While still in pursuit of Manny Machado, the White Sox are slowly but surely adding less spectacular but useful pieces that should help them rise above the depths of a 100-loss season whether they land Machado or not.
The club announced the signing of right-hander Kelvin Herrera on Tuesday, five weeks after they traded for righty Alex Colome, creating a tandem at the back end of the bullpen that should have some grit. They also had picked up the option on veteran Nate Jones, another late-inning power arm who will help complement an assortment of young arms with varying degrees of promise.
And if they do pull off a Machado signing and plug him into a lineup that will add first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso — acquired in a trade last month — as well as prized prospect Eloy Jimenez, it might be enough to generate some noise in a thin American League Central.
The Sox also agreed Monday to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract with Jon Jay, 33, a friend of Machado who improves a weak outfield. And if Machado joins the group, Herrera would be thrilled.
“His stats speak for themselves,’’ Herrera said on a conference call. “I would like to have him on my team.’’
Herrera, 29, will receive $8.5 million in 2019 and in 2020, while the Sox hold a $10 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout. The Sox’ willingness to also pay Colome, 30, who figures to earn around $7 million in arbitration in 2019 and is under club control in 2020, shows their tanking days are over.
Colome was the first pitcher in Rays history to lead the league in saves with 47 in 2017, a year after making the AL All-Star team, and Herrera “adds another veteran pitcher to our bullpen who has outstanding credentials and the proven ability to close games,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He provides [manager] Rick Renteria with another quality option in the late innings.”
“This team is building a very strong bullpen,’’ said Herrera, who thrived in one of baseball’s best with Greg Holland and Wade Davis with the Royals in 2014. “I’m excited about the direction this team has taken.’’
A two-time All-Star, Herrera had a combined 2.44 ERA with 17 saves and 38 strikeouts in 48 relief appearances in 2018 with the Royals and Nationals. He had a 1.98 ERA with 14 saves in 38 games in the first half before a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot requiring surgery ended his season and probably cost him a bigger payday in free agency.
Herrera said he is playing catch, “feeling good, just following the doctors’ recommendations” and is “very optimistic” about being ready to start spring training Feb. 13 without restrictions.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated left-hander Ian Clarkin for assignment.
Clarkin, 23, went 4-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 25 games (12 starts) for three teams, including Class A Winston-Salem and Class AA Birmingham in 2018.
NOTE: In lieu of the January “minicamp” usually held at their spring-training facility, the Sox are bringing many of their top prospects to their Dominican Republic facility next week for a “cultural exchange” opportunity for U.S. prospects.
Among those expected to attend: Dylan Cease, Zack Burdi, Seby Zavala, Zack Collins, Luis Gonzalez, Blake Rutherford, Nick Madrigal, Gavin Sheets, Tyler Johnson, Bernardo Flores, Jimmy Lambert, Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen, Steele Walke and Laz Rivera.