White Sox's Focus Turns To Zack Wheeler

The White Sox's priority now is to strengthen their starting rotation.

Bruce Levine
November 26, 2019 - 3:20 pm

(670 The Score) After the White Sox signed All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year deal last week, adding starting pitching is now their top priority in free agency.

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The White Sox have a promising young rotation led by All-Star Lucas Giolito, but it was inconsistent and lacked depth in 2019. Knowing it needs to be fortified with a proven frontline starter, the White Sox are in hot pursuit of right-hander Zack Wheeler, sources said. 

The 29-year-old Wheeler seems to have the most upside of any free-agent pitcher not named Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, a pair of aces who are expected to be out of the White Sox's price range. If the White Sox could add Wheeler, he would fit in as a quality No. 2 starter and be the oldest member of a rotation that projects to also include Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech as Carlos Rodon isn't expected to be back until midsummer as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

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Wheeler missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery himself and also didn't pitch at the MLB level in 2016 after delays in his rehab and his comeback attempt. Wheeler then pitched just 86 1/3 innings in 2017, primarily because of a stress reaction in his right arm.

Since then, Wheeler has posted two standouts seasons while showcasing velocity that sits at 96 miles per hour and a strong pitch selection. He has a combined 3.64 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings in 60 starts for the Mets across the past two years. Wheeler has a 3.77 ERA in his career, the entirety of which has been spent with the Mets.

The White Sox's competition for Wheeler figures to be strong. The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Reds and Padres are among the teams expected to be in on the Wheeler bidding.

After getting an early jump on the free-agent market with the signing of Grandal and three-year extension for first baseman Jose Abreu, the White Sox would like to add a starting pitcher before the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 8. The White Sox believe Wheeler would thrive under veteran pitching coach Don Cooper's tutelage and know that adding a veteran presence who's nonetheless still in his prime is important. 

If the White Sox can't attract Wheeler to Chicago, they will have other options such as left-hander Madison Bumgarner, left-hander Dallas Keuchel, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, right-hander Kyle Gibson and right-hander Michael Wacha. With Rodon's status uncertain moving forward, the White Sox are also intrigued by the possibility of adding a left-hander to complement a staff that has several hard-throwing right-handers.

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