White Sox

White Sox season review: Bullpen

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White Sox season review: Bullpen

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 future

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. 

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.