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White Sox: Adding Relief Pitching Via Free Agency Shouldn’t Be A Priority

Despite a busy offseason ahead, James Fox writes that the White Sox do not to be spending money on relief pitchers in he free agent market this winter.

There will be new pitchers on the 2019 Chicago White Sox. Rick Hahn hammered away at that point during his end of year media scrum. At the conclusion of the 2018 campaign, Hahn said, “From a pitching standpoint we are going to have some additions.” Much of the focus on that day was placed on the starting rotation with the injury to Michael Kopech and James Shields‘ imminent departure. “Talk about those three fellows at the front with Lopez, Giolito and Rodon, and while Dylan Covey has done a very fine job as an option for us going forward, we are going to need some alternatives both in the rotation and the bullpen”, Hahn said.

Dylan Cease is one of the very best pitchers in the minor leagues and he could see Chicago at some point in 2019. His development is most important though and he won’t be rushed into action. While the White Sox may not break the bank for a big money starter, they could have a plan to add to their young rotation. The plan for the bullpen is an entirely different story however. The organization has amassed an opulent amount of potential high-leverage options for a future bullpen. The farm system is very deep in this regard. Many of those guys got their first taste of the big leagues in 2018 as well.

“You’ve seen some young bullpen arms up here in September,” Hahn said. “We have others in the system that we like and project to have foresee playing a role on a championship club. But from a development standpoint, it might make sense to augment a little bit and let them force the issue on us when they are truly ready.” Righties Zack Burdi, Zach Thompson and Tyler Johnson along with lefties Kodi Medeiros and Hunter Schryver could fit into a championship bullpen down the road. Those pitchers should see some big league time during spring training and spend most of their seasons at Double-A or higher.

Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Jose Ruiz, Thyago Vieira and Caleb Frare all made their White Sox debuts in 2018. Any of them could be critical cogs in the 2019 club as well as into the future. Hamilton (23), Burr (24), Vieira (25) and Ruiz (24) all struggled in small samples but displayed high octane stuff as advertised. Any of the four could be counted on in high leverage roles down the road. The 25-year-old Frare joins a triumvirate of promising southpaws in the bullpen. In just 7 innings, the former Yankee farmhand posted a 2.73 FIP and his wicked repertoire flashed consistently.

Aaron Bummer (25) and Jace Fry (25) have established themselves as dependable options from the left side. In 31.2 innings with the White Sox last year, Bummer averaged almost 10 K/9 and posted a 2.40 FIP. Fry was the best pitcher in the pen for the majority of the year. The former 3rd round pick out of Oregon State struck out 12.27 hitters per 9/IP while posting a 2.67 FIP in 51.1 innings. Bummer, Frare and Fry could have the franchise set from the left side for 2019 and beyond. There should not be much of a need to add to this stable in free agency outside of a few non-roster invites on minor league contracts.

Nate Jones will once again be the elder statesman in the Sox bullpen. Now a 32-year-old veteran, Jones battled injuries and inconsistency in 2018. He posted an ERA of 3.00 but the peripherals weren’t flattering and he struck out fewer guys than ever before. Nate is under contract for 2019 and should receive some high leverage innings unless he’s traded this winter. 28-year-old right hander Juan Minaya could return as well. He struggled to start the 2018 season but rebounded nicely. In 46.2 innings, Minaya posted a 3.57 FIP while averaging 11.19 K/9. Dylan Covey and 2015 first rounder Carson Fulmer are both on the 40-man roster and could be given a shot to compete for a spot as well as former 5th round pick Jordan Stephens.

2019 Free Agent Options

Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Miller are at the top of the 2019 free agent class of relief pitchers. Kimbrel is 30 years old and has averaged 14.67 K/9 throughout his career. He has posted a 3.13 FIP for the Red Sox in 2018. Miller posted a 3.51 FIP in a “down” year for the Indians. The 33-year-old has been a monster from the left side of late though and should command huge free agent dollars. Both of these guys will receive Qualifying Offers from their clubs and command contracts in the $70 million range. The sheer cost of the deal plus the required forfeiture of a top 45 draft selection should keep Hahn out of the bidding.

On a lesser scale, Cody Allen, Adam Ottavino and Jeurys Familia will all be available as well. The Sox are familiar with Allen after many years in Cleveland. The 29-year-old right hander put up a FIP of 4.56 this season but was excellent in the years prior. He could receive and decline a Qualifying Offer as well. Ottavino had an outstanding year for the Rockies but is already 32 years old. His 2.43 ERA and 2.74 FIP were the best of his career and he accumulated a 2.0 fWAR while averaging 13 K/9. He’d be a solid addition to any bullpen but only at the right cost. Familia was traded to the Athletics for a playoff run this past season. The 29-year-old fireballer posted a 2.65 FIP and struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings.

Guys like David Robertson, Seunghwan Oh, Joakim Soria, and Brad Bach will be available. Kelvin Herrera, Randall Delgado, AJ Ramos and Trevor Rosenthal will be looking to land somewhere as bounce back candidates as well. It’s a decent market for teams looking to supplement a bullpen. It’s just not a huge area of need for the 2019 White Sox.

Hahn openly talked about adding competition and bullpen upgrades. The front office could go out on the open market and land anyone they’d like with the resources they’ve afforded themselves. They already have a competition of their own brewing though. Rick Renteria has a proclivity for 13 man pitching staffs. Something that isn’t expected to change in 2019. Nobody should be surprised if there are a couple veteran additions to that bullpen. Nobody should be surprised if there aren’t any either. Young relievers with upside have been added to the organization and are now part of Hahn’s critical mass. Those guys need to pitch. Some of them will be on the next playoff team. The 2019 White Sox shouldn’t be wasting innings on veteran free agent signings. Instead, they should be focused on finding out who matters amongst the current group.

Follow James Fox on Twitter–Feature Photo Credit: Southside Showdown


1 comment on “White Sox: Adding Relief Pitching Via Free Agency Shouldn’t Be A Priority

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