The White Sox run out of starters, including Dylan Covey

Dylan Covey was supposed to enter tonight with a 6-29 record and 6.54 ERA over his three-year MLB career. Instead, that’s the line he’ll carry into his entire offseason. The White Sox scratched him from his start tonight due to a shoulder issue, and he’s likely out for the rest of the year.

A couple days ago, James Fegan tried to dig into how and why Covey has been allowed to be that amount of bad. Consecutive paragraphs tackle the nobility of the pursuit of process over results …

It’s not as if the Sox are blind to Covey’s struggles, or making long-term plans to keep shoving a square peg into a round rotation slot. It’s just their alternatives are Detwiler and Santiago, who are headed back to free agency at the end of the month. Bañuelos has fared similarly to Covey, but with more lingering shoulder trouble. Out of all them, Covey is most likely to help the 2020 club. Just in a different role.

… and why the Sox are never going to get results (Rick Renteria Honest Alert emphasis mine):

“We’re still in that journey in which we’re trying to figure out, to be quite honest, what role he’s going to fit in, in terms of whether he’s going to be a starter or a reliever,” manager Rick Renteria said pregame. “There’s a lot of guys that end up ultimately relieving and are starting for an extended period of time to see if we can develop the repertoire of pitches that they need in able to be more effective out of the ‘pen.”

If Renteria uses “to be honest” before attempting to explain something he’d rather avoid, then I’m guessing that’s an attempt to talk around the White Sox front office failing to provide him anybody measurably better. And that’s my attempt to understand why Renteria presents himself as somebody who isn’t sure Covey can’t start.

Three years into his MLB career — or two years, if you’re willing to grant everybody a pass for typical success and management of a Rule 5 pick — the Covey experience only has two modes:

  1. Starting when he shouldn’t.
  2. Getting injured.

Often times the second part is the only thing that stops the first part, which is the case now. The Sox have already their spare starters in other roles recently — Ross Detwiler for the scratched Lucas Giolito on Monday, Hector Santiago for 90 pitches in relief of an ineffective Iván Nova on Sunday — so Renteria is going to use Nova for an inning on his bullpen day.

This is the second time during the rebuild where the Sox have plum run out of starters in September. Two years ago, they had to call Chris Volstad away from his brewery to start in September because Carlos Rodon had shoulder issues after they cut Derek Holland. Maybe the Sox could call up Kyle Kubat, but if Kubat were worthy of a look at this time, he’d be getting the starts over Covey (he struggled with Charlotte 30 innings past his previous career-high workload).

The Sox can’t even make lemonade out of Nova’s one-inning appearance, because with Detwiler and Santiago used up, they won’t be able to fashion a staff emergency into an excuse to deploy an opener for the first time.

The Covey Problem is really a White Sox Problem, but Covey just happens to be the face of it. In a healthier organization, everybody would already have an idea whether Covey is better as a middle reliever, an opener, a second pitcher, or not an MLB pitcher at all. The Sox, meanwhile, not only keep asking the same single question Covey answered years ago, but are thrown into a short-term crisis when he can’t answer the bell.

Covey’s staggering lack of success is one of the byproducts of an organization that hasn’t pursued solutions at any level with any kind of urgency. I’ve said before that the Sox need to cut Covey loose if only to avoid the temptation of putting him in a position to fail. Now, I’m thinking that Covey’s presence in the organization can help us tell whether the White Sox are any better at solving problems. If Covey’s around and the Sox haven’t used him, things are going well. If he’s around and the Sox are relying on him, something’s gone wrong. If he’s not around, it’s likely that somebody else will step into the role as Problem Pitcher, and we won’t be able to recognize the emergency as quickly.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3733
52 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
asinwreck

Is Sideshow Bob Hahn, Reinsdorf, or us?

karkovice squad

The rake is Major League Baseball?

ForsterFTOG

The rake is Reinsdorf’s business model.

Jeff

Yet another indictment of the total ineptitude of this FO. First for continuing this ridiculous pursuit of “is Covey any good?” saga and then getting caught with pants around ankles again in September.

How about a position player game? Palka starts on the bump, followed by Cordell, Yolmer, Engel, Collins, Mendick, and anyone else who you don’t care gets hurt. Would get them some national PR.

lil jimmy

where’s Matt Davidson when we need him?

karkovice squad

I think in a better organization, not only would the team already know what Covey is or found a way to work around his weaknesses, they’d have been able to make him better than they found him.

It’s encouraging that Coop and Hasler have started messing around with Trackman data and hi-speed cameras. But the Sox need to invest a lot more in getting up to speed than just using their bullpens for a lab, their major league roster as test subjects, and their major league coaches as their R&D department.

If Teaford isn’t the guy, or even if he is but there’s just one of him, then they should hire some more coaches. They should also either be doing more experimentation with guys who are on the fringes of being in the system or hiring some former professionals to sacrifice their UCLs like Eric Sim’s doing voluntarily.

MrTopaz

My first reaction was that this is the roster construction equivalent of not being able to make payroll. I’ll cop to that being a little overwrought, but damn if the endless parade of Covey, Detwiler, Bañuelos, Palka, Tilson, Cordell, etc. doesn’t feel like that.

karkovice squad

In all their churn they’ve literally only found Marshall and McCann. So a medium-leverage reliever and a backup catcher.

That’s…suboptimal.

karkovice squad

Ok, that was unkind. They also found Jimmy Cordero’s arms. So at least 1 month of the 2020 calendar and a Sox Valentine are set.

His pitching’s a bit more of a WIP, tho.

ForsterFTOG

I’ve been so disinterested, I didn’t know who Jimmy Cordero was until just now.

metasox

maybe Cordero

PauliePaulie

Who IS available to pitch today?
Nova, Marshall and Fulmer?

Yolmer's gatorade

I wouldn’t mind if they brought back Nova next year to start until Kopech is ready and play the swing role of long reliever/starter for injured players. It would relieve them of needing anything from Covey. Nova will probably want to start, but he is not getting a multi-year contract, and the Sox might be the highest bidder if they give him $5 million or something close to that.

MrTopaz

That is assuming Kopech’s instagram purge is due to some development in his personal relationships, and not anything to do with his comeback from TJ.

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

By next February Kopech would be 17 months removed from TJ. If his velocity is still down or he has some other type of issue where they can’t pencil him in for at least 150 innings then something really went wrong…

Which, given how Burdi’s recovery has gone thus far, seems about par for the course.

vanillablue

Early in 2016 the Sox cut some underperforming vets (Jimmy Rollins, John Danks, Mat Latos), and I remember there was hope that the front office was finally becoming more decisive in player evaluations.

Since then, we’ve seen Adam Engel get 1000 plate appearances, Covey get 250 innings, and Yolmer Sanchez start 400 games. Not so much.

35Shields

I’ve been pretty fine with them giving Yolmer that playing time. He’s been decent, if not as useful as he seemed at the end of 2017.

But at this point Mendick should be getting the reps. We know what Yolmer is. We don’t know what Danny is.

ZiPS already thinks they’re basically equivalent. Yolmer projects for 1.7 WAR for the next two years. Danny projects for 1.3 WAR each year. He’s cheaper, has more team control, has more upside and is probably not much worse.

roke1960

The difference between 2020 salaries should mean that Yolmer gets DFAd and Mendick is the utility guy. But as cluelass as this FO is, they may put a $3 million value on Gatorade dumping.

Yolmer's gatorade

Yeah, I think a tender and trade might he in order for my dude. He is definitely a valuable major league player, but he is duplicative with Mendick and the money could go to other, better things. I think he would have a lot of value though as a bench player for a National League team

roke1960

Yes, some team will definitely sign him, but not at the $5 million he would get in arb.

Trooper Galactus

I think people really need to pump the brakes on anointing Mendick as Yolmer’s replacement.

As Cirensica

I think Yolmer is a better player than Mendick or at worse, they are similar.

roke1960

He’s not Yolmer’s replacement. Madrigal is Yolmer’s replacement. Mendick will be the utility infielder.

roke1960

I had thought that the Sox could get by with signing 1 mid-top tier starter this winter and going into 2020 with a rotation of Giolito, Cease, Lopez, Kopech, FA. Now I’m convinced they need at least 2, and that doesn’t mean someone form the scrap-heap. That means 2 of Cole, Strasburg, Ryu, Wheeler, Odorizzi, Gibson, Hamels, Roark, Keuchel, Bumgarner. Ideally, that would allow Lopez to move to the bullpen when Kopech comes back. They cannont have another year of giving starts to Santana, Covey, Banuelos, Detwiler. This FO needs to get serious about winning this winter.

dwjm3

The question is how serious is Jerry about winning? I do think people spend too much talking about the front office. Jerry is really the source of a lot problems.

ForsterFTOG

The answer is: not much.

karkovice squad

I don’t think Lopez is going to be much better as a reliever by default. He does have a L-R split but he doesn’t perform well enough against righties for it to really matter. Because of his spin rate/efficiency issues, the extra velocity probably isn’t going to produce much better results, either.

He needs to improve his secondary stuff, keep working on his fastball, find consistent control, and develop command. To be even a reliever he needs to do all of the latter 3 things. What will determine if he can be a competent starter is how many of his secondary pitches he can bring up to at least average.

roke1960

So what should be done with Rey? Do we keep him in the rotation? He needs to do something similar to what Giolito did last winter to tweak some things.

PauliePaulie

Yes and Yes.

karkovice squad

He made some tweaks at the ASB with mixed results. So he’s at least open to coaching. I think you stick to the path. If he’s getting in the way of contending, he has an option year left to go to the minors to keep working. A challenge trade if it doesn’t work out at all.

roke1960

He would be an interesting trade piece. I’m sure there are teams that would love to have that arm. He would probably be a stud with the Astros.

Trooper Galactus

He could have a repeat of this season and several teams would probably still love to have him.

metasox

If the Sox plan to compete next season (in doubt), it might make sense to send him to a team that isn’t as far along in a rebuild (cough).

Neat_on_the_rocks

“fun” fact – Lopez leads the league in Earned Runs this year!

Smclean09

Well not only would the uptick in velocity help, but an increase on his slider usage would be helpful. Mostly scratching the curve and change in short outings would help a ton even if his command doesnt improve.

HallofFrank

If they want to sign Cole and Strasburg, great. Let’s sign 2 SP. But I’d rather them just sign 1 top tier (i.e. Cole or Strasburg) and skip the 2nd mid-tier (i.e. someone like Gibson), and then maybe add Nova-like starter on a minor league deal or something.

I’m in favor of them trying to win in 2020, but I still think long-term success should be prioritized. Signing a mid-tier guy (a la Kyle Gibson) probably does give you a boost in 2020, but likely a very minor one. I’d rather ride with Lopez and hope to tap into that upside, and, if not, knowing that at least one of Rodon, Dunning, or Stiever could be there to replace him. 

I get that, no matter how you draw it up, pitchers are volatile, get hurt, etc. And it probably doesn’t work as smoothly as I’d hope. But I’m willing to take the chance to ensure that the talented arms get every possible chance to flourish, especially after watching what’s happened with Giolito. 

And to be clear – I’m not interested in saving the $ that would be spent on a mid-tier SP for Jerry’s pockets. Put that money toward adding elsewhere. 

karkovice squad

The reasons the Sox need to spend on elite starting pitchers are their organizational bias against innovation and their other weaknesses in evaluation and development.

The Royals, Yankees, Rays, and Brewers all show(ed) what you can do with mediocre starters if you invest in elite relievers and are willing to get creative with bullpen roles. It’s been awhile since the Sox could stack up more than 2 high leverage relievers and they definitely don’t tend to be the creative types when it comes to overturning traditional hierarchies.

So they should just suck it up and do the expensive thing.

PauliePaulie

Sox used an awful lot of resources on acquiring prospect arms to now be best served paying top $ for reliable starters.

karkovice squad

Yes, we’ve already established their decision-making is inefficient and a lot of their approaches are ineffective. So that’s water under the bridge.

Chasing a bunch of high-risk bargains, not exactly a demonstrated core competency, isn’t a fix.

PauliePaulie

They could give the prospect arms next season to show what they have.
Half of Dunning, Stiever, Kopech, Cease, Lopez and Rodon becoming quality starters would free up a lot of $ for what would then be more pressing needs.

karkovice squad

There’s still no good reason to do that unless you prioritize owners’ profits over other considerations. That’s more lost value from wasting a year of your core than you free up to spend later.

Half of them becoming quality starters still leaves you short another quality starter and without depth to handle more attrition. If enough of those guys do pan out–which include 3 UCL rehabs, 2 mechanical overhauls, and someone who hasn’t sniffed AA yet–then having added better starters with more certainty you’ve replenished the depth to manage attrition or recovered the trade value to fill other needs down the line. That would be 1 of those good problems to have.

Trooper Galactus

If we don’t consider starting pitching a pressing need right now then I don’t know what qualifies.

GoGoSoxFan

“So they should just suck it up and do the expensive thing.”

Yes they should. . . but no they won’t. 🙁

iowasox1971

So, even with the expanded rosters, we have no one to pitch, or at least start.

Unbelievable.

As if seven consecutive losing seasons weren’t enough evidence of how inept our front office has become.

Time to clean house, Jerry.

roke1960

Jerry’s made money for the last seven seasons. If you ask him, he’d say that’s been seven winning seasons.

NDSox12

Is Odrisamer Despaigne still in the country? This is not a question I hoped I’d be asking this month.

lil jimmy

“in the country”
Why yes! He on a farm up North, running free with the other Despainges!

MrTopaz

CockerDespaignes.

Soxfan2

Not sure why there is all this “move Lopez to the bullpen” talk. In 2018, he was worth 2.3fWar (5th starter). This year in 16 less innings he is worth the same 2.3fWar, his K% is higher, his BB% is lower. He had a random out burst of homers this year which make his numbers look bad, but it’s not the true him. He is still only 25. I think theres a chance he’s a 3+ fWar guy going forward. 

If we had a ton of pitching depth then I can see moving him the the bullpen. 
Going into 2020 we have:
1. Giolito
2. Lopez
3. Cease
4. ?
5. ?

We need to sign two solid starters next year. I am not counting on Kopech or Dunning in any capacity. Thankfully, it is a solid starting pitcher class.