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Is the White Sox Bullpen Worth the Investment?

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The Chicago White Sox have agreed to a deal with reliever Kendall Graveman. Graveman is 30 years old and almost won a World Series this year with the Houston Astros in 2021. While Graveman was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in late July just before the deadline, he played a huge role for Houston in getting the club back to the World Series for the third time in five years. Let’s dig in and see what this deal looks like and what it means for the White Sox in 2022 and beyond.

Contract

The White Sox are said to be in agreement on a deal for what is reported to be a three-year deal worth around 24 million dollars.

While adding Graveman to their bullpen looks amazing on paper, it appears to be investing a ton of money into the back end of it. That is not a knock on having what could write out as the best bullpen in baseball. But it does beg the question, what about the rest of the team’s needs? While having a bullpen with this much firepower and money invested in it is not unheard of, it is a bit of an anomaly on the Southside. Assuming everyone stays put and the front office does not trade anybody from the bullpen, the bullpen is taking a shape much like that of a large market team, something the White Sox are not considered to be. What does it tell us about the Sox future plans this offseason?

Analyisis

While the bullpen was a strength for Chicago this past year they attempted to make it dominant at the trade deadline adding Craig Kimbrel via a trade with the Cubs. The White Sox sent two major contributors to the big league squad back to the North Side in reliever Codi Heuer and second baseman Nick Madrigal. While Kimbrel was dominant for the Cubs in the first half, the Cubs decided to tear it down and start over. The Kimbrel trade was a part of that plan. Kimbrel did not enjoy the same success on the Southside of town. Craig carried a 0.49 earned run average in the first half in his role as the Cubs closer. Once traded to the Sox, Kimbrel found himself in unfamiliar territory with the best closer in the American League on the same roster. Kimbrel was never going to come to the Southside and take over for Liam Hendriks. So then what? This meant he would have to learn a new role as more of a set-up man. This did not go well for Kimbrel. Kimbrel finished his 2021 season with the White Sox with a hefty 5.29 ERA and a 1.217 walks plus hits per inning pitched.

The White Sox chose to pick up Kimbrel’s 16 million dollar option for 2022 in hopes of trading him. If they cannot trade him this ties up quite a chunk of what seems to be a strict budget for general manager Rick Hahn. I do think they get a Kimbrel deal done and Craig is pitching elsewhere prior to the start of the 2022 season but the return probably won’t match what the Sox gave up for him in Madrigal and Heuer. Now the Sox must not only replace Kimbrel and Heuer in the bullpen but will need to land a multi-year solution at second base. The Cesar Hernandez experiment did not go as planned and the White Sox declined their option on him for 2022.

The White Sox signing Graveman makes me think they plan to move forward adding Michael Kopech into the starting rotation in 2022. They may also look to add another starter via the free-agent market or by way of a trade. The only way I see them not adding a starter is if they feel they have seen enough from Reynaldo Lopez to earn another shot in the rotation in 2022. Doing this on top of presumably trading Kimbrel really thins out what was a relatively deep bullpen in 2021. The Graveman deal was a necessary move if they want to trade Kimbrel.

So what are the Sox getting in Graveman? He is 30, but in a reliever role, 30 is not that old. Graveman should have no problem being effective for the duration of a three-year deal. Kendall was an important piece of the Houston Astros bullpen this past season and pitched great in the postseason. Graveman threw 11 innings this postseason and carried a 1.64 ERA. While adding Graveman gives support to guys like Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer what he will also bring is postseason experience. Something the front office and manager Tony La Russa seem to desire and for good reason. This team is young and needs guys in every aspect who have been there. Graveman made his first playoff appearance in 2021 but the Astros were full of experience for him to lean on and learn from. I think Graveman making it to the game’s biggest stage in his first run at it is a positive and will help the youth on the Southside remain invested all year. He may help keep them calm as well when the lights get bright in October.

The bottom line with this move is it’s a great start. As I stated in my previous article https://www.overtimeheroics.net/2021/11/15/white-sox-should-spend-or-else/, the White Sox have to fill all of their team needs including a long-term solution at second base and in right field. Adding another starter would be smart as well but only time will tell. Good move by Hahn jumping out and grabbing Graveman for a reasonable cost prior to the December 1st problem we all expect is coming. It would be wise in my opinion to get at least one more deal done prior to that time but we shall see.


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