White Sox

White Sox, searching for starting pitching, reportedly in 'leading group' for Zack Wheeler

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USA TODAY

White Sox, searching for starting pitching, reportedly in 'leading group' for Zack Wheeler

Asked during the GM meetings last week in Arizona what kinds of pitchers he wants to acquire this winter, Rick Hahn had a snappy response.

"Good ones," he said.

Well, Zack Wheeler falls into that category, and the White Sox are reportedly in pursuit, with Jon Morosi reporting Wednesday on MLB Network that the South Siders are one of four teams — alongside the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres and division-rival Minnesota Twins — in "the leading group right now" for Wheeler's services.

Wheeler, a free agent after pitching in five big league seasons with the New York Mets, had himself a very good 2018 campaign, finishing with a 3.31 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 29 starts. He made 31 starts in 2019, striking out more batters (195 of them) but finishing with a significantly higher 3.96 ERA. He closed the season strong, with a 2.83 ERA in his final 12 starts. Wheeler was terrific in his five September starts, posting a 1.85 ERA in the season's final month.

The 29-year-old right-handed hurler is one of the more attractive names on this winter's pitching-heavy free-agent market. He's not commanding the attention of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner, perhaps, but he's still plenty high on a lot of wish lists. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler's dealt with injury issues throughout his major league career, missing the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, first with Tommy John surgery and then with a right arm strain that did not require another surgery.

The White Sox got to see Wheeler up close in August, when he tossed a gem at Guaranteed Rate Field, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out seven.

Certainly it makes sense that the White Sox would be interested, as well as casting a wide net in their search for starting-pitching help this winter. Asked last week whether the White Sox are searching for top-of-the-rotation guys, such as the Coles and Strasburgs of the world, or middle-of-the-rotation guys who would slot in behind Lucas Giolito, Hahn didn't limit himself to one or the other.

"We have room for improvement in both spots," he said. "We'll continue to monitor the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on."

The most Hahn revealed about the team's starting-pitching pursuits is that the White Sox are looking to add two arms to the rotation this winter. Those two arms would go along with Giolito, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation. The White Sox, until they assess the situation in the spring, are uncommitted to how much Michael Kopech will pitch out of the rotation in 2020. If the goal is improving the rotation in the short- and long-term, Wheeler would figure to do the job.

"I don't think any team ever feels they have enough starting pitching," Hahn said. "And looking at where we sit, with (Carlos) Rodon on the IL to start the season and Kopech coming back from the injury, I think we feel good about potentially adding two arms to that mix. If it turns out once Carlos is healthy or how Michael shows up in spring training that, lo and behold, we have too many quality starters, we'll deal with that problem as it arises."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

The crew wraps up the final day of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Ryan McGuffey talk about a rumored deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox (2:41) that would move some pieces around.

Rick Hahn speaks for the final time in San Diego and the guys react to his comments.

Later, they debate why fans are disappointed with the White Sox and the outcome for the team at the end of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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