Baseball

Sadly, the title of the post isn’t about my long-unfinished script featuring teenagers trying to get laid one summer while getting into some zany antics at the car wash they all work at. No, it’s about the return of one Adam Cory Eaton to the South side of Chicago, who Rick Hahn signed to a 1 year deal today worth $7 million dollars.

The signing caps a wild 12 hours which saw the Sox send Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Weever Yams) to the Rangers for their Ace and professional Bluto cosplayer Lance Lynn. One of these moves I’m all for, the other one not so much.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

ADAM EATON

2020 Stat Line: .226/.285/.669 4 HR, 17 RBI, 22 R, 3 SB, 18.2% K Rate, 75 wRC+

2019 Stat Line: .279/.365/.792 15 HR, 49 RBI, 103 R, 15 SB, 16.2% K Rate, 107 wRC+

Well those are two very different looking lines there, aren’t they? To say that Eaton had anything but a miserable 2020 would be a colossal understatement. He looked completely out of sorts, and had trouble putting the ball in play with any type of power. His contact numbers tanked, and his K rate spiked. The Nats (unsurprisingly) declined his $10.5 million option for 2021 and he became a free agent.

His 2019 was a completely different story, as his ability to get on base consistently led him to 3rd on the Nats in runs scored behind Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. He was also 3rd on the team in stolen bases, and was average in the OF, manning both corner position spots. More importantly, he was also healthy for the first time in ages, playing more than 100 games (151) for the first time in 4 seasons.

If the White Sox had no history with Eaton, I would be cautiously optimistic about this signing. He’s a very good outfielder when he’s able to stay healthy, and has the ability to get on base and score runs when the bigger bats knock him in.

Yet the Sox and Eaton have a very storied history together, and most of it eye-rollingly annoying. Not that anyone has forgotten the Saga of Child MLB Locker Room Leader Drake LaRoche, of which Eaton was a prime player. Looking back, this was the beginning of the Sox rebuild, whether Kenny Williams wanted to admit it or not. Now, at the end of it all right when the Sox are ready to take the AL Central by storm he’s back, like the Ghost of Lockerooms Past.

As it stands now, I personally feel the Sox locker room is as strong as it’s been since quite possibly 2005. Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are the leaders from the offensive side, and Lucas Giolito has turned into the Mentor Extraordinaire on the pitching side. The addition of Adam Eaton should hopefully be nothing more than what it is at the face: a slightly better platoon player in RF with Adam Engel.

Lance Lynn

2020 Stats: 6-3/3.32 ERA/89 K/1.06 WHIP/4.19 FIP/1.5 WAR

2019 Stats: 16-11/3.67 ERA/246 K/3.13 FIP/6.8 WAR

On the other side of all of this was the story that broke late last night: that Rick Hahn had sent promising young arm Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (the Sox 6th round selection in 2019) to the Rangers for their ace Lance Lynn.

Looking at Lynn’s stats over the past few years, one thing comes flying out at you. His strikeout numbers jumped huge in 2019, almost 100 Ks more than the 160 he had in 2018. He accomplished this by having TJ surgery in 2016, then moving to the 3rd base side of the rubber in 2017. Oh, and he also started throwing his 4 seam fastball more than any other pitcher in the league. He also managed to add 1.2 mph to his average velocity to the pitch, which is not something that normally happens in 30+ year old pitchers in MLB.

He also increased his control with his cutter, consistently able to throw it away from righties and get swinging strikes, or jam it in on the hands of left handed hitters, blowing up bats and generating weaker contact. The chart below shows clearly his ability to keep the pitch close enough to the zone to force swings (courtesy of Thomas Harrigan @ MLB.COM)

On top of the increased Ks, Lynn eats innings like dots for PacMan. He threw 208 in 2019, the 4th time in his career breaking the 200 inning mark. All this combined makes him a hell of a number 2 starter behind Lucas Giolito, slotting Dallas Keuchel in the 3 spot where he really should’ve been the whole time.

While I really am going to miss Dane Dunning, at best he caps out at a league average 4th starter. The fact that Rick Hahn was able to score someone who was able to put forth stats like that on an abysmal Rangers team is the kind of moves a team who wants to sit at the big boys table makes.

I understand some folks reticence at trading one of the prized prospects collected by Hahn, but ask yourself this question: If the Fernando Tatis Jr trade had never happened, would you still feel the same way about this deal?

The shell shock that some people (rightfully) have about the Tatis trade has lead them to clutch the Sox prospects tighter than Vince McMahon holding onto the idea his wrestlers are independent contractors. It’s an understandable feeling, but one we’re going to have to get past as Dunning will not be the last precious prospect to move on.

Still left for Rick Hahn: solving the closer position, and adding a DH in case Andrew Vaughn isn’t ready for the full time role in 2021. I’m sure I’ll be back here sooner rather than later, so stay tuned.

 

 

Baseball

James McCann finds himself in a new world of a different kind in 2020: Backup Catcher, staring at the high likelihood of not reaching 100 games played for the first time in his career since his short debut at the end of 2014. McCann’s 2019 was a pleasant surprise, a torrid start helping to see him to setting career highs with 118 GP, 120 hits, 62 R, 26 2B, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 30 BB, .273/.328/.460/.789 batting line en route to an All-Star nod and a place in Sox fan’s hearts. What did he get for his breakout? a one year, $5.4M deal and a seat on the bench behind new starting backstop/pitch framer extraordinaire Yasmani Grandal. I feel like James isn’t gonna like the dip in GP heading into certain free agency this winter…

2019 Stats

.273/.328/.460, 18 HR, 60 RBI

2.3 fWAR, 3.8 bWAR, 1.0 WARP

6.3 BB%, 28.8 K%

.333 wOBA, 109 wRC+ .789 OPS

5 DRS, -10.2 FRAA, 11th-percentile framing

Last Week On Nitro: James found himself non-tendered by his previous employers in Detroit in the winter of 2018. He’d just come out of the worst season of his short career (57 wRC+) and the the Tigers decided the continued rebuild could do with any other backstop, allowing the 2nd-year arbitration eligible McCann to sign a one year, $2.5M contract with the rival White Sox. McCann sure did go about rubbing Detroit’s nose in it, scorching out of the gates on his way to an All-Star appearance and the aforementioned career marks all over the stat sheet. McCann’s intangibles were also deeply felt at the Arrow, with quick comfort and bonds with Lucas Giolito and others on the pitching staff helping to create some consistency and positive clubhouse culture from a position with a great deal of turnover for the Pale Hose. This all earned him another one year pact, avoiding his final arbitration chance for a cool $5.4M.

The bright lights would fade, though. McCann turned in a 133 wRC+ through the first 61 games and slowly reverted back towards his norm in the final 55 with a 83 wRC+ mark and stark regressions everywhere but in the power department (9 HR in each segment). Stark regression (sick fake band name) to his BB/K ratios and BABIP contributed to the swift end to the party and erased the thin veneer masking his near-league worst framing skills. Rick Hahn and Co., in somewhat of a shocker, decided not to bank on McCann finding a way back to his first half season glory and inked C Yasmani Grandal to the richest free agent contract in team history. Thanks for the good will and early season stat spikes, here’s about 40% of the playing time and double the pay for your troubles.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): The good news is we don’t have to try to project what a full McCann follow up might look like on account of having his playing time slashed to pieces. Shortly after the Grandal signing, there were many easily connectable dots to see a fun timeshare to be had between C-1B-DH among those on the roster in the form of McCann, Grandal, Jose Abreu and Zack Collins. McCann likely would have found his way to at least half a season’s worth of games, give or take, or more when you factor in that familiarity with the staff and team already in house. Then Christmas came and Edwin Encarnacion came with it, and any idea of a fun little timeshare with plenty of PT to go around went out the window.

You can safely expect McCann to be more of what he was in Sept/Oct 2019 throughout his reserve role in 2020, and a .250/.315/.460 and a BABIP closer to .300 is a very palatable line to get from your second catcher. Development and the signings of Grandal and EE make relying on McCann’s bat moot, something that even he should be feeling relaxed about, so he can focus on his real deficiencies. The area that McCann can really improve his worth is by becoming something more than literally the bottom of the league in pitch framing.

Those FRAA and 11th-percentile framing ranks are absolutely unacceptable for any team trying to win in the MLB and McCann seemed to realize, whether it was before the Grandal signing or the seconds after it was announced, that he needed to do all he could to improve in this area. He’s taken the steps this offseason to put the time in and work exclusively on his framing, and having a full spring training and season with Grandal will likely help the 31 year old backstop improve his abilities and his market value. Anything he can do to continue to help the development of the young starters and bullpen arms on the pitching staff will help McCann and the team.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Keeping with the theme here, the Grandal and EE signings and overall development within the organization has shielded the team against having to deal with a “worst case scenario” involving James McCann. The Sox don’t need the McCann from the first 60 games last year, they don’t need him to sway nearly 20 homers and drive in gobs of runs and set career marks across his stat line. They also don’t need to worry about what to do in the event he craters to 2018 57 wRC+ levels because they actually went out and got ahead of that exact potential problem.

Is this really the White Sox we’re talking about?? The absolute worst case scenario is Grandal going down with a serious injury, McCann reverting to his non-tender campaign offense and failing to have any of the offseason framing work pay off. That would be a real fucking Rube Goldberg machine worth of catastrophes to get us anywhere close to that kind of scenario. No, this is a rare occasion where the Sox put themselves in position to deal with some sort of awful chain of events without having the bottom fall completely out.

McCann would pretty much have to pout to Chris Sale/Adam Eaton Drake LaRoche-era levels for us to hit a “worst case scenario” on his season. Progress!

BAH GAWD THAT’S McCANN’S MUSIC!: McCann got his island in the sun moments last summer, and he seems pretty damn pleased with it all. The guy has gotten a bunch of PT, albeit on some pretty atrocious teams, and gotten paid to do so, and he finally might be a part of something special. Would he like to keep playing 110 games/year? Sure. But I bet James McCann is pretty excited to be on a team with playoff aspirations for the first time in his entire career, too.

McCann hasn’t complained or shown any attitude with his change in role, at least not publicly. If he can pitch in a solid OBP and show improvement on his pitch framing he might find himself getting closer to 60+ games. Abreu and EE are going to need days off, Grandal can’t catch 140+. McCann still has plenty to prove for another contract and possibly a shot at a starting gig elsewhere in the future, but he’ll be needed this season with this team. Hopefully he can embrace that and succeed with the at bats and innings he’s given, and if not, well, it’s really just not that big of a deal.

Baseball

Deep down, you kind of love this, right Sox fans?

I’ll admit to being a bit distracted in 2016 with my side of town, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of all that went on with the White Sox in 2016. And frankly, I’m happy for the reminder of just how ridiculous it was. I didn’t appreciate it enough. And how important it might be, because that team ended up smashing the previous model for the White Sox and giving fans this one, which is pretty much what they wanted for years. Except for that botched Machado thing.

When Todd Frazier and Adam Eaton were doing handbags at ten paces on Monday, all the details came flying back. Because you really have to take a step back and marvel at the pure farce that the mere suggestion Drake LaRoche should haul his hilljack ass out of the clubhouse half the time caused his dad to retire! No one asked that Drake probably couldn’t read was something that was amiss, just that he belonged out there taking grounders. I mean, if you think about it for too long your brain bubbles. An adult male, or at least a facsimile of one, was told to stop bringing his child to the office, a place of business, and he reacted by packing up his stuff and going home.

This seemed such a normal request, and no one ever bothered to ask Jose Abreu what he thought about it, being separated from his entire family for years. I don’t have to wonder too hard why Adam Laroche probably didn’t care all that much about that. But you add the layers to it and it gets so much better. Jimmy Rollins, an actual grown-up even if he was completely busted as a player by that point, needed all of eight minutes in spring training to make it clear to Kenny Williams this shit had to stop. And then he saw the reaction, took 40 games, and decided he’d had enough of this shit. And this is a guy who built a career in Philadelphia!

And it just kept getting better. If anyone was really paying attention, Adam Eaton would have been the subject of talkshows nationwide after claiming Drake LaRoche–again, a child whose marketable skill is probably chewing cud–was a team leader. Where else could this have taken place? If he had said that in New York the Post and Daily News would have euthanized him for his own good. And yet it merely passed by here.

Adam Eaton was just the torch-carrier from Nick Swisher and his Dirty Cat Salon ploy, which had everyone in the clubhouse ready to go Brutus on his ass. That doesn’t mean anyone should have sided with Frazier either. Any player Hawk Harrelson likes that much should be heavily side-eyed.

Oh, did we forget Hawk Harrelson leaving the booth to check on Frazier after like, a bruise? Where else could this happen? What did Frazier and Herm Schneider do when Hawk breathlessly and covered in sweat burst into the trainer’s room? The correct answer would have been stabbing him with a tranquilizer and going about their business. I’d really give anything to go back in time and see that scene.

I’m trying to picture Michael Kay sprinting down the Yankee Stadium tunnels to see if Gleyber Torres’s allergies were acting up, and no vision of it doesn’t have Brian Cashman catapulting him into the East River. There wasn’t one functioning element to the whole operation, and I’m really greatly saddened it basically took place in the dark.

Sox fans may think I’m mocking them, but I’m really not. If you’re going to be a dysfunctional mess, why not just go for it? Don’t half-ass it. Go big or go home. When the Sox become contenders again, the 2016 team will be talked about in bars and living rooms across town as a sign of where they’d come from. It’s their Lee Elia tirade. It’s Dave Manson chasing Mike Keenan down a hallway during an intermission.

It all went so wrong that Kenny Williams’s policy of collecting whatever veterans he could find, sometimes multiple times, and rolling the dice again and again was consigned to a dumpster out back and never to be spoke of again. Maybe the Sox won’t get there but at least you know they’re run by something resembling adults.

The Goodman or Steppenwolf needs a show about the ’16 White Sox. They need to be burnt into the memory of every baseball fan. And they’ll be a turning point for an entire organization. 20 years from now the Sox will still vow to never be that again. It’s so wonderful. You basically have the Bulls being a cover band for them now. What a gift.