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In adding relievers to 2018 bullpen, White Sox likely to try to 'find the next Anthony Swarzak'

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USA TODAY

In adding relievers to 2018 bullpen, White Sox likely to try to 'find the next Anthony Swarzak'

The White Sox have some work to do in reconstructing their bullpen for the 2018 season.

Last year saw an incredible amount of turnover in the relief corps, with David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard all shipped out of town in midseason trades.

That means a lot of arms to replace this offseason for Rick Hahn and his front office.

So where do the rebuilding White Sox go for relief help? Don't expect any big-name relievers to land on the South Side. Not only have a lot of them already been snapped up in one of the few areas of activity this winter, but it makes little sense for the White Sox to invest significant money in relief pitching while waiting for their prospects to develop and turn the team into a perennial contender.

Instead, look to the guys the White Sox traded away for a template of the plan of attack when it comes to rebuilding the 'pen: find a diamond in the rough and turn that into pieces for the future.

Swarzak officially signed with the New York Mets at the end of last week, getting a two-year deal to play in Queens after a strong and somewhat out-of-nowhere 2017 performance. The White Sox picked him up last offseason after he had posted a 4.52 ERA in his first six big league seasons, and in 41 appearances with the White Sox he turned in a 2.23 ERA and struck out 52 hitters in 48.1 innings of work. That allowed them to trade Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league outfielder Ryan Cordell, who could become a part of the team's future.

The White Sox worked similar magic with Kahnle, who was added ahead of the 2016 season. He had a 4.41 ERA in two seasons with the Colorado Rockies to start his career, and after joining the White Sox put up a 2.63 ERA in 2016 and a 2.50 ERA in 37 appearances in 2017, allowing the White Sox to include him in the seven-player swap with the New York Yankees that added three minor leaguers to the White Sox highly rated farm system.

It's templates like those that the White Sox will likely try to follow again this winter.

The White Sox have had a positive recent history in helping veteran pitchers find their stuff, a trend largely credited to longtime pitching coach Don Cooper. And with the proven capability to flip strong performers at the deadline in exchange for more rebuild-bolstering talent, there's no reason they shouldn't try to go to that well again.

"Anthony Swarzak is a great example, got himself a richly deserved, lucrative contract even though 10 months ago he was a non-roster invite with us," Hahn said last week during the Winter Meetings. "You see a couple of those in this market. If I'm not mistaken I think (new Phillies pitcher Tommy) Hunter was a non-roster invite, I think (new Cubs pitcher Brandon) Morrow might have been a non-roster invite. It shows you that guys can re-establish their value if they're quality contributors, it can really have a big impact on their original team and then it pays off for them in the next free-agent market.

"For us we're probably in a position as an organization right now to do our best to find the next Anthony Swarzak as opposed to going out and paying retail in the free-agent market for one right now, but we also know we've talked about once we get to the position where we're ready to contend, we too are going to have to be out in that market. It's becoming an expensive place to be but we know that's a good problem to have when you're looking to add those finishing touches to a competitive club."

Of course, the White Sox are capable of rebuilding their bullpen with what they've currently got on the roster. Bullpen options include the likes of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones and Juan Minaya. And the team traded for Thyago Vieira earlier this offseason.

But it would be kind of surprising to see them head into the 2018 campaign with that group exclusively. Even with strong performances for half a season from Swarzak, Kahnle and Robertson, the White Sox ranked just 11th in the American League in bullpen ERA in 2017.

"We've got no biases in favor of any player type, whether we drafted them or signed them as a minor league free agent," Hahn said when asked if he would go internally or externally to rebuild the bullpen. "We look for a certain type from our scouts, and certain players we feel we can get better through our player development system, but in the end we're going to break Glendale — well if Coop has his way, with the best 14. If sense prevails, the best 12 or 13 pitchers we can to help ourselves win a ballgame."

Why Cubs losing Jose Quintana to injury isn't exactly good news for White Sox

Why Cubs losing Jose Quintana to injury isn't exactly good news for White Sox

The Cubs' pitching staff suffered a blow Thursday, when the team announced that Jose Quintana will miss some time after injuring himself in a dish-washing accident.

While some White Sox fans might jump at the chance to revisit the 2017 Crosstown swap that sent Quintana to the North Side in exchange for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, it's important to realize that what happens to the Cubs affects the White Sox more than ever in this most unusual of seasons. The two teams are scheduled to meet six times, which accounts for 10 percent of the 60-game regular-season schedule.

In a normal season, games against the Cubs are more of a frivolity, a chance for the city to get excited about the two sides of town squaring off, and a time to provide some memorable moments (speaking of Jimenez). But this year, playoff chances could really hinge on Crosstown matchups, with both teams entering the abbreviated campaign with postseason expectations.

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So Quintana's season being in jeopardy is a break for the White Sox, right? Without one of their starting pitchers, the Cubs' staff is worse off than it was yesterday. It's bad news for their bullpen, which might have already been staring at shouldering a heavy load considering the unknown ability of starting pitchers after a three-month layoff. And the White Sox won't have to face a guy they know has the ability to pitch really well. He regularly did just that during his five and a half seasons on the South Side.

But maybe missing out on matchups with Quintana isn't such a good thing for the White Sox.

They've only faced their old mate once, but they did some significant damage against him in September 2018, tagging the former White Sox hurler for five runs on nine hits in his five innings of work. While the White Sox lineup that day featured only a few players still with the organization — Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Adam Eaton made up a third of the batting order; Jose Abreu didn't even play that day — the bats made some noise.

Maybe it was familiarity with an old teammate? Maybe it was just an off day for Quintana, whose Cubs' tenure has been far more of the up-and-down variety than his consistent days with the White Sox?

While the sample size is undoubtedly tiny, the only time the White Sox faced Quintana, they raked. So losing him as a foe might not be an obvious plus, after all. That being said, perhaps the strain placed on the Cubs' staff without him makes everyone else a better opponent for the White Sox, and they rake regardless.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

It's complicated, obviously, as even the numbers from that day in 2018 show: Anderson and Moncada, now two rebuilding cornerstones for the White Sox, went a combined 1-for-5. If the White Sox still had Kevan Smith, who homered off Quintana in that game, this would be far easier to figure out.

But nothing is easy to figure out in 2020, including something as seemingly straight forward as a frequent opponent losing a key cog in the starting rotation.


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White Sox Talk Podcast: Who will win the AL Central in 2020?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Who will win the AL Central in 2020?

With only 60 games to play in the 2020 MLB season, it seems like there will be a three-team race to the top of the AL Central. To discuss and debate, Chuck Garfien is joined by Anthony Castrovince and Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com to discuss who will be crowned the division winner.

(4:30) - Is the AL Central a three-team race or will the Twins win it again?

(10:30) - Who will have the best hitting in the division?

(16:49) - Who has the best starting pitching?

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(23:38) - Bullpen break down

(31:52) - Final rankings on who should win the AL Central

Listen here or below.

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