White Sox Winter Project – Starting Pitching

Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field - credit City of Chicago_Chris McGuireAs the baseball calendar approaches the annual Winter Meetings, the White Sox are currently bereft of right-handed starting pitching at the Major League level. All hope that Jeff Samardzija will return in 2016 and beyond is basically gone at this point. Samardzija – for all intents and purposes – was the lone righty in the team’s rotation in 2015. The Sox offered Samardzija the qualifying offer last month; but Samardzija turned down the offer and elected to seek a long-term deal in free agency.

Therefore, White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn should head to Nashville, Tennessee next week for the Winter Meetings with a major task in mind: ACQUIRE A RIGHTY STARTER.

Assuming that Samardzija signs with another team this offseason, Erik Johnson suddenly becomes the Sox best righty in the starting rotation. That’s not very promising. In fact, you can probably find a better righty in the 29 other starting rotations across the league.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the options the Sox might have to replace Samardzija and become a balanced rotation for the first time in a couple years.

 

In-House Players (2016 Opening Day Age)

  • Erik Johnson (25)
  • *Frankie Montas (23)
  • *Chris Beck (25)
  • *Carson Fulmer (22)
  • *Tyler Danish (20)
  • *Spencer Adams (19)

*prospect

Outlook: Unlikely

I’m guessing many of you haven’t heard of most (or maybe all) of these names. The reason being is that only three of them have seen the big leagues. Johnson was back and forth between the majors and minors the past three seasons, Montas was a September call-up in 2015, and Beck has one game of big league experience. So even the guys that can say they set foot on a Major League Baseball field can’t say they spent much time there.

Going forward, I don’t see how the Sox put their eggs in this basket for 2016. As mentioned above, the right-handed end of the starting rotation will already be shaky with Erik Johnson as the best option. The Sox invested the 8th overall pick in last year’s draft on Carson Fulmer; so you know we will see him eventually, but probably not in 2016.

 

Free Agents (2016 Opening Day Age)

  • Yovani Gallardo (30)
  • Ian Kennedy (31)
  • Doug Fister (32)
  • Mike Leake (28)
  • Justin Masterson (31)
  • Kyle Lohse (37)

Outlook: Somewhat Likely

The Sox won’t be landing Zack Grienke or Johnny Cueto, so I didn’t bother including them on this list. Historically, the Sox have never really unleashed their bank book for a premium free agent, so don’t expect them to start now. If the Sox elect to target free agent pitching this winter, they will likely be focused on the second tier of arms.

The best and most reasonable option is probably Yovani Gallardo, who is coming off the best season out of anyone on the list and is also the most consistent. The next best options are Ian Kennedy and Doug Fister – both of whom struggled in 2015 but have track records of very strong individual campaigns. Kennedy went an astonishing 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2011 and Fister, was 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 2014.

 

Trade Options (2016 Opening Day Age)

  • James Shields (34)
  • Tyson Ross (29)
  • Andrew Cashner (29)
  • Tom Koehler (29)
  • Matt Garza (32)

Outlook: Somewhat Likely

You’ll probably noticed that this list is filled with Padres, and why shouldn’t it be? They just traded away their premier closer, Craig Kimbrel, in exchange for a package of prospects. Combine that with the fact that Justin Upton could very well be leaving San Diego at any minute via free agency, and the Padres are all set for a rebuild.

James Shields is locked up through 2018, but at a rather expensive rate. Tyson Ross are cheaper and younger options that perhaps the Sox can lure away from San Diego by offering some prospects of their own.

If the Sox are really desperate for a right hander to eat up innings in 2016, Matt Garza could be a low-risk option as the Brewers might be headed for a rebuild as well.

The Marlins could certainly use a young arm to develop alongside Jose Fernandez. Maybe the Sox can offer up one of their many pitching prospects for Koehler.