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The Mourning After: Moving Past Wheeler

by Jordan Lazowski

Alright White Sox fans, we apparently were given too much good news. White Sox Fandom rules dictate that for every good piece of news we get, we must get some bad news. So here it is: Zach Wheeler is a now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and I have to write my third ever “The Mourning After” article.

Needless to say, when the news broke yesterday, White Sox fans were not happy. I was not happy either. But, as more news came out, we got a better sense of exactly what went into Wheeler’s decision-making, and I hope that calmed everyone down a little (Narrator: “It probably didn’t”).

So, how should we really feel about Zach Wheeler’s decision? And what does this mean for the White Sox throughout the rest of the offseason? Let’s try and break it down a little here.

Mad? Upset? What’s the best way to look at this?

If you take a look at my tweets, you can see the natural progression of my thought process in a very short time yesterday afternoon.

And then the Ken Bomb:

So, the breakdown of my afternoon was much like a lot of you: I overreacted at first, then took the time to think about it. So, my advice: don’t tweet before you think (Note to self: suggest this to Joe Binder for a SO35 t-shirt idea….).

Here’s how I’m thinking about this: players are humans too. It’s really easy to say “Money Talks,” and for the most part, you would be correct in saying so. However, there are factors for players that go beyond money. Shohei Ohtani didn’t want the big stage of New York. Players often take hometown discounts. And, sometimes, where a player lives/where family lives is important. You can’t fault these players for any of these decisions. Think of how you chose your job – heck, I chose mine because it was close to home.

The deal itself was 5/$118M. The White Sox reportedly offered 5/$125M. The White Sox had two things to consider when putting this offer out there:

  1. How much do we value this player?
  2. How much additional money should we devote to this player, based on his value, knowing that he prefers to be on the East coast?

Let’s start with #1. Their valuation of Wheeler was probably about the same as the Phillies’. However, what’s left undetermined are two factors that go into #2 above:

  1. How much additional value would the Sox have had to give Wheeler to convince him to come to Chicago?
  2. Was there ever actually an additional value the Sox could’ve reasonably offered Wheeler to pry him from the East coast?

The second question is the most important one. Listen, once a player is making $120M, a couple extra million doesn’t matter all that much to him. Heck, even an additional $10M might not mean that much to him. We aren’t talking about a difference of $50M for Machado – the difference here was $7M. Anything more would’ve been quite an overpay, and yet it still might not have gotten the job done.

My guess on all this? Wheeler’s agent used the Sox’ offer to get the Phillies’ offer to a point at which Wheeler would be comfortable taking less money to play on the East Coast. Think about it: we didn’t hear about the Phillies until yesterday really. Wheeler had a preferred destination, and the Phillies were able to give him enough money to make it happen. The White Sox just ended up being part of the reason behind it.

So, mad probably isn’t the word I would use about all of this. Upset really isn’t it either. I think I’m just a bit bummed out by it. This isn’t Machado 2.0 in my mind. The White Sox made an offer consistent with what Wheeler should be paid. They didn’t come in and try to pinch pennies, they didn’t get worried about the length of the deal, and they didn’t try and set up a bunch of contract incentives. They went as hard as they could – within reason – after their guy and, from what we know, came up short for reasons outside of their control. You can’t force a player to take a contract. I’m not happy that the Sox missed out on Wheeler. But I’m not mad at the process they took to try and acquire him. I’m bummed out by the result, not the process. I don’t know how you view it, but I’d urge you to stay away from two mindsets on this one:

  1. Jerry is cheap!
  2. No one will ever come to the White Sox

Neither of these really have anything to do with what transpired on Wednesday.

Where do the Sox go from here?

Here’s another good thing that came from all of this: the White Sox are still in a position to make moves to make this team better. This isn’t like the Machado debacle where the Sox were left without a plan in the middle of February. The Sox have shown themselves to be incredibly aggressive to start this offseason, and there are still plenty of available options for the White Sox to improve the team heading into 2020.

There are names still available as free agents. Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are at the top of that list, and there are still several third-tier names that could help the Sox fill that fifth spot in the rotation – Tanner Roark and Alex Wood could be two of those names. Whether or not you love these options, all of these players are better than who the Sox had in their rotation at times last year. Additionally, look for the White Sox to be active at the Winter Meetings. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the White Sox are looking to fill their needs on the pitching staff via trade. Here, players like Matthew Boyd, Robbie Ray, or Julio Teheran could become available as the White Sox look to build their 2020 staff.

Don’t forget about the offense either. The White Sox have already been closely linked to Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. There will be more transactions this offseason, and the Wheeler decision is just going to force the White Sox to get a little creative. I would expect the White Sox to be talked about a lot during the Winter Meetings next week.

Remember: The 2020 White Sox are not a finished project

I want to leave you with this: no matter how much hype the Grandal signing inspired around the 2020 White Sox, at no point was this team ever going to be a finished product. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal will still have to develop at the major league level. Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon will be on innings limits coming back from injuries. No matter if the White Sox would’ve signed Wheeler or not, there were still questions about this White Sox team that wouldn’t be answered until mid-2020. What can we expect from Reynaldo Lopez? Is Kopech still “the guy”? How will Dylan Cease perform in year two? Can Tim Anderson repeat a record season, and if not, what can we expect out of him?

Long story short, competing in 2020 and winning in 2020 are two different things in my opinion. The White Sox can be competitive without winning the division in 2020. Winning 85 games and being in the playoff hunt in September is what fans should be looking for as a “best-case scenario” for the 2020 team. Granted, that means there is one crucial offseason that remains: 2020-2021. Next offseason, it will be crucial that the White Sox hit on their Zack Wheeler-type players, because the holes left on the team will be as clear as they’ve ever been during the rebuild. This season can – and should – result in better, more watchable baseball on the South Side. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect.

Each offseason is more important than the last. This offseason has been more important than the 2018-2019 offseason, and the White Sox have shown that by being aggressive with Grandal and Wheeler. The 2020-2021 offseason will still be even more important than this one, as the holes will need to be filled effectively to begin winning in 2021.

Listen, yesterday wasn’t a good day for White Sox Twitter. Things got ugly because we all want this team to win, and we all have different ways we want them to get there. But moving forward, I hope we can all learn to be a little less reactionary – myself included. Missing out on Zack Wheeler didn’t kill the rebuild. It doesn’t mean players will never come to the White Sox – Yasmani Grandal is proof of that. It simply means Rick Hahn and Co. are going to have to remain aggressive the rest of this offseason and get a little creative while doing so.

And us as fans? All we can do is sit back, relax, and strap it down, because this offseason is far from over. Despite what it may feel like, what happened on Wednesday was a sign of good things to come, even if we didn’t like the result.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your opinion on this, so let me know in the comments or on Twitter @jlazowski14

Featured Photo: New York Mets/ Twitter (@Mets)

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Joe Cool

Now the Sox should just go all in on Straus give hive 5/150 his 30 mil a year, the offer for Wheeler was pretty close to that

Aaron Sapoznik

I agree with most of this. Two points: Julio Teheran is a free agent so the White Sox wouldn’t need to surrender assets for him in a trade, not that he would be high on their shopping list among the other FA starting pitchers.

Secondly, I am not a big fan of the White Sox signing either Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna to be their core RF going forward. Their priority should be targeting a RF who hits left-handed and has the ability to actually be a decent defender. That avenue appears better found via a trade, with the Dodgers also being a rumored matchup partner with the White Sox. Hopefully that involves Alex Verdugo with Joc Pederson as a more likely fall back ‘rental’ option due to his cheaper ‘acquisition’ cost. If a deal can’t come together with either or some other potentially favorable trade match like the Mets, Rangers or Cubs then the White Sox could always forego handedness and sign Yasiel Puig in free agency to a short term deal with the hopes he can finally maximize his enormous potential in an environment with so many fellow Cuban countryman surrounding him.

John J Buckley

Sucks but the Sox have Dylan Covey and Carson Fulmer in their back pocket.

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