White Sox

The next Mark Buehrle? Maybe Dallas Keuchel is best bet for White Sox in free agency

The next Mark Buehrle? Maybe Dallas Keuchel is best bet for White Sox in free agency

SAN DIEGO — We've talked a lot about Madison Bumgarner. We've wondered why the White Sox aren't more heavily linked to Gerrit Cole. We watched as they made the high bid for Zack Wheeler, only for him to take less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Maybe the best answer for the White Sox starting-pitching problem is someone else entirely. Maybe it's the next Mark Buehrle.

That's a comp that ought to get White Sox fans excited. After all Buehrle is one of the biggest icons in franchise history, a tremendous pitcher, defender and World Series winner. Well, Dallas Keuchel fits those descriptions, too, and it led to one bold prediction from one of the most plugged-in people in the game as the Winter Meetings got started Monday.

"My prediction is — not sourced reporting, this is a prediction — that Dallas Keuchel is a White Sock (by the end of the Winter Meetings)," MLB.com's Jon Morosi said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "He reminds me — his ability to field the position, lefty — there’s a little Buehrle there with Keuchel. I think that he fits, and I would hope that’s part of the White Sox sales pitch to him.

"I look at Buehrle and Keuchel as being similar pitchers, both athletic. There’s something about Keuchel pitching in that uniform that looks right to me."

OK, so maybe it's less of a comp and more of a hunch, but indeed there are similarities between the two. They're both four-time Gold Glove winners. They both won a World Series, Buehrle with the White Sox in 2005 and Keuchel with the Houston Astros in 2017. They're both left-handed, something that the White Sox could use right now to balance out their right-handed heavy rotation.

Perhaps most importantly for the White Sox, Keuchel is presently available. He's one of three oft-discussed mid-tier free-agent pitchers, along with Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who could be on the White Sox radar in the wake of Wheeler's decision to pitch in Philly. Rick Hahn's front office showed with its reported high bid for Wheeler that it's willing to spend big to add to the rotation. Perhaps the gargantuan sum speculated to go to Cole is a tad outside the realm of possibility — for many more teams than just the White Sox — but Keuchel could be the guy the team's been trying to find to pair with Lucas Giolito at the top of the rotation.

Keuchel has the experience of going through a rebuild and coming out the other end a world champion, helpful in telling these young White Sox how to get it done. He's done something Buehrle never did: capture a Cy Young Award, which he won in 2015. More recently, he helped lead the Atlanta Braves to an NL East championship, posting a 3.75 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 112.2 innings over 19 starts in 2019.

Most importantly, perhaps, Keuchel would provide stability and reliability in a rotation that, while talented, has plenty of question marks. Will Giolito's transformation be permanent? Will Michael Kopech be the same flamethrower he was prior to Tommy John surgery? Will Dylan Cease shake off a rocky first taste of the big leagues? Will Reynaldo Lopez find some consistency? Will Carlos Rodon be able to contribute much in 2020?

Keuchel comes with far fewer question marks, and hearing his name next to Buehrle's should give White Sox fans a clearer picture of what he could bring to the South Side.

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What will Steve Cishek's role be with White Sox? 'Get three outs, any inning'

What will Steve Cishek's role be with White Sox? 'Get three outs, any inning'

It's safe to say the White Sox wanted to add Steve Cishek to their bullpen.

"According to my agent, within five minutes after the World Series, the White Sox called and expressed some interest," Cishek said Wednesday. "So when you get a call that soon, you know the team is up to something. Then of course with what they did this offseason, it made signing here very intriguing."

So what will Cishek's role be at the back end of that bullpen? For the newest member of the South Side relief corps, it's really not that difficult.

"I would assume it would be the same as it was with the Cubs," he said. "Get three outs, any inning."

Cishek is aboard to bolster that back end, one that heads into 2020 with some concrete names but some mystery, as well. Alex Colome will be the team's closer after racking up 126 saves over the past four seasons, and Aaron Bummer figures to be a frequent presence in the eighth inning of games after posting a 2.13 ERA last season.

Cishek was extraordinarily reliable for Joe Maddon and the Cubs in his two seasons on the North Side, with a 2.55 ERA in a whopping 150 appearances, many of them coming in high-leverage situations.

While Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero will start the season as options for Rick Renteria in high-leverage situations, too, that pair doesn't have quite the track record of Cishek. With Rick Hahn quick to remind about the volatility of relief pitching from one year to the next, adding a dependable arm in Cishek is an important complement to what the White Sox already had in the 'pen.

"I am fortunate enough now that we have guys that have all been at the back end of a ballgame and have had success in that particular role," Renteria said Wednesday. "I've got flexibility now and strength and hopefully having guys being able to take advantage of high-leverage situations. I use a guy two, three, four days (in a row), it's nice to have another guy I can probably slot in there to be able to do things like that. I have a little bit more flexibility right now."

Cishek's contributions on the pitcher's mound will obviously be of great import, but like every other veteran addition the White Sox have made this winter, he's also expected to do plenty in the clubhouse. While the Cubs teams he was a part of played in just one postseason game the past two seasons, he's no stranger to dealing with big expectations. The White Sox have those now after years of rebuilding, and Cishek should be able to help guide the players new to such an environment.

"With expectations, as long as we stay together as a team we can accomplish a lot," Cishek said. "A lot of the guys we've brought in have been through the fire. As a matter of fact, most of the guys have played in the playoffs the last four or five seasons even. So they have the playoff experience. They know what it takes to win and get to that level, and I think that's going to bode well for these young guys to see how they work, how us older veteran guys get after it and hopefully follow suit.

"I think we can teach these guys how to win."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The person making the boldest White Sox predictions

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The person making the boldest White Sox predictions

Chuck Garfien is joined by the man who predicted a White Sox division title for the 2020 season before the Sox made any moves, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Castrovince also discusses his other bold White Sox predictions and why he's making them.

(2:48) - Why Castrovince selected the Sox to win the AL central

(7:03) - Why Castrovine selected Rick Renteria as AL Manager of the Year

(9:56) - Yoan Moncada will challenge Mike Trout for AL MVP

(12:43) - Will Luis Robert win Rookie of the Year

(13:54) - Why the Padres missed and the White Sox won last winter on Manny Machado

(18:57) - Was the Astro punishment enough?

(23:30) - For the love of Bruce Springsteen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: