By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — As the White Sox formulate their plan for player development in 2018, protecting a talented group of young starting pitchers will begin with adding help for a depleted bullpen in free agency, which opened Monday.
While contending teams look for high-profile and win-now additions in free agency, rebuilding clubs like the White Sox are engaged in a protect-and-develop mode with the view on the long term.
“Our goal remains the same,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “We must stay focused on this rebuild and try to accumulate players that are going to help us in the long term.”
Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are slotted into the rotation next season, and the White Sox will also look to work Carson Fulmer, Dane Dunning, Michael Kopech and Dylan Covey into the big leagues to stay. To provide support, Chicago needs to fortify its bullpen that was dismantled trades to contenders last season.
What’s left is a group of young, unproven relievers to compete for the seven or eight spots in the bullpen. Help will be needed.
“As to our short-term goals and our 2018 team, we have made no secret that a lot of our deals will center around the bullpen,” Hahn said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday. “The moves (last summer) we made put a big hole in our bullpen. We will have to look for reinforcements just like the other 29 teams will be doing. There is also a handful of other needs that we would like to fill. We will see if free agency makes the most sense in addressing these areas. There are also possible trade opportunities.”
Juan Minaya, 27, will headline the returning relievers. He took over the closer’s role late in the season, recording nine saves in the last month-and-a-half. He finished with a 4.53 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Jake Petricka is another candidate to serve as the White Sox’s closer next season after an injury-plagued 2017 campaign in which he was limited to 25 2/3 innings. Gregory Infante will also be back in middle relief.
The White Sox’s acquisition of bullpen help via free agency can serve a dual purpose. In addition to providing stability on the back end for a young starting rotation, relievers could be flipped in midseason trades as the White Sox continue to look for pieces for the long term.
The likes of Luke Gregerson, Brandon Kintzler, Dillon Gree, Addison Reed and Josh Collmenter are relievers whom the White Sox could pursue. Kevin Siegrist and Tony Watson are other ideal candidates for the short haul in Chicago.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.