The reported signing of Dallas Keuchel by the Chicago White Sox is more impactful than some may realize. Granted, Keuchel is a quality pitcher who will add a reliable presence to an otherwise young and inexperienced rotation. Of course, he brings a championship pedigree and is known to be a leader. Simultaneously, however, he adds a previously unknown facet to the White Sox. Keuchel symbolizes depth, a fleeting characteristic that only a few powerful and winning franchises often obtain. The White Sox are ostensibly trying to compete in 2020, and unlike their most recent attempted competitive seasons, their depth will actually be a strength.
Current health aside, the White Sox have seven or more pitchers who will likely start games for the team in 2020: Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Carlos Rodon, Gio Gonzalez, and of course, Dallas Keuchel will be among them. Other hurlers such as Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert may also emerge. When was the last time the White Sox had seven competent MLB starters on their roster? Even in more competitive years such as 2016, Anthony Ranaudo and Jacob Turner started some games. Gone are the days of Ross Detwiler and Dylan Covey, barring a true catastrophe in which the majority of the starting rotation sustains major injuries. In the more probable event that a starting pitcher or two suffers an injury, the starting-caliber pitcher(s) concurrently in the bullpen (somebody like Reynaldo Lopez, or perhaps Gio Gonzalez late in the season) would shift to a starting role. As a result, normal and expected injuries will no longer be a death sentence for the White Sox.
While the Keuchel signing represents depth on the pitching side, a fitting and recent analogy for the importance of depth pertains to position players. In 2019, the White Sox offense would occasionally string together a week or two of high-scoring games. These streaks, unfortunately, were often interrupted by a key injury: Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, and Tim Anderson missed a combined 109 games last season. When these injuries occurred, the lineup would become hopeless. The team was forced to remove premier talent from the lineup for players such as Ryan Goins, Charlie Tilson, and Daniel Palka. Now, with competent bench bats such as James McCann and Leury Garcia in tow, position player injuries should not lead to a below replacement level player enjoying a large role. Garcia, for example, has proven himself as a capable regular at multiple positions, and he can fill in at any position aside from catcher. Additionally, players such as Zack Collins could see their roles increased.
The White Sox may have another major signing up their sleeve. A deal with Edwin Encarnacion or Nick Castellanos could insulate the position player depth even further and allow the team to use Nomar Mazara more creatively. On a smaller scale, a utility player such as Brock Holt could also fill in respectably. Unlike last season, players like Holt would be insurance policies as opposed to regulars. Such a development is crucial for the White Sox next year and beyond. Their 72 wins in 2019 were not a reflection of their core talent – in fact, their top players were on par with baseball’s best. Rather, the holes in the 2019 White Sox lineup and rotation were patched with historically bad production, and the organization has rectified this by signing excess talent and bolstering the roster with versatility. For the first time in over a decade, the Chicago White Sox have a competitive roster that does not simply consist of a few stars sprinkled among a mess of journeymen, but stars surrounded by true starting-caliber players. For this, the front office deserves to be commended.
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