After flipping a significant chunk of their bullpen to contending teams last summer, the White Sox keep adding veteran arms to their bullpen mix for 2018 — potentially with the same outcome in mind.
Rick Hahn's front office has acquired a lot of relief pitching this offseason, even if most of the moves have flown under the radar. The latest additions came this week, as the South Siders reportedly signed a pair of former big league closers, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon, to minor league deals.
Gomez spent the past three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, serving as their primary closer during the 2016 season, when he logged 37 saves. His ERA has been on the rise since he posted a career-best mark of 3.01 in 2015, jumping to 4.85 in 2016 and 7.25 last season, when he pitched just 22.1 innings with the Phillies.
Rondon had a crack at the Detroit Tigers' closing job in years past, saving a total of seven games during his career. He was at his best in 2016 — ironically the lone season of his four-year big league career in which he didn't record a save — when he turned in a 2.97 ERA in 36.1 innings. He threw just 15.2 innings in 2017, getting roughed up in his 21 appearances to the tune of a 10.91 ERA.
Both guys have yet to hit their 30th birthday.
As mentioned, these are just the latest of many bullpen additions Hahn has made this winter. Most notably, the White Sox acquired Luis Avilan and Joakim Soria in a three-team trade. They also added Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira to a relief corps that returns Aaron Bummer, Dylan Covey, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones and Juan Minaya from last year's team, meaning it should be a crowded race to make the Opening Day bullpen. And they reportedly added former Tampa Bay Rays reliever Xavier Cedeno on a minor league deal last weekend.
But the additions also speak to the strategy Hahn used last season, when he dealt a host of veteran relievers to contending clubs in exchange for rebuild-bolstering pieces.
Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Dan Jennings were all traded away. Swarzak brought Ryan Cordell — a prospect who apparently has a lot of interest, according to Hahn — back from the Milwaukee Brewers. In a trade with the New York Yankees, Kahnle and Robertson, along with Todd Frazier, added Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and others to the White Sox farm system. Jennings went to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for prospect Casey Gillaspie.
Who knows if any of these recent additions will produce the kind of productive seasons required to generate trade interest this summer. Heck, who knows how many of these additions even end up in the White Sox bullpen. But you can see the White Sox following a similar blueprint to what they did last year, when they turned Swarzak and Kahnle into valuable trade chips.