White Sox

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez continues hot start to second half, helps snap White Sox losing streak

After a rough outing against the Detroit Tigers on July 4 — his last before the All-Star break — White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez vowed to be a different pitcher going forward.

“At this point, after a really bad first half, there's not much I can say about that. Starting today, you're going to see a different pitcher going forward for the second half of the season,” Lopez said after his July 4 start through team interpreter Billy Russo. “What is done is done. There's nothing else that I can do to change what is done.

“I can do different things to get better and to be a better pitcher for the year and that's what I'm going to do.”

Two outings later, and Lopez is nearing the point where he can say “I told you so.”

Lopez has come out of the break firing on all cylinders after struggling to a 4-8 record and MLB-worst 6.34 ERA before the Midsummer Classic. Friday, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball, allowing just six hits and one walk compared to eight strikeouts. This follows his brilliant outing against the Athletics on Sunday in which he pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and one run — albeit unearned — with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Lopez exited Sunday’s game in line for a win before the White Sox bullpen slipped up. The offense allowed no such opportunity on Friday, tallying 16 hits en route to a 9-2 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s Lopez’s first win since June 9 against the Kansas City Royals and the White Sox first win after the break, snapping a seven-game skid.

Lopez has received a fair share of criticism this season for his struggles, but his recent success should not come as much of a surprise considering how he fared in 2018. The 25-year-old posted a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts, striking out 151 batters in 188 2/3 innings.

Lopez’s strikeout rate in 2019 is up compared to 2018 (8.19 K/9 in 2019 vs. 7.20 in 2018) and his walk rate is down (3.32 BB/9 in 2019 vs. 3.58 in 2018). The major difference is that opponents are hitting .284 against him this season compared to .234 in 2018, while also holding a .319 BABIP, up from .260 last season.

It may just be two starts, but Lopez is backing up his vow to pitch better. Between Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and the returns of Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón from Tommy John surgery in 2020, the White Sox future starting rotation is in good hands. Getting Lopez back to pitching how he did in 2018 will only take that group to the next level.

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White Sox free agent focus: Deja vu with Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free agent focus: Deja vu with Dallas Keuchel

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Dallas Keuchel, LH SP, Braves

Age: 31

2019 salary: $13,000,000

2019 stats: 112.2 IP, 3.75 ERA, 91 K, 39 BB, 115 hits (16 HR)

What Keuchel would bring to the White Sox

Among the marquee free-agent starting pitchers this offseason, Keuchel is the only Cy Young award winner (Rick Porcello is a Cy Young winner and a free agent, but is not marquee). That was back in 2015 and Keuchel will be 32 on New Year's Day. Can he still be that pitcher?

When Keuchel hit free agency last offseason, baseball front offices showed they didn't think so. Keuchel and agent Scott Boras didn't get the big deal they wanted. Instead, he signed a one-year, $13 million deal on June 7.

In 19 starts with the Braves, Keuchel was solid. His 3.75 ERA was almost the same as the 3.74 ERA from the year before and his strikeout rate ticked up from 2018. On the flipside his walks and home runs were the highest they'd been since his rookie year.

The sinkerballer isn't a frontline starter like he was in 2014, 2015 and 2017 when he was with Houston. Still, he has been an above average starting pitcher the last two seasons. Further regression is the concern, but he would be a significant upgrade in the middle of the White Sox rotation.

What it would take to get him

Keuchel is likely to be one of the weirder pitchers in free agency because of what happened to him last year. When he was a year younger, teams didn't want to commit to him on a big contract.

He could be quicker to sign this time around and is more likely to take a multi-year deal instead of another one-year deal that puts him back in free agency at 33. His $13 million contract with the Braves was prorated, meaning he was worth north of $20 million.

Don't expect Keuchel to get $20 million on a multi-year deal, but he could be in the mid-teens over three or four years.

Why it makes sense for the White Sox

Keuchel won't price himself out of the White Sox's range and he fills a big need. The White Sox don't necessarily need aces like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but they do need experience and depth in the starting rotation. Keuchel brings both.

The risk is that Keuchel slips a bit in performance and becomes a league-average pitcher sooner rather than later. He doesn't rack up many strikeouts and his increased home run rate is a red flag when entertaining the thought of a pitcher having home games at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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White Sox free agent focus: Targeting playoff experience with Madison Bumgarner

White Sox free agent focus: Targeting playoff experience with Madison Bumgarner

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Madison Bumgarner, LH SP, Giants

Age: 30

2019 salary: $12,000,000

2019 stats: 207.2 IP, 3.90 ERA, 203 K, 43 BB, 191 hits (30 HR)

What Bumgarner would bring to the White Sox

Perhaps the most accomplished playoff pitcher of all time. In Bumgarner's 11 years with the Giants he was a massive part of their even year success this decade. He won three rings with the Giants (2010, 2012, 2014), including a World Series MVP in 2014. He did all that before his 26th birthday.

In his career, Bumgarner has a 2.11 ERA in 102.1 playoff innings with an 8-3 record. He has three playoff shutouts in 14 playoff starts. Oh, and he has a 0.25 ERA in the World Series in 36 innings. One run in 36 innings in the World Series.

All that playoff success is where Bumgarner made his name and he did so at such a young age (his MLB debut came just over a month after he turned 20) that it's easy to forget that he's still just 30 and should have plenty of years left.

How many 30-year-olds who appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame have ever been available in free agency? For all the hype Bryce Harper and Manny Machado had in free agency last year for being young, elite talents, neither had anywhere near the career accomplishments of Bumgarner.

The counterpoint to that is that Bumgarner has a lot of mileage on his arm. He has thrown 1948.1 innings combined in the regular season and playoffs. He has thrown at least 111 innings in each of the past 10 seasons with seven 200-inning seasons. Bumgarner was one of 15 pitchers to surpass 200 innings this past season.

His performance has slipped a bit in his past three years after posting ERAs under 3.00 from 2013-2016. Still, he has been an above average pitcher. Last year's 3.90 ERA was the lowest ERA+ of his career at 107, which still rates as above average.

Bumgarner would bring an experienced, solid pitcher to the staff. He likely wouldn't be a franchise-changer like Gerrit Cole could be wherever he goes, but Bumgarner is likely to be a dependable option. Plus, no team wants to go against him in the playoffs.

What it would take to get him

The Giants signed Bumgarner to a six-year deal worth $35.56 million early in the 2012 season. That bought out some of his arbitration years and early free agency years. The Giants picked up contract options each of the last two seasons for $12 million. This is the first time he's hitting free agency.

Given his track record and proven dependability, Bumgarner could get around $20 million per year over multiple years in a quickly escalating pitching market. That means the White Sox would have to give him a record-setting deal for the club.

Why it makes sense for the White Sox

Bumgarner isn't going to require the record-setting money that Cole and Stephen Strasburg are expecting to get. That means the White Sox should be able to be in on the negotiations.

The flip side is that there will be plenty of competition. Who doesn't want arguably the best postseason pitcher ever at age 30 who has been nothing but consistent in his career?

The White Sox haven't been mentioned much in rumors around Bumgarner, but he would add experience and reliability to the rotation.

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