Analysis White Sox

White Sox: Why Fans Shouldn’t Expect a Big Name Starting Pitcher in Free Agency

The Chicago White Sox will have money to spend this offseason. Will or should they spend it on a big name starting pitcher?

The Chicago White Sox are obviously in the middle of a rebuilding effort and they have slashed the payroll accordingly. The organization has spent a total of $71.8 million on player salaries this season and that puts them at 29th in Major League Baseball behind only the Tampa Bay Rays.

Before arbitration totals, the White Sox will only have $13.75 million committed to three players for next season. Welington Castillo ($7.25 million), Nate Jones ($4.65 million) and Tim Anderson ($1.4 million) are the only non-arbitration players under contract for 2019 at the moment. Rick Hahn has stated effusively and in numerous settings that when the time is right, money will be spent. This off-season might be that time. I doubt the money is spent on high priced starting pitching though.

August gave the southside faithful a glimpse at 2019 in regards to the starting staff. On any given night, Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito were taking the bump.

The marketing opportunities for Brooks Boyer and company were endless with Kopech staking his claim to the front of the 2019 club’s rotation. That obviously all changed with the news that Kopech would need to undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair the torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow.

It’s devastating news for the wickedly talented right-hander and for the White Sox. The big Texan should make a full recovery and slot nicely into the 2020 rotation but questions about the club’s timeline and the 2019 season are warranted at this point.

As the 2018 season is winding down, it’s easy to look ahead to the 2019 campaign and start planning for future seasons. The White Sox will need to add two starting pitchers to their rotation next year and while the farm system is as good as its ever been, there’s no immediate help on the horizon.

Righties Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and southpaw Carlos Rodon should form a decent triumvirate and continue to grow as members of a young pitching staff. Similar to the Kopech plan, Dylan Cease should be making his major league debut during the 2019 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander ascended this year on the farm and was even named Minor League Pitcher of the Year by After a midseason promotion to Double-A Birmingham, Dylan threw 52.1 innings in the Southern League. He posted a dazzling 1.72 ERA to go with a FIP of 2.39 and averaged 13.41 K/9.

He looks to be rounding into shape as a potential top of the rotation option after years of questions related to his secondary offerings and limited innings count. He likely starts the season in Charlotte however and won’t be helping the big club out of the gate in 2019.

Other pitching prospects like Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen, Jimmy Lambert, and Bernardo Flores are moving through the system as well but likely won’t pitch at 35th and Shields next season either.

That brings us to some of the options that are knocking on the doorstep to the big leagues. Spencer Adams, Jordan Stephens and Jordan Guerrero all pitched at Triple-A Charlotte this season and they all need to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason or be exposed to December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Guerrero was left unprotected last year and nobody selected him. The 24-year-old southpaw threw 65 innings for the Knights this season and averaged 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. He has a great changeup and posted a 3.46 ERA to go with a 3.56 FIP. Adams is a 22-year-old former 2nd round pick of the White Sox. He pitched to a 3.19 ERA in the International League but his 5.14 FIP isn’t very kind. In 90.1 innings, the former Georgia Prep multi-sport star only struck out four per nine innings and showed an elevated walk rate.

He was better in 68 innings at Birmingham. Stephens is 26-years-old and was a 5th rounder back in 2015. He posted a 2.81 FIP for the Barons to start 2018 but struggled a bit in Triple-A. Jordan threw 107 innings while posting a FIP of 4.19. The former Rice University ace averaged 8.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.

All of these pitchers have been on the White Sox top 30 prospects list in the past 18 months and we should get some clarity on how the organization truly feels about them this winter. Guerrero has always been a FIP compiler that gets by with just “okay” raw stuff. Adams doesn’t miss enough bats and Stephens might profile better as a relief option. The White Sox need to add two starting pitchers to their rotation for 2019 though and these guys could battle for one of those spots. It will be curious to see which of the three are given a legitimate shot at making the opening day roster.

2019 Free Agency

There will be some premium starting pitching available this offseason but it will come at a hefty price. Clayton Kershaw is owed $65 million over the next two seasons but likely opts out of his current deal. The 30-year-old southpaw has a 3.20 FIP in 150 innings pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year. Clayton’s strikeout rate is way down, however.

He’ll be available for suitors this offseason but I’d be stunned if he pitches his home games anywhere other than Chavez Ravine in 2019. Kershaw going back to the NL West would leave a pair of lefties as the cream of the crop in regards to free agent pitching.

31-year-old Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and 29-year-old Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks will headline the 2019 class of free agent pitchers. Keuchel has been worth 3.4 fWAR this year after posting a 3.66 FIP. His strikeout rate is down as well but he’s been more than solid for the defending world champions.

Corbin has had a fantastic year in the desert. The 6’3 210 pounder has been worth 6.2 fWAR on the season. Patrick has posted a 2.43 FIP and is averaging over 11 K/9. All of these pitchers should be looking at contracts well over $100 million on the open market.

White Sox Plan

While I’m not privy to the specific plans of the White Sox front office, I’d be very surprised to see the decision makers in the market for one of the big name starters this offseason. After the Kopech injury, there were some rumblings from fans and media types that the club would need to go after starting pitching in the offseason.

While there may be some truth to that sentiment, it likely won’t be at the top of the market. It’s too early in the process for the White Sox to hamstring themselves with an expenditure of this magnitude at this particular position. Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel would slot nicely into a rotation screaming for consistency but I don’t think a $100 million contract and the forfeiture of a top 45 draft selection to secure either of their services is on the precipice.

The White Sox will need to spend some serious cash to return to the promised land. Some of that cash might even be spent this offseason. Spending it on a top of the market starting pitcher doesn’t make sense at this juncture though.

The organization needs another year to see the growth of their own pitching prospects. Veteran stopgaps like J.A. Happ, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey or Trevor Cahill, as well as younger guys with upside like Drew Pomeranz or Nathan Eovaldi, could be possible options for next year’s club.

They also have the deep farm system to make an acquisition via trade if something appeals to them. Some of Jerry Reinsdorf’s savings will be spent on the pitching side. A large expenditure on that position is much more likely heading into the 2020 season after the organization has a much better idea of what they can accomplish internally, however.

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3 comments on “White Sox: Why Fans Shouldn’t Expect a Big Name Starting Pitcher in Free Agency

  1. I’d be against getting Kershaw. If he opts out, he’s looking for more money, more years, or (gulp) both. If he’s healthy, he’s well worth it, but he’s been on the DL quite a bit this year and last. Keuchel is inconsistent and Corbin has had only one excellent year. The Sox can afford to wait. Getting Gio or Happ or even Harvey on a short-term deal could work, but I wouldn’t sign anyone to a deal longer than three years (max of 2 for Harvey). They should go as hard as they can after Machado (yes, I know, very low chance of getting him, but I can dream), but then get bullpen help they can flip for more prospects if / when their chase of Machado falls through.

  2. I agree with you on the Machado part and will be writing about it soon. He’s Rick Hahn’s white whale. He needs to be their off-season priority. Thanks for reading!

  3. William Nerida

    Thanks for the article James. I have been a follower of the Loop Sports since I discovered it this year and have found the articles insightful and relevant especially when concerned to my to favorite teams, the Bulls and White Sox

    Though it makes sense and the surrounding logic is sound, I would like to play devil’s advocate this time around. And this is based on the premise that White Sox bats come around and a reliable and young bullpen such as what we are seeing in now

    I am talking about a leap of development for Moncada, like this last 25 games; the continued improvement of Anderson a slash line of .275’325’450 is doable; the introduction of Jimenez hot bat by April; then the regular production of Abreau barring any injuries; finally the sub all star performance for Garcia. We hope that the Sox get Machado but the odds of landing him are low at the moment.

    Now, the White Sox go through the off season and DO NOT ADD a top of the line front line pitcher. When the bats get hot in the early months of the year and the starting rotation is only good for 3 out of every 5 games. And for a brief portion of the schedule, the Sox find themselves in first place. They will then go out and look what is hindering them from maybe taking a playoff spot. They will go out and see that they need to add starting pitching.
    What happens is that they will need to dip in their prospect pool to get that starting pitching and it may have to be front line starting pitching or a reliable innings eater. Please note that this happened in the recent history of the Sox, when the now infamous James Shields for Eric Johnoson and (#2 ranked prospect) Fernando Tatis trade took place.

    The Sox should not let history repeat itself. It should go out now and add the top of the line starting pitching at 100M for 10 years. To protect themselves they should add 2 option years, one in the 4th and another on the 6th. This makes the contract possibly tradeable if the pitcher goes bad later on or when the expected pitching prospects start to get major league ready. Adding a top of the line starter also insures the pitching rotation of some insulation for another injury to the current starting staff.

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