On Wednesday afternoon while the country patiently — or otherwise — waited for news on who will win likely the most unprecedented presidential election, the first real news of what forecasts to be an equally unprecedented Major League Baseball offseason trickled into the Twittersphere.
All-Star right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer‘s agent Rachel Luba, of Luba Sports, confirmed what many expected via Twitter — Trevor Bauer has declined the $18.9 million qualifying offer that the Cincinnati Reds extended to him.
Luba noted that Bauer is still open to discussing a deal with the Reds despite declining their qualifying offer, and of course, intends to hear from other clubs in the coming months.
The Chicago White Sox are in desperate need of another established starting pitcher, and Trevor Bauer — regardless of anyone’s personal feelings regarding him — is obviously the most talented available on the free-agent market this winter.
Bauer is going to be extremely expensive. FanGraphs’ 2021 free-agent tracker has him pegged for roughly a $29MM AAV, their highest projected free agent AAV.
I’ve opined that the White Sox should take a look at Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman as alternatives to Bauer in different price tiers, but both of them also have the qualifying offer attached to them.
The White Sox also need a right-fielder. Bernie Pleskoff suggested in his recent Forbes column that the White Sox will be in the mix for George Springer should he decline the Astros qualifying offer, which he almost undoubtedly will.
Again though, Springer will command major bucks and penalties for signing a player who declined a qualifying offer. So, the question must be asked: is it worth it for the White Sox to land a player who declined a qualifying offer?
What’s it going to cost them?
According to Major League Baseball’s website, the White Sox would have to pony-up their second-highest draft pick in the 2021 MLB Draft and $500,000 in international bonus pool money if they were to sign a player who declined the qualifying offer from their previous club.
If the White Sox sign two such players, they’d forfeit their third-rounder in the 2021 MLB Draft and an additional $500,000 in international bonus money for the second player signed.
“We don’t need a second-round pick anyways, and the White Sox always trade their international money… SIGN TREVOR FREAKIN’ BAUER!!!”
That’s the consensus opinion across the magical — and sometimes maddening — land known as ‘White Sox Twitter,’ and for the most part, that’s pretty much accurate thinking.
Save for this past June when the White Sox used their second-round pick to snag Texas prep star Jared Kelley by way of a lucrative over-slot deal, the White Sox have an extremely underwhelming history of second-round draft picks.
Here’s the last 20 years worth of them for your comedic enjoyment:
I personally was unaware that the White Sox drafted Ray Liotta in 2004 at the ripe age of 50 years-old. Oh, nevermind, it wasn’t that Ray Liotta. Although, Ray Liotta did play Shoeless Joe Jackson in the film “Field of Dreams.”
Anyways, I digress. The White Sox have not been very good at identifying second-round talent, and that’s not to say that another Jared Kelley won’t slide down the draft board next summer, but the chances are probably slim.
As far as the international bonus pool money is concerned, there isn’t the same lengthy track record of mediocrity to compare to since the new international signing rules have only been in place since 2017, but the White Sox have pissed away a healthy amount of that pool space in salary-dump trades since then.
Basically, clubs can receive between $4.75MM and $5.75MM each year in international pool space according to Major League Baseball’s website. At least until the current CBA expires at the end of the 2021 season, where it will possibly change once again, so who the hell cares about $500K at this point?
James Fox — who probably covers the White Sox and their international market doings better than anyone — reported that the club had $5,398,300 to spend on their 2019-20 international class, and came away with a notable signing in Cuban infielder, Yolbert Sanchez.
Here is a snippet of Fox’s report on Sanchez in his recent FutureSox column:
“The biggest signing in their class was Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sanchez. The infielder is the 17th ranked prospect in the system according to our midseason update. Lauded for his glove, Yolbert played in 29 games in the Dominican Summer League last year. He signed for $2.5 million on July 2, 2019, after defecting from Cuba in late 2018.”
You can see the full list of international prospects signed by the White Sox in the most recent period in James Fox’s FutureSox write up, here.
So, you’re saying it’s worth it?
Without a freakin’ doubt.
While I understand completely why the idea of throwing away second and third-round draft picks and international money — in addition to premium dollars — in the pursuit of blockbuster free agents might concern some when it comes to the long-term outlook of the farm, in this particular offseason I think if you have the chance to land a player like Trevor Bauer or George Springer, you don’t hesitate to do it.
We’re in the premature years of what we forecast could be a sizeable window of competing for World Series Championships on the Southside of Chicago, and there are some gaping needs on the roster that need to be solved sooner than later to maximize the potential length of the window.
If Joel Sherman’s recent column in the New York Post that names the White Sox as a team expected “to be a little bolder than others financially,” turns out to be true, then you don’t fret over signing a star free agent at the risk of a second-round draft pick and a fraction of the allotted bonus money available to each club.
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