While the 2021 White Sox look to be serious contenders in the American League, there are still some questions about the starting rotation. They have a solid three at the top of the rotation in Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and newly acquired Lance Lynn.
After the top three, however, there are questions about the back end of the rotation. As the team is currently comprised, the fourth and fifth pitchers would likely come from a list that includes inexperienced young hurlers Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, and talented but inconsistent Reynaldo Lopez.
2021 White Sox: Which Way To Go?
White Sox fans have varying opinions on whether to trust younger pitchers to complete the rotation, or go out and find another veteran starter. A 162 game season will certainly test any rotation and will expose weaknesses long before September.
Yet, Sox management also has to assess the remaining free agents available, and weigh them against the risk of unproven youngsters. This is not an easy task, and it presents a no-win situation for Sox management. Go with the kids and miss the playoffs, and fans will be furious. On the other hand, acquire a veteran who fails to meet expectations, and the same fans will be howling.
Another trade like the Lynn trade seems highly unlikely at this point. The Sox value their prospects, and there remains a slight residue from the Tatis-for-Shields trade. That being the case, if the 2021 White Sox are going to add another starter, it will most likely come from the remaining free agents.
The Marketplace: A Mixed Bag At Best
So, exactly who is still available that could fill the fourth or fifth starter’s role for the 2021 White Sox? There are plenty of names, but in this case, it is definitely quantity over quality. There are no future Cy Young winners available in the Sox price range. They will be shopping in the middle rack at best.
For the sake of brevity and sanity, let’s look at eight pitchers. The Sox’ big three include two righties and one lefty. So, the void in the 2021 White Sox could be filled by either a righty or lefty. To make it even, we will consider four righties and four lefties.
Free Agent Candidates: The Righthanders
Taijuan Walker, the youngest available starter at 28, has more promise than accomplishment. The first-round draft choice of the Mariners in the 2010 draft has never lived up to that promise. He has had several injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2018. He may be worth taking a look at little financial risk.
Anibal Sanchez, one of the older names on the list, has had a fair amount of success in the big leagues. Unfortunately for him, he had the worst season of his career in 2020, with an ERA of 6.62. Yet, as recently as 2018, he had a WHIP of 1.083 with an ERA of 2.83. The Sox may not want to take on a 37-year-old reclamation projection as they drive for a championship. Sanchez is a longshot at best.
Rick Porcello is another name that is available on the market. He won the AL Cy Young award with the Red Sox in 2016. Since then, it has been pretty much downhill for Porcello. Yet, he is just 32 years old, and would surely come with a very low price tag. Is he someone the Sox would or should consider?
Adam Wainwright, at 39, is the oldest righthander on the list. The former Cy Young winner with the Cardinals pitched well in 2020, compiling anERA of 3.15, with a WHIP of 1.051. He also threw two complete games in the abbreviated season. Even at his advanced age, Wainwright has a lot to offer a team on a one-year deal.
Free Agent Candidates: The Southpaws
At 37, Cole Hamels is still kicking around. The four-time All-Star has been a solid pitcher for most of his career. He only made one appearance in 2020, so it is difficult to assess just what he has to offer a team. While his numbers have slipped the last few seasons, he may be someone to consider for the back end of the 2021 White Sox rotation.
James Paxton, 32, is another lefthanded possibility. he had his best season in 2017, with Seattle, as he posted a 12-5 record with an ERA of 2.98. He has struggled the last few years, although his ERA remained under 4.00. innings in 2020, due to injury. If the price were right, Paxton is definitely worth a look. His strikeout numbers are solid, and the Sox could do worse.
Brett Anderson, 33, last pitched for the Brewers. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 draft by the Diamondbacks. He has never really lived up to the billing, though, and is not going to be a game-changer. However, he has had some success at times and would be an inexpensive pick-up for the 2021 White Sox.
Finally, maybe it will be back to the future for the 2021 White Sox. How about Carlos Rodon, Sox fans? Yes, that Carlos Rodon. Now, the White Sox did non-tender Rodon, and there may be some bad feelings going back to how he was used during the 2020 season. Yet, at age 28, and with a lot to prove, it may not be a bad idea to at least bring him to spring training for a look. Okay, this is a stretch, but stranger things have happened.
2021 White Sox: Decisions, Decisions
So, back to where we started. Everybody knows the 2021 White Sox are going to be serious contenders. The big question is just who will fill the last two spots in the rotation? While the White Sox have high hopes for Cease and Kopech, trying to win championships with unproven pitchers can be a daunting task.
On the other hand, none of the pitchers above is a guarantee of success; they do bring experience. The White Sox do have a limited budget, and these names are typical of their potential additions for this season. So, in the next few weeks, they will have to make the tough decisions: veterans or kids? How they choose may well hold the key to the success of the 2021 White Sox.
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