According to Jeff Passan and multiple confirming reports, the White Sox and Steve Cishek are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million deal with a club option for 2021. Reportedly, the deal is worth $5.25M in 2020, with a $750K buyout attached to the $6 million 2021 option. Cishek, who pitched with the crosstown rival Cubs for the past two years, is 33 years old with a career 2.69 ERA.
In December, the Sox added key pieces in Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, and Edwin Encarnacion. Following those signings, many speculated that a reliever could be next for Chicago. Given the bullpen’s need for a sturdy arm, Cishek and Will Harris were two names thrown around heavily. Harris signed with the Washington Nationals on Friday, leaving Cishek as the premier reliever left on the market. Rick Hahn and Co., continuing to be aggressive this offseason, stepped up to the plate and cemented their bullpen by adding Cishek today.
Over the course of his career, Cishek has proved to be a consistent quality arm. He began his tenure in the big leagues in 2010, and has only recorded one season with an ERA above 3.00. 2017 and 2018 were arguably Cishek’s best two years, with 2.01 and 2.18 ERA’s, respectively. He did regress to some extent in 2019, with a 2.95 ERA and abnormally high 4.54 FIP.
However, it’s unlikely that Cishek’s step back in 2019 is a legitimate warning sign. While the sub-2.50 ERA Cishek might be gone, his peripherals are still impressive. In 2019, Cishek’s batted ball profile was actually better than his 2018 profile, with 99th percentile readings in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. His xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG did drop, but were still much better overall than the average MLB pitcher.
All signs indicate that Cishek will still be an above-average reliever in 2020. Elite? Maybe, maybe not. With a respectable group surrounding him spearheaded by Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome, Cishek figures to solidify Chicago’s bullpen going into 2020. Midseason adjustments may be necessary if Kelvin Herrera or Jace Fry struggle as they have in the past, but every team suffers from one or two subpar relievers.
As things stand, Chicago has addressed every one of its positional needs in some form this offseason. Catcher, right field, starting pitcher, designated hitter, and now relief pitcher have all been upgraded. Time will tell how significant these upgrades truly are, but White Sox fans can rest assured that their front office has done a thorough job in compiling a formidable 2020 roster.