Yes! We’re almost through the worst six weeks of the sports year. Just nine more days and then Selection Sunday loads us up and we’re off and running all the way through the Bears winning next year’s Super Bowl. (C’mon, just go with it.)
Midway Minute has been fun to write this past month, but it’s only going to get a lot better. Thanks for being here.
Moncada gets his money, Sox lock up their core
The Sox made big news on Thursday, signing third baseman Yoan Moncada to a five-year, $65 million deal that contains a club option for a sixth year that could boost the total value to $90 million.
You have questions, I have answers, so let’s get to it.
What’s the main takeaway here?
The White Sox like the core of young players they’ve assembled and were just able to prop the World Series window open for two extra years at a reasonable price.
Two years? Wasn’t Moncada’s deal for five or six?
Well, yes. But Moncada was already under team control through 2023. What this extension did was fix the costs for his three arbitration years that start in 2021 and buy out his first two years of free agency in 2024 and 2025. If everything goes right, the team will be in a championship window by then and can theoretically use the cost certainty to add complementary players in those offseasons instead of worrying about how much it would take to keep Moncada around.
Is this deal a risk?
Anything’s a risk when you’re talking money this big for a club that’s not in the financial tier of the Yankees and Dodgers. But MLB Trade Rumors recently projected that Alex Bregman’s five-year, $100 million extension was a suitable comp and the Sox are coming in well ahead of that. Moncada is getting the fourth-highest AAV for someone with this little service time, but it’s just the cost of doing business right now.
How will he perform in 2020?
There’s some concern that Moncada’s low walk rate (7.2 percent in 2019) and 100 points above-average BABIP last season could make him a target for regression. But he’s good enough in the field at a premium position and his 2019 slash line was so healthy (.315/.367/.548 with 25 homers) that there’s room for some variance when it comes to the deal’s value.
What happens after the extension is done?
The Sox will cross that Dan Ryan Expressway when they come to it. Moncada will be turning 31 and looking for one last really big payday. It’ll be up to the Sox if they want to commit big dollars to the latter half of that contract, which would presumably take Moncada into his deep 30s.
But first things first: If the Sox can’t win in this nice 5-6 year window they’ve opened for themselves, they’ve got problems.
Is the window really looking that wide open?
From a contractual standpoint, yes. The Sox have Luis Robert under control until 2027, Eloy Jimenez and Aaron Bummer until 2026, Moncada and Dylan Cease until 2025 and Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech through 2024 and Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal through 2023. (One wonders how a franchise that has historically not paid pitchers will handle another season of success by Giolito.)
That’s not even mentioning top prospects like Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal and Dane Dunning, whose service time clocks haven’t even started yet.
Does this mean the White Sox won the Chris Sale trade?
I saw a few people suggesting that on Twitter, particularly because Sale has been doing the arm specialist tour and it looks like the funky windup that made us hold our breath on every pitch has finally caught up to him.
But I think that’s silly, The Red Sox got the World Series title they were aiming for when they traded Moncada and Michael Kopech for Sale in December 2016. As a few Red Sox fans mentioned, flags fly forever.
Plus, the White Sox didn’t make that trade thinking they’d win it if they’d simply be able to open the checkbook for Moncada down the road. (Yes, there’s a certain level of vindication there, but I hope we’re not at the point where we’re exulting over executives signing checks as much as we are wins on the field.)
That said, that was a trade the rebuilding White Sox had to make and the haul was the best one in front of them. It’s one of the rare deals where both sides can look back 4-5 years later and feel happy.
Time will tell if the Sox can look back in another five and feel even happier.
Know a Sox fan frent who’d enjoy this?
Ohio State 71, Illinois 63
So did the Illini fall victim to the first Minute jinx? Winning in Columbus was always going to be tough, especially when the refs sent the Buckeyes to the line 28 times — 18 more than Illinois. Watching Belleville star E.J. Liddell —a two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball — come off the bench to score 17 big points didn’t feel great either.
Illinois now needs a win over Iowa on Sunday, plus losses from Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan State for a share of the Big Ten title. It’s probably not going to happen.
Blackhawks 4 , Oilers 3
Just when you thought you were out … they. pull. you. back. in. Alex DeBrincat scored twice and the Hawks hung on in the third to win their fourth straight. A wild-card spot is getting closer (standings here) but there’s still too many teams ahead of the Hawks to get too lathered up. Tonight’s trip to Detroit is a gimme two points the team can’t afford to biff.
Blackhawks at Red Wings (6:30 NBC Sports Chicago)
Pacers at Bulls (7 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)
Sox at Cubs (2:05 pm, Marquee)
Penn State at Northwestern ( 3 pm, BTN)
Sox at Giants (2:05 pm)
Cubs (SS) at Indians (2:05 pm)
Reds (SS) at Cubs (SS) (3:05 pm, Marquee)
Bulls at Nets (2 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)
Iowa at Illinois (6 pm, BTN)
Blues at Blackhawks (6:30 pm, NBC Sports Network)
Royals at Sox (SS) (3:05pm, MLB.com)
Sox (SS) at Padres (3:10pm)
D-Backs at Cubs (SS) (3:05 pm)
Reds (SS) vs Cubs (SS) (3:05 pm, Marquee)*
*Game is in Las Vegas
• Good thing I sent out yesterday’s newsletter early, because those Eli Manning and Bears dinner rumors sure didn’t last long. (Tribune)
• YouTubeTV and Sinclair came to agreement on some smaller Fox RSNs, but are still squabbling over the New York and Los Angeles markets. Why that’s probably not good news for those of us hoping to get Marquee on the service. (Bleacher Nation)
• Don’t believe the Sam Presti to the Bulls rumors, your annoyed but very friendly BullsBlogger writes. (BlogABull)
• Mike Ditka will be the ceremonial manager for the Chicago Dogs when the Rosemont baseball team kicks off its season on May 22. The team plans to wear Ditka-inspired jerseys and will also hand out Ditka bobbleheads. (WGN)
• Tim Anderson teaches Chuck Garfien the art of the bat flip. (NBC Sports Chicago)
• Psssst: I save all the ketchup I don’t use on hot dogs for tamales instead.
• Not Chicago related, but your challenge for this Friday is to click this video and not watch it at least five times without laughing once.
You failed, didn’t you?
Anyway, that’s it for this week. Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. Enjoy your weekend!