After reviewing ten outfield names and five second base names that the White Sox could consider adding via free agency, we now arrive at the starting pitcher category. Through Ethan Katz, the White Sox have been rather transparent about their need to add another starting pitcher, while also stating that this pitcher is not likely to come from inside the system via Garrett Crochet.
Since the White Sox have been so forthcoming about their need, here are 10 free agent options the White Sox could look to sign in free agency to help fill their starting rotation, why they make sense for the team, and what a contract may look like for each of these players.
2022 Statistics: 31 GS, 178.0 IP, 33.4 K%, 7.3 BB%, 2.88 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 6.2 fWAR
Hello again, old friend. If the White Sox are looking to shoot for the moon this offseason, Rodon would definitely be the place to turn. After opting out of the second year of his 2-year, $44M deal with the Giants, Rodon will look to score the major payday he had been projected to get back when he was drafted third overall by the White Sox.
Should the Giants not sign Rodon, they will get the extra draft pick via the qualifying offer that many had hoped the White Sox would get. However, with Rodon, it’s pretty simple: after two very strong seasons and a very healthy 2022, he’s taken care of any doubts about his health and abilities. Bringing him back to the rotation would give the White Sox the ability to run out one of the stronger top five starters in baseball: Cease, Rodon, Lynn, Giolito, and Kopech.
Potential Contract: 5 years, $140M. Outside of Verlander and deGrom, Rodon is probably going to get the biggest payday of all starting pitchers with the longest contract in terms of years. FanGraphs’ projections have Rodon around $27.5M AAV, while some journalists have him getting as high as $30M AAV. While he may be out of the White Sox’ price range based on comments from Rick Hahn, he remains one of the top starters on the market and should at least garner consideration from the team.
2022 Statistics: 24 GS (25 G), 134.2 IP, 16.8 K%, 5.5 BB%, 3.94 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 2.2 fWAR
Syndergaard isn’t the top-of-the-rotation starter he projected to be a few years ago with New York, but he remains an incredibly effective starter – albeit with plenty of injury risk. His strikeout rate has dropped from as high as 29.3% in 2016 all the way down to 16.8% in 2022, though his walk rate has pretty consistently been around 5.5%. Perhaps as no surprise, his velocity has dipped all the way from the high-90s to the mid-90s, forcing him to become more of a sinkerballer as of late. He still has two great offspeed pitches in his curveball and slider, but still, this is not the same Noah Syndergaard we all remember watching as a Met.
Potential Contract: 2 years, $30M. As a result of the above, he’s going to get paid as such. He has the ceiling now, as a 31-year-old, of a mid-rotation starter if he can stay healthy. However, because that’s far from a guarantee, Syndergaard becomes a great buy-low option who has the potential to outperform his contract.
2022 Statistics: 32 GS, 177.1 IP, 20.7 K%, 4.4 BB%, 3.91 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 2.3 fWAR
A former top prospect with Pittsburgh, Taillon has settled well into a mid-rotation role in his past two seasons with New York. His fastball spin (85th percentile) and curveball spin (83rd percentile) are both well above average, giving him the sort of stuff that can easily take a step forward under Ethan Katz – however, they’re already good as they are. In addition, Taillon’s 1.62 BB/9 goes a long way toward helping a White Sox staff whose starting pitcher’s BB/9 was 23rd in all of baseball. Someone who can throw 170+ innings of sub-4.00 ERA ball is exactly what the White Sox should be looking for, especially when you begin to compare yourselves to the Astros.
The top five starters for the 2022 World Series Champion Houston Astros threw about 830 IP. With Taillon, the White Sox’ top five starters could conceivably go about matching that: Cease (170-180), Lynn (160-180), Giolito (160-180), Kopech (150-160), and Taillon (170-180). In addition, the Astros’ top five starters posted a 2.94 ERA for the season. The White Sox, with their current crew, could conceivably get near the 3.00 – 3.20 mark if all went well. That’s a bit more of a lofty goal compared to the innings pitched goal, but signing someone like Taillon and building a rotation of Cease, Lynn, Taillon, Giolito, and Kopech is one that competes with some of the best in the American League.
Potential Contract: 3 years, $39M. Taillon posted a sub-4.00 ERA and has a projected market value of around $14M. FanGraphs crowdsourcing put him at around $12M, while starters like him last season (Alex Wood, Yusei Kikuchi, Jon Gray, Anthony DeSclafani) got around $12-$14M. So, I went right in the middle with this multi-year deal for a mid-rotation arm with very intriguing stuff.
2022 Statistics: 24 GS (32 G), 134.1 IP, 20.7 K%, 3.7 BB%, 3.01 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.1 fWAR
Ross Stripling has had a very interesting career between the Dodgers and Blue Jays. Often a reliever with the Dodgers who was occasionally given the opportunity to start, Stripling fought harder for starter innings towards the end of his tenure with the Dodgers, to mixed results. The same mixed results occurred when he came over to Toronto initially, but in 2022, he posted some of the best numbers of his career while also posting the most innings. The biggest change was a move back to some of the things that made him successful in Los Angeles: fewer fastballs, and more sliders. The newest feature: a devastating changeup with a whiff rate of 34%. He’s built an arsenal that can get him enough swings and misses to become a back end of the rotation piece with some confidence, though with a career-high of just 134.1 innings pitched, it remains to be seen just how many innings a team could reasonably expect to get from the soon-to-be 33-year-old.
Potential Contract: 2 years, $22M with a third-year option. Stripling’s 2022 season is going to earn him the chance to get a pretty nice contract, but his age and the number of innings teams could reasonably expect him to handle will hold him back. If the White Sox are looking to potentially get Davis Martin or Garrett Crochet some opportunities to start games, Stripling would be a great bulk starter that would also leave opportunities for others to get chances. He’s a solid pitcher who keeps his walk rate low (3.7% in 2022), and this is something that any team could use, especially the White Sox.
2022 Statistics: 30 GS, 181.2 IP, 22.4 K%, 6.6 BB%, 3.42 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 2.7 fWAR
Chris Bassitt has been a popular name among Sox fans for a few seasons now, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him here once again. The soon-to-be 34-year-old has been about as consistent as they come throughout his career, posting a 3.29 ERA/3.77 FIP from 2018-2022 combined. In that time, he has completed seasons with 144 IP (2019), 157.1 IP (2021), and 181.2 IP (2022), so the ability to throw a high number of quality innings is clearly there for Bassitt. With an average fastball velocity below league average, he’s long relied on deception to get a lot of his swings and misses. However, this isn’t a “pitch-to-contact” Dallas Keuchel situation – Bassitt posted a 22.24% strikeout rate in 2022, well within career averages. In continuing the theme of finding pitchers who don’t walk hitters, Bassist walked just 6.6% of hitters this season, which would be well below the White Sox’ starting pitchers’ average.
Potential Contract: 3 years, $50M. This will likely be Bassitt’s last chance to earn a bigger contract, and nearly $17M a season puts him in the upper echelon where he belongs without breaking the bank on the true aces of the 2022-23 offseason. While he wouldn’t bring any handedness variety to the White Sox rotation, he would bring stability and a near-top-of-the-rotation presence to the team.
2022 Statistics: 29 GS, 157.1 IP, 20.3 K%, 6.9 BB%, 3.49 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 2.5 fWAR
Much like Bassitt, Walker had a great season in New York that was preceded by a pretty subpar 2021 season. The 30-year-old right-hander saw a move away from his fastball/sinker combination and an increase in his split-finger usage in 2022, which came with great success (especially on his split-finger, which posted a 29% whiff rate). With these changes, Walker has positioned himself as a very effective six-pitch pitcher.
Potential Contract: 3 years, $39M. While Walker and Bassitt posted very similar numbers in 2022, Walker comes with a little bit more inconsistency throughout his career. The soon-to-be 31-year-old has never thrown more than 170 innings while also only hitting that total once (2015). Still, if Walker can be the effective 150/160-inning 2022 version of himself over the life of this contract, he will be well worth the expenditure and then some.
2022 Statistics: 18 GS, 97.2 IP, 20.7 K%, 10.7 BB%, 4.24 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 1.0 fWAR
A jack-of-all-trades with the Reds, Lorenzen signed on with the Angels prior to the 2022 season in order to become a starting pitcher. A mix of injuries and ineffectiveness limit the upside to his next contract, but when he was on the mound, Lorenzen featured pretty good stuff. His league-average fastball is in the 82nd percentile for spin rate, while he featured above-average marks in expected batting average, expected slugging, and barrel %. All told, as a six-pitch pitcher who throws four of his pitchers (CH, FB, SI, SL) nearly the same amount of the time, he’s a crafty right-handed with good stuff – good enough to be a back-of-the-rotation arm.
Potential Contract: 2 years, $16M. Lorenzen is going to command one of the smaller contracts of this bunch because of his relative inexperience as a starter as well as his injury history from last season. However, this is a similar situation to the one with Ross Stripling: Lorenzen would operate in a flexible role that would allow the White Sox to give innings to Davis Martin and Garrett Crochet if they deemed it necessary. However, with doing that comes more inherent risk in the case of injury/poor performance from any of the names involved.
2022 Statistics: 22 GS (23 G), 114.1 IP, 18.8 K%, 7.2 BB%, 4.33 ERA, 4.98 FIP, 0.4 fWAR
After serving as one of the three aces of the Cleveland Guardians staff a few years back, it’s been far from smooth sailing for Mike Clevinger since then. After missing all of 2021 and part of 2020 due to Tommy John Surgery, Clevinger came back this season with a few miles per hour off his fastball and some pretty poor results as a whole. He failed to get the same swing-and-miss stuff on any of his stuff, and after posting a career-high strikeout rate of 33.9% in 2019, his 18.8% strikeout rate in 2022 leaves a lot to be desired. Taking a bet on Clevinger is absolutely buying low at this point, and there is no guarantee he really returns to form.
Potential Contract: 1 year, $10M. As mentioned, signing Clevinger is betting on a comeback to his previous form following Tommy John Surgery. There are more sure-handed options on this list, but none offer the upside that Clevinger does at the price tag he will likely command. It’s a risk – whether it’s worth taking is what the White Sox will need to decide.
2022 Statistics: 32 GS, 165.2 IP, 20.2 K%, 6.9 BB%, 2.93 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 4.0 fWAR
Another old friend on this list. Quintana experienced a sort of career renaissance in his 2022 season with Pittsburgh/St. Louis and the 33-year-old finds himself in the best position he’s been in via free agency in his career. For as good as he was in 20 starts with Pittsburgh, he was even better in his 12 with St. Louis, which included a Game 1 Wild Card start in which he was absolutely dominant. Nothing much has changed over the years for Quintana, as he relies on strike-throwing primarily, but he’s seen an increase in movement on his stuff in recent seasons as he looks to add some shelf life to his career. The 2.93 ERA and 3.86 xERA show some regression, but not enough to warrant being worried over Quintana’s future performance based on 2022 alone.
Potential Contract: 2 years, $25M. Quintana would bring the left-handed presence to the rotation that many White Sox fans are hoping the team decides to add to their rotation in 2023. While there is plenty of risk in just assuming Quintana has made a career resurgence at the age of 33, the advanced metrics still show plenty of upside following a positive season for the lefty.
2022 Statistics: 28 GS (30 G), 158.0 IP, 23.2 K%, 7.5 BB%, 4.96 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 1.1 fWAR
Another popular name among White Sox fans prior to the 2022 season, Sean Manaea is going to need to bounce back in 2023. The left-hander followed some solid back-of-the-rotation years in Oakland with an abysmal 2022 season that saw a slight decrease in strikeout rate (25.7% to 23.2%), a slight increase in walk rate (5.4% to 7.5%), and some decreased movement on his sinker and changeup compared to 2021. However, his 4.96 ERA/4.05 xERA and .330 wOBA/.312 xwOBA give both Manaea and potential suitors hope that he could bounce back to his pre-2022 ways. To Manaea’s additional credit, he has a history of throwing at least 160-180 innings for teams, so his durability works in his favor for any team looking to add some stability every fifth day.
Potential Contract: 2 years, $20M. Because Manaea has a pretty good history, he will likely get a two-year contract at the very least. However, because of his poor performance in 2022 and relatively low ceiling, he’s going to have to settle for a lower AAV than he probably would have liked. A quality back-of-the-rotation piece usually makes around $10M at the very least, so it’s still a nice payday for a quality arm that the White Sox could use.
While it would be easy to list Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom on this list, the reality of the situation is that the White Sox are likely not in the market for a splash like that. Given that, Rodon represents the biggest of the fish, with everyone else settling in at fairly reasonable $10M-$16M AAV contracts that should be right within the White Sox’ wheelhouse if they’re looking to add some stability to a rotation that could lose at least two members (Lynn, Giolito) following the 2023 season.
Should the White Sox not be shopping at this level in the free agent market, pitchers like Michael Wacha, Matthew Boyd, Mike Minor, Corey Kluber, Dylan Bundy, and present themselves as options that are underwhelming, but likely get the job done in some form or fashion. However, based on Ethan Katz’s remarks, it doesn’t seem like the White Sox are looking to add a question mark to the back end of their rotation, which each of these names represents in some form or another.
With Tyler Anderson and Martin Perez already coming off the free agent market, the rest of the players are likely to wait for the big fish to land contracts before signing themselves in hopes of getting a few extra bucks based on the paydays from the big guys. Given this, it would be smart for the White Sox to find an option that is willing to sign with them a bit earlier and remove some of the doubts about this rotation heading into yet another season of contention.
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