White Sox

Alex Colome unsurprisingly named White Sox closer, though bullpen mysteries abound ahead of Opening Day


Alex Colome unsurprisingly named White Sox closer, though bullpen mysteries abound ahead of Opening Day

Though Rick Renteria isn't fond of naming one, the White Sox have a closer.

Alex Colome, acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners this offseason, will be the White Sox designated closer when the season starts next week in Kansas City, Renteria shared with reporters Friday in Arizona.

As that tweet shows, Renteria is still very much standing by his philosophy of "having a bunch of different guys who can close out games," not a bad philosophy to have should Colome spend any time on the disabled list, struggle in a significant fashion or just get tired and become unavailable at various points throughout the 162-game season. Regardless of whether Colome is the guy or not — and he is — there will be others Renteria will deploy in save situations. That's just the nature of the game.

But Colome is a no-brainer of a choice here considering what he's done the past two seasons. In 2016, he logged 37 saves with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2017, he was baseball's saves leader, with 47 of them. He saved 11 more games with the Rays last season before getting traded to the Mariners, where he served in a setup role to last year's saves leader, Edwin Diaz.

In the last three seasons, Colome has a 2.78 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 191.1 innings, many of them high-leverage situations.

Saying Colome is the obvious choice to close is no insult to the other guys in an improved White Sox bullpen. It's a reflection of how good an addition Rick Hahn made this offseason.

Meanwhile, the rest of the bullpen is full of preseason mysteries.

Kelvin Herrera, another offseason upgrade White Sox fans are thrilled is no longer pitching out of the Kansas City Royals' bullpen, is still on the way back from an injury that ended his 2018 season in late August. Nate Jones has had himself a very rough spring (a 15.43 ERA in 4.2 Cactus League innings) and has recently described his outings as "unacceptable." While Renteria said Friday that "the next couple of days are very important" for Jones, it would be quite surprising if he wasn't on the Opening Day roster.

Jace Fry, another projected late-inning option for Renteria, has also had a poor spring, with eight runs allowed in eight innings. Ian Hamilton has made just one Cactus League appearance, recovering from an injury sustained during a car accident this spring. Manny Banuelos, who could be the long man out of the 'pen, has allowed eight earned runs, surrendered three home runs and issued six walks in 14 innings this spring.

Ryan Burr, though, has been a bright spot, with just three runs allowed over his seven outings.

So what will the Opening Day bullpen look like? Assuming it will contain eight pitchers, Colome, Herrera, Jones, Fry, Banuelos and Burr could account for six of them. If Hamilton is healthy, he could get another. Same for Caleb Frare, who also got his first taste of the majors at the end of last season. There are only two other potential relief pitchers currently listed on the White Sox roster: Dylan Covey and Jose Ruiz. Covey could likely only serve as a long man, and with Banuelos out of options, it's Banuelos who seems most destined for that spot after the White Sox made a trade to acquire him this winter. Ruiz could step in in the event Hamilton isn't healthy enough to make the roster out of camp or beat out one of his fellow youngsters for a more secure job.

We'll see how all that plays out. One thing you can mark down in pen: Colome is the ninth-inning man.

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nationals and begins domino effect in free-agent market

Stephen Strasburg returns to Nationals and begins domino effect in free-agent market

Stephen Strasburg returning to the Washington Nationals was something that had been somewhat expected heading into free agency, but now we have a number to put on it.

According to multiple reports, the 2019 World Series MVP is staying in the nation’s capital on a seven-year, $245 million contract.

That number, $35 million per year, is the highest average annual value for a pitcher in league history. Beyond taking one of the two elite free-agent pitchers off the market, it now gives a number for Gerrit Cole, the other elite free-agent pitcher, to base his upcoming contract off of.

Currently, Cole is being most heavily connected to the Yankees and Angels. Strasburg returning to the Nationals takes the backup plan off the board for those teams. Does that increase the urgency from those teams and hasten negotiations?

How much money does Cole get? He is two years younger than Strasburg so getting an eight-year deal isn’t out of the question. He’s also better than Strasburg so he will be expecting more money per year. 

The next piece of fallout from Strasburg’s deal is what this means for Anthony Rendon. Rendon was the other marquee Nationals free agent and word from Nationals owner Mark Lerner was that the Nationals wouldn’t be able to keep both Strasburg and Rendon.

If that’s accurate, that means Rendon is headed elsewhere. Do the White Sox have a shot at him? There isn’t much out there to say the answer to that is yes right now, but any time the incumbent team appears to be out of the running there’s a shot something surprising happens.

Rendon’s connection to the White Sox is tenuous at the moment, but the South Siders have been more tied to other available pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. With Strasburg off the board and Cole potentially signing soon, things could move quickly for the other available pitchers.

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Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

USA Today

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

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