That siren you hear is the starting-pitcher availability alert. And it's coming from Cleveland.
In a surprising turn of events, the White Sox might not have to look far to locate some available, controllable starting pitchers, with ESPN's Buster Olney reporting Friday that the division-rival Indians will be listening to trade offers for the likes of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco this winter.
The White Sox, in the market for starting pitching considering the pair of holes in their starting rotation, would figure to be interested.
Of course, it takes two to tango, and the Tribe could very well have no interest in sharing a dance with a fellow member of the AL Central, a division they've dominated over the past three seasons.
In fact, the two teams have made just one trade in the past 24 years — who could forget the great Andy Cannizaro deal of 2009? — and only four in the time this writer has been alive.
But oh what a thought to see either of those two very, very good pitchers come to the South Side. Kluber's under team control for three more seasons. Carrasco for two. That might not line up exactly with where the White Sox are in their rebuilding process, but the hope is that the transition from rebuilding to contending comes within the next couple years. And while there's ample starting-pitching depth in the organization to forecast a homegrown rotation consisting of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning, it'd be a mighty different story, in terms of confidence for future success, to add a proven commodity to that mix.
Kluber has been one of the game's finest starting pitchers for the last half decade. He's a two-time AL Cy Young winner (2014 and 2017), with a pair of top-10 finishes in there, too. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see him add another when voting is announced later this month for this year's award following his 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in an AL-best 215 innings during the 2018 regular season. Kluber was also strong during the 2016 postseason, when his Indians made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. In six starts during that playoff run, he allowed seven earned runs over 34.1 innings.
During the last five regular seasons, Kluber's got a terrific 2.85 ERA, something the White Sox know very well, as he's got an even better 2.80 ERA in 24 career appearances against the South Siders.
Carrasco has also put up stellar numbers, with a 3.40 ERA over the past four seasons as a full-time starter (he had a 2.55 ERA in 40 appearances in 2014, only 14 of which were starts). He led baseball with 18 wins and finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2017, then turned in a 3.38 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 192 innings this past season. His career numbers against the White Sox? A 3.98 ERA in 25 appearances, two of which were complete-game efforts.
It all sounds rather tantalizing if you're looking to inject some big additions into the South Side rebuilding project. But even after getting past the fact that the Indians would be rather foolish to deal their perennial Cy Young candidate within the AL Central, you have to consider the price. Just look to the White Sox own trade of Chris Sale, one of the game's elite pitchers, to see what it cost the Boston Red Sox. With Kopech on the mend from Tommy John surgery and Yoan Moncada coming off one of the most strikeout-heavy seasons in baseball history, White Sox fans might not be as high on that return package as they once were, but realize it still cost at least two of the best prospects in the game (and two other guys were a part of that package, as well).
In other words, if you want someone like Kluber, you might have to give up someone like Cease.
But the point in all this is: Every offseason, players become available that weren't expected to become available, and these opportunities can turn teams into contenders. Look at what happened last offseason with the Milwaukee Brewers' trade for Christian Yelich. Grabbing that kind of controllable star gave the Brewers an MVP candidate for the next several seasons and brought them, in his first year on the team, within a win of the World Series. The White Sox might not be one starting pitcher away from going from 100 losses to the ALCS, but with these pitchers under team control for multiple seasons, it makes the 2020 or 2021 rotations look that much stronger, no matter what you think of the current crop of young arms on the South Side and in the system.
Rick Hahn talked about being "opportunistic" this offseason. It's opportunities like this — ones not based solely on the upcoming season — that he was referring to. Their mere existence doesn't guarantee a deal of this magnitude or even mutual interest between two clubs. But you never know what opportunities might come along.
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