White Sox

White Sox Team of the Future: Starting pitcher No. 5

White Sox Team of the Future: Starting pitcher No. 5

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) this month. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

Welcome to the starting rotation, and a bit of an explainer on how this worked out. We did have our voters craft a rotation of the future, one through five. We then took the five highest vote-getters, total, and ranked them one through five. It works out nicely as an order, as you'll see over this week, but it doesn't necessarily mean each guy was strictly voted for in a specific spot. The No. 1 starter could have been a No. 3 starter on a specific ballot, but the vote counted the same. Also, we're going to list the same group of "other vote-getters" starting pitchers on all five spots because who knows where they would end up? OK? Moving on.

Our first starting pitcher of the future is Dane Dunning.

Dunning hasn't pitched in a while during his battle against an elbow injury that brought an end to his 2018 season in late June. But before that, what a season it was. He made just four early season starts at Class A Winston-Salem, giving up just seven runs and striking out 31 batters in those 24.1 innings. That earned him a quick promotion to Double-A Birmingham, where he was equally good, posting a 2.76 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 62 innings over 11 starts. All great signs for the now-24-year-old.

But of course that elbow injury is still out there. Rick Hahn provided a bit of an update on that during the GM Meetings back in November.

"Dane Dunning put together a very nice year and had himself some injury issues and knock on wood, left instructional league feeling great and back to the form when he was having success during the course of the season and projects to be part of that Double-A rotation, just as you probably would have expected him to be had he finished the year healthy," Hahn said, "with maybe having to make up for two months of pitching development to get back on pace."

Given the numbers he was able to put up when healthy last season, Dunning has fans excited that he could be a part of a homegrown rotation by the time the White Sox are ready to contend again.

But whether because of the injury layoff or the fact that he's still yet to pitch past the Double-A level, the timing on his arrival in the majors is unknown at the moment. Of course, like with all their other highly rated prospects, the White Sox will allow ample time for Dunning to develop in the minor leagues.

Other vote-getters

Lucas Giolito. The one-time top-rated pitching prospect in baseball didn't make our rotation of the future, but there's still a really good chance he's a part of that starting staff the next time the White Sox are contending. Giolito now has a full season in the big leagues under his belt, even if things didn't go so hot. He had the biggest ERA in baseball at 6.13 and led the American League with 90 walks. The results weren't what he or the White Sox wanted, obviously, but he got experience that he wouldn't otherwise have gotten if the team wasn't in the current phase of its rebuilding project. Giolito will get every opportunity to turn those bad moments into lessons learned in 2019, and his arrival here before many of the other pitching prospects gives him a head start to develop into an effective major league starter.

Madison Bumgarner. Almost every other vote-getter was an outside addition of some fashion, and Bumgarner might be the biggest name on the list. He's a free agent next winter and would fit the mold of a Jon Lester type addition to polish off this rebuild. Bumgarner has thrown a ton of innings but he's shockingly young, still not even 30 as he heads into the 2019 season. He's a four-time All Star, a four-time top-10 Cy Young finisher and one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers ever, with three World Series rings and a jaw-dropping 2.11 ERA in 102.1 postseason innings. Having a veteran winner like Bumgarner at the top of the rotation would allow the homegrown youngsters to blossom around him. Talk about the cherry on top of the rebuilding sundae.

Gerrit Cole. This would be a different route to take from Bumgarner, as Cole is younger and less experienced in the winning department, but he's undoubtedly one of the best starting pitchers in the game. In his first season with the Houston Astros last year, he posted a 2.88 ERA with a remarkable 276 strikeouts in 200.1 innings. Cole is an ace and would serve in that role if the White Sox wanted to make a real long-term splash on next offseason's free-agent market.

Justin Verlander. A rotation-mate of Cole's and a pitcher with a resume perhaps even more impressive than Bumgarner's, Verlander is also a free agent next winter — the class is absolutely loaded — and though he'll be significantly older than the last two guys we discussed, 36 next month, he's still pitching like one of the best in baseball. Last season with the Astros, led the AL with 290 strikeouts and finished the season with a 2.52 ERA. Who knows how long Verlander will keep pitching like this, but he's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and would be a sensational addition to an otherwise really young rotation looking to add a get-over-the-hump piece and vault into World Series contention. One thing of note, though? Verlander and Tim Anderson aren't exactly best buds.

Zack Greinke. This one would require a bit of a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, as the longtime division foe of the White Sox is under contract for another three seasons. And what a contract it is: Greinke makes more than $34 million a year, the highest annual salary in baseball history. Greinke's getting up there in age, now 35 years old, but he's still pitching real well. He's been an All Star in four of the last five seasons, including each of the last two. He finished with a 3.21 ERA last season and struck out 199 batters. He's won five straight Gold Gloves and finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting in four of the last six seasons. That's still pretty darn good stuff. If the White Sox think the contending days are coming quick, trading some prospect depth for the still-dominant Greinke might not be the worst idea.

Chris Archer. Archer could be a free agent next winter. Or he could be a Pittsburgh Pirate for the next three seasons. Or something. Archer's contract has team options for 2020 and 2021, making him perhaps a more interesting trade candidate than a free-agent addition next offseason. Of course, Archer's numbers have been going in the wrong direction since 2015, when he finished in the top five in AL Cy Young voting. He's posted a combined 4.12 ERA over the past three seasons, a stretch during which he's given up 76 home runs. He still strikes out a lot of batters, with 644 Ks in the last three years, and he's only 30 (that's right, Archer is older than Bumgarner). He might not have the resume of the guys listed above, but if the Michael Kopechs and Dylan Ceases of the world can develop into ace-like pitchers, someone like Archer could be used elsewhere in a rotation of the future.

Sonny Gray. It looks like Gray, who could've been had via a trade with the New York Yankees earlier this offseason, is on his way to Cincinnati to be a Red. Of course, he's a free agent next winter, too, and perhaps this voter is looking ahead to Gray as an attractive add after a resurgent 2019. He'll need it after a 4.90 ERA in The Bronx during the 2018 season. Gray's done big things before, though not terribly recently, and could be a nice addition to a rotation that has a potential hole unfillable by a homegrown piece.

Ivan Nova. Another appearance by the voter who thinks the glory days are already here. Nova was acquired by the White Sox in a trade with the Pirates during the Winter Meetings. He's a solid short-term addition in that he brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse and the pitching staff and fills one of two holes in a rotation that came into the offseason with just three arms for the 2019 season. As for how long Nova could stick around, well, he's a free agent next winter, too, and if the White Sox get the progress they hope for from Cease and the healthy return of Kopech, there might not be much need for Nova to extend his stay on the South Side.

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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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