox into the World Series conversation: “Bauer for this team takes them from a playoff team to a World Series contender.” – Herb Lawrence (@Ecnerwal23)
Bauer takes the pressure off of the still-developing arms: “I went Bauer because I think even on a 1-year deal he gives all the young pitchers a chance to develop. They’re the priority. If we went into next season bringing Mazara back and subbing Vaughn we’d still be a top offense.” – Jive Turkey (@22jiveturkey)
The outfield depth of this FA class is far greater than the starting pitching depth: “Yes Springer completes this lineup but the OF depth available strongly outweighs the pitching depth out there if the Sox miss on Bauer” – Jordan Miller (@jmiller_3389)
Big-time arms win playoff games: “Bauer. We already have a high potent offense that can obviously still produce at a high level, even with the shortcomings of Mazara in 2020. Bauer would push the rotation over the top, and you definitely need three proven starters in the playoffs.” – Jesse Tomich (@jtomich05)
Bauer’s career body of work doesn’t match his 2020 campaign: “This one is a lot tougher than people think. Yes, we need pitching but one guy for 4 years making a lot of money that in the past hasn’t been good. Plus you risk DL time and wasting all that money for one guy is a waste. I’d take springer and sign Paxton and let the players battle.” – Harold Downs (@HaroldDowns8)
White Sox television analyst Steve Stone said recently that Trevor Bauer is one of the best pitching minds in the game and has reshaped the way pitchers and clubs approach developing arms.
Stoney couldn’t be more right about that. Whether you like Trevor Bauer or not, he would provide a greater impact on the starting pitching of the Chicago White Sox than George Springer would impact the lineup.
The White Sox paced the American League in most offensive categories in 2020, proving that their offensive firepower is among the best in baseball heading into 2021, while their lack of proven rotation depth was ultimately their demise in 2020 both down the stretch when they coughed up the AL Central and in the postseason when they blew a 1-0 series lead against the Oakland Athletics.
As many highlighted, the pitching deficiency on this team is simply a far more pressing need than the need for a long-term solution in right field.
You guys spoke, I wrote, and the jury has spoken in the matter of which premier free agent you would prefer on the Southside in 2021.
Trevor Bauer netted 72 percent of the vote in the Twitter poll that I ran on Monday evening. The poll received nearly 3,000 votes and 75 replies/quote Tweets, some of which I featured in this story.
While the opinion of the fans won’t actually factor into any decision-making process by the powers to be at 333 W. 35th Street, it was nice to see the conversation back on baseball for an evening after watching White Sox Twitter fight like aunts and uncles at the family cookout after the third bottle of Jack Daniels is cracked open.
Both sides made strong cases for their pick, but the arguments for Trevor Bauer heavily outnumbered the arguments made for George Springer.
Me personally, I lean towards the impact that Trevor Bauer can have on the White Sox rotation in two ways. First being his on-field production in the top half of the rotation, and second, being the potential impact he can have on the bevy of young arms still developing.
Of course, I would be thrilled to land either of the two and by all indications so would the majority of the fan base.