Going into the offseason there were clear priorities for the White Sox: starting pitching, right field and designated hitter.
Now that Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez are on board, the starting pitching has been upgraded. Nomar Mazara was an upgrade in right field, albeit a relatively modest addition. Edwin Encarnacion serves as a proven DH.
So what’s next? Another outfielder to complement a relatively unproven Mazara? Despite rumors connecting the White Sox to Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that upgrading the bullpen is next on the list.
The #WhiteSox, making dramatic improvements after spending $195.5 million in free agency this winter, will now focus on improving the bullpen. They're not actively involved in the free-agent derby for OFs Yasiel Puig or Nick Castellanos, saying they're committed to Nomar Mazara— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 27, 2019
If the White Sox want to make a splash in the pen, the free agent relievers available include former Sox pitcher Daniel Hudson, ex-Astros righty Will Harris and former Cubs Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop. Those will be among the names to watch.
Based on the bullpen the White Sox have under contract, it’s easy to see the need for another reliever or two to be confident in the whole group.
Alex Colome (30 saves) was effective as closer last season while Aaron Bummer (2.13 ERA, 27 holds) and Evan Marshall (2.49 ERA, 19 holds) had breakout seasons. Betting on year-to-year success with relievers is tricky, but it’s safe to say those three are going to be given spots in the White Sox bullpen in 2020.
Jimmy Cordero (2.75 ERA, 31 strikeouts, 11 walks, 24 hits in 36 innings) was solid after joining the team midseason and is likely in position to return. Kelvin Herrera was not effective after signing a two-year, $18 million contract last offseason, but given the contract it will be tough to move him.
After that, it’s fair game to question who the White Sox would fill out to make a seven-man bullpen. Jose Ruiz had an ERA north of five and a WHIP of 2.00 and logged 40 innings. That’s one spot prime for an upgrade.
Lefty Josh Osich shared the lead with Bummer in innings pitched among White Sox relievers at 67.2. He signed with the Red Sox. Another lefty, Jace Fry, saw his walk rate double from 2018 to 2019. Fry could be given another shot or the White Sox could try to get another lefty.
The White Sox could be looking to add as many as three relievers, although one or two is more likely. There are a couple of internal candidates who could provide solutions.
Ian Hamilton, a 24-year-old right-hander, set the minors on fire in 2018 and earned a brief call-up that year, but missed most of 2019 with two non-pitching related injuries. He got into a car accident in spring training, which delayed the start of his season. Then he was hit by a foul ball in the face while watching from the dugout in Triple-A Charlotte. A healthy Hamilton could serve as one addition.
Tayron Guerrero was claimed on waivers from the Marlins earlier this month. The 28-year-old right-hander walked 36 batters in 46.0 innings last season, but if he can harness his control, his high-velocity stuff plays in the majors.
Even with internal options, given the White Sox's aggressiveness this offseason, it's not likely they stand pat and hope for the best.