2022 White Sox Decision Review: Rotation depth

The best thing about Johnny Cueto is that you can rave about him in two ways: what he did, and what he meant.

On the field, Cueto showed up in mid-May and nearly qualified for the ERA title, throwing at least six innings in 19 of 24 starts, and completing five innings in all but one of his 25 outings.

On the roster and on the payroll, Cueto meant so much more. Since he made a little more than $3 million, he effectively replaced 2021 Carlos Rodón in terms of bang for the buck. Since he replaced Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, you could combine their salaries and still feel good about the roster spot.

The Sox were incredibly fortunate to acquire Cueto’s services, because had everybody known how he was going to bounce back from the injury-wracked end to his chapter with the Giants, he would’ve been signed before the lockout. But he was willing to slow-play his offseason to wait for the ideal opportunity for a team with hopes, and Lance Lynn’s late-spring knee injury opened the door. The White Sox might not sabotaged their own chances, but for the entirety of his time on the roster, Cueto stood as a beacon of professionalism and self-sufficiency.

During the months where the rotation looked locked in with Lynn, Keuchel, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, Vince Velasquez was the kind of starting pitcher who would take the Sox’s $3 million for whatever innings they could give him, and he ended up giving the Sox exactly what everybody should’ve expected, no more, no less.

Looking at the rest of the starters who were willing to sign a one-year deal for under $10 million, the Sox probably couldn’t have done any better, especially when considering who was willing to sign and when.

THE FIELD

PitcherDealGSIPHHRBBKERAbWAR
Velasquez1/$3M975.1681125694.780.4
Cueto1/$4.2M24158.116115331023.353.5
FREE AGENTSDealGSIPHHRBBKERAbWAR
Pérez1/$4M32196.117811691692.895.0
Anderson1/$8M28178.214514341382.574.3
Quintana1/$2M32165.21548471372.933.5
Wacha1/$7M23127.111118311043.323.3
Smyly1/$5.25M22106.11011626913.471.9
Davies1/$1.75M27134.112221521024.090.7
Heaney1/$8.5M1472.26014191103.100.7
Kluber1/$8M3116417820211394.340.6
Boyd1/$5.2M013.1503131.350.4
Archer1/$3.5M25102.2871248844.560.0
Kuhl1/$3M2713715525581105.72-0.1
Bundy1/$5M291401512428944.89-0.3
Pineda1/$5.5M1146.258138265.79-0.6
Duffy1/$8M
Paxton2/$6.2M

Martin Pérez and Tyler Anderson were the only ones to beat Cueto with their performances, and neither seemed especially likely to do it. Pérez had posted good halves before, but at age-31, he finally completed his first above-average season, while Anderson was another one of those Dodgers success stories.

José Quintana and Michael Wacha‘s seasons run alongside Cueto in terms of WAR, but White Sox fans should prefer the shape of Cueto’s production. Quintana chose well with the Pirates, whose cavernous left-center at PNC Park gave him a head start in stopping the bleeding against right-handed hitting over the years. Perhaps the dead ball would’ve helped him out even in more neutral settings, but the path he followed led to clearing 10 years of service time and a fine start in a postseason Game 1, neither of which would’ve been guaranteed with the Sox, so everybody should celebrate his choices. Wacha missed the entire month of July, so he still hasn’t topped 130 innings since 2017.

The rest of the field more or less merits a shrug, especially if they were looking for 20-plus starts of work. The Twins once again struggled in their bargain-bin hunting, whiffing on Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy (aside from Bundy’s work against the White Sox), and Michael Pineda teeted between injured and ineffective for the Tigers.

Maybe the Sox didn’t expect as much from Cueto as they received, and maybe they hoped Ethan Katz would have more time to help Velasquez take the next step, but it doesn’t matter. If the White Sox were hoping for one rotation fixture and one swingman willing to do the grunt work between the two signings, this is the one area where they got exactly what they needed.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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shaggy65

I suppose we ought to give Hahn some credit for the Cueto signing, but it feels a lot like the Elvis Andrus situation. An opening suddenly appeared and a perfect fit was luckily available. I give Rick SOME credit for actually executing those moves, but it’s not like he was shrewdly waiting out the market.

upnorthsox

Hard to give him credit when he signed VV 2 weeks earlier to do the same thing. Or to put it another way, it was not the successful result of planning but the results of failed plans.

HallofFrank

In retrospect, Hahn’s veteran dumpster-diving looks decent. Cueto was excellent, and Harrison and Velazquez were good enough (i.e., probably worth the money). But the Joe Kelly and Garcia signings were absolute disasters—and they didn’t look particularly good at the time, either. The Graveman signing looks fine in a vacuum, I guess, but silly when you consider the other holes on the roster.

dwjm3

Harrison was not good enough. He wasn’t even league average.

Right Size Wrong Shape

He was average. Hitting is only one part of the game.

dwjm3

1.4 war is average now?

Joliet Orange Sox

Harrison’s OPS+ was 94 (bit below average) and his Success Rate Added in the field was +1% (bit above average). Harrison may not have been exactly average but he was pretty close to average. 1.4 bWAR for a player who got 425 PA’s is close to average.

Average is not high praise.

Last edited 30 days ago by Joliet Orange Sox
Wayne

Yeah, 2.0 is about average starter if given full slate of plate appearances. 1-2 WAR is role Player, 2-3WAR is Solid Starter. Harrison was 1.6 bWAR and 0.2 bWins Above Average; 1.4 fWAR

steelydan52

I liked the Kelly signing at the time it happened. I’m hoping injuries played a role but I don’t mind going in spring training with him. If he sucks then, cut him.
Garcia’s extension was just a huge joke. Speaking of jokes, I went into MLB Rumors and some guy posted that he saw Steve Stone at a restaurant and asked him who the next manager would be. He said Stone replied Ron Karkovice! HA! Sox need to name a manager soon before Bobby Valentine’s name gets thrown in there.

Torpedo Jones

Bingo. He should only get partial credit because the Sox were able to be good destinations for Cueto and Andrus due to their lack of quality depth at key positions. Our blind squirrel found a couple of acorns this time around because he had to do a lot of foraging as winter was approaching….

Qubort

The Perez link takes ya to Robbie Ray.

knoxfire30

Truly incredible to get two banger in season signings like Cueto and Andrus and finish 500…

dwjm3

It takes a special kind of incompetence to pull that off.