White Sox Intend To Be Busy In Free Agency

The White Sox have glaring needs in their rotation and right field.

Bruce Levine
November 06, 2019 - 9:03 am
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) MLB free agency opened Tuesday, and its arrival marked the start of a key period for the White Sox.

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Signs point toward this being the offseason in which the White Sox step on the gas after three rebuilding seasons. To do so, they'll need to add free agents on longer-term contracts, which they haven't much focused on -- outside of a run at Manny Machado last winter -- since before the 2016 season. The White Sox have money to spend after their payroll was around $90 million in 2019.

The White Sox are coming off a 72-89 season with an eye on improvement that allows them to compete for a playoff spot in 2020. To do so, their foremost need is adding starting pitching depth. While ace Gerrit Cole probably is out of their reach, there will be no shortage of pitching options to pursue. 

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner is praised for his leadership and is a proven winner, helping the Giants to three championships in the past decade. He had injury-plagued 2017 and 2018 seasons before his bounce-back 2019. At age 30, he showed some decline in his performance but not to the extent that he couldn't help lead a young staff like the White Sox's into the next level of contention. Bumgarner had a 3.90 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 1.13 WHIP and a strong 4.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 207 2/3 innings across 34 starts this past season.

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, 29, is coming off a breakout season in which he was named an All-Star for the first time. He went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in 159 innings across 30 starts. He also had a 3.36 FIP.  

Right-hander Zack Wheeler, 29, has posted back-to-back strong seasons and has the consistent high velocity that teams find attractive. He had a 3.96 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 195 1/3 innings in 31 starts. His had a 3.48 FIP. Scouts are drawn to Wheeler's traits, believing he's ready to establish himself as a consistent winner.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who turns 32 in January, had a 3.75 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 91 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings in 19 starts in 2019. He went unsigned in the offseason before agreeing to a one-year deal with the Braves in June. He's a groundball-heavy pitcher. While he should be a consideration for the White Sox, it's worth noting he's probably more likely to land somewhere else. That's because he's represented by powerful agent Scott Boras, whom the White Sox rarely find common ground with in negotiations.

The White Sox also have glaring needs in right field and at designated hitters. White Sox right fielders combined for just six homers and a .565 OPS last season, while their designated hitters had 17 homers and a .641 OPS. 

One option to fill the right field void is the lefty-swinging Kole Calhoun. The Angels declined his $14-million option earlier in the week, making him a free agent. Calhoun, 32, hit .232 with 33 homers, 74 RBIs and a .792 OPS in 152 games last season. He's likely to receive two- and three-year offers.

Nick Castellanos, Brett Gardner and Corey Dickerson are other players to keep at eye on. Castellanos is the most high-profile of those names. At 27, he's in his prime and coming off a season in which he hit .289 with 27 homers, 73 RBIs and an .863 in 151 games split between the Tigers and Cubs. He was at his best after his trade to Chicago, hitting .321 with 37 extra-base hits and a 1.002 OPS in 51 games.

Gardner, 36, has solid pop but has dealt with injuries each of the past two years. Dickerson, 30, hit .304 with a .906 OPS last season but landed on the injured list with a fractured foot in September.

The White Sox would also like a catcher, where James McCann was an All-Star in 2019 but they want more help. Yasmani Grandal, 30, would be an ideal addition because he could split time between catcher and designated hitter. He has strong offensive and defensive skills. He hit .246 with 28 homers, 77 RBIs and an .848 OPS in 153 games last season, when he was an All-Star for the second time. Grandal is the best catcher on the market, so he projects to command a lucrative multi-year deal. 

Beyond those targets, the White Sox are also expected to bring back one of their own in first baseman Jose Abreu. They extended him a qualifying offer. He has until Nov. 14 to accept or decline the one-year, $17.8-million offer. If he declines it, the sides could work out a multi-year deal.

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