White Sox Still In On Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel

The White Sox are in dire need of a veteran to add to their young rotation.

Bruce Levine
December 18, 2019 - 12:59 pm
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(670 The Score) While the pitching market has thinned out significantly in free agency, there are still a couple frontline starters remaining.

And as you'd expect, the White Sox remain involved. Chicago continues to express interest in left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and left-hander Dallas Keuchel, sources said. The White Sox are in dire need of a veteran to add to a young rotation that -- outside of Lucas Giolito's breakout All-Star campaign -- struggled in 2019. 

Ryu, who turns 33 in March, had an MLB-best 2.32 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 29 starts in 2019, when he was an All-Star for the first time and finished second in the National League Cy Young voting. He has a career 2.98 ERA.

The concern with Ryu is the innings load that he has accumulated and his injury history. He pitched for seven seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization before joining the Dodgers in 2013. Ryu had shoulder surgery in 2015 and then debridement surgery on his left elbow in 2016. He also had a groin injury that sidelined him for a significant period of time in 2018.

There has been speculation across the baseball industry that Ryu will earn a deal near what left-hander Madison Bumgarner received in signing a five-year, $85-million contract with the Diamondbacks.

The White Sox like Ryu's cache of pitches, as he has five that he can command well. Their comfort -- or discomfort -- in his health will determine how long and big of a contract that they're willing to offer. The Dodgers, Braves, Angels, Twins and Blue Jays also have interest in Ryu.

Keuchel's outlook is a bit different. His upside isn't as high as Ryu's, but teams have greater confidence in his ability to stay healthy moving forward. He has been durable, averaging 29 starts between 2015-'18. Keuchel didn't sign with the Braves until June of this past season, but he didn't miss a start once he joined their rotation.  Keuchel, who turns 32 in January, posted a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts in 2019 and holds a career 3.67 ERA.

Both Ryu and Keuchel are represented by power agent Scott Boras, with whom the White Sox often haven't seen eye to eye with in doing business. It's worth noting that Boras and top White Sox officials, including chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, had numerous discussion about star free agent Bryce Harper last winter.

If the White Sox don't sign Ryu or Keuchel, they may need to turn to the trade market to find a veteran. Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray could be available after Arizona added Bumgarner. The 28-year-old Ray is a power pitcher who struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings last season. He can also struggle with his command, as he walked 4.3 batters per nine innings.

The concern for the White Sox is that Ray only has one more year of club control left. Trading someone of consequence from their farm system for a one-year rental wouldn't be in the White Sox's best long-term interest, and they've emphasized the big picture remains the priority.

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