As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. Next up is the bullpen.
Depth chart (notable names)
1. RHP David Robertson: 4 years/$46 million (2015-18)
2. LHP Zach Duke: 3 years/$15 million (2015-17)
3. RHP Nate Jones: Arbitration eligible (4.000 major league service)
4. RHP Jake Petricka: Pre-arbitration eligible through 2017
5. RHP Zach Putnam: Arbitration eligible (2.135 major league service)
6. LHP Dan Jennings: Arbitration eligible (2.171 major league service)
7. RHP Matt Albers: Free agent
What went right
The bullpen improved in 2015 (3.67 ERA) compared to 2014 (4.38 ERA) thanks to some new additions. Robertson did have his share of struggles closing out some games, but he still picked up 34 saves in 41 opportunities in his first year with the Sox and provided some stability as the team's closer compared to 2014. Albers, now a free agent, was potentially the Sox best option out of the bullpen when healthy. The right-hander posted a 1.21 ERA in 2015 and only gave up an earned run in only three of his 30 appearances. Duke was the best left-handed option for manager Robin Ventura, recording 26 holds and allowing lefties to hit only .181 against him.
Jones, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned to the bullpen and showed off his electric fastball that flirted with triple digits frequently.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Petricka (12 holds, 3.63 ERA), another right-handed power arm, showed he can be counted on in the late innings.
The one underrated stat that may go unnoticed in 2015 was the Sox bullpen pitched the fewest innings of any team (441 2/3). Much of that has to be credited to a strong starting rotation but it can only help going forward.
What went wrong
When a team spends almost $12 million/year on a closer, it expects him to be pretty lights out. That wasn't the case with Robertson in his first season in Chicago as he did hit a few bumps in the road.
[SOX IN REVIEW: Starting pitching]
Jennings, one of the Sox many offseason acquisitions, didn't quite work out as well as the team would've liked, posting a 3.99 ERA and .274 BA against left-handed hitters.
Putnam also took a step back this year. He pitched 49 games in each of the past two years but recorded a 4.07 ERA this year compared to 1.98 last year.
The good news for Rick Hahn and the Sox is that there are pieces to build around. Robertson should improve his numbers from 2015 in his second year in the South Side. If Jones, Duke and Petricka can continue to show they are reliable pieces again next year, Ventura will have some solid options late in games coming out of the bullpen. If Albers is brought back, that adds another quality arm.
Can Putnam return to his 2014 form? With relievers, anything is possible and youth is certainly on Putnam's side.
If the Sox decide to keep Frankie Montas up in the majors out of the bullpen, does that make one of the other right-handers expendable in a trade?
If there is a move to be made in the bullpen this offseason, acquiring another lefty specialist isn't a terrible idea. It would save some work for Duke and allow him to be used as a full-time setup man if Ventura decides to go that route.