Six-run sixth falls short in 12-7 loss

Staying hot: Andrew Vaughn hit an RBI single in today’s loss. His spring batting average sits at .350, while his OPS is 1.080. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


It was a forgettable day for the pitching staff, as they allowed 12 runs (all earned) on 18 hits in a high-scoring, 12-7 loss to the Giants in Scottsdale.

Dallas Keuchel got the start for the White Sox. Though he started strong, things did not end that way for him. After throwing two scoreless innings, Keuchel allowed back-to-back RBI singles by longtime Giants Brandon Belt and Buster Posey. The White Sox got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth on a Nicky Delmonico single to make the score 2-1. But, the Giants came right back in the bottom half, with an RBI ground-rule double by Jaylin Davis and an RBI single by Brandon Crawford. Keuchel’s final line was the following: three and two-thirds innings, four runs (all earned), eight hits, one walk, and three strikeouts. Keuchel’s spring ERA increased to 5.87.

The White Sox’s next pitcher, José Ruiz, fared no better. Ruiz faced four batters, and though he struck out two of them, the other two (Darin Ruf and 2018 second overall pick Joey Bart) hit homers. When Ruiz left the game in the fifth, the White Sox trailed by a score of 6-1.

The offense appeared to be having a rough day until, incredibly, an explosion in the sixth inning put the White Sox in the lead. The first four batters of the inning (top 100 prospect Nick Madrigal, top 10 prospect Luis Robert, Nomar Mazara, and top 25 prospect Andrew Vaughn) all singled.

All of a sudden, it was a 6-3 game, and the White Sox had two runners on with no outs. Delmonico broke the streak by striking out, but James McCann quickly started a new streak, as he tripled (yes, James McCann did that). Zack Collins doubled to tie the game, and Cheslor Cuthbert put the Sox ahead with a single.

Unfortunately, the lead did not last. From that point forward, the White Sox’s bats were quiet, while the Giants were far from finished. A two-out, two-run homer by Zach Green off Alex Colomé put the Giants ahead by a score of 8-7. Green’s home run turned out to be the decisive hit. The score remained 8-7 until the bottom of the eighth, when the Giants put up a big, crooked number against Bernardo Flores to put this one out of reach.

Codi Heuer was a diamond in the rough as far as the pitching was concerned. Heuer pitched a scoreless inning, retiring all three batters he faced and striking out two of them. Heuer has not allowed any earned runs this spring (five innings pitched, 0.600 WHIP).

After this 12-7 loss, the White Sox’s spring record is 8-6, and there will be split squad action tomorrow. The first game will be against the Royals at 3:05 CST, and the second game will be against the Padres at 3:10 CST. Alex McRae is set to start against the Royals, while Reynaldo López is the probable starter against the Padres.

Look, it’s spring training, OK? White Sox fall to Padres, 3-1

Mark Buehrle, is that you? Don Cooper looks on as Dallas Keuchel readies himself for his first appearance of the spring. Also, that glove. I need that glove. Dallas, care to help another lefty out? (Janice Scurio/South Side Hit Pen)


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Hey, look, it’s spring training.

What else do you need to hear? We saw a solid, four-inning start from seafoam-green glove owner Dallas Keuchel, who gave up one run on six hits, striking out one and walking one. However, the White Sox fell to the San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch on Monday afternoon, 3-1.

Though yours truly is especially guilty for being over-excited by the lineup announcement — what, Moncada and Anderson as a 1-2 punch? Abreu batting third? Honestly, I’m still biting my fist — the offensive production seemed to take Monday off. No one seemed to be able to figure out Padres starter Chris Paddack.

Yeah, it’s spring training, and it’s probably not too ideal to unpack a game like this, but, heck, let’s do it anyway.


Chris Paddack happened, OK?

What was Paddack’s deal anyway? If I can be any clearer on this, well, he might be good. Paddack is carrying over a 2.9 bWAR from his rookie season last year, where he went 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA — and a 0.981 WHIP. This afternoon, Paddack did not fall behind in the count at all; he seemed to stay ahead of hitters consistently and especially took advantage of notoriously impatient hitters, namely Tim Anderson early in the first inning.

 

Though I was hoping to see some reprieve once Paddack was removed, the Padres bullpen didn’t waver, holding the Good Guys to one solitary earned run off of five hits. Eloy Jiménez accounted for 28% of hit production for the White Sox, going 2-for-3.

Because I’m legally required to talk about Yermín Mercedes in anything I write now, I must mention that Mercedes legged out an incredible infield single in the eighth.

The ninth inning offered some classic RBDQ dramatics as Adam Engel reached on a wild pitch third strike, advancing to second on the play.Luis González singled, scoring Engel, accounting for the solitary White Sox run, but the rally was unfortunately stifled when Danny Mendick grounded into a double play, ending the game.


Some good things did, in fact, happen

We got to see some flashy defense by Anderson, Leury García, and Daniel Palka. Anderson especially helped Keuchel get some of his nine ground ball outs with some fantastic defensive work. I think this is a bright spot worth pointing out, given Anderson is frequently criticized for his defense, which he’s intended to improve over the offseason. This second inning play by Palka had me especially rolling:

James McCann might be better at framing? I caught him doing this exercise before game time, and he might have pulled a strike or two back into the zone:

We also saw a handful of solid outings from the pen: Aaron Bummer, Steve Cishek, and Kelvin Herrera gave up no hits in their respective one-inning performances.


Keuchel was fine, honestly

Though the first inning might have been worrisome, Keuchel had an overall solid outing. He’s continuously said that he feels like he’s ahead of schedule, and gave us four decent innings and could have probably eaten more if this was a regular season game, like he’s wont to do. He held the Padres lineup to soft contact; nothing was really hit hard from my casual observation sitting in Section 117 at Camelback Ranch.

It’s good to remember to never fall out of love with a veteran during spring training.


Other sundry items

I was able to catch a little bit of the B game vs. the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday morning, where I saw Kodi Medeiros throw a few innings to Seby Zavala, who airmailed a throw late in the game, failing to throw a baserunner out. Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Blake Rutherford and Luis Basabe were able to get some work in, while Brewers pitchers Adrian Houser and J.P. Feyereisen attempted to do the same. The White Sox dropped that game to the Brewers, 2-0.

It’s spring training, y’all.

The spring fun continues at Camelback Ranch tomorrow. This time, the White Sox send Reynaldo López up against the Oakland Athletics; they’ll be sending Chris Bassitt our way. The game is scheduled for a 2:05 CST start, and Darren Black has the SSHP coverage.

Dallas Keuchel, and the elephant in the room

 


Dallas Keuchel was the first of the 2017 Houston Astros to speak after baseball issued its report on the illegal sign-stealing operation. Going first, especially in apologies, does wonders for reputation, but in this case, going first just meant Keuchel did not have to go through the firestorm his former teammates created for themselves at the start of spring training.

Keuchel’s apology was clearly not as bad as fake good guy/player Alex Bregman’s and definitely better than the fake MVP José Altuve, but Keuchel will forever be a part of that team and their fake World Series rings. Thus, Keuchel still was rationalizing his success. And though it was not widely covered — probably because he was at Soxfest — Keuchel still had atrocious and unprofessional answers, which continued to get worse.

Let’s start with Mike Fiers, because apparently being a whistleblower or somebody who takes a risk to expose details on certain injustices is a bad thing now. If anybody is more mad at Fiers than other Astros players (like David Ortiz, for example), there is something wrong with you.

Was Fiers involved in the cheating? Yes.
Did he benefit from the cheating when he was there? Yes.
Did he and the Oakland A’s try to tell MLB about it in 2018? Yes.
Because MLB did nothing, did Fiers take a direct route to blow the whistle on the Astros and go to the press to force MLB to do something? Yes.

Without Mike Fiers, would any of this have come to light? Well, judging by the reaction of everybody involved in the cheating and the fact MLB did nothing when they were informed, no. Fiers did baseball and their fans a huge service after he was involved in a great disservice in 2017. As fans, he should be applauded, and none of those other Astros, including Keuchel, should be applauded for anything.

Keuchel is among the current and former Astros angry for getting caught cheating, and now their legacy and standing is broken.

This isn’t a new scenario. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa will forever be stained by steroid usage. Bonds and Clemens are still active on the Hall of Fame ballot, while McGwire and Sosa seemingly will fall short of induction. Steroids will forever be the first thing noted about any of those players in the history books, just as is the case for the Eight Men Out of 1919 Black Sox infamy.

Keuchel and the rest of those 2017 World Series winners, including major award winners like Altuve, know that they and their accomplishments are tainted forever. That is seemingly the true reason for their contempt for Fiers. Instead of being called a Cy Young winner, a World Series champion, a multi-time Gold Glover, and All-Star, Keuchel will be reduced to “cheater.” All of those other accolades will just be footnotes, and that’s the real reason why the Astros are hiding behind the old trope of “nobody brings locker room talk out of the locker room” to illustrate their disgust with Fiers. Just because Keuchel is not as tone deaf as say Carlos Correa (it is hard to be), does not mean he should get a pass in Chicago, even if he is now on the White Sox.

Now, some might say that because Keuchel is a pitcher he did not benefit from the cheating, and that the true cheaters are Bregman, Altuve and Correa because the sign-stealing and trash-banging helped them directly. That’s true to a degree, because if there were a cheating scale, those hitters would be at the top. But what about an indirect or passive advantage for Astros pitchers? The easy one is the simplest stat category: the win. If the hitters are doing better, they are scoring more runs, which helps starting pitchers get wins. However, in this era of advanced attention to metrics, the win does not really illustrate the true edge a pitcher might have.

Then, Jonathan Lucroy came illustrated everything he and his battery mates had to do every time they were in Houston.

From an ESPN story by Joon Lee, Lucroy says of the illegal sign-stealing, it “was a mental challenge to really overcome that. It’s easier said than done. But it’s a shame, and I’m glad it came out and it came to light.”

Lucroy went into more depth about how some pitchers could not handle the extra stress of being in Houston: “[Pitchers] don’t want to sit there and try to think about decoding your signs and thinking about your indicators and all the different things that you’re doing. They want to sit there and just worry about executing. Some guys can handle it and some guys can’t. It was very difficult to do. The guys were calling time and stepping out of the box as you take time to put your sign sequence down, and it was making games long and leaving guys out there. Their system, not only did it work with them having the signs and being able to see them, but it made our guys sit out there longer. You had to put down a more complex set of signs and everything. I’m glad it’s been taken care of. It was out of hand and it affected the games in a lot of different ways.”

In other words, yeah, pitchers on the Astros had an advantage at home because they did not have to deal with rampant, illegal, and amoral cheaters in the other dugout. (At least none that we know of yet.) Keuchel could go out there on the mound and, as Lucroy says, just execute. Meanwhile, to keep the A’s example going, Sean Manaea has to worry about new signs all the time while knowing there was a possibility his opponent could crack the code and pass information to batters via illegal means.

As Lucroy said, some pitchers could handle it and some could not, but what is true throughout is that Astros pitchers did not have the same mental stresses their opposition did. Imagine every time an Astros batter got a hit or clobbered a pitch for a homer, you had to go back to the mound wondering if they’d cracked your pitch code? How could that not be on your mind with every pitch and every failure, and how is that not an advantage for Astros pitchers who don’t have to deal with such stress?

A multitude of baseball teams probably cheated with sign-stealing in some way at the same time the Astros won the 2017 World Series. We know the Red Sox did in 2018 to some extent, though unlike the Astros, we do not know if they cheated in the playoffs because no report has come out yet. But even assuming that there are probably a bunch of teams who have cheated in some form or fashion doesn’t make what the Astros did OK.

Sure, 2005 happened, the Astros got swept even though every game was close … maybe the organization felt the need to get the extra edge. However the cheating plan was hatched, it doesn’t mean Houston deserves to recognized as 2017 World Series champions.

No, Dallas Keuchel, you and your teammates did not earn that World Series, you stole it, and MLB doesn’t even care enough to make you give it back.

But as always, Tim Anderson, the Captain, is right there if you need anything.

Friday’s arbitration deadline makes a busy week busier for the White Sox

Big payday awaits: Closer Colomé is the sole significant salary expenditure expected through the arbitration process. (@AlexanderColome)


The White Sox continue to add talent this offseason, and right-handed reliever Steve Cishek is the latest addition to the squad. The signing isn’t yet official but in short order, the organization’s expenditures over the course of this offseason will surpass $200 million in total outlay. With a reported agreement for designated hitter Edwin Encarnación also on the precipice of becoming official, it could be a busy week of roster juggling for the franchise.

Friday is the deadline for clubs to reach agreement with arbitration-eligible players. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox has been involved in trade discussions in advance of his penultimate year of arbitration, and he’s expected to set a record for salary among players yet to reach free agency. Kris Bryant‘s situation with the Chicago Cubs is tenuous as well, due partly to the effects of the salary arbitration process. While the White Sox won’t be the focus across the sport in this regard, the club has its own decisions to make by Friday’s exchange date.

As an organization, the White Sox generally like to settle on a number rather than exchanging figures to be glossed over by an arbitrator. The franchise went many years without an arbitration fight, prior to Avisaíl García and Yolmer Sánchez heading down the process in recent years.

This year, six players are eligible to receive salary arbitration from the club.

Catcher James McCann agreed to a $5.4 million contract with the club early in December, and he’s signed on for his final season before he reaches unrestricted free agency. More of these deals should become official in the coming days. Pitchers Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Carlos Rodón along with outfielders Leury García and Nomar Mazara are the arbitration-eligible players on the White Sox. Fighting their own players is atypical to the modus operandi employed by the organization, so it’s expected that the five players will settle before the deadline.

The fine folks at MLB Trade Rumors do a commendable job of predicting arbitration raises annually and they see Colomé and Marshall getting somewhere in the neighborhood of $10.3 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

Rodón is in a tricky situation while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as well, earning $4.2 million last year for just 34 ⅔ innings. Rodón is projected to receive $4.5 million for the 2020 season, in his third year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player.

García, a 28-year-old superutility player, earned $1.55 million last season; because he plays multiple positions for the White Sox, he’s slated to turn his 1.3 fWAR season into a projected $4 million commitment.

Outfielder Mazara is expected to receive a salary bump as well. The 24-year-old has been a bit of an enigma early on in his career. Regarded as one of the best prospects in the game on his way to the Rangers from the minor leagues, Nomar hasn’t lived up to his high billing. The lefty slugger earned $3.3 million in 2019; while struggling mightily vs left-handed pitching throughout his career, Mazara posted an .844 OPS with a 110 wRC+ vs RHP in 2019. He’s expected to receive $5.7 million for 2020.


The 2020 payroll, in review

Jerry Reinsdorf has opened his wallet this offseason, upping overall payroll from some uncommon recent lows. In 2019, the White Sox were 26th in baseball with a total payroll of $91,371,201. The organization currently has leaped to 16th in  payroll and is expected to spend between $125-$130 million in player salary for this upcoming season.

It can be astutely argued that they haven’t gone far enough, but the increase is a marked improvement that has quelled some recent criticism of the front office. The first addition to the 2020 club was catcher Yasmani Grandal back in November. The 31-year-old signed a four-year contract worth $73 million, so the switch-hitting backstop will earn $18.25 million next season.

The front office followed up the contract with a new deal for first baseman José Abreu. Abreu signed a three-year, $50 million contract extension with the team and he’ll earn $12.6 million against the payroll in 2020.

The next two signings slotted right into the starting rotation. First, Gio González signed a one-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million. And the biggest addition on the pitching front came days later, when the White Sox inked veteran southpaw Dallas Keuchel. The 32-year-old will earn $55.5 million over the course of his three-year commitment with the White Sox, and $18 million in 2020.

With the agreements and the trade for Mazara at December’s winter meetings, the front office effectively completed their shopping list. The decision-makers landed two starting pitchers, a right fielder and found some offensive pop from the left side. While the designated shopping list was all checked off, the organization remained motivated to add talent to the 2020 club. Edwin Encarnación is expected to make $11 million next season as the team’s primary designated hitter. Better production in that spot was another priority of general manager Rick Hahn.

And most recently, even the bullpen got a tuneup:

The 33-year-old reliever is the latest addition in Chicago. He’ll earn $5.25 million in 2020 and with an option year, could also be around for multiple seasons.

While five free agents have been added to the team, one of the bigger moves of the offseason was struck with a player already in the organization. Luis Robert will be the opening day center fielder after signing an extension that will keep him in Chicago for the next eight years.

Before their offseason signing frenzy, the White Sox had committed just $14.8 million to three players: Shortstop Tim Anderson, outfielder Eloy Jiménez and reliever Kelvin Herrera were the only members of the team not under arbitration or pre-arb status. Much has been done since that time, giving the roster a radically different look by Opening Day. While the heavy lifting has likely been consummated, another reliever, right-handed hitting outfielder or utility infielder could still be added to the mix, in addition to a bevy of non-roster invitees.

The current White Sox payroll according to Spotrac.com is $119.2 million. Depending on what else the organization decides to add before spring training, the official 2020 payroll should be in the $130 million range. The White Sox are projected to be 16th in baseball, and there’s no reason they can’t ascend into the 11-15 range on an annual basis, as the Washington Nationals are currently 10th in baseball with a total hovering around $152 million.

The White Sox don’t seem likely to threaten the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold anytime soon, and it’s not necessary for them to do so. The payroll should increase continually, right along with the expectations of the team. And nobody will care what the payroll is as long as the team wins division titles and finds a way to keep their own over this next decade.

 

South Side Hit Pen Podcast 4: The Stove is running Hot

 

Just Like Heaven: Santa Hahn packed the stocking with both Keuchel and Gio González this week. (Tom Borowski/South Side Hit Pen)


This week, Brett Ballantini and Joe Resis discuss a scorching Hot Stove for the White Sox, with the free agent signings of Dallas Keuchel and Gio González. Is the rotation finally Covey-proofed? Will White Sox Twitter chill? Have the White Sox really not been meaningfully in first place since 2012?

Now Dallas is in Chicago

Rotation, fortified: The White Sox added a solid No. 2, and a southpaw to boot, in Dallas Keuchel. (@KidKeuchy)


Per Jeff Passan and other sources, Dallas Keuchel and the Chicago White Sox have reached an agreement on a three-year, $55.5 million deal with a vesting fourth year option that could take the contract to $74 million.

Keuchel started 19 games with the Braves in 2019, going 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 112 ⅔ innings. Keuchel is a left-handed sinkerballer who gets tons of ground balls, which will serve him well in the homer-friendly G-Spot. DK should immediately step in to the No. 2 slot of the Sox rotation, and is a nice contrast to the rotation’s right-handed power pitchers Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo López.

What the addition means for the 2020 White Sox

The Sox now have a couple things that they haven’t had on their pitching staff in a long time: depth and flexibility. Keuchel is steady if unspectacular at this point in his career. He’s not the Cy Young winner he was for the Astros in 2015, but he’s still good. He will keep you in games and eat innings for you, and that’s something the Sox sorely need.

Barring injury setbacks to some of the guys coming back from Tommy John, the Sox will have a good amount of depth and flexibility on their pitching staff. Maybe the Sox decide Michael Kopech or López would be best served pitching in the back end of their bullpen in 2020. Considering relief pitching market isn’t strong right now, those are the exact type of internal options a team with aspirations to compete would need. When the inevitable injury bug bites the Sox in 2020, and it will, they have actual major league pitching options to fill in. There shouldn’t be any more time for the Dylan Coveys, Odrisamer Despaignes, Ross Detwilers, or Hector Santiagos of the world.

Keuchel is the fourth big addition the White Sox have made, after Yasmani Grandal, Gio González and Nomar Mazara. If the Sox can add another right-handed bat (think Edwin Encarnacion, Marcell Ozuna, or Nicholas Castellanos), count on continued development from their young players, and add a bullpen piece or two, they can realistically compete for a playoff spot next year.

So sit back, relax, and strap it down: 2020 is going to be a wild ride!

Fixing a Hole: White Sox still looking to patch rotation

Who’s on the South Side starters short list to sign? This guy! (@HyunJinRyu99)


Zack Wheeler is truly the one who got away for the Chicago White Sox.

A swift and sudden deviation from the franchise’s free agent strategy was evident after the embarrassing escapade involving the pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, with many fans sick of hearing about the White Sox settling for second and bragging about being hypothetical bridesmaids.

Atypical to the Machado discussions, the front office handled the Wheeler negotiations like a large-market operation should. With Wheeler, the organization was out in front of the pack and jumped the marketplace in a similar fashion to how they landed free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal in November. Cold, hard cash had more to do with the early signing than anything else, and a similar plan was put together to land the 29-year-old righthander.

There were many reports linking the White Sox to Wheeler prior the Winter Meetings, more fact than fiction as the front office was bearing down on its top pitching target. But after offering five years and $125 million and making a significant gamble on upside, the White Sox were spurned once again. For no fault of their own, Wheeler ended up remaining closer to his family on the East Coast and the White Sox were left pondering what the future would entail without their pitching prize.

The front office had reason to believe that a deal with Wheeler appeared imminent — until he changed course. The South Side decision makers have lost out similarly for pitchers like Jordan Lyles and Wade Miley who chose a destination (Texas) or familiarity (Cincinnati) instead of taking the money to play in Chicago. These things happen every year in free agency, and not only to the White Sox.

The organization will have to take the arrows that they’ve rightfully earned after 11 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. The White Sox just haven’t secured the trust of their fanbase, regardless of how sound their 2020 free agent plan actually was. People don’t like to be told how to act, but irrationality is at an all-time high in response to the perceived inaction by the club on the pitching front. A minor league signing as minute as Ross Detwiler‘s return had social media in an uproar, despite the need for depth at Triple-A Charlotte being an offseason necessity as well.


Salvageable winter for Sox? 

There are still two free agent starters on the market who would offer the White Sox a stabilizing force in the middle of their young rotation going forward. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score has reported on the club’s interest in lefties Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com wrote a detailed piece on Scott Boras’ remaining clients, and the two southpaws are among them.

According to Feinsand, Boras seems to be focused on getting deals completed. “The pitching market has obviously been fast and furious as it was from the start,” Boras says. “Clubs are identifying their needs, and we’re certainly narrowing the corridor of finality. It could happen soon.” While baseball’s most recognizable power agent wouldn’t disclose the names of interested parties, Feinsand listed the White Sox as one of the primary suitors for both pitchers.

Ryu signed with the Dodgers back in 2013 after pitching multiple seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. He just completed his best season as a professional after compiling a 4.8 fWAR and finishing in second for the National League Cy Young Award. The 6´3´´, 255-pound southpaw has battled myriad injuries in his time pitching in the United States. He was mostly healthy in his 182 ⅔ innings last season. The 32-year-old lefty posted a 2.32 ERA with a 3.10 FIP. Ryu only threw 82 ⅓ innings in 2018 but posted a 1.97 ERA in that limited time. That innings total was fewer than 2017, when he threw 126.

Keuchel’s market was nonexistent at a price point that suited him last offseason, so he signed a one-year placemarker deal late and joined the Atlanta Braves after the All-Star break in 2019. The 31-year-old southpaw no longer has a draft pick attached to his services, making his market more vibrant this time around. The 6´3´´, 205-pounder posted a 3.75 ERA with a 4.06 xFIP in 112 ⅔ innings last year. However, Keuchel hasn’t been the same since his 5.7 fWAR campaign for the Astros back in 2015.

Keuchel has a solid reputation as a teammate and has a long history of working positively with younger starters. He still induces lots of ground balls and would fit in nicely as a stabilizing force in the middle of the White Sox rotation. After seeing the deals already inked on the free agent market, it appears that Dallas would be seeking a four-year contract at a similar annual average value to what Madison Bumgarner pulled down in Arizona.

Another rumored name to fill the gaping hole in the rotation is Boston’s David Price. Feinsand and others have also linked the former Commodore to the White Sox in trade discussions. The Red Sox have indicated a need to get under the competitive balance tax, and shedding some of his exorbitant salary could be one way to appease the wishes of ownership. It doesn’t seem likely that new baseball operations chief Chaim Bloom would attach a guy like Andrew Benintendi to move Price’s deal, but Boston could offer to pay down the contract substantially.

The rumor is that Boston might be willing to eat $30 million of Price’s contract, and a three-year, $66 million outlay would be much more palatable for the White Sox. Price is a leader and lauded as a fantastic teammate. The 34-year-old former first overall pick is recovering from wrist surgery but should be ready for spring training. The southpaw posted a 2.3 fWAR with a 3.62 FIP and averaged almost 11 K/9, making him an attractive alternative if things don’t work out on the free agent market.


Insulating the rotation

According to reports, a familiar face will be playing his home games at 35th and Shields for the first time.

The White Sox drafted González with the 38th overall pick back in 2004. He’s never actually pitched a game with the big league club, but this is his third spin with the organization. The 34-year-old lefty offers insulation to a starting rotation in need of two veterans. González is a back-end starter at this point in his career, a fly ball pitcher who walks too many guys, but he posted a 3.50 ERA and accumulated 1.4 fWAR in 87 innings with the Brewers last year. He’s also familiar with new catcher Grandal and is said to be an excellent teammate.

González is a move in the same vein as Wade Miley or Martin Perez would have been. The White Sox need to procure two starters this offseason. The order in which they do so isn’t important. The perceived lack of a Plan B for the organization has ruffled the feathers of an impatient fan base that is ready to win. The organization has a stated goal of adding two starters this winter, and they should be held to that platitude. The quest for another starter should continue as this latest González contract becomes finalized.

Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón will likely pitch at some point for the 2020 Chicago White Sox. Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert are on the mend from elbow surgery and should be knocking on the door as well. The starting rotation at the conclusion of next season will look much different than it looks currently. While the same figures at the top of the organization remain, the franchise as a whole is much different.

The decision makers stated a need for starting pitching, and they meant it. González is a step in the right direction. Will the front office make a trade for a former Cy Young winner, or destroy its Boras narrative instead?

The team’s intention is to add someone to their rotation who is better than what they’ve already added. The time to prove it is now.

 

Picks to click: free agent starters

Top dog: With three plus pitches and an ascendant career arc, Zack Wheeler would be a divine addition to the White Sox rotation. (Rawlings)


The Chicago White Sox pitching staff was 19th in Major League Baseball with an fWAR of 12.3 last year. Fortifying the roster in anticipation of the 2020 season is a desired outcome of the front office and pitching appears to be a priority. Young righties Lucas Giolito (5.1 fWAR), Reynaldo López (2.3 fWAR) and Dylan Cease (0.7 fWAR) make up the majority of that production, however, and reinforcements will be necessary.

Some good news comes in the form of 23-year-old phenom Michael Kopech re-joining the White Sox rotation, in addition to the eventual arrival of lefty Carlos Rodón. TJS rehabbing righthanders Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert, as well as southpaw Bernardo Flores, could offer late-season help from the farm system, if taking the most optimistic outlook.

But this isn’t enough depth or quality to dispel the notion that help from outside the organization will be inevitably added.

After failing to convert on intended targets last offseason, general manager Rick Hahn was emphatic that his club would continue to have a seat at the table in free agent discussions, saying, “The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. It’s not just sitting around to accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in the best position to win some championships.” For the sake of everyone involved, hopefully that money doesn’t just sit and collect interest into 2020.


Southpaw shopping?

In theory, the White Sox could look to balance out their starting rotation with a left-handed option from the free market. Those options are aplenty, with names like Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Cole Hamels currently looking for work.

Bumgarner could be seen as the veteran stopper to place right in the middle of a young rotation, similar to the thinking when the Cubs signed Jon Lester was signed. The 30-year-old Bumgarner eats innings and has a strong pedigree of playoff performances. Madison also possesses a strong personality that would resonate with the city of Chicago and the South Side fan in particular. Hitting is a big part of his game, though, and he may choose to stay in the National League because of that. He a decision to make on his qualifying offer as well.

Ryu has only played for the Los Angeles Dodgers during his time in the major leagues, and he could look to stay on the west coast regardless of which uniform he wears in 2020. He’d be a solid addition for the Pale Hose, however. The 32-year-old lefty posted a 4.8 fWAR last year over 182 innings, with a 2.32 ERA and 3.10 FIP. The 6´3´´, 255-pounder will be testing the free agent market without the qualifying offer attached after accepting a QO to remain with the Dodgers last offseason.

It’s a second straight offseason of waiting for Keuchel, and his market should be more active this time around without the QO attached to his services. The 31-year-old southpaw posted a 4.06 xFIP in Atlanta this past year over 112 innings. He and superagent Scott Boras were unable to secure the escalated payroll commitment they desired in the marketplace a year ago, but Keuchel should land something in the three-year, $50-$60 million range this time around. He has a playoff pedigree as well and would slot nicely into the middle of the White Sox rotation.

Hamels was having a bit of a renaissance in the first half for the Cubs last season prior to an oblique injury that limited him to just 141 ⅔ innings. The 35-year-old was a fan of Chicago, but his thoughts on playing for the Sox are currently unknown. Cole struggled in the second half, but posted a 3.81 ERA with a 4.09 FIP overall. His rumored destinations seem to be returning to Philadelphia, where it all began for him, or a sojourn west to play for a contender. Hamels may have to ultimately wait for some of the other dominoes to fall in the market before finding his next gig.


Another spin at the Wheel

Similar to their pursuit of a hitter, it’s imperative that the White Sox don’t become slaves to handedness in their search for upgrades to the starting rotation. The southpaws on the market all would fit nicely every fifth day, but the best addition the front office can make is by adding a 29-year-old righty to anchor the current staff.

Zack Wheeler could be the remedy that the rotation needs, and the White Sox have shown interest in the former Met. Wheeler is a free agent for the first time after being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft out of East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., by the San Francisco Giants.

Wheeler has had some blemishes on his record since making his big league debut in 2013, and battling numerous injuries has become a trend for the righthander. The 6´4´´, 195-pounder has accumulated 12.6 fWAR in his career but 4.7 of that came last season. Wheeler is seen as an ascending talent with some mileage left in his right arm.

Zack posted a 3.96 ERA with a 3.48 FIP in 195 ⅓ innings in 2019. He also threw 182 innings in 2018. His 3.90 K/BB ratio was the best output of his young career and it should solidify him as the third-best option on the free agent pitching market. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are clients of Boras Corporation and could break some financial barriers this winter. The presence of that pair could help or hurt Wheeler, a Jet Sports Management client.

Boras has no issue taking his constituents into the new year and holding out for the best possible deal. This could affect Wheeler in the sense that it could potentially take desperate suitors out of his marketplace. Plus, teams that miss on the big two would likely turn to Wheeler after their failed attempts. It could also help Wheeler in the sense that he could be seen as the best pitcher on the market willing to sign before Christmas.


Fitting in Pale Hose

Due to the presence of Boras and built-in proclivities of the past, it’s unlikely that the White Sox will be serious contenders in the markets of Cole and Strasburg. Wheeler should be pitching his home games at 35th and Shields next season, though. He’d slot perfectly behind Giolito to form a dynamic duo at the top of the rotation. He’s also the perfect steward to take this young rotation into the future because he’s still ascending with his best days ahead of him.

Wheeler’s fastball sits in the 95-100 mph range regularly and he posts elite spin and velocity numbers. Equipped with stellar peripherals, Zack offers immense upside as a guy available for possibly less than he’s theoretically worth. Wheeler has three plus pitches, and throws a slider and a changeup as well. His use of tunneling to enhance the look of his stuff is another added benefit to his evolving arsenal.

The White Sox have $14.8 million committed to their 2020 payroll before arbitration raises set in, and the money will apparently be spent. Wheeler will come with a qualifying offer attached, so the White Sox would have to pay the penalty in addition to the player. For this season, that would mean the forfeiture of their second round pick, plus the slotted amount that comes with the selection, in addition to $500,000 of international pool space.

The White Sox are unlikely to play at the very top of the free agent market, but there are plenty of tertiary additions available that could thrust the franchise immediately into contention in the American League Central next season.

Zack Wheeler would be a realistic start to that process.

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Gamethread: White Sox at Braves

On a hot streak: ReyLo is looking to bring the heat against the hottest N.L. East team. (Clinton Cole / South Side Hit Pen)

Though the Chicago White Sox couldn’t outpitch the Atlanta Braves, the offense lived up to their end of the bargain. Scoring seven runs, the bats of the South Siders were heated up down South. Unfortunately, Iván Nova was plagued by his worst start as of late.

Luckily, baseball is a short-memory game, so as John Mulaney once said, “What’s yesterday?”

Today, Reynaldo López will try to help his team even the series in this weekend’s interleague play. This Rey of sunshine has had quite the second-half to the 2019 season. As a total of the halves, Reynaldo owns a 8-11 record, as well as a 5.08 ERA. López has also amounted an 0.8 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Look for ReyLo to keep it rolling!

The former Houston Astro and late-to-the-2019-season, Dallas Keuchel, is 5-5 on the season, and he owns a 3.78 ERA. In only 13 games played this season, Keuchel has been worth 1.4 bWAR. Hopefully, the Sox can take advantage of Keuchel’s short 2019 season.

These are the South Siders tasked to get the job done tonight:

After his pinch-hit, three-run home run — Welington Castillo is tonight’s starting catcher, batting sixth. Other than that, the first five guys are the eyes of the future.

For Atlanta, their offensive-burst of a lineup is as follows:

This rejuvenated lineup is one to worry about during this series. After a ten-run party last night, these guys are aiming for a repeat.

I say we make things a little interesting and tie the series before a fun Sunday night game! NBC Sports Chicago will provide your Chicagoland TV broadcast, but MLB.TV will have tonight’s game as the free game of the day! As always, the ol’ faithful, WGN, has the radio coverage. It’s a 6:20 CT start, and I am itching to bring out the sunglasses emoji!