White Sox

There’s a clear need for the 2020 White Sox if they want to contend

There’s a clear need for the 2020 White Sox if they want to contend

With the playoffs underway - and the White Sox not in them - we decided to look back on the 2019 season and take a glance into the future. The ‘team of the future’ just might have a lot to offer… and it might already be here.

We sat down with our Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber, Leila Rahimi, Ozzie Guillen and Scott Merkin, White Sox writer for MLB.com, to get their take on the South Siders. 

Previously, we looked at the best storylines of 2019 and broke down what we learned in the 2019 season, now we're taking a look forward at what the biggest need is for the club.

"Gotta be starting pitching," says Duber. "Rick Hahn's got starting pitching on the shopping list for this winter, so we're likely going to see some additions there."

The White Sox need starting pitching. Period. The rotation they have now is getting by, but they need to go from getting by to succeeding in order to become the postseason contenders they strive to be.

Analysis: Who will the White Sox sign? A preliminary ranking of the top 10 free-agent starting pitchers

While Lucas Giolito dominated on the mound - and was the clear story of the 2019 White Sox - the rest of the rotation didn't give as much of the 'wow' factor that the club will need moving forward.

Dylan Cease was called up to the majors in June and in his 14 starts he's posted a 5.79 ERA with a 4-7 record. He had his shining moments for sure, winning in his first major league appearance in July and striking out a season-high 11 Cleveland Indians hitters on Sept. 3. This surely gives White Sox fans (and the front office) hope for the future as he heads into his first full major league season, but it's impossible to say that he's the piece they needed that completes the rotation.

Michael Kopech is due to return to the mound in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kopech only started four games after being called-up and inevitably suffering a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the timing of which kept him out of the rotation until the start of 2020 season. He's ready to return and even calls his Tommy John surgery "the best thing to ever happen."

Ivan Nova really showed that he's ready to compete. He had a seven game stretch in July and August where he allowed only 5 runs in 48.0 innings pitched which comes down to a 0.94 ERA. He told NBC Sports Chicago that the White Sox will be playoff contenders soon.

How soon? "Soon," says Nova.

Reynaldo Lopez had an OK season. After a dismal first half, he improved post All-Star break and finished strong. Lopez has a promising future but it's hard to call him reliable.

With Carlos Rodon suffering a significant arm injury early in the season, Dylan Covey was about the only one left to fill the spot and he didn't do anything exemplary for the rotation.

"I don't know how you go out there and say you're OK with what you have right now," says Rahimi.

With injured guys returning and young guys getting their shot in The Show, the 2020 White Sox have major potential... if they beef up their starting rotation.

Potential White Sox target comes off board as Madison Bumgarner signs with Diamondbacks

Potential White Sox target comes off board as Madison Bumgarner signs with Diamondbacks

Having already lost out on Zack Wheeler, the White Sox can now scratch another free agent pitcher off the list of potential targets.

Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Diamondbacks are nearing a five-year deal with former Giants star Madison Bumgarner worth $85 million.

The White Sox weren’t heavily rumored to be pursuing Bumgarner and signing him was somewhat unrealistic. Although the South Siders are looking to add a starting pitcher or two this winter, Bumgarner enjoys hitting and therefore seemed more likely to sign with a National League team. The 30-year-old’s career OPS is .532 but he’s hit 19 homers in 11 seasons.

Adding Bumgarner would have provided the South Siders a veteran starter — one with an excellent postseason track record — to mix with their young rotation featuring Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease. With MadBum off the board, the list of major free agent pitchers continues to shrink. 

Lefties Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu are still available, but other teams that missed out on Bumgarner will shift their focus to the duo. Consequently, the White Sox will face stiff competition if they wish to sign either pitcher. Both were expected to be more affordable than Bumgarner but interested teams may be willing to offer more money to ensure they don’t come out of free agency empty-handed.

Where the White Sox turn next is to be determined. What's certain is they're running out of free agent options to upgrade their rotation.

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Indians signal big shift with trade of Corey Kluber


Indians signal big shift with trade of Corey Kluber

The Indians have won more than 90 games in each of the past four seasons, with three AL Central titles in that span, but big changes are coming in Cleveland.

With rumors of a Francisco Lindor trade still floating around, the Indians have dealt two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to Texas. The return package from the Rangers includes outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and reliever Emmanuel Clase.

DeShields Jr. is a 27-year-old speedster who has struggled offensively since debuting with the Rangers in 2015. He has a career .668 OPS with a .591 OPS in 2018 and a .672 OPS last season. For comparison, White Sox outfielder Adam Engel had a .614 OPS in 2018 and a .687 OPS in 2019.

Clase is a 21-year-old righthander who debuted with the Rangers last season. He is a hard-thrower, capable of reaching 102 mph with his fastball while also getting cut action on it. Clase had a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings in the majors in 2019. Still, he is only rated as the No. 30 prospect in the Rangers’ system by MLB Pipeline.

The Kluber trade is relevant to the White Sox because it’s a division power trading away a key player for younger, less established talent. It also shows the price to pay for a noteworthy pitcher in a trade.

If the White Sox fail to land a marquee starting pitcher in free agency, a trade is the next route.

The Kluber deal may have implications for the Cubs as well. Texas appears to be intent on competing with the Astros, A's and Angels in the AL West. The Rangers have been linked to free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, and if he winds up in Texas, that would clarify possible trade partners for Kris Bryant.

Back in the AL Central, Kluber was a stud for the Indians from 2014-2018. He surpassed 200 innings each of those seasons and had a 2.85 ERA in that five-year period.

Last season, however, Kluber was limited to 35.2 innings in seven starts after getting hit by a line drive on May 1, which fractured his right arm. Even before the injury, the 33-year-old righthander struggled with a 5.80 ERA and the highest walk rate of his career (15 in 35.2 innings).

The Indians didn’t win the AL Central last season, but the fact that they won 93 games with only seven mostly ineffective starts from Kluber is a sign that he may not be as essential as he was in previous years.

Perhaps the return for Kluber is more a sign of a lack of belief in him after a tough 2019, but this level of package is something the White Sox could put together without trading a core piece of the future.

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