As the Hot Stove season officially kicked off this week with the annual GM Meetings in Orlando, the rumors are starting to form.
One of the biggest areas of need for the White Sox going into the 2018 season is the presence of solid, likely veteran pitching to fill in the gaps that have been left by the departed Derek Holland and Miguel Gonzalez.
Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech is certainly a candidate to fill out the rotation in 2018, however, White Sox GM Rick Hahn has clearly stated that he does not intend to rush Kopech to the big leagues and therefore he’s unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. That leaves the White Sox with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and James Shields in their rotation with Carlos Rodon’s Opening Day return still in question after a September shoulder procedure.
This year’s free agent market is simply saturated with the type of cost-controlled, inning-eating veterans the White Sox will likely be looking to employ. So, let’s take a look at which arms on the market could be a strong fit for the coming season.
With Tillman hitting free agency this offseason, it’s no secret that 2017 was the worst year for Tillman to spot an unsightly 7.84 ERA followed by major issues with controlling his pitches. Tillman was sidelined until May and never quite regained the status he once held as one of the Orioles top of the rotation starters once he returned. Tillman consistently gave the Orioles innings throughout his career, pitching over 200 in 2013 and 2014. He also logged 173 innings as recently as 2016. Tillman’s shoulder injury hindered him from participating in his offseason training program, left the Baltimore organization concerned for his health during spring training, and then eventually sidelined him for the first month of the season — all indications that perhaps the biggest issue for Tillman in 2017 was the inability to really regain his consistency on the mound. Perhaps Tillman needs to learn to make adjustments post-injury, and a union with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper would help yet another Orioles pitcher regain their dominance with a new team. A one-year deal to help Tillman reestablish his value and fill a void for the White Sox could make this a perfect match for 2018.
Perhaps a reunion could be on the horizon for Santiago and the White Sox–the organization that drafted him in 2006. Like Tillman, Santiago is approaching his age 30 season in 2018 and suffered a major setback in 2017 before hitting free agency, making him yet another potentially advantageous get for the White Sox. Santiago was sidelined in July with a back injury and only pitched 70 innings in Minnesota to the tune of a 5.63 ERA. Santiago has never been much of an inning eater, with his career high innings pitched totalling at just 182. However, that was as recently as 2016. Perhaps Santiago’s return to the South Side could yield another win-win situation.
Feldman is perhaps one of the most intriguing of candidates. Feldman doesn’t give you a ton of longevity but was delivering an average of 5.2 innings per start in Cincinnati last season. With career numbers that are solid, if not spectacular, perhaps Feldman can bridge the gap that will need to be filled by a reliable, healthy starter in the coming season on the South Side. Another plus is that Feldman may come at a bargain, considering he only made $2.3 million in 2017 — a quite affordable salary for a pitcher of Feldman’s caliber. The one downside is that Feldman may be seeking a loftier, multi-year contract the White Sox may not be interested in. However if it’s cost-effective and Feldman continues to make solid contributions he could potentially become a trade candidate down the road.
This reunion would have a certain symmetry to it. Gonzalez had an exceptional end to his season on the South Side; one that merited him trade value and returned the White Sox 21 year-old 3B/SS prospect Ti’Quan Forbes — a highly projectable Low-A player. It wouldn’t be the first time the White Sox have brought back a former player and, surely, Gonzalez would be open to the idea of returning to the club which he spoke so fondly of, a club that helped him return to the strong and reliable middle rotation starter he was. However, with Gonzalez’s ERA dipping as low as 2.33 and 3.53 in July and August, respectively, perhaps the market for Gonzalez, in terms of years and price, may be a bit steeper than the White Sox would like to partake in.
When the Brewers cut ties with 28-year old Peralta, it was due to the fact that he was struggling in the rotation and became a liability for a team that was in the midst of a dramatic pennant race. However, the Brewers didn’t see it fit to keep Peralta confined to the bullpen, so when he was sent to the minors he elected for minor league free agency. Peralta has averaged an ERA in the 3 and 4 area over his career in Milwaukee, but has always been able to deliver consistent innings — something the White Sox are certainly looking for. Peralta threw a career high of 198 innings in 2013, with his lowest total coming in 2015 when he only pitched 108 innings over 23 starts. Peralta may be a long shot given his solid track record and age, but perhaps he could be another pitcher looking to rediscover themselves in Chicago under the tutelage of Don Cooper.