White Sox

Report: White Sox still pursuing Zack Wheeler, who will get more than $100 million

Report: White Sox still pursuing Zack Wheeler, who will get more than $100 million

The White Sox are still reported to be among the teams chasing free-agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. But if they want him, it sounds like they're going to have to pay and pay big.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that Wheeler has already received a contract offer worth $100 million and will end up with a richer one five years in length.

If the White Sox are the ones who end up giving it to him, Yasmani Grandal will have only briefly held the title of the richest contract in team history. A $100 million deal — and remember, Wheeler's will be more than that, per Rosenthal — would obliterate the franchise-record $73 million pact the White Sox inked with Grandal just a couple weeks ago. That contract broke Jose Abreu's then-record $68 million by just $5 million. Now we're talking about a jump of nearly $30 million, perhaps more.

So there's the how much. As for the when, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported a deal could come before the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in San Diego.

We'll see if Wheeler ends up landing on the South Side. Rosenthal listed the Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays as other suitors. But if he does, you can kiss that notion that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend completely goodbye. Their supposed preference to stay away from long-term deals for pitchers? A Wheeler signing would smash that idea, too.

Of course, as Rick Hahn suggested last month during the GM meetings, no talk matters unless the White Sox convert on their free-agent targets. They've done so once this winter with Grandal, but that certainly appeared to be only the beginning, what with two starting pitchers and a right fielder — and perhaps a designated hitter and more bullpen help — still on the shopping list.

Wheeler would undoubtedly fill one of those needs in the rotation, a 29-year-old right-hander whose age — and figured long-term deal — would line up perfectly with the White Sox plans for a lengthy contention window. He's shown flashes of absolute dominance, perhaps highlighted by a sterling second half in 2018, when he posted a 1.68 ERA over his final 11 starts of that season. In 2019, he had a 3.96 ERA to go along with a career-high 195 strikeouts in a career-high 195.1 innings.

While some might be wary about giving a soon-to-be 30-year-old pitcher a five-year contract worth nine figures, Wheeler's arm is nowhere near as taxed with big league innings as, say, fellow free agent Madison Bumgarner's. The two are roughly the same age, but Bumgarner has tossed a combined 1,948.1 innings between the regular season and postseason in his 11-year big league career. To compare, Wheeler has thrown 749.1 regular-season innings.

Wheeler has received some rave reviews from those who have observed him closest. SNY's Andy Martino said on a recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast that when Wheeler is on, he can be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The White Sox have been adamant about their intention to follow their rebuilding plans and add an impact talent from outside the organization. Hahn has been adamant about the organization's recent track record of dispelling preconceived notions about what it will and will not do. Certainly, signing Wheeler to a five-year deal worth more than $100 million would do away with some more of those.

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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: