White Sox’ rotation needs attention this offseason

Free agent Johnny Cueto is gone, and question marks remain from the 2022 rotation.

SHARE White Sox’ rotation needs attention this offseason
Dylan Cease (right) and Michael Kopech (left) will be key components in the White Sox starting rotation in 2023.

Dylan Cease (right) and Michael Kopech (left) will be key components in the White Sox starting rotation in 2023.

AP

LAS VEGAS — With Johnny Cueto likely gone in free agency, Lucas Giolito’s level of effectiveness a question mark after his 2022 dud and Michael Kopech still on the path toward establishing himself as a top-of-the-rotation starter, the White Sox essentially have two anchors in the starting five of 2022 — Cy Young finalist Dylan Cease and 35-year-old 2021 Cy Young finalist Lance Lynn.

Those are fine pillars for a crucial segment of the roster, even with Lynn, who had a 3.99 ERA in 21 starts after missing the first 2œ months following knee surgery, needing to re-establish his footing as he earns $18.5 million in 2023. Cease was the best starter in the American League besides Justin Verlander.

In any event, general manager Rick Hahn will need to fetch at least one more starting pitcher if contending for the postseason is the goal. Hahn needs a second baseman and outfield help, the most talked-about areas of need, but one or two holes in the most vital of areas of the roster demand his full attention, too.

Reynaldo Lopez (2.76 ERA in 2022) and Jimmy Lambert (3.26), who have starting experience, will stay in the bullpen, Hahn said Tuesday at the GM meetings. Davis Martin, who spot-started nine times to the tune of a 5.48 ERA (4.83 in 14 games), is pegged for a similar role.

As Hahn said, Cueto’s expected departure leaves a void.

“Finding a way to fill that would be good,” Hahn said. “Now, Martin’s an option, so it’s not an emergency by any stretch, but no one is ever going to feel comfortable that they have enough pitching.”

Indeed. The Sox would be looking for a back-end type, presumably a better addition than Vince Velasquez turned out to be for $3 million last season even if Cueto were under contract.

Left-hander Garrett Crochet will have a plan mapped out for him to become a starter, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and will pitch out of the bullpen when ready this season.

Kopech, 5-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 25 starts, pitched through knee problems and should report to spring training at 100% with substantial upside in his pocket.

Giolito, 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA in 30 starts, will be paid around $10.8 million, according to FanGraphs calculations, in his last season before free agency, so there’s motivation, not that the former All-Star and Opening Day starter needs it. Hahn is “optimistic” Giolito, with help from pitching coach Ethan Katz, will revert to his past form.

“Expect him coming to camp ready to go,” Hahn said.

“If there’s one guy you know is going to work on it, and work diligently and methodically with a plan, it’s Lucas.”

Hahn reiterated this week that trades are the more likely avenue of improving the roster, but he also said he expected payroll to be similar to the $196 million of 2022, which allows for more than $30 million to be added.

The top of the free-agent class is likely too pricey for the Sox, who don’t shop for starting pitching in the Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, Jameson Taillon aisles. Perhaps Taijuan Walker, Jose Quintana, Ross Stripling and Tyler Anderson are deemed affordable.

Perhaps Hahn will pull off a trade or two that would capture bigger headlines than a free-agent signing. He has plenty of trade capital at his disposal with no one viewed as untouchable should the right deal present itself.

NOTES: Scott Boras, asked if he was set on bringing new client Dylan Cease to free agency in 2025, reminded that his client Stephen Strasburg signed an extension with the Nationals in 2016 before becoming a free agent.

 “Our job is to just listen, take information, then we transfer that to Dylan and see what he wants,” Boras said.

† ESPN will televise 2023 MLB Opening Night on March 30 featuring the Sox against the World Series champion Astros in Houston at 6 p.m.

James Boscardin, a team physician from 1981 to 2003, has died, the Sox said.

The Latest
Should it happen before the All-Star break, reinforcements will be needed to at least carry the workload that Cease has handled over the last three seasons.
Brandon Alcaraz, 22, was struck in the head Saturday night in the 2500 block of South Trumbull Avenue. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A 17-year-old boy was wounded.
Officers were in the 11000 block of South Vernon Avenue about 11:48 a.m. Sunday when a dog got away from its owner and came toward the officers in an “aggressive manner,” police said. One officer fired at the dog. Another officer was hurt by debris.
Notes: Miles Mastrobuoni made an impressive play in a rare appearance in the outfield, and Counsell shed light on Shota Imanaga’s schedule.