As the 2022 Chicago White Sox season approaches, fans are wondering how will the White Sox replace Carlos Rodon‘s production on the field. Will they make a deal for Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas? Will they rely on Michael Kopech to take the ball every fifth day for the entirety of the season and blow through what seems to be a necessary innings limit? Pray that Dallas Keuchel has a bounceback year and pitches at least competitive baseball for the season? While Sox fans have many questions that require an answer, this may be the most pressing.
Rotation As Of Now
While we still await the fate of Montas and Manaea from Oakland, there are several teams at least making the call on them. This does not bode well for the Sox who are known for either not getting into bidding wars, or losing them. There are rumors out there that say the White Sox and Rick Hahn are in on both, the longer this takes, the less confident Sox fans should be about landing either one. Assuming the rotation stays as is, the Sox rotation would probably look something like this.
On paper, the top three are without question elite. Cease has more to prove but the belief that Cease has the best stuff on the staff and another year of major league experience under his belt, the Sox believe he fits well in the top end of the rotation. Dallas Keuchel had his worst season as a pro last year finishing with a 5.28 earned-run average and a 1.531 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched). Relying on Keuchel to be anything more than an innings eater in games that are already at hand could be catastrophic for a team trying to make a title run. As for Kopech, he has high-end potential but it is just that, potential. Kopech amassed only 69.1 innings last season but did look great out of the bullpen finishing with a 3.50 earned-run average. While Kopech could very well handle a full workload as a starter it is still quite the unknown and should not be heavily relied upon.
The key to this rotation being successful without any other additions is Dylan Cease. If Cease can take another step forward and learn to pitch to contact more often and not try to strike everyone out, he could wind up being a lynchpin to the Sox season.
Adding Manaea Or Montas
While the Sox could still win the division without making an addition to the rotation, adding one of these two starters could be a huge piece for the Sox. Where each guy could fit into the rotation varies a touch depending on which one the Sox wind up with if they get either. Montas seems to be a touch better and comes with an additional year of control. Montas makes more sense for the White Sox due to the extra year of control however, Montas would probably be a touch more expensive requiring more prospect capital. Montas finished 2021 with 187 innings pitched and a 3.37 earned-run average. Manaea was very comparable in 2021 finishing with 179.1 innings pitched and a solid 3.91 earned-run average. The biggest difference between the two starters is Manaea is left-handed. Manaea being a lefty may be an advantage for him as the Sox only currently carry one left-handed starter on the big league squad in Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel would likely be the odd man out assuming the Sox add either starter.
Montas would be financially cheaper as he is projected to earn only 5.2 million dollars in 2022 while Manaea would cost roughly 10.2 million for the year. The biggest hurdle for the White Sox to jump in a trade would likely not be financial flexibility but trade capital. The Sox farm system currently ranks dead last. In order to get a deal done the White Sox may have to include major league-ready talent whereas other teams in on the two could probably get it done with prospects.
While the competition for the two starters seems to be deep, the Sox ought not to pay too much attention to teams outside their very own division. The Minnesota Twins have made several upgrades thus far this season and the Tigers are improved as well. With the additions of Carlos Correa, Gio Urshela, and more the Twins are trying to compete now. Re-signing Buxton to a seven-year 100 million dollar extension in November should have shown the Sox early they weren’t intending to tear it down completely. The Twins are now also reportedly in on Manaea and Montas as well.
While the division is still clearly the Sox to lose, the gap is narrowing quickly. The South Siders should absolutely do everything in their power to secure one of the two available Oakland Athletics starters to replace lost production from now San Francisco Giant, Carlos Rodon. Rodon was an all-star in 2021 for the White Sox finishing 2021 with an eye-popping 2.37 earned-run average, throwing a no-hitter, and eating 132.2 innings. The Sox simply cannot rely on Michael Kopech to throw 120 plus innings in 2022 and feel good about it.
If Chicago is serious about contending for a world championship in 2022 and beyond, the time is now to show their increasingly frustrated fanbase. While the Sox should not be reactive simply to the other teams in the division making moves, there is no question the Sox need to improve the roster. Additions to the bullpen in the form of Kendall Graveman, Vince Velasquez, and Joe Kelly seemed to show intent for the White Sox to trade Craig Kimbrel but that deal has yet to be done as well. Other teams either know the Sox need to trade him and are making little to no offer for him, or they are just simply not interested. Either way Kimbrel going to the A’s in a trade makes little to no sense for Oakland. The Sox may intend to keep Kimbrel and see if he can regain his form prior to the trade at the deadline last year. This could also alleviate some pressure from the Sox starters as well as gain some trade value prior to the 2022 deadline where the Sox may move him if they feel comfortable without his services.
Regardless of how this plays out, the White Sox should look to add some starting pitching depth as Johnathan Stiever and Jimmy Lambert are about all the Sox have in the minor leagues that could provide any help in the event of an injury or other scenario, where they are needed. Being able to move Keuchel out of this rotation would be ideal, however unlikely due to his contract. Jerry Reinsdorf has a real problem paying players lots of money and not having them perform and a release seems highly unlikely.
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