MLB teams committed more than $1.4 billion in one day for the first time, hours before an expected lockout Wednesday night, scrambling to land players before a signing freeze.
The White Sox contributed $16.5 million earmarked for infielder/outfielder Leury Garcia in a three-year deal announced Wednesday, and the Cubs signed catcher Yan Gomes for $13 million over two seasons and starting pitcher Marcus Stroman for $71 million over three seasons. The Sox also signed reliever Kendall Graveman to a three-year, $24 million deal this week, with more cash to be added to their $170 million payroll for 2022 when the owners’ lockout is over.
As teams hurried to get deals done before an expiring collective bargaining agreement that would force baseball’s first work stoppage since 1995, Max Scherzer signed for $130 million over three years with the Mets, Javy Baez got $140 million for six years from the Tigers, Marcus Semien signed for $175 million for seven years with the Rangers and Corey Seager got a whopping $325 million for 10 years with the Rangers.
While needed, the Sox’ moves were nowhere near as splashy.
“It’s been a much quicker pace than we’ve seen in recent years, a very robust free-agent market over the last several weeks,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday.
Hahn has let it be known that reliever Craig Kimbrel can be had in a trade, but the trade market lagged behind the free-agent market and will have to wait, with no deals of any kind allowed during a lockout.
“Trade talks have gone more slowly,” Hahn said. “Most people’s focus has been on free agency, and [we’re] seeing fewer trade acquisitions than I think we would normally see on Dec. 1. Those are obviously two of the byproducts of what potentially lies ahead.”
Whatever happens next for the Sox will have to wait, barring an unexpected last-hour agreement. In the midst of a contention window and on the heels of winning a division title, the Sox need a starting second baseman, possibly a right fielder and second catcher and definitely more pitching. Expect additions that will make the Opening Day roster better than it looks now, Hahn said, “and if we’re once again blessed with the ability to stay in contention through the summer, I suspect it’s going to look even better after the trade deadline than it looks on Opening Day.”
Putting Scherzer, Semien or Baez on the roster would’ve guaranteed that, but they were above chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s price point with a 2022 payroll currently ranking fifth in MLB despite having no nine-figure contracts on the books. (Yasmani Grandal signed the biggest deal in franchise history at $73 million two offseasons ago.)
“We all get excited by that notion of a splashy, big-name move,” Hahn said. “And we like to chase that and see where things line up. At the same time, you can’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve got a damn good team, that we are in position to contend for a championship next year and beyond by what we’ve been able to do over the last several years.
“There’s ways for us to get better. We’re going to continue to try to get better. . . . At the same time, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we’re in a pretty good position right now. We’re going to continue to build upon it. But this is a pretty damn good club we’ve got here.”
NOTES: As expected, the Sox tendered 2022 contracts to arbitration-eligible Lucas Giolito, Adam Engel and Reynaldo Lopez.
† Goldy Simmons has been promoted to oversee the strength and conditioning department. Simmons, who was director of performance in player development, replaces Allen Thomas, who was not retained.