White Sox

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

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USA TODAY

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

The Houston Astros will not win back-to-back world championships this October.

Eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the recently concluded ALCS, the rebuilt Astros still remain the model for rebuilding teams like the White Sox. But with their first post-championship season ending without another ring on the fingers of homegrown stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, among others, the most pertinent topic involving the Astros when it comes to the White Sox is Astros players now hitting the free-agent market.

There's a number of them, and some are very, very good. The White Sox figure to be more active this winter then they were last offseason, with Rick Hahn already saying the team will be making pitching additions, a no-brainer with Michael Kopech slated to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. And Hahn has said the White Sox will be "opportunistic" when it comes to other types of additions, as well.

So could any of these soon-to-be former Astros land on the South Side? Maybe. Here they are, ranked by such a possibility.

1. Charlie Morton

The White Sox need starting pitchers. Kopech's out until 2020, and James Shields, should the team opt not to bring him back on a new contract, will be a free-agent departure. That's two holes that need filling, and Morton could fill one of them. I know what you're thinking, "Dallas Keuchel is also a free agent, why isn't he No. 1 on this list, you fool?" More on him in a bit. Right now, we're talking about Charlie Morton.

Morton is hardly the most rebuild-friendly pitching option out there at 35 years old. But Morton's been very good for the Astros over the past two seasons, making 55 starts, striking out 364 guys and posting a 3.36 ERA. His fastball velocity is as high as it's been in his 11-year big league career and he's coming off two straight playoff runs, so maybe he could teach these young White Sox a thing or two about playing winning baseball — he did close out Game 7 of the World Series last fall.

The biggest problem might be that he's not too far removed from different results when he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, when his numbers weren't nearly as good as they got when he went to Houston. Would another change of scenery mean a different kind of performance?

What kind of contract Morton will get on the market remains to be seen, obviously, but it's kind of a mystery at this point, as he's coming off a couple great years but is getting up there in age when it comes to multi-year deals. He could be a fit for the White Sox should they want just a one- or two-year option while they wait for Kopech to return to full strength and for Dylan Cease to make his way to the major leagues. But should this recent success continue, he could be a valuable option on a White Sox team making the transition from rebuilding to contending, too.

2. Marwin Gonzalez

The White Sox have a bit of a quandary in that they are still waiting to find out what they've got in a lot of their young players. With so many prospects and even young players at the major league level yet to fully finish their development, it's tough to say where the holes on future White Sox teams will be. And that's made all the more difficult by the rash of injuries sustained by White Sox prospects in 2018.

A good way to plan for future unknowns is to have a guy you can plug in just about anywhere, and that's what Gonzalez is. During the 2018 regular season, Gonzalez played everywhere on the field besides pitcher and catcher: 73 games in left field, 39 games at shortstop, 32 games at second base, 24 games at first base, three games at third base, two games in center field and one game in right field. He played one game at designated hitter, too, in case you were wondering. He appeared at six different positions in 2017, when he finished in the top 20 in AL MVP voting. That versatility should make him a hot commodity this offseason.

The question marks come from Gonzalez's bat, which was excellent in 2017 but not nearly as good in 2018. After slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for the world-champion Astros in 2017, he got more playing time in 2018 and his numbers dropped to a .247/.324/.409 slash line, 16 homers and 68 RBIs for the AL runners up. So which batch of results would you get if you signed Gonzalez? That's the question facing teams this offseason. (To help assuage fears, however, Gonzalez just wrapped a solid postseason in which he batted .333 with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and nine RBIs, not to mention a .389 on-base percentage.)

But for a team with as much unwritten future as the White Sox have, wouldn't it be nice to have a plan for every eventuality — and to have it all in the form of one guy? While Manny Machado and Bryce Harper grab all the free-agent headlines this winter, perhaps the White Sox could slip in and convince Gonzalez to help another transition from rebuilding to contending. He was a part of two 100-loss teams in 2012 and 2013 and along for the ride to the top of baseball's mountain. That's some good experience to have.

3. Dallas Keuchel

Now we arrive at Keuchel. Would the soon-to-be 31-year-old former Cy Young winner be a good fit for the rebuilding White Sox? Absolutely he would. Signing him to a long-term deal would not only solve a pitching problem in 2019 but it would provide a safety net should Kopech, Cease or whoever go through the to-be-expected growing pains that young players go through in their first tastes of the major leagues. He would be an anchor of future rotations with plenty of young arms around him.

Signing Keuchel — who has a combined 3.39 ERA and 278 strikeouts over the last two seasons — would be similar to the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, a proven veteran climbing aboard a team heading toward a bright future, and his experience and talent could help them reach that future faster. Like Gonzalez, he experienced back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2012 and 2013 and also got a World Series ring as the Astros completed their journey from the bottom to the top.

But being a good fit is only half the battle for the White Sox. A lot of other teams, including good ones capable of pitching a win-now roster, are going to be vying for Keuchel's services this winter. And while he might not be the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free-agent market — that's expected to be Clayton Kershaw, if he opts out of his current contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers — he's going to be no lower than the No. 3 starting pitcher on the free-agent market. Most of the contending clubs in the game are likely to have starting pitching on their shopping list, teams that can pitch present-day success and the ability to win a championship in 2019 against the White Sox promise of planned success down the road. And then there's the financials on top of that. Hahn has said the White Sox will have the financial flexibility to do what they need to do, but will it be enough to outbid baseball's biggest spenders?

Keuchel would obviously be a good fit for the White Sox. But the competition is going to be really stiff.

4. Tony Sipp

Sipp, a 35-year-old reliever who White Sox fans might remember from his days as a Cleveland Indian, was excellent for the Astros this season, posting a 1.86 ERA and striking out 42 guys in 38.2 innings during the regular season.

But while the White Sox could use bullpen help — their 4.49 relief ERA ranked 23rd out of 30 major league teams — that performance kind of elevates Sipp from the level of sign-and-flip guys they've acquired in recent seasons. Sipp might not be under the radar enough for the White Sox to take a flier, get a good few months and trade him away for a prospect.

Spending the kind of money Sipp might command on a 35-year-old reliever in a season where you're not expected to compete might not make for a good match.

5. Brian McCann

Yeah, the White Sox don't need Brian McCann.

White Sox Podcast: Joc Pederson to the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Podcast: Joc Pederson to the White Sox?

Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber discuss the rumor that the White Sox have been in talks with the Dodgers about acquiring outfielder Joc Pederson.

-Good move? Bad move? (1:30)

-What should the White Sox give up for Pederson? (8:30)

-Plus, don't overlook the moves the White Sox have already made this offseason (17:20)

-Why Dane Dunning and Zack Burdi didn't get an invite to White Sox spring training (19:40) and

-Previewing SoxFest (23:15)

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox & Hall of Famers Cross Paths

White Sox & Hall of Famers Cross Paths

Today is one of my favorite days of the year; the day where the Hall of Fame results are announced. I’m all in favor of a big Hall; I enjoy celebrating the greatness of players, so the more, the merrier. Today we welcome four new members to Cooperstown. 

None of the four ever played for the White Sox, so there’s no White Sox highlights piece to write. However… what about notable games, moments or milestones where the White Sox intersect with one of the newly elected Hall of Famers? 

Below are nine of those.

September 12, 1987
By the time Edgar Martínez entered the game in the 6th inning (as a pinch runner for Jim Presley), Seattle was comfortably ahead by the score of 11-1. His first plate appearance came two innings later when he fouled out against Sox reliever Ray Searage. Welcome to the Majors, Mr. Martínez. It was his Major League debut.

August 4, 1991
The White Sox beat the Orioles 1-0 in a pitcher’s duel at New Comiskey Park. The difference in the score – just one run. The difference in the age of the starting pitchers – over 20 years. Charlie Hough (age 43 years, 211 days) tossed a complete game shutout. Mike Mussina (age 22 years, 239 days) took a tough loss… it was his Major League debut.
By the way, the lone run was a Frank Thomas solo homer in the 6th inning. The Big Hurt went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles, a home run and a walk against Mussina. This would become a theme. He homered more against Mussina (9 times) than any other pitcher throughout his Hall of Fame career.

July 4, 1995
The White Sox lost 4-1 against the Yankees on Independence Day. The lone run they scored was a John Kruk RBI single in the 9th inning off Yankees closer John Wetteland. The Yankee starter that day tossed 8 scoreless innings and struck out 11. It was the only 10+ strikeout performance of Mariano Rivera’s career.

May 2, 2003
Edgar Martínez went 2 for 4 with a walk against the White Sox in a 9-2 win at US Cellular Field. 
The second hit, a 6th inning single off Gary Glover, was the 2,000th hit of his MLB career.

April 11, 2004
The White Sox scored three runs in the top of the first inning in the Bronx off Yankees starter Mike Mussina.
It wasn’t enough. The New Yorkers clawed back and won the game 5-4. It was Mussina’s 200th career win.

July 16, 2006
Mariano Rivera became the 4th member of the 400-save club in a 6-4 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. It was the 11th and final time he had a save of at least 2 innings during the regular season (his first 2-inning save was also against the White Sox on August 14, 1996).

August 8, 2006
Paul Konerko, born in Providence, Rhode Island, set a monumental record on this day. With his 237th home run, he passed Gabby Hartnett for the all-time record for career home runs by players born in the smallest US state. The White Sox were playing the Yankees at home, and the record-setting blast handed Mariano Rivera a blown save, tying the game at 5 in the bottom of the 9th.

May 31, 2007
Mark Buehrle tossed a complete game two-hitter, walking none at the Rogers Centre, which was great except for two things: 
First, both hits were solo home runs. Second, opposing starter Roy Halladay allowed no runs in his seven innings. The Jays won 2-0 and Halladay earned career win number 100.

July 28, 2007
Speedster Jerry Owens played 129 career games – all with the White Sox. 
He also hit one career home run… a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 7th inning to break a scoreless tie. The pitcher? Roy Halladay. It would be the only two runs of a 2-0 White Sox win over the Blue Jays at US Cellular Field.