With the starting pitching, right field, and designated hitter positions already addressed for the White Sox, many are speculating about what the team’s next move could be. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported on Thursday that the White Sox are still involved in the outfield market and Yasiel Puig appears to be a top target. This was met with mixed reactions from Sox fans. However, 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine shot down the rumors of any White Sox interest in the outfield market, and said the team is shifting its focus to the relief pitcher and utility infielder market.
Wh Sox interest has pivoted to the bullpen and backup utility infielder . Chicago need two pen arms + a player who can handle SS-2B and 3B Leury Garcia is one .Sox would like a primary inf specialist. Not in on Puig or Castellanos .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 27, 2019
Levine mentioned the Sox as potentially wanting two relievers, as well as someone who can play both middle infield positions and third base. Let’s focus on the former of these potential needs for now, the bullpen.
Unlike the 2018-19 offseason, the market for relievers this year appears awfully thin. Aroldis Chapman made the decision to remain with the Yankees and not opt out. Two of the top three relief options, Will Smith and Chris Martin, signed deals with Atlanta very early in the offseason. Dellin Betances and his high upside would have been another intriguing pickup, but growing up in New York made him unlikely to leave, and the Mets were able to bring him in. Blake Treinen was quickly scooped up by the Dodgers after being non-tendered by the Athletics, and supposedly took less money than he could’ve had elsewhere for the chance to win. One major lefty, Drew Pomeranz, shocked everyone by landing a 4-year deal with San Diego. While it appears that most of the sought after arms are off the board in a market that was thin to begin with, there are still several options that I think would be good fits for the White Sox, though they are not without their flaws.
RHP Will Harris
Previous Team: Astros
2019 Stats: 60.0 IP, 4-1 Record, 1.50 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
Although he is 35 years old, Harris is still one of the most effective relievers in the game. In fact, his 1.1 WAR was second in the free agent class to Will Smith’s 1.2 in 2019. He won’t command the type of money that Smith received due to his age and the fact that he’s not left-handed, but there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be productive in 2020. Harris had a 1.50 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 2019, and his elite spin rates, xWOBA, and hard hit % suggest that this was not a fluke. Looking back even further, Harris was a member of the 2017 World Series champion Astros team, so he has the playoff experience to help the White Sox’ young staff. At 35, I wouldn’t go past a 2-year deal if I were the Sox, but if they can land him on a short-term commitment, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a highly effective late-inning option.
RHP Daniel Hudson
Previous Team: Nationals
2019 Stats: 73.0 IP, 9-3 Record, 2.47 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Originally drafted by the White Sox in 2008, Hudson was traded to the Diamondbacks during the 2010 season. The former starter converted to a reliever several years ago, and begun the 2019 season in the Blue Jays bullpen. His numbers were solid with Toronto, but a midseason trade to the Nationals seemed to unlock a new level for him. In 24 regular season games for the Nationals, Hudson posted a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and a 23/4 K/BB ratio. He posted a 3.72 ERA in 9 postseason games, including saving 4 games after stepping in for the struggling Sean Doolittle. Although his career numbers are not this good, he’s two years younger than Will Harris, and the White Sox may believe he figured something out. They’ve already brought one former draft pick back, why not make it two?
RHP Collin McHugh
Previous Team: Astros
2019: 74.2 IP, 4-5 Record, 4.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
A starter throughout much of his career, McHugh has recently converted to the bullpen. He served as a swingman of sorts for the Astros in 2019, starting 8 games and making appearances in 27 others. His ERA wasn’t great, but his exit velocities, spin rates, and relatively low WHIP suggest he may have just been unlucky in 2019. At 32, he joins Hudson in being one of the younger options still available, and the Sox could feel comfortable giving him a two or three year deal. Given his experience as a starter, he could serve as an emergency starter for the White Sox as well, something they need if they want to avoid potential Dylan Covey and Ross Detwiler starts this season. Despite his negative comments about the White Sox and their handling of prospect service time in the past, McHugh would be a solid addition to the White Sox pitching staff.
RHP Brandon Kintzler
Previous Team: Cubs
2019: 57 IP, 3-3, 2.68 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
One of the few consistencies in the 2019 Cubs bullpen, the 35-year-old is coming off the lowest ERA of his career. Overall, he’s been very consistent during his 10 seasons, with an ERA under 4.00 in 8 of the 10. His peripheral numbers suggest that a decline may be on the way, which, at 35, is not terribly surprising. A decline from a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP could still potentially be a very solid season. Kintzler would be a nice fit on a 1-year deal, especially if they get another reliever to go with him. Fellow former Cubs Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop could also be of interest to the Sox, although Strop in particular struggled mightily in 2019.
With the free agent relief market being fairly thin, there is always the possibility the White Sox pursue someone via the trade route instead. Then again, with solid pieces such as Aaron Bummer, Alex Colome, Jimmy Cordero, and bounce-back candidate Jace Fry, the White Sox are not in desperation mode to improve the ‘pen. Giving up prospects to improve their late inning hurlers may not be their first choice either just yet, even if someone like Josh Hader were potentially available. Regardless of what additional moves the White Sox make, 2020 should be an exciting season for South Side fans.
Featured Photo: Houston Astros/Twitter