Key Storylines For White Sox As Winter Meetings Open

The White Sox have made adding a veteran starter a priority.

Bruce Levine
December 07, 2019 - 5:00 pm
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(670 The Score) As the Winter Meetings are set to open in San Diego on Sunday evening, the White Sox will be busy searching for additions as they aim to to ascend to a new level of competitiveness.

The White Sox already made a strong commitment by signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73-million deal, and they're looking for more.

"We still have work to do," general manager Rick Hahn said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday morning. "But we are quite pleased to have already added Yasmani Grandal and much to no one's surprise bringing back Jose Abreu. We are intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now. You can't convert on everything, a point that was driven home earlier this week (in missing on right-hander Zack Wheeler). We still are excited about the guys we currently have as well as what players we may add in the coming weeks."

The White Sox have payroll flexibility. While they won't spend $200 million like some big-market teams in MLB, they can settle into a payroll around $125 million to $135 million to open the 2020 season. Their payroll was around $91 million to start 2019, according to the Associated Press.

Let's look at a few key storylines and needs for the White Sox with the Winter Meetings around the corner and a key stretch of the offseason upon them.

Proven starting pitching needed

The White Sox need to add at least one and perhaps two veteran starting pitchers to their young and inconsistent rotation, which will miss Carlos Rodon until at least midseason. The White Sox also may slow roll the return and/or workload of Michael Kopech as he's in the final stages of working back from Tommy John surgery in 2018.

The White Sox know they won't be in the sweepstakes for aces Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, but they're interested in the next tier of pitchers. That includes Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who are all lefties. 

Those three are expected to draw lucrative multi-year deals. Beyond them, left-hander Wade Miley could be a cheaper option. He had a strong 2019 season until he struggled mightily in September.

"You are certainly subject to the markets," Hahn said. "The prices may be a little more robust than when the market started. We do our best before the offseason gets started to set our own parameters and expectations on what a guy's real value is based on projections of health and performance. You try to be true to those. I am not going to lie, in the heat of the moment when you can almost taste getting something done, there is a bit of momentum that builds up. That could lead you to deviate from your plan. We have in the past. We have in the past deviated from those coldly calculated plans of what a guy should cost. You try and balance the emotional side of the end game. You try to do that without putting yourself in a bad spot going forward. There are always risk in these signings -- especially veteran pitchers who have been around for a while. You need to balance that in the rewards that they can bring."

Beyond the rotation, the White Sox will look to solidify their bullpen as well.

Right field hole

Acquiring an outfielder in free agency or via trade is a crucial part of the White Sox's offseason plan after the team had a black hole of production in right field in 2019.

The White Sox have been rumored to be interested in Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who has one year of contract control left. The White Sox already made a push for him last offseason. Pederson has hit a combined 61 homers in the past two seasons and has a career .813 OPS and .339 on-base percentage. 

Former Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna has been discussed as well. While a rumor swirled on social media Saturday that Ozuna had agreed to a deal with the White Sox, a source refuted that. 

Japanese outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo could be another option. He'll be available to MLB teams when he's posted later in December. He's widely viewed as a one-dimensional player, as he has good power but little speed or defensive skills. He's a five-time All-Star in the Nippon Professional Baseball league who has a career .382 on-base percentage and has averaged just shy of 35 homers over the past four seasons with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Middle infield insurance?

The White Sox feel good about their future up the middle after shortstop Tim Anderson had a breakout 2019 and with top prospect Nick Madrigal on the verge of taking over second base, but they're still in need of depth there. That's in part because they recently chose to designate infielder Yolmer Sanchez for assignment. He was a Gold Glove winner but a light hitter.

With that in mind, the White Sox could use some insurance. Cesar Hernandez, 29, could be an option after he was recently non-tendered by the Phillies. He's an average fielder with some decent pop and a career .352 on-base percentage. 

Hahn knows that adding players in the heat of the Winter Meetings can be tricky.

"These things are not 'We will give you X or Y' and expect to get a pure yes in that time," Hahn said. "A lot of times, the agents are strategic on what they are doing. That's what they are paid to do. Sometimes they have a buy-now price. Otherwise, they will wait. Sometimes it's not about money. It's about location. It can be about comfort. It can be any number of things that go into a person's decision on where they want to work. It can be frustrating, but the agent's timing of these things with different players and clubs is a real factor."   

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.