Top White Sox priority this winter: starting pitching

A White Sox rotation full of question marks and youth begs for one or two proven veteran additions

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The list of available free agent pitchers this offseason, including left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu, is deep. (AP)

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Tommy John surgeries for Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon and prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert set the White Sox rebuild back a bit.

Just how much? Enough that targeting not one but two starting pitchers in the free agent or trade markets has become a necessity this offseason for general manager Rick Hahn.

It’s year four of the rebuild, and adding a prime, veteran piece to stabilize the rotation would have been in the works anyway. But the Sox need rotation help because the current unit, while full of promise, has all sorts of questions marks.

*Rodon, who had TJ surgery in May after working his way back from shoulder surgery, is not expected back till midseason.

*Kopech, who had surgery in September, 2018, is expected back at full strength in spring training but might need to shake some rust off at Class AAA Charlotte. He has made four major league starts.

*Dylan Cease pitched to a 5.79 ERA in 14 starts as a rookie.

*Reynaldo Lopez regressed in 2019, pitching to a 5.38 ERA.

*Lucas Giolito, who bounced back from an awful 2018 to become an All-Star in 2019, is easily the surest thing – with one good season on his major league resume.

And so the Sox head to the Winter Meetings with starting pitching on their mind, still smarting after a swing and miss on right-hander Zack Wheeler, whom they went after hard with a $120 million, five-year offer that was rejected in favor of the Phillies. They also targeted left-hander Cole Hamels, who signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves, but there are other free agents that are likely interested in, including left-handers Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel and Wade Miley and right-handers Tanner Roark and Julio Teheran.

The top two free agent pitchers on the board – AL Cy Young runnerup Gerrit Cole and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg – would come at a considerably higher price with more years than Wheeler’s deal, one the Sox have given no indication of being willing to pay. MLB Trade Rumors projected Strasburg getting a six-year, $180 million deal and Cole an eight-year, $256 million deal.

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