The Tim Hill signing continues a troubling theme for the White Sox this winter, in the sense that Chris Getz has turned over a quarter of the 40-man roster with outside acquisitions, but none of those 10 new players can be considered good.
That’s rather remarkable, but look at the following list and see if you can draw a different conclusion:
- Nicky Lopez
- Mike Soroka
- Jared Shuster
- Braden Shewmake
- Paul DeJong
- Shane Drohan
- Max Stassi
- Erick Fedde
- Martín Maldonado
- Tim Hill
The Fedde signing is a cut above the rest for the amount of excitement and intrigue it generates, but if he were a lock for a respectable season, he would’ve commanded more than $15 million for two years on the open market. He’s a good addition, but he needs to prove he’s a good player, because his stateside body of work in Washington came up short.
As for everybody else, they generally do one thing well, and that attribute is, at the very least, largely negated by what they can’t do. They might be playable, passable, serviceable, but “good” remains elusive.
(Soroka is the exception, because he just hasn’t been healthy enough to know if he still has the talent he showed in 2019.)
Yet if there’s one area where I’m fine with a mass of indistinguishable talent, it’s the bullpen. After watching Rick Hahn overinvest by prioritizing relievers in every hot stove/trade deadline season, Getz has a pass to not give relievers a lot of thought or money until 2027 at the earliest.
White Sox bullpen locks
The only question is whether all of these guys will be available on Opening Day. Santos’ season ended early with elbow soreness, while Hill underwent a finger ligament repair, and Crochet was limited to 13 appearances due to a shoulder problem. The White Sox went 1-12 in those appearances, which is probably a winning percentage they never saw for a reliever they envisioned as a high-leverage type.
Should be in the clear
Banks has thrown 114 decent innings of relief over the last two seasons, along with 40 more innings at Charlotte. At times he’s been crowded off the roster, and he will have one more option remaining next year, but given the lack of competition, it seems like he’ll actively have to pitch his way out of Chicago.
Out of options
Lambert has pitched well enough for long enough stretches to merit an Opening Day bullpen spot provided he makes a smooth enough recovery from season-ending ankle surgery. García had moments, but those moments were mostly individual curveballs that he couldn’t repeat, leading to more walks than strikeouts over 15 innings in 2023. The White Sox claimed him off waivers from the Yankees, so I don’t expect them to agonize over a spring training DFA if Cactus League play reveals more of the same. Or maybe he’s the guy who goes when Maldonado joins the roster.
Rule 5 pick
The addition of Hill theoretically reduces Drohan’s chances for survival on the 26-man roster, because between Banks’ long-relief ability and Hill’s lefthandedness, what Drohan offers is already covered by somebody else. However, Drohan’s changeup-heavy arsenal has led to reverse splits throughout his minor-league career, so he might be spiritually right-handed.
Prospects ready for a shot
Leasure shot from Double-A Tulsa to Triple-A Charlotte upon the White Sox trading for him in the Lance Lynn/Joe Kelly deal, and he continued to rack up strikeouts at the higher level, finishing with 23 over 13⅓ innings with the Knights. The 6.08 ERA doesn’t impress on its face, but he mostly front-loaded his worst appearances, and he followed it up with an excellent run in the Arizona Fall League. He’s liking his new curveball as a weapon against left-handed hitters, and that’ll probably determine how fast he gets to high leverage.
Known non-roster invitees
Anderson spent a couple years as a high-strikeout, high-walk guy with the Angels, but he hasn’t surfaced in the majors since the pandemic. Tommy John surgery in July 2020, and he’s missed big chunks of seasons since. Pitch data from his last Triple-A appearances in the Royals organization shows a guy sitting in the mid-90s and throwing his slider two-thirds of the time, so the stuff appears to be back. Whether he can physically hold up is a different matter.
Incumbent relievers with options
The White Sox have already culled this list by outrighting Nick Padilla and Brent Honeywell while removing Edgar Navarro (for Fedde), Luis Patiño (for Josimar Cousin), Yohan Ramírez (for cash considerations) and Declan Cronin (for Tim Hill).
That leaves Ramsey, who started to take on water by allowing runs in five consecutive outings at the end of September, and Peralta, who either gave up zero runs or multiple runs. He’s the fifth lefty mentioned here, and his average fastball was a hair under 90, so Hill’s arrival would seem to block him more than somebody like Drohan.
Speas pitched a few games for the Rangers last year, but his walk rate roughly doubled upon every promotion:
- AA: 11.3%
- AAA: 19.2%
- MLB: 41.7%
The White Sox claimed him in October, but I imagine he’ll still get a World Series ring. He has two options remaining, so there isn’t a reason to pencil him in until he and the White Sox can provide a proof of concept in March.
premature Opening Day bullpen
There are a few unlisted players who could merit bullpen consideration by spring training, whether it’s because they’re eventually bounced from the rotation (Jesse Scholtens, Touki Toussaint), moved to the bullpen with purpose (Michael Kopech), or emerge from the NRI ranks in the spring.
For the time being, there only look like six guys who feel like good bets to be part of the bullpen for the majority of the year:
- Gregory Santos
- Garrett Crochet
- Tim Hill
- Tanner Banks
- Jimmy Lambert
- Jordan Leasure
That leaves room for Drohan to make the initial cut if the Sox see a point in embarking on the regular-season portion of the Rule 5 journey, but it seems like there’s room for at least two more relievers on Hill-like contracts, because they shouldn’t count on all of these guys being healthy and/or effective by the end of March. Throw in one extra starter and one extra flier, and the Sox will have a bullpen that will complement the rest of the roster. That’s not a good thing, but given the offseason to date, maybe it’s not supposed to be.