The White Sox have already made a huge upgrade to their starting rotation this winter.
But what if they went even bigger?
Yes, even after trading for Lance Lynn and creating a fantastic 1-2-3 pitching punch, the White Sox could still look to the free-agent market and see Trevor Bauer sitting there unsigned. There hasn't been any indication they're interested in pursuing the top free-agent starting pitcher out there, and the South Side starting staff could certainly be set with Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lynn, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech.
But with questions remaining about the last two names on that list and dependability the name of the game as the White Sox approach a 2021 season with World Series aspirations, do they have another huge splash left in them on the starting-pitching front? The relative affordability of the Lynn and Adam Eaton acquisitions could have the White Sox in position to pursue another addition.
It obviously remains to be seen whether that will happen or not. But let's play a little "what if?" What if the White Sox landed Bauer? How would he fit into the rotation?
Considering Bauer is the reigning NL Cy Young winner for his stellar work in 2020 with the Cincinnati Reds, that's not a terribly difficult question to answer.
How starting pitchers stack up becomes far more important once October rolls around than in the preceding six months. It will be up to Tony La Russa to determine what order he wants to put his pitchers in, so this is more of a "if you were the manager, what would you do?" kind of question.
We're obviously well into the hypothetical realm at this point, with Bauer being on the White Sox and, through some horrible sequence of events, me being the manager. But I'll proceed anyway.
Giolito has earned the title of ace of the South Side staff, so he'd get the ball from me on Opening Day and in Game 1 of a playoff series. A lot of times, it obviously makes sense to go with the hot hand come October, and who knows which of these great arms would be pitching the best in this fantasy world we've constructed. But in a vacuum, Giolito's earned it, not to mention that he's proven that he's a big-game pitcher with his perfecto bid in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series last year.
Bauer, then, would be a solid pick for No. 2, but heck, so would Keuchel or Lynn. Bauer won the NL Cy Young in 2020. Keuchel, Lynn and Giolito went fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the AL vote. So this would be a rotation that could be described as the best in baseball. There's really no wrong answer.
I'd probably line 'em up like this: Giolito, Bauer, Lynn, Keuchel. Certainly that's no knock on Keuchel, who was tremendous in his first season on the South Side, the owner of a sub-2.00 ERA and about as automatic as a pitcher was in 2020. And again, you could come up with any permutation and have it be "correct."
That's the point of adding someone like Bauer: You make the rotation so good there's almost no way to beat it, and certainly that would be the case in the postseason, when the fifth-starter spot is typically lopped off the end of the starting staff.
That's what makes it a super rotation.