Major League Baseball’s free agency period has been full of excitement as many All-Star caliber players have been signing huge 100 million dollar deals with a work-stoppage looming. Despite the impending work-stoppage, The Chicago White Sox have yet to make a sizeable free agent signing as they need to add a premier talent at one of their positions of need, despite having the money available to do so. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s sheer refusal to spend significant money on premium free agents is no longer an opinion but a sobering fact.
Major flurry of MLB activity
METS: Signed Scherzer, Marte, Cahna, Escobar
RANGERS: Signed Semien, Gray, Calhoun
WHITE SOX: Tweeted about their third string catcher hitting three home runs in a loss
— Patrick Nolan (@SoxMach_pnoles) November 29, 2021
The White Sox Have Nowhere To Hide With Their Refusal To Spend Significantly During Free Agency
After undergoing a roster rebuild that began in December of 2016 and lasted three seasons, many expected that the White Sox would spend money as they saved a significant amount of money during their rebuilding seasons. Fans and the media were led to believe that Chicago was planning to utilize the money they saved from 2016 through 2018 on top-tier free agents such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper in the offseason following the 2018 season. Fans were extremely outraged when the White Sox lost out on signing Machado to the San Diego Padres, as the Padres guaranteed the tenth year in their contract offer, instead of the White Sox team option.
Why this is a PR Disaster for the Sox:
You have never spent more than $68M on a player before.
You told fans this time would be different, that the money would be there.
You did it so effectively the fans believed you.
You failed to come through.
They won't believe again.
— Rick Gregg (@rickgregg) February 19, 2019
A year later in 2019, Chicago would spend money in free agency as they signed catcher Yasmani Grandal and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Grandal was signed to the largest free agent contract in franchise history as his deal was worth 73 million dollars over four years. Last offseason, the team would spend money again as they would sign the best relief pitcher in free agency when they signed Liam Hendriks to a 3-year deal worth 45 million.
One year later, in 2019, Chicago would spend money in free agency as they signed catcher Yasmani Grandal and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Grandal was signed to the largest free-agent contract in franchise history as his deal was worth 73 million dollars over four years. Last offseason, the team would spend money again as they would sign the best relief pitcher in free agency when they signed Liam Hendriks to a 3-year deal worth 45 million.
During this year’s free agency period, the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Detroit Tigers have all signed All-Star free agents to 100-million dollar contracts. Even more troubling is that these teams signed players that address specific needs that Chicago currently has. The Rangers signed All-Star shortstop Marcus Semien, who the White Sox were targeting as their potential solution at the second base position. The Seattle signed American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray while Chicago needs to add another starting pitcher. Although Texas may have overpaid for Semien, Seattle’s deal for Ray of five years for 115 million is something that Chicago could have afforded.
Reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and the Seattle Mariners are finalizing a five-year, $115 million contract with an opt-out after the third season, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
In prior off-seasons, the White Sox have offset their reluctance to spend significantly in free agency by calling up one of their top prospects to start the season. In back-to-back seasons, Chicago called up top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert and treated them as significant free-agent acquisitions. Unlike in previous years, the White Sox do not have a top-level prospect they can call up for the 2022 season, leaving them with a significant void to fill at the right-field, second baseman, and starting pitcher positions.
Luis Robert is the 5th player to receive a contract extension with 0 days of MLB service time in his career at the time.
That makes the White Sox the only team to hand out 2 such extensions — to Robert & Jiménez.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) January 2, 2020
The Refusal To Spend In Free Agency Will Have Negative Long-Term Effects On The Franchise
Without a sizeable free agent signing, everything the White Sox organization says about wanting to compete for a World Series title will ring hollow. Chicago fans provided unbridled support to the team during their rebuild and through their short playoff run just two months ago. Without an impactful free agent signing to reward the fan base, the White Sox heavily risks their chance of alienating their fans starting in 2022.
From an on-field standpoint, Their current roster could be de-motivated as ownership refuses to give the team needed resources to contend. Furthermore, it could lead to several of Chicago’s more premium players turning down potential contract extensions, knowing that other teams will provide more money during free agency. One example could be starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, who will become a free agent following the 2024 season. If Giolito knows that the White Sox are unwilling to sign him to a significant long-term deal, he could bide his time until he reaches free agency.
Even if the White Sox and Reinsdorf become serious in future off-seasons, it may be too late as free agents may not take the team seriously during negotiations. Even with Chicago signing Grandal, Hendricks, and Keuchel, all the deals were team-friendly and favored the White Sox as there was no potential threat of wasted years. Chicago’s biggest fear is signing a free agent to a long-term deal, in which the player has years on the backend where he isn’t worth the money, but this is what all free agents are looking for now.
Let’s call it how it is: where things stand at the moment, this #WhiteSox roster is absolutely not a World Series-caliber team. There are holes (SP, RF) that NEED to be filled through free agency. In today’s MLB you spend big to win big: a memo that the Sox clearly haven’t gotten
— Jason Kinander (@JasonKinander) November 29, 2021
The White Sox can insist they are serious about wanting to win the World Series, but they are proving to be frauds when they are unwilling to spend significantly during free agency. Chicago fans don’t care at the moment who a potential free agent is, but more so that the team is capable of signing a player, regardless of price. Reinsdorf’s inability to sign off on a large contract for a free agent has hindered the White Sox and their credibility. With another off-season of purposeful inaction, the consequences could be damaging and irreversible.