By Bruce Levine–
(670 The Score) — While much of the local attention this offseason has been on the Cubs’ additions and pursuits on the free-agent and trade markets, the White Sox have stuck to their plan of being patient.
The White Sox made one notable move in signing free-agent catcher Welington Castillo to a two-year, $15-million deal with a team option for a third season back on Dec. 1. That was a key move for the near future because it provides a young pitching staff with a respected batterymate to help foster progress.
Chicago has youngsters in Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer and veteran James Shields set as part of its 2018 rotation. Carlos Rodon also is a key starter, but his status is less certain following shoulder surgery last September and past injury concerns.
The White Sox want to add more pitching depth — in the rotation and the bullpen — once the big-ticket free agents are signed. Part of their plan is to add some swingman veterans who can start or provide long relief. That will provide them insurance and the ability to lighten the workload of the young starters at any time.
The White Sox certainly have plenty of payroll flexibility to add such pitchers before the regular season starts in late March. Andrew Cashner, Trevor Cahill, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza are a few free agents to keep an eye on who could sign short-term contracts to give the White Sox what they desire and possibly be used as trade chips later in the season.
Notably, the White Sox have big holes in their bullpen after so many in-season trades in 2017, with little experience on the back end. Free-agent relievers who could make sense include Matt Albers and Tyler Clippard, two former White Sox players who are durable. Albers was superb with a 1.62 ERA in 63 appearances with the Nationals in 2017. Clippard had a 4.77 ERA in 67 appearances split between the Yankees, White Sox and Astros last season.
The White Sox’s payroll commitment is among the lowest in baseball. They project to have around $42 million locked into James Shields, Jose Abreu, Castillo, Garcia, Nate Jones, Danny Farquhar and Tim Anderson for 2018. That assumes around $13 million for Abreu in arbitration and around $6 million for Garcia. Several other players are arbitration-eligible as well at lower estimated figures.
So the White Sox figure to have around a $60 million-to-$65 million payroll figure before accounting for their free-agent signings, which will bump the payroll up some with reasonable salaries.
Part of the White Sox’s rebuilding plan is to save lots of cash now and later use the banked money to finish off what they hope is a championship roster down the line, as the Cubs did with by spending about $427 million on Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey across two offseasons. That could mean the White Sox bid on the likes of free-agent-to-be stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado next offseason.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.