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.