The 2017 season was the ultimate transformation year for the White Sox, as from the offseason through the following trade deadline, the front office managed to almost completely turn over a roster it decided it wasn’t capable of turning into a contender.
Unlike some rebuilds, the fruits of the White Sox teardown came in the form of some close to ready-made young talent, and among the players the White Sox acquired who made their team debut during an otherwise forgettable season were Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez. Throw in incumbents Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon (health pending) and the start of a hopeful new core was already starting to take place on the South Side, even as we wait for Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and others to join them.
If 2017 was Phase 1 of the rebuild, 2018’s Phase 2 won’t be too dissimilar. There likely won’t be as many veterans Rick Hahn & Co. can flip for shiny new toys, but as the aforementioned “next core” continues its development either in the majors or the minors, the White Sox will likely search for roster filler with two thoughts in mind: 1. Someone has to play, and 2. A good few months could generate even more young talent in the form of even more trades.
Setting aside the White Sox two most obviously valuable trade candidates, Jose Abreu and Nate Jones, which Nick outlined Monday, there isn’t much “roster filler” leftover from 2017, save for the expensive and ineffective James Shields. Thus, it’s likely the White Sox will spend this offseason identifying and pursuing players who fit the archetype of cheap veterans looking to rebuild their value on a shorter deals. Think Derek Holland, only hopefully with better results. Actually, forget Holland. Think Anthony Swarzak. That’s better.
With that in mind, a perusal of the available free agents brings … less than stellar options, as you might expect.
Still, there are bargains to be had. And when you project what the White Sox roster might look like in 2018, the rotation and bullpen are likely where most of the action will take place. Positionally, the White Sox have their starters at first base, second base, shortstop, and right field. One could make the argument for bringing in veterans at catcher, third base, left field, and center field, but the White Sox will have to weigh the desire to do that with ensuring more reps from guys like Omar Narvaez, Kevan Smith, Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Nicky Delmonico.
With that in mind, here are a few players who, at first glance, could be on the White Sox radar if the price is right:
James Fegan wrote about Tyler Chatwood as a potential free agent target over at The Athletic and I’ll echo those sentiments, as Chatwood is younger than your average free agent and the type of ground ball pitcher the White Sox like to target. Andrew Cashner is now 31 but was once a flame-throwing top prospect who could want to rebuild his value after posting the worst K/9 of his career in Texas. Jhoulys Chacin will be 30 in January and has a dwindling strikeout, but may come cheaply enough if he’s willing to leave the friendly confines of PetCo for a less pitcher-friendly environment. Chris Tillman had a disastrous season in Baltimore and his value couldn’t be much lower, but that’s kind of the point here, right? Wade Miley technically still exists. Why not bring back Miguel Gonzalez?
Trevor Cahill gave up more home runs in 23 innings with the Royals than in 61 with the Padres, but is somehow still only 29. Asher Wojciechowski is a slider/change-up guy who gives up way too many fly balls to make sense but is young enough that maybe the White Sox would be interested. Steve Cishek and Tommy Hunter represent classic “sign and flip” candidates if they have a few good months. Luke Gregerson is only a year removed from being a valuable bullpen piece, but was so bad for Houston that he only pitched in mop-up duty in the playoffs. The actual answer to this question, of course, is Matt Albers.
Carlos Gonzalez was among the worst everyday players in baseball for the first half of 2017, but rebounded to the tune of a .921 OPS in the second half. He was linked to the White Sox plenty during the years they were actually trying to contend, so it would only be logical for them to get him now to split time between left field and DH. Leonys Martin plays a good center field but can’t hit a lick, making him basically an older version of Adam Engel. Ichiro Suzuki is who they sign in my dreams, and sometimes my dreams come true.
There really isn’t much to work with here, and these groups are probably the least likely to see any sort of free agent additions. Maybe Will Middlebrooks on a minor league deal excites you, since he’s a name you know. Hey, they gave Cody Asche a shot so who knows? Chris Iannetta has always been well regarded for his receiving skills and would be a good candidate to help groom the White Sox young arms from behind the plate, but would only likely be considered if the front office’s opinions on Narvaez or Smith’s handling of pitchers are less glowing than they say publicly. Old friend Hector Sanchez will only be 28 and had a random dinger-laden streak for the Padres last season.
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