Around 12:45 am CT on March 14, Hector Gomez put out this tweet, shocking pretty much anyone who read it:
Sure enough, news came out today that the White Sox would indeed extend Eloy Jimenez before he ever played a game in Major League Baseball.
This move is certainly an interesting one, so let’s start to break it down a little bit:
Why this could be a FANTASTIC move
The White Sox have certainly set precedent for moves like these. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Tim Anderson have all recently signed very team-friendly contracts; they are what allowed the White Sox to get so much in return for both Sale and Q when the rebuild began. It’s a simple concept: give the player guaranteed money now with the goal of saving in the future if the player reaches their ceiling. The Sox never paid Sale more than $9M. That’s a steal.
The Jimenez deal comes out to about $7M AAV in guaranteed money. Assuming Eloy Jimenez becomes the high-caliber star we all expect him to be, in 2-3 years, paying him ONLY $7M a year will be an absolute steal. It’s a calculated risk the White Sox are taking – assume Eloy is going to be a stud who will be worth well more than $7M in arbitration (for example, Nolan Arenado made close to $30M in arbitration this year).
Obviously, there are still more deals about the options and incentives to come, but $43M guaranteed for a potential all-star has the potential to be an absolute steal.
Why I WORRY about this move
Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams have made it clear: “The money [they had for Machado] will be spent.” The immediate thought that jumped into every Sox fans’ head at this news was: “This is how the money is being spent.” The reason this is such an issue is because, if indeed this is where the money is being spent, it completely goes against how a rebuild is able to succeed. The precedent has been set with teams like the Astros and Cubs: acquire young, CHEAP talent that you DON’T have to pay big money for, and use the money you are saving to acquire the big boys you need when the time comes.
Kenny Williams already had me: worried when he made this comment a few weeks ago:
Our fans would have been much more disappointed in our inability to keep this next core together,’’ he said. “We would have overextended ourselves had we gone to an uncomfortable level.’’
– Kenny Williams on the Machado contract
As I’ve mentioned before, the rebuild only works if you spend the money BEFORE all your young guys that make up your core are paid the large sums of money. For the White Sox to save all that money to lock up their core in the future assumes the core does anything worth locking up in the future. If the White Sox decide to spend all this money on team-friendly deals for guys like Eloy, Kopech, Moncada, and Cease, this rebuild will almost certainly stall. You can’t build a championship roster strictly from home-grown talent; you need to supplement this talent with proven guys. However, I doubt $43M guaranteed is going to limit the Sox in any way.
The other way this deal could go terribly wrong is way more obvious: Eloy Jimenez has never played a game in the majors. We have absolutely no idea how good he will actually be. Paying a player before they ever play a game in the majors is an incredibly risky move. But again, it seems that the risk-reward in this situation heavily favors the reward.
The Verdict: Way too soon to say
Too many variables are still out there to determine what the long-term impact of this move will end up being. Regardless, to lock up an important part of the future is not an unfamiliar move; just this offseason, Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, and Mike Trout have all signed long-term deals with their current team. It’s becoming more common with the construction of the current CBA.
Now only one question remains: does this mean Eloy makes the Opening Day roster? I sure hope this is what that will mean. Rick Hahn will undoubtedly give us more details soon.
Featured Photo: NBC Sports Chicago