Alex Colome

White Sox non-tender Yolmer Sanchez among flurry of roster moves

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USA TODAY

White Sox non-tender Yolmer Sanchez among flurry of roster moves

Yolmer Sanchez's tenure on the South Side is officially over.

After it was reported last week that the White Sox put the Gold Glove second baseman on outright waivers and that he was slated to become a free agent, the team announced they decided not to tender Sanchez a contract for the 2020 season. They announced the same decision for relievers Ryan Burr and Caleb Frare, while saying they tendered contracts to all other unsigned players, including arbitration-eligible guys Alex Colome, Evan Marshall, Leury Garcia and Carlos Rodon.

Certainly the White Sox moving on from Sanchez wasn't difficult to foresee. Nick Madrigal, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is on the doorstep of the major leagues and is expected to be the starting second baseman on the South Side for the bulk of the 2020 campaign. While Sanchez plays some exceptional defense, he can't match what Madrigal — a top-40 prospect in baseball who has also been touted as an elite defender — can do with the bat. Sanchez slashed just .252/.318/.321 in 2019, while Madrigal tore up the minors to the tune of .311/.377/.414 and struck out only 16 times in 120 games. In the end, Sanchez would have been an expensive reserve infielder, projected to make $6.2 million in arbitration.

Despite some potential red flags given the first- and second-half splits, the White Sox made the expected decision to stick with Colome in 2020. Though opposing hitters slashed .265/.347/.422 against him after the All-Star break in 2019 — and he's projected to received $10.3 million through the arbitration process — Colome has been one of the more productive ninth-inning men in baseball in recent seasons, with a 2.78 ERA and 126 saves since the start of the 2016 campaign. His remaining at the back end of the bullpen gives the White Sox stability and prevents another potentially expensive item from being added to Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list.

Marshall was also a key member of the White Sox late-inning corps in 2019, with a 2.49 ERA in 50.2 relief innings. Hahn is always reminding us about the volatility of relief pitching, so it's difficult to say we should expect a repeat performance from Marshall. But he's slated to hold a key bullpen position in 2020, as well.

Garcia is likely destined for the role of utility man on the 2020 roster after playing in 140 games in 2019 and starting in 135 of them. He can play all three outfield positions in addition to three positions on the infield Sanchez can play, providing versatility off the bench — once Madrigal and Luis Robert arrive from the minors — for Renteria and the White Sox.

The White Sox are still hoping that even after a long layoff while recovering from Tommy John surgery that Rodon can become the pitcher they envisioned he'd be when they took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. That has been a bit of a challenge for Rodon, who's shown flashes of strikeout-heavy brilliance, as well as frustrating bouts of ineffectiveness. Prior to having the surgery this year, he had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts. But the White Sox figure to crave all the starting pitching they can muster in 2020. On the hunt for a couple offseason additions, they also have plans to limit Michael Kopech — who's returning from his own Tommy John surgery — and can't be 100-percent certain what they'll get out of still-promising youngsters Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. The contributions of pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert remain mysteries, too, as they return from Tommy John in the middle of the season, making Rodon a valuable piece of depth, if nothing else.

Burr and Frare were, at a time, part of a group of young relief pitchers who might've made some impact in the White Sox bullpen. Burr had a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 innings before his 2019 season ended in Tommy John surgery. Frare was knocked around in limited big league action in 2019, tagged for a 10.13 ERA in just 2.2 innings over five different appearances. In 27 appearance at three different minor league levels, he had a 6.35 ERA in 28.1 innings.

The White Sox also announced they released relief pitcher Thyago Vieira in order for him to pursue an opportunity in Japan. Earlier Monday, they announced a one-year, $5.4 million deal for All-Star catcher James McCann.

Got all that?

The White Sox 40-man roster now stands at 36, allowing the White Sox to continue their aggressive pursuits this offseason without further trimming. Two starting pitchers and a right fielder — and possibly a DH and more relief help — remain on Hahn's to-do list, and he has four open spots to work with a week out from the Winter Meetings.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that any of the three players non-tendered Monday could return to the White Sox organization in one form or another. But they are free agents now.

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What to expect from the White Sox at the non-tender deadline

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USA TODAY

What to expect from the White Sox at the non-tender deadline

It's non-tender deadline day, perhaps more often greeted by the casual observer with a question mark as opposed to an exclamation point, but an important day on baseball's offseason calendar, nonetheless.

The White Sox, along with their 29 major league compatriots, have until Monday night to tender contract offers to their arbitration-eligible players or to decide not to, sending them to free agency. The White Sox have decisions to make on six players: Alex Colome, James McCann, Leury Garcia, Carlos Rodon, Yolmer Sanchez and Evan Marshall.

Here's what to expect.

Yolmer Sanchez

Sanchez has been the most discussed of this group, and indeed his time with the White Sox already appears to be over. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported last week that the team placed its Gold Glove second baseman on outright waivers and that Sanchez cleared those waivers and will head to free agency. Sanchez, who had repeatedly said he wanted to stay with the only organization he's ever known, followed with a social-media post or two indicating he was going to try to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. The team, aside from a comment from manager Rick Renteria, has not officially announced anything involving Sanchez's status.

Certainly the White Sox moving on from Sanchez wasn't difficult to foresee. Nick Madrigal, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is on the doorstep of the major leagues and is expected to be the starting second baseman on the South Side for the bulk of the 2020 campaign. While Sanchez plays some exceptional defense, he can't match what Madrigal — a top-40 prospect in baseball who has also been touted as an elite defender — can do with the bat. Sanchez slashed just .252/.318/.321 in 2019, while Madrigal tore up the minors to the tune of .311/.377/.414 and struck out only 16 times in 120 games. In the end, Sanchez would have been an expensive reserve infielder, projected to make $6.2 million in arbitration.

Alex Colome

There are certain corners of the White Sox internet that look at Colome's second-half splits and lack of strikeouts and see doom coming around the bend. Indeed, Colome did fare much worse after the All-Star break than he did before it, with a 3.91 ERA and a frightening .265/.347/.422 slash line against in the second half after posting a 2.02 ERA and holding hitters to a .127/.194/.288 line in the first half. Is that worth a projected $10.3 million? That's the decision the White Sox face.

But Colome has been one of the more productive ninth-inning men in baseball in recent seasons, even if the second half of 2019 didn't look so good. Since the start of the 2016 season, he's posted a 2.78 ERA and saved 126 games, a total that would be significantly higher if not for his playing setup man for the majority of 2018.

In a 2019 season featuring plenty of problems from the rotation and lineup, the bullpen was a reliable unit for the White Sox, with a 4.31 ERA that ranked seventh in the American League, behind only the five playoff teams and the Cleveland Indians, who narrowly missed the postseason. Stability at the back end with Colome and Aaron Bummer is a good thing to head into 2020 with, especially with so many other holes that need filling on the roster. The White Sox likely don't want to add potentially expensive bullpen help to their offseason to-do list.

James McCann

The White Sox tendering McCann a contract is a no-brainer, but he's been talked about an awful lot since the team inked free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to the richest contract it's ever given out a couple weeks ago. McCann doesn't figure to go anywhere, even with another All-Star backstop now ahead of him on the depth chart. McCann was a heck of a find by Rick Hahn last offseason, and having two good catchers is better than having one, especially considering the lineup permutations Rick Renteria might be forced to come up with if the White Sox front office opts for a DH rotation of Grandal, McCann, Jose Abreu and Zack Collins.

But McCann will be talked about on a variety of levels as the offseason goes on, too. If the White Sox could sell high on a guy who made the All-Star team last season — but who also batted just .226/.281/.413 in the second half — would they take that opportunity? Or will McCann stay on and serve as a personal catcher of sorts for Lucas Giolito after the duo had such incredible success in 2019? The White Sox have options, but no matter which path they end up traveling down with McCann, they'll almost surely do so after tendering him a contract Monday.

Leury Garcia

Another seeming no-brainer, Garcia is likely destined for the role of utility man on the 2020 roster after playing in 140 games in 2019 and starting in 135 of them. His projected $4 million is less than Sanchez's projected $6.2 million, and he can play all three outfield positions in addition to the three positions on the infield Sanchez can play. His .310 on-base percentage and relative light-hitting ways might not have been what some fans wanted to see from an everyday player last season, but as a guy off the bench once Luis Robert and Madrigal reach the major leagues, Garcia figures to be an asset for Renteria and the White Sox.

Evan Marshall

Marshall is also a seeming lock to get a contract tendered Monday after he was a key member of the White Sox late-inning corps in 2019. They picked him up as a minor league free agent, and he turned in a 2.49 ERA in 50.2 relief innings. Hahn is always reminding us about the volatility of relief pitching, so it's difficult to say we should expect a repeat performance from Marshall. But he's slated to hold a key bullpen position in 2020, as well, making him well worth a projected $1.3 million.

Carlos Rodon

The White Sox only have two years of team control remaining with Rodon before he's slated to hit free agency. Between the contract situation and all the significant arm injuries he's suffered in recent seasons, it's not at all easy to project him as a long-term member of the rotation. That being said, it would be shocking to see him non-tendered Monday. The team has suggested all along that he's still very much part of their plans. The White Sox are still hoping that even after a long layoff while recovering from Tommy John surgery that he can become the pitcher they envisioned he'd be when they took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. That has been a bit of a challenge for Rodon, who's shown flashes of strikeout-heavy brilliance, as well as frustrating bouts of ineffectiveness. Prior to having the surgery this year, he had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts.

But the White Sox figure to crave all the starting pitching they can muster in 2020. On the hunt for a couple offseason additions, they also have plans to limit Michael Kopech — who's returning from his own Tommy John surgery — and can't be 100-percent certain what they'll get out of still-promising youngsters Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. The contributions of pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert remain mysteries, too, as they return from Tommy John in the middle of the season.

Bottom line: Whatever the White Sox can get out of Rodon in 2020, they'll happily take, making the projected $4.5 million seem plenty doable.

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State of the White Sox: Relief pitching

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USA TODAY

State of the White Sox: Relief pitching

Previous: Starting pitching | Designated hitter | Right field | Center field | Left field | Catcher | Shortstop Third base  Second base | First base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re moving on to relief pitching.

What happened in 2019

While the starting pitching left a lot to be desired in 2019, the South Side bullpen can be considered a strength heading into 2020. The only American League teams that owned lower relief ERAs this season were the five playoff teams and the Cleveland Indians, who finished with the best record among non-playoff teams.

The back end of the ‘pen was particularly effective, with Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer turning in strong seasons. Colome, acquired in the offseason trade with the Seattle Mariners that sent catcher Omar Narvaez to the Pacific Northwest, finished with 30 saves in 33 chances (only eight pitchers in baseball had more saves) to go along with his 2.80 ERA, his lowest since 2016. Colome has 126 saves since the start of that 2016 season. Bummer, meanwhile, emerged from a crowded pack of young relievers as a dominant late-inning force. He finished the season with a 2.13 ERA that ranked seventh in baseball among relievers who pitched at least 60 innings.

It’s true both pitchers experienced downticks in production following the All-Star break, with Colome posting a 3.91 ERA in the second half after putting up a 2.02 mark in the first half and Bummer finishing the second half with a 2.36 ERA after finishing the first half with a 1.89 ERA. But the duo instilled enough faith in Rick Hahn’s front office that they weren’t dealt at the deadline, like so many relievers before them were in previous seasons.

But that same front office uncovered a couple other solid performers, signing Evan Marshall as a minor league free agent and picking Jimmy Cordero up off waivers. Marshall turned in a 2.49 ERA in his 50.2 innings, and Cordero, often with a rolled-up sleeve, posting a 2.75 ERA in his 36 innings after joining the White Sox.

Obviously, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, and there wasn’t much middle ground between those four solid batches of production and the more upsetting numbers put up by White Sox relievers. Josh Osich was probably the next most effective, used as much as Bummer, with 67.2 innings logged, but his ERA was 4.66. Jace Fry finished the season with a 4.75 ERA. Most everyone else was north of 5.00, including 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer, whose transition to relief isn’t going super well. In his 27.1 big league innings this season, he had a 6.26 ERA with 20 walks. Offseason acquisition Kelvin Herrera fared about as poorly, with a 6.14 ERA in his 51.1 innings. His season was impacted by the same foot injury that ended his 2018 season with the Washington Nationals.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have some decisions to make when it comes to a couple of the guys mentioned above. Colome, Marshall and Osich are all arbitration eligible, and while Marshall’s projected $1.3 million makes him seem like a slam-dunk candidate to be tendered a contract, there’s discussion on the other two.

Colome was great last season, though his projected $10.3 million is raising a few eyebrows. His dependability as a late-inning reliever in recent seasons don’t make that number seem wildly outrageous, but his strikeout numbers were down last season, and his second-half ERA nearly touched 4.00. Still, the White Sox knew such a raise was likely when they made the trade with the Mariners, and they knew such a raise was likely when they decided to hang onto Colome at the deadline. Given the mystery that comes with relief pitching, hanging onto Colome with a tendered contract this winter seems a very logical move.

Then there’s Osich, whose projected salary is an affordable $1 million. But the numbers weren’t as sterling as Marshall’s. Still, Renteria leaned on Osich a lot, showing a relative amount of comfort in calling him in from the ‘pen. We’ll see what they do with Osich.

When it comes to potential offseason moves, maybe don’t expect one as consequential as the trade to acquire Colome last winter. After all, Hahn has plenty on his to-do list already in searching for upgrades for the starting rotation as well as new everyday players in right field and at designated hitter. While hitting on Marshall and Cordero probably isn’t enough to suggest that every under-the-radar pickup the White Sox make will blossom into a reliable bullpen piece, it’s likely the way we’ll see the team add relief pitching this winter, as Hahn alluded to during his end-of-season press conference last month.

“All 30 teams will tell you this week or whenever their press conference is that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception,” he said. “Obviously, the way Colome and Bummer have done over the course of the year makes you feel real good about their spot going forward. A now healthy Kelvin Herrera is the kind of guy who's probably a pretty good reliever bounce-back candidate bet, if it hasn't already happened here in terms of seeing what he's capable of doing when he's 100 percent.

“Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or minor-league free agents like Marshall. It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back. Obviously, injury remains a consideration.”

That might not point to thrilling upgrades like Colome, but it points to moves nonetheless. Hahn has talked about the volatility of relief pitching before, and a team that has designs on contending would be wise to add as many options as it can.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

Again, as Hahn mentioned, the production of bullpen arms isn’t as easily projected as the production of players at other positions. So saying that the White Sox have four innings of dependable relief spoken for in every game just isn’t true. Not yet, at least. We’ll have to wait and see how Colome, Bummer, Marshall and Cordero fare in 2020 before knowing that.

And other, positive changes could impact that late-inning equation, too. Hahn mentioned Kelvin Herrera, who after a rocky few months came off the injured list toward the end of the season and had a 1.93 ERA in September. One year further removed from his injury could make a big difference in 2020. Maybe Fulmer figures some things out and realizes at least some level of the hype that accompanied him as a top-10 pick.

Then there’s the host of young relief prospects that could still factor into the future. Perhaps Ryan Burr returns from Tommy John surgery to provide a late-season boost. Perhaps Ian Hamilton returns from his freak injuries to reclaim his highly touted prospect status. Perhaps Tyler Johnson reaches the big leagues after posting a 2.59 ERA at two minor league levels this season. Again, we’ll see.

Only the teams that end the season with elite relief corps or go out and spend huge dollars on relief can truly be projected to have a strong bullpen from one season to the next — and those projections don’t always pan out.

The ‘pen was a strength for the White Sox in 2019, and they have some arms that give confidence that it could be once again in 2020.

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