Miguel Gonzalez

Return of Miguel Gonzalez brings White Sox starting rotation into focus for 2018

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USA TODAY

Return of Miguel Gonzalez brings White Sox starting rotation into focus for 2018

The pitchers who will make up the White Sox rotation of the future will spend much of 2018 developing in the minor leagues. But the pitchers who will make up the White Sox rotation of the present came into much clearer focus Thursday.

The White Sox welcomed Miguel Gonzalez back to the South Side with a one-year deal. The pitcher who was dealt away to the Texas Rangers in a trade last August wasn't out of town for long.

Gonzalez figures to all but finalize the five-man group that will leave Glendale, Arizona, and start the season as the White Sox starting staff. Rotation spots are locked in for James Shields, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, with general manager Rick Hahn indicating last month that Carson Fulmer will be in the mix, too. Gonzalez makes five.

Sure, there are things that could throw that group into question. The health of Carlos Rodon remains a mystery, and Hahn has said on multiple occasions that Rodon could be recovered from September shoulder surgery by Opening Day or perhaps not until June. Rodon missed most of the first three months of the 2017 season while recovering from injury, and there's a possibility that 2018 could see a repeat.

If Rodon is healthy, of course he'll be a part of the White Sox starting rotation. And the possibility exists that the White Sox could sign another veteran along with Gonzalez. But more likely is that they want to see what they have in Fulmer, 2015's eighth-overall pick who has just five big league starts under his belt.

Signing Gonzalez also decreases the likelihood that a highly rated pitching prospect like Michael Kopech or Alex Hansen could do enough to make the team out of spring training, though something like that happening might not have been very likely to begin with, considering the rebuilding White Sox are in no rush to bring their wealth of prospects to the majors ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez is a solid addition to the rotation, as White Sox fans know. He had a nice 2016 season, posting a 3.73 ERA in his first campaign on the South Side. Prior to being traded last summer, Gonzalez had a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts. He was terrific in his final five starts with the White Sox, posting a 1.85 ERA over 34 innings. He struggled in Texas, tagged for 16 runs in his five starts with the Rangers.

But Gonzalez's value is increased by his presence in the clubhouse, as well, a veteran leader for a team and specifically a pitching staff that is young and is expected to only get younger as the rebuild keeps moving along. Gonzalez could also once more be a midseason trade candidate should he perform well. He could once again fetch Hahn a piece to help deepen the farm system during this rebuilding effort.

So with Gonzalez's addition, the White Sox biggest roster mystery is seemingly solved. Barring any unexpected happenings, the rotation and starting lineup appear set. And with Hahn's acquisitions of four potential bullpen pieces — Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Thyagio Vieira and Jose Ruiz — there figures to be plenty of depth with which to form a relief corps.

Fifteen veteran free-agent starting pitchers the White Sox could sign — and maybe flip

Fifteen veteran free-agent starting pitchers the White Sox could sign — and maybe flip

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The rebuilding White Sox might or might not make a big splash at this week’s Winter Meetings. But there are some additions they need to make before the 2018 season gets going.

One of the items on the to-do list is adding some starting pitching, preferably of the veteran variety to balance out the youth in that unit. Rotation spots are locked in for James Shields, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and general manager Rick Hahn said Monday that Carson Fulmer could get a chance to start, too. Carlos Rodon is considered a mystery at this point, as there’s no firm idea of when he’ll return from his latest injury.

So there figures to be a good chance that a veteran could compete for one of those spots. The ability to eat innings would also be a plus, what with a young and still-developing starting rotation and a to-this-point-unknown bullpen that might not be able to shoulder an oversized load.

More importantly, adding a veteran free-agent starter who turns in a strong few months on the South Side could allow Hahn to trade him midseason for a piece that helps the rebuilding efforts.

Look at what the Cubs did during their rebuilding years on the North Side, when they turned veteran arms like Scott Feldman, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster into the pieces that powered 2016’s run to the World Series.

The White Sox are in a different place, of course, with multiple pieces of their projected rotation of the future already at the big league level. But Hahn has already shown a willingness to adopt a similar strategy, taking fliers on veteran pitchers Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey a season ago. And the White Sox still employ Don Cooper as the team’s pitching coach, a guy noted for his ability to help veteran pitchers find themselves again.

If they wanted to go a similar route this offseason, here are some veteran options currently on the free-agent market who would cost little and could get something in return, should they rediscover some of their past form. Get ready for some gaudy numbers — and not gaudy in a good way — from 2017. But that means little to no risk and a potential reward.

Clay Buchholz

The 33-year-old Buchholz hasn’t pitched since April, when he was knocked out after just two starts and needed surgery to repair his flexor tendon. He was woeful in those two starts with the Philadelphia Phillies, surrendering 10 runs in just 7.1 innings. But it hasn’t been too long since 2015, when Buchholz posted a 3.26 ERA and logged 107 strikeouts in 113.1 innings. He won a World Series ring and made two All-Star appearances during his 10-year run with the Boston Red Sox.

Jhoulys Chacin

The 29-year-old Chacin spent 2017 with the San Diego Padres, posting a 3.89 ERA over 32 starts. He struck out a career-high 153 batters in 180.1 innings, and also led baseball with 14 hit batsmen. Chacin spent his first six big league seasons with the Colorado Rockies, calling Coors Field home, but his home-run numbers haven’t necessarily decreased since he departed. He allowed 19 homers last year, one off his career high. He walked 72 hitters in 2017.

Bartolo Colon

“The Ageless Wonder” always seems to be up to pitch, right? He threw for both the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins last season, finishing the campaign with a sky-high 6.48 ERA in his 28 starts between the two teams. He threw the fewest number of innings in 2017 since the last time he was on the White Sox in 2009 — yes, this would be a third stint on the South Side.

R.A. Dickey

Dickey might be 43 years old, but he’s been remarkably consistent over the past seven seasons, making at least 30 appearances in each of those years. He’s obviously failed to replicate the sterling 2012 campaign in which he had a 2.73 ERA, threw three complete-game shutouts, struck out 230 guys and won the National League Cy Young Award. But he still made 31 starts last season with the Atlanta Braves and struck out 136 hitters in 190 innings.

Scott Feldman

One of the Cubs’ sign-and-flip guys might fit the bill for the White Sox, too. The 34-year-old Feldman made 21 starts for the Cincinnati Reds last season, the most he’d made in a single season since 2014. He only walked 35 guys in his 111.1 innings of work but still finished with a 4.77 ERA. There’s no guarantee that the White Sox would be able to do what the Cubs did: trade Feldman for a future Cy Young winner. But they could try.

Yovani Gallardo

The 31-year-old Gallardo has had a rough go of things the past couple seasons after a solid year with the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. Last season, he turned in a career-high 5.72 ERA in 28 appearances (22 starts). But there’s no doubt there used to be some magic in that arm. He was an All Star way back in 2010 and made at least 30 starts a year from 2009 through 2015. He’s familiar with the American League, playing for the Seattle Mariners, Orioles and Texas Rangers in the last three seasons.

Jaime Garcia

It wasn’t too long ago that Garcia looked to be a stud of the future for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he couldn’t stay on the mound. Now 31, Garcia is coming off a season in which he played for three different teams but made 27 starts, turning in a collective 4.41 ERA. He pitched 157 innings — his second-highest total since 2011 — and struck out 129 guys.

Miguel Gonzalez

Nothing wrong with a familiar face, right? The 33-year-old Gonzalez turned into a flippable piece for the White Sox last summer thanks to some solid starts. Of course, he also experienced some disastrous outings, bulging his ERA up to 4.31 (it was a much worse 6.45 in his five starts with the Rangers).

John Lackey

Sure to make everyone have some sort of visceral reaction, the suggestion of the 39-year-old Lackey might not be as crazy as it sounds. Yes, he coughed up a NL-leading 36 homers in 2017, a season which he finished with a 4.59 ERA. But he still made 30 starts for the Cubs and struck out 149 guys, walking 53 in 170.2 innings of work. And a lot of Lackey’s damage was concentrated into a few grotesque starts. The good stretches were good. He had a good run in July and August. In September, he turned in a 2.73 ERA. But have his views on haircuts changed?

Francisco Liriano

The 34-year-old Liriano just won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros, but all 20 of his regular-season appearances with the champs came as a reliever. He started the season as a mostly ineffective starter with the Toronto Blue Jays, making 18 starts and seeing his ERA stand at 5.88 when he left the Great White North. Liriano’s been on the South Side before, back in 2012, and things didn’t go so well then. But he’s a guy that has shown flashes of brilliance over the years.

Ricky Nolasco

The 34-year-old Nolasco’s ERA was nearly 5.00 last season with the Los Angeles Angels, but he made 33 starts and logged 181 innings of work. He had 143 strikeouts, one off his highest total since 2013. But he surrendered 35 home runs.

Anibal Sanchez

The 33-year-old Anibal Sanchez is a familiar name to White Sox fans who saw him throw six seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He only walked 29 guys in 105.1 innings last season, but there’s not much else from an awful 2017 that inspires much confidence. Sanchez had a 6.41 ERA in 28 appearances (17 starts). And in the last three seasons, he’s given up a total of 85 home runs. Ouch.

Hector Santiago

How about a comeback for Santiago? After an All-Star appearance in 2015, the now-29-year-old has had tough times in the past two seasons splitting time between the Angels and Minnesota Twins. Since going to the Twins in the middle of 2016, his ERA is 5.61. He made just 15 appearances last season and walked 31 guys in 70.1 innings. But he’s familiar with Cooper and could rediscover what produced a 3.41 ERA in his three seasons with the White Sox, before he was traded away as part of the Adam Eaton deal.

Chris Tillman

Nine seasons with the Orioles, and the 29-year-old has a 4.43 ERA to show for it. If only that’s what he had last year. Tillman had a real rough 2017 with a 7.84 ERA in 24 appearances, 19 of which were starts. He struck out only 63 guys in 93 innings. But it’s this kind of reclamation project — he had a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts just a year earlier — that fits the bill for the White Sox.

Jason Vargas

The 34-year-old Vargas is getting up there in age, but he just turned in one of the best seasons of his career, winning a major league best 18 decisions in 2017. He gave up 27 homers and still had a 4.16 ERA for a not very good Kansas City Royals team, but he might have pitched his way out of this type of conversation at the back end of the White Sox rotation.

White Sox trade Miguel Gonzalez for minor league infielder

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USA TODAY

White Sox trade Miguel Gonzalez for minor league infielder

The White Sox traded one month of Miguel Gonzalez’s services late Thursday for a long shot.

General manager Rick Hahn snuck in one more deal before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline at 11 p.m. CST when he shipped Gonzalez to the Texas Rangers for Single-A third baseman Ti’quan Forbes.

A second-round pick in 2014 who has struggled in the minors, Forbes is “a low-level prospect that has potential to contribute,” according to one American League scout.

Forbes, 21, is hitting .221/.276/.304 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 197 plate appearances at Advanced-A Down East in the Carolina League. He has a .245/.304/.329 career slash line and 15 home runs in 1,424 career plate appearances.

Gonzalez also reportedly drew interest from the Baltimore Orioles, who found the asking price for a one-month rental to be too high, according to the Baltimore Sun. The right-hander pitched six strong innings in Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins, posting his eighth quality start in nine tries since he returned from the disabled list on July 18. A free agent after this season, Gonzalez is 7-10 with a 4.31 ERA in 133 2/3 innings this season.

Gonzalez is owed a little more than $1 million on his one-year, $5.9 million contract.

The deal is the latest from the White Sox, who traded seven players in July and also moved Tyler Clippard earlier this month. Before Thursday’s start, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he was surprised someone hadn’t yet acquired Gonzalez, who has a 3.27 ERA over his last nine turns.

The trade also potentially re-opens a spot in the team’s rotation for Derek Holland, who appeared to be headed to the bullpen after his start Wednesday in order to make room for Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez is set to come off the disabled list on Friday. Renteria said after Wednesday’s game there was a possibility Holland would move into the bullpen to make space for Lopez.