Injuries shrinking value White Sox’ long term deals

SAN DIEGO — When the White Sox signed many of their rising stars to long-term deals before their free-agent seasons, presumably getting them under contract for multiple years at team friendly costs, it seemed like a master stroke of good business sense.

Deals for Yoan Moncada ($70 million), Luis Robert ($50 million) Eloy Jimenez ($43 million) and Tim Anderson ($25 million) gave the players financial security with potential for even bigger deals in the future. The team got multiple players with star potential and performance value at controlled costs for multiple years.

Both sides should benefit in theory.

The Sox had done the same with pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and their team-friendly contracts made each one valuable trade pieces which were used to acquire Moncada, Kopech, Jimenez and Dylan Cease.

The Sox banked on their young players with financial security to perform to projections and to be healthy enough to play regularly.

“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,” general manager Rick Hahn said last winter.

But now, three years after signing Jimenez to a six-year deal with club options for 2025 and ’26; two years after signing Moncada to a five-year, deal with a club option through ’25, and two years after signing Robert to a six-year contract deal with two club options through ’27, their inability to avoid injuries — and in Moncada’s case this season not play to expectations when he was healthy — has cast concerns about the contracts.

Suddenly, those deals don’t look as great as a whole as they once did.

Robert will have played in 97 of the team games and Anderson in 79 this season. Both are done for the year with wrist and finger injuries, respectively, and Jimenez, who had surgery to repair a hamstring tear in April, has played in 80 entering Saturday’s game against the Padres and will hobble around through the last six games because of it. Moncada played his 100th game Saturday.

After playing in 56 of 60 games during the abbreviated 2020 season due to COVID-19, Robert played in only 68 games last season. Jimenez played in 55 and Moncada in 144, which by these trends looks like a gold standard but shouldn’t be.

Moncada set his performance standard in 2019 when he batted .315/.367/.549 with 25 homers and a .915 OPS, essentially giving the club motivation to invest. But after signing his deal, Moncada was afflicted by COVID to unknown extents and batted .225/.320/.385 with six homers in 52 games in 2020 and .225/.320/.385 with 14 homers in 2020. Hamstring issues have been problematic throughout, and an oblique strain on the last day of spring training this season set the tone for a bad year.

When the Sox weigh pros and cons this offseason of whether to re-sign Jose Abreu, 35, whose contract is up, they will have to consider his age as well as his diminished power in 2022. They will also consider his 180 hits which ranked second in the American League through Friday, and his durability. While watching almost everyone else go on and off the IL or get occasional days off to rest legs, Abreu stays healthy and insists on playing through aches and pains. He played all 60 games during his 2020 MVP season after playing 159 the year before. Abreu played in 152 last season and leads the team with 154 in 2022. AJ Pollock is next with 134.

It’s not out of the question that, in the end, Moncada, Robert, Jimenez and Anderson collectively make it all worthwhile, but for the first time, the idea of trading one of them to revitalize and reconfigure the roster could surface this offseason. The problem for the Sox is, trade values can’t be viewed what they once were because durability issues.

As a group, the aforementioned four were available for 55 percent of the disappointing Sox’ games this season, a good place to start when identifying what went terribly wrong in 2022.

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