When the Chicago White Sox handed Luis Robert a six-year, $50 million contract — with choices via 2027 — three years in the past this week, common supervisor Rick Hahn stated the group “put our money where our mouth is in terms of our level of excitement” concerning the rookie heart fielder.
The 22-year-old Robert had but to play in a major-league sport, however the dedication by the Sox prompt he quickly could be the centerpiece of a contending crew for the remainder of the last decade.
In fact, placing their cash the place their mouth is rarely has been the White Sox manner. Other than the seven-year extension slugger Frank Thomas signed after the 1997 season, which amounted to about $85 million after the choice years, they’ve been one of many extra conservative groups with regards to allotting large contracts.
But the offseason after the 2019 season prompt the instances had been altering. Not solely did Robert receives a commission like a perennial All-Star within the making, however the Sox additionally signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal, the most important free-agent contract in franchise historical past.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf seemed like he was able to go toe to toe with big-market homeowners so the Sox may turn into an annual championship contender in his golden years.
That, in fact, hasn’t occurred.
Robert has proven glimpses of why he’s thought-about a possible celebrity, however accidents restricted him to 166 mixed video games the final two seasons. Grandal has hit .222 in three seasons with the Sox and completed with a career-low .570 OPS in an injury-plagued 2022. His contract is now unloadable in its closing season.
Hahn went into this offseason acknowledging fan discontent, realizing the Sox needed to make at the least one large transfer — by way of commerce or free company — to attempt to appease the not-so-silent majority.
He lastly acquired the person he needed in left-handed-hitting Andrew Benintendi, signing the free-agent outfielder to a five-year, $75 million deal.
Benintendi was launched Wednesday at a information convention on the South Side and shortly will be part of Robert, Grandal and the remainder of the holdovers at spring coaching in Glendale, Ariz. It could possibly be the beginning of a rebound yr, however with so many gamers needing to rebound, it’s anybody’s guess as as to if Benintendi might be the lacking piece of the puzzle.
Sox followers must be optimistic about Benintendi’s arrival, however the letdown from the empty guarantees of the Grandal signing naturally has tempered some followers’ enthusiasm.
This crew desperately wants energy after tying for twenty second final yr with 149 house runs, then dropping first baseman José Abreu to free company. On paper Benintendi isn’t an improve in that division with solely 5 house runs in 2022 with the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. His OPS in opposition to left-handers was .675 with one homer in 134 at-bats.
Perhaps Sox Park will likely be extra conducive to his hitting, however don’t overlook Yankee Stadium is a superb place for left-handed hitters, and Benintendi homered as soon as in 52 at-bats there after arriving in a deadline deal from the Royals.
“Andrew diversifies the ways this lineup is capable of beating you on a given day,” Hahn stated Tuesday on a Zoom name with reporters. “Not just going to be power-based, but I think for a variety of reasons going forward, we’re going to produce a little more from a power output standpoint from the guys who have done that in the past.”
That seemingly factors to Grandal and shortstop Tim Anderson, who hit a mixed 40 house runs in 2021 and solely 11 final yr. Hahn additionally may imply third baseman Yoán Moncada, nevertheless it’s wishful considering to consider he’ll get again to the 25-homer participant he was in 2019.
Benintendi identified Wednesday that he’s 5-foot-9, 175 kilos, and although the ballpark ought to assist, he isn’t going to be a 30-homer man.
“I help the team the most when I get on base and let guys drive me in,” he stated. “So that’s what I’m really going for.”
Sox followers most likely count on a bit extra from a $75 million participant, however so be it. At least he’s sincere about his limitations.
Benintendi ought to get on base and supply much-needed protection in left area whereas Andrew Vaughn strikes to first and Eloy Jiménez turns into the first designated hitter. Manager Pedro Grifol stated the Sox have advised Jiménez he’ll be taking part in some proper area — a scary thought for Sox followers, who can count on to fret that Jiménez may crash into Robert and injure one or each of them.
Avoiding accidents will likely be a precedence for the Sox, who seemingly have sufficient expertise to compete with the highest American League groups when everyone seems to be on the sphere. As stats geek Jay Cuda identified on Twitter, the Sox have had 15 hamstring-related injured listing stints during the last two seasons, equaling the whole from the earlier 9 seasons (2012-20).
At least there will likely be no extra nonsense from the supervisor asking gamers to not run full velocity. That was one of many issues that bothered Sox followers most about Tony La Russa, even when La Russa was solely conveying the message given to him from crew physicians.
Hahn nonetheless has work to do, not solely in bettering the lineup, but additionally in constructing pleasure amongst Sox followers. Those “In Hahn We Trust” T-shirts have pale the final couple years. The shortsighted determination to not maintain SoxFest wasn’t Hahn’s, however with out gamers coming to city this month to get folks on board for 2023, the onus is on the entrance workplace and Grifol to do all of the heavy lifting till spring coaching.
Grifol appeared at Benintendi’s information convention however in any other case has been out of sight and largely out of thoughts. No large deal, maybe. But how a lot goodwill did Joe Maddon deliver Cubs followers on the 2015 Cubs Convention?
The Sox missed out on a chance to showcase their new supervisor and outfielder. Maybe sometime they’ll clarify why.
Hahn’s comparatively quiet offseason is nearly over, and to this point he has held true to his perception that the Sox didn’t want a significant overhaul to right their deficiencies. He held on to nearer Liam Hendriks, their finest commerce piece, improved the outfield and added beginning pitcher Mike Clevinger to switch Johnny Cueto, the savior of the 2022 workers.
It wasn’t a typical Hahn winter, however there’s nonetheless time to fill the opening at second base, improve the bench and add one other bullpen arm. Garrett Crochet’s return ought to enhance the bullpen, although it would make sense to delay his debut till a number of weeks into the season to make sure he doesn’t hit an innings restrict by early or mid-September.
Benintendi stated he’s excited to be part of a company wherein “the talent’s insane.” And as the large, new piece of the Sox puzzle, the stress will likely be on him to assist deliver the Sox again to October.
It’s a problem he appears prepared for, which is one purpose Sox followers ought to give him the good thing about the doubt.