The Chicago White Sox bullpen was one of its biggest strengths in the 2020 season. With a rotation that often struggled to go more than five or six innings, the bullpen was critical in their run to the playoffs. Sox fans are hoping for more of the same in 2021.
White Sox Bullpen: Returning Arms
The White Sox bullpen figures to return most, if not all, of its mainstays in 2021. They have not added any bullpen arms during the current offseason. That may or may not happen; time will tell. Barring any more deals, here are the relievers scheduled to return in 2021.
Aaron Bummer is a left-handed reliever who is the ace of the White Sox bullpen. He is capable of reaching the high 90s, and the Sox expect a lot from him, so much so that the Sox extended him through the 2026 season. Many expect that Bummer will be the Sox’ closer at some point, and for good reason.
Jimmy Cordero is a right-handed reliever who many Sox fans love to hate. His stats will not overwhelm anybody, as his ERA in 2020 was 6.08. His biggest asset is his ability to pitch nearly every day, which can save wear and tear on a bullpen. He is extremely cost-effective, so Sox fans will likely see him for another season.
Matt Foster, a right-hander, was a pleasant surprise in his rookie season. He posted an ERA of 2.20, with a K/BB rate of 3.44. He served in several roles in the White Sox bullpen and became an incredibly valuable member of the relief corps. Hopefully, there will be more of the same in 2021.
Jace Fry is a lefty who had an up-and-down season in 2020. His career has been marked by inconsistency, although he has above average skills. When Fry is on, he can be deadly, and the Sox need a lefty who can be consistent. He will definitely be looking for a bounce-back season in 2021.
Codi Heuer, a righty, was perhaps the biggest surprise in 2020. The former sixth-round pick compiled an ERA of 1.52 in his rookie season. He produced a sub 1.00 WHIP and K.9 rate of 9.5. Sox fans are justifiably excited about watching Heuer pitch out of the pen for years to come.
Evan Marshall is a veteran of the White Sox bullpen. One cannot help but root for a guy with his incredible back story. On the field, Marshall has been extremely valuable as a middle reliever. In 2020, he posted an ERA of 2.38, with a K.9 inning rate of 11.9, and a K/BB rate of 4.29.
White Sox Bullpen: Possible Additions
Barring major surprises, the six listed above will be back in the Sox bullpen in 2021. Seemingly, the only question is Cordero, at least in the minds of Sox fans. However, every staff could use a “rubber-arm” guy, and he fits that role well. So, the premise is that these six will be back.
That said, if the White Sox follow past practices, they will carry 13 relievers, eight of whom will be primarily relievers. So, there is room for two more relievers on the staff. However, the White Sox still need a closer. This leaves one spot open for a non-closer in the White Sox bullpen.
Reynaldo Lopez, a once highly regarded righty, may be a candidate for a spot in the White Sox bullpen. While he has exceptional tools, he has never been able to put it all together consistently as a starter. His starting days appear to be behind him, and maybe he can rehabilitate his career in the bullpen.
Left-hander Garret Crochet, the Sox’s first-round draft pick in 2020, made his MLB debut in September. He was spectacular in relief, helping the White Sox reach the playoffs. Being a lefty bodes well for Crochet, and he figures to be on the South Side soon, if not on Opening Day.
Ross Detwiler, a veteran lefty, was surprisingly effective for the White Sox in 2020. The unrestricted free agent took the ball whenever called upon, and performed well. As a former starter, he pitched multiple innings out of the pen, helping to spare the bullpen from overuse. Being left-handed, he may be worth re-signing for 2021.
Zack Burdi, a hard-throwing righty, made his MLB debut in 2020. The results were mixed, and his MLB stint ended up being brief. Once thought of as a future closer, Burdi struggled for most of his short stay. However, his K.9 innings rate of 13.5 is enough to merit a look in training camp. Don’t count him out.
Jimmy Lambert, a righty, made his MLB debut in 2020 with two brief starts. Lambert, who had Tommy John surgery in June of 2019, returned to the injured list with forearm stiffness. The latest reports are that he should be ready for spring training.
Ryan Burr, a righty, had Tommy John surgery in June of 2019 and did not pitch in 2020. He is still under contract with the White Sox and might be under consideration to be part of the White Sox bullpen in 2020. He would be a longshot but is still in the mix.
Michael Kopech, a highly thought of righty, underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2018 season. He has not appeared in an MLB game since 2018. He still has high-end skills, and may well end up in the rotation at some point, however, where he ends up in 2021 is anybody’s guess at this point.
White Sox Bullpen: The Missing Piece
There is no doubt that the White Sox bullpen will play a key role in the team’s success in 2021. Like any team, in today’s game, the bullpen is more critical than ever. Whoever fills these slots will help determine how the team as a whole performs this season. Yet, there is still one missing piece.
The White Sox have yet to identify a closer for 2021. Perhaps they have had internal discussions about it, but nothing has been mentioned publicly. Without a closer, it will be extremely difficult to contend for a playoff spot, much less make a deep playoff run. So, who will be the Sox closer in 2021?l
White Sox Bullpen: Closer Candidates
The White Sox closer the last two seasons has been Alex Colome. He was brilliant in 2020, posting an ERA of 0.81. Colome became a free agent after the season and remains unsigned. Many Sox fans are not thrilled at the idea of re-signing him, as he is not the typical closer. Yet, they could certainly do worse.
Liam Hendriks is also a free agent, and he seems to be the popular choice among Sox fans. He was brilliant against the Sox in the playoffs, saving the last two games of the series. The White Sox, among others, have shown interest in Hendriks, however, potential contract terms may drive the Sox out of the bidding.
Other possible closer candidates include Bummer, Heuer, Crochet, and Kopech, among others. Perhaps Burdi will get another shot in spring training. Or, maybe the Sox sign someone like Roberto Osuna, Brad Hand, or Trevor Rosenthal. There are others also available on the market.
The White Sox will need to identify their next closer soon, no matter who it is. We have identified several good possibilities, and it is up to Rick Hahn and company to choose wisely. Without a solid closer, the White Sox’s hopes to contend in 2021 are doomed before the first pitch is thrown in spring training.
White Sox Bullpen: Bold Prediction
So, who will man the White Sox bullpen in 2021, and who will be the closer? Tough questions demand tough answers, and somebody has to provide those answers. So, here are our bold predictions for the White Sox bullpen for 2021 (along with, and based on the projected rotation).
Bullpen: Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Cordero, Garret Crochet, Jace Fry, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, and….the closer will be… Alex Colome. Let the debate begin.
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