The White Sox will pursue their World Series goal in 2022 with their highest payroll ever, even if they don’t add to it if and when business returns to normal after the lockout.
General manager Rick Hahn suggested they’ll add, promising roster improvements before Opening Day. Just by how many millions remains to be seen, but know the Sox’ next nine-figure multiyear player contract will be their first. They stood by as numerous nine-figure deals were doled out by other teams in recent days for Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Max Scherzer and Javy Baez.
Before signing off to the media and public for who knows how long — team officials can’t talk publicly during the lockout — Hahn was asked if the Sox had or have the wherewithal to compete for the aforementioned names. After all, this is the time to spend big with their contention window fully open after the team’s rebuild, no?
“Two different questions,” Hahn said. “One is whether there is 2022 payroll room for a big number. Entering the offseason the answer to that question was, yes. The second part was whether there were contracts as a whole that made sense for the long-term [view] of the club. That’s a different element. We’re going to wind up, I believe in 2022, with a record payroll for this club. From my perspective, it will be more than adequate to field a championship-caliber club, and that’s what our mission is down the hall.”
The Sox set themselves up for a multiyear window for contention by signing Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and others to rich but manageable long-term deals that pay more with each passing year. They also signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract (the richest in team history) two years ago, inked closer Liam Hendriks for four years at $68 million last offseason and gave Lance Lynn (two years, $38 million) and Jose Abreu (three years, $50 million) hefty extensions.
Thanks to social media, Hahn is aware of what fans want: more spending, especially for big-ticket items such as Semien, who would have spectacularly filled the team’s vacancy at second base. But those who know how the Sox operate would have been stunned to see them top their highest contract ever by $100 million.
Hahn suggested it wasn’t necessary. Twice on Tuesday, he hammered home the point that the Sox are “a damn good team.” A bristle under the collar of his quarter zip was detected.
“We all are fundamentally fans, and you need, in these positions, to occasionally take a step back and take a 30,000-foot view of where you are as an organization and where you’re trying to get to,” Hahn said.
In other words, “look at what we’ve done over the last several years,” as Hahn said, and enjoy Christmas knowing the Sox will be favored to repeat as division champs and be in the mix for the World Series.
“We’ve got MVP and Silver Slugger candidates throughout that lineup, controllable for an extended period of time thanks to some foresight and proactive work on our part,” Hahn said. “Got Cy Young candidates throughout the rotation and pen. There’s ways for us to get better. We’re going to continue to try to get better. I expect us on Opening Day to be better than we are today, and I expect us through the summer to get better through growth and potentially through other acquisitions.”
The Sox aggressively, and surprisingly, traded for Craig Kimbrel and his $16 million salary last summer, only to see it fizzle with Kimbrel’s poor performance in a setup role. After signing reliever Kendall Graveman for three years and $24 million this week, they likely explored trading Kimbrel before the lockout, perhaps for a second baseman, but the trade market lagged behind the free-agent market.
Such a trade, which would likely save salary to be used in the free-agent market, will have to wait.
“If there’s a possible fit out there, obviously it’s our responsibility to pursue it, and we do feel we have a fairly strong pen as it is built around the other guys right now,” Hahn said.
If the lockout drags on and time is limited to make moves, Hahn says the Sox, who in the past have been known to be early strikers in the free-agent market, “will be ready to go.”
“There’s something to be said for having a short period in which you can get everything done,” he said.
“If it ends up that there’s a condensed period of time on the other side, so be it.”
White Sox’ 2022 payroll salaries. Source: Spotrac
Jose Abreu, $19.6M
Lance Lynn, $18.5M
Yasmani Grandal, $18.25M
Dallas Keuchel, $18M
Craig Kimbrel, $16M
Yoan Moncada, $13.8M
Liam Hendriks, $13.3M
Tim Anderson, $9.5M
Lucas Giolito, $8M*
Kendall Graveman, $8M
Eloy Jimenez, $7.33M
Luis Robert, $6M
Leury Garcia, $5.5M
Reynaldo Lopez, $2.75M*
Adam Engel, $2.25M*
Aaron Bummer, $2M
Others: $575,000 (league minimum)
2022 team payrolls. Source: Spotrac
White Sox, $169,633,334
Red Sox, $164,575,000
Blue Jays, $111,342,855