White Sox can't make pitching splash without taking spot from young arm
Sox can't add pitching without noticing the young arm who originally popped up at NBC Sports Chicago
The White Sox dropped out of the postseason because of their pitching.
In particular, their starting pitching, which produced no more than two reliable options in a three-game AL wild card series. Even if the White Sox 2020 campaign had passed Oakland Athletics and moved into the ALDS, the South Siders would have been in the same - if not worse - position, wondering what to do after Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, the two Elites, should arms at the top of their rotation.
And that seems like an area that needs to be addressed this winter, doesn't it? The White Sox have championship expectations from now on, having moved from rebuild mode to battle mode in 2020. There are some fascinating options, none of which will spark the imagination of fans more than Trevor Bauer, the potential NL Cy Young winner who is set to be one of the brightest stars in the free agent market.
But how would he or any other pitching addition fit into an already crowded rotation?
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That's not to say that the White Sox would look at their list of a Primo contract offer for Bauer and suddenly throw up their hands and say, "Sorry Trev, but we don't have a place for you." You create space for a player of this caliber.
But the White Sox also have three guys behind Giolito and Keuchel in the rotation that they believe can become players of this caliber.
As much as the mounting pain of Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning and the absence of Michael Kopech helped sink the White Sox this season and spark cries for change, these guys are nowhere near the finished products of those the team believes they can be. The White Sox have no intention of giving up on any of them.
However, if there is room for external additions, not everyone gets a place in the rotation. Giolito, Keuchel, Cease, Dunning and Kopech would be the South Side by five if they went to spring training today. This is a group that does not include Reynaldo López or Carlos Rodón in particular, who have been around for a long time and did not make the most of their opportunities due to inconsistent performance or injuries. Cease, Dunning and Kopech haven't made 40 collective major league starts yet, and the bulk of that sum belongs to Cease, who, with 26 starts in his career, still has a full season of big league work behind him.
It's worth noting, of course, that Kopech has played two full seasons without more than one Cactus League game. The White Sox expect him back in 2021, but it's fair to wonder if he'd be ready to be part of the major league rotation from day 1. Eventually they planned to start him in the sub-leagues and leave Tommy John Operation, had the 2020 season been normal.
Regardless, however, you cannot find a place for a newcomer without taking a place from an incumbent. While Rick Hahn's Too Many Starting Mugs Hypothesis has always been discussed as a "good problem," the choice may never have been presented as a decision that deprives a younger player of the opportunity to transform themselves into something great. All three of these weapons were purchased in the stores relevant to the reconstruction in 2016 and 2017. They have long been considered building blocks and not just lottery tickets.
The problem is now a real one, good or not, as the White Sox are trying to win the World Series.
Calling this a mere choice between Bauer, a world-class pitcher, and either of these guys may not help much. There will be many applicants for Bauer's services. If you go down the free agent rankings, the dilemma is much more obvious. Is it worth sending Marcus Stroman Cease back to the minors? Is Taijuan Walker Worth Taking Dunning's Chances? Is it worth keeping Jake Odorizzi away from the big leagues longer than before?
These questions may not have easy answers.
Yes, the expectations are now at the championship level. But this remains a long-term undertaking. Who gives the White Sox the best chance in the next season and in the following and in the following season?
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