White Sox

Sizing up the Sox bullpen battle

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Sizing up the Sox bullpen battle

While Hector Santiago has thrown just five innings in three games this spring, he's looked impressive enough to be considered as a fairly safe bet to land a spot on the White Sox Opening Day roster. His previous body of work certainly helps support that.

So as things stand, there are two openings left in the Sox bullpen. One of those will probably go to either Zach Stewart or Dylan Axelrod -- Larry says Axelrod has the upper hand, which I agree with for now. But they're neck-and-neck with comparable innings counts, strikeouts and walks, and neither has a profile within the organization that sets him apart from the other.

It's presumed the Sox will take either Axelrod or Stewart to use as a long reliever, although Santiago could be used in a long relief role. That'd only happen, though, if Axelrod and Stewart struggled while two other relievers impressed to the point where the Sox couldn't leave them off the roster.

But since that scenario hasn't come to fruition yet, the Sox are left with one open spot left. Right now, the player with the inside-most track is probably Brian Bruney, who hasn't allowed a walk or run in five innings while striking out seven. He was able to limit runs for most of his 19 23 innings with the Sox last year, but his success was tenuous and came crashing down toward the end of his major-league run.

Eric Stults has had a good spring as well, striking out five with no walks and no runs allowed in five innings. He's more a long reliever, though, and doesn't have the starter potential of Axelrod and Stewart, so he's lumped in with the last group. If it comes down to Bruney vs. Stults, Bruney probably would be the guy.

Bruney and Stults don't provide much upside, unlike Nate Jones or Jhan Marinez. But Jones doesn't have great upside, either, as a 26-year-old who hasn't pitched above Double-A. He's had some success this spring, but he's untested and doesn't have the high ceiling of most guys who skip Triple-A on their way to the majors. The Sox, though, have given Jones a pretty extended look -- only he and Will Ohman have appeared in five games this spring, the highest total on the team.

Marinez has considerably more upside but has seen considerably less success this spring, allowing two home runs with more walks than strikeouts in four 13 innings pitched. He may find his way into the bullpen at some point this year, but he needs to put in more work in the minors before he could be a possibility.

Guys like Anthony Carter, Leyson Septimo, Donnie Veal, Deunte Heath and Jose Quintana are extreme longshots at this point in camp.

If Opening Day were tomorrow, those three open bullpen spots would probably go to Santiago, Axelrod and Bruney. But just over two and a half weeks of games separate us from April 6's opener in Texas, and plenty can change between now and then.

Potential White Sox target comes off board as Madison Bumgarner signs with Diamondbacks

Potential White Sox target comes off board as Madison Bumgarner signs with Diamondbacks

Having already lost out on Zack Wheeler, the White Sox can now scratch another free agent pitcher off the list of potential targets.

Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the Diamondbacks are nearing a five-year deal with former Giants star Madison Bumgarner worth $85 million.

The White Sox weren’t heavily rumored to be pursuing Bumgarner and signing him was somewhat unrealistic. Although the South Siders are looking to add a starting pitcher or two this winter, Bumgarner enjoys hitting and therefore seemed more likely to sign with a National League team. The 30-year-old’s career OPS is .532 but he’s hit 19 homers in 11 seasons.

Adding Bumgarner would have provided the South Siders a veteran starter — one with an excellent postseason track record — to mix with their young rotation featuring Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease. With MadBum off the board, the list of major free agent pitchers continues to shrink. 

Lefties Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu are still available, but other teams that missed out on Bumgarner will shift their focus to the duo. Consequently, the White Sox will face stiff competition if they wish to sign either pitcher. Both were expected to be more affordable than Bumgarner but interested teams may be willing to offer more money to ensure they don’t come out of free agency empty-handed.

Where the White Sox turn next is to be determined. What's certain is they're running out of free agent options to upgrade their rotation.

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Indians signal big shift with trade of Corey Kluber

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USA TODAY

Indians signal big shift with trade of Corey Kluber

The Indians have won more than 90 games in each of the past four seasons, with three AL Central titles in that span, but big changes are coming in Cleveland.

With rumors of a Francisco Lindor trade still floating around, the Indians have dealt two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to Texas. The return package from the Rangers includes outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and reliever Emmanuel Clase.


DeShields Jr. is a 27-year-old speedster who has struggled offensively since debuting with the Rangers in 2015. He has a career .668 OPS with a .591 OPS in 2018 and a .672 OPS last season. For comparison, White Sox outfielder Adam Engel had a .614 OPS in 2018 and a .687 OPS in 2019.

Clase is a 21-year-old righthander who debuted with the Rangers last season. He is a hard-thrower, capable of reaching 102 mph with his fastball while also getting cut action on it. Clase had a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings in the majors in 2019. Still, he is only rated as the No. 30 prospect in the Rangers’ system by MLB Pipeline.

The Kluber trade is relevant to the White Sox because it’s a division power trading away a key player for younger, less established talent. It also shows the price to pay for a noteworthy pitcher in a trade.

If the White Sox fail to land a marquee starting pitcher in free agency, a trade is the next route.

The Kluber deal may have implications for the Cubs as well. Texas appears to be intent on competing with the Astros, A's and Angels in the AL West. The Rangers have been linked to free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, and if he winds up in Texas, that would clarify possible trade partners for Kris Bryant.

Back in the AL Central, Kluber was a stud for the Indians from 2014-2018. He surpassed 200 innings each of those seasons and had a 2.85 ERA in that five-year period.

Last season, however, Kluber was limited to 35.2 innings in seven starts after getting hit by a line drive on May 1, which fractured his right arm. Even before the injury, the 33-year-old righthander struggled with a 5.80 ERA and the highest walk rate of his career (15 in 35.2 innings).

The Indians didn’t win the AL Central last season, but the fact that they won 93 games with only seven mostly ineffective starts from Kluber is a sign that he may not be as essential as he was in previous years.

Perhaps the return for Kluber is more a sign of a lack of belief in him after a tough 2019, but this level of package is something the White Sox could put together without trading a core piece of the future.

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