The Chicago White Sox have reportedly agreed to terms with free-agent starting pitcher Mike Clevinger. While it is early hot stove season, this signing may hold clues to the White Sox plan for the 2023 season. We will look at what this may mean for Lucas Giolito and others on the White Sox roster. @KenRosenthal was first on the deal.
Current White Sox Rotation
With the addition of Mike Clevinger to the White Sox roster, the current rotation should look like this.
While the rotation still looks pretty top-heavy, a fully healthy 2023 from Michael Kopech in addition to a bounce-back year from Lucas Giolito could boost this rotation toward the top of the American League in 2023.
Assuming the White Sox are unable to re-sign Johnny Cueto due to self-inflicted payroll restrictions, Clevinger will likely be the only addition to the White Sox starting rotation via free agency.
Additional Moves Coming Via Trade?
While the White Sox may be done adding starters via free agency, a statement by White Sox GM Rick Hahn made while attending the GM meetings a few weeks back lead us to believe the White Sox may be active in the trade market. Questions immediately arose about who may be on their way out of the White Sox system. Would it be someone like top prospect Colson Montgomery, who is at least a year away, or someone currently on the big league roster? While trading major league-ready talent is not always common by teams who are in their proverbial compete-for-championship window, the White Sox operate differently than most major league teams in large markets. While trading Colson Montgomery makes little to no sense for the White Sox long term due to Tim Anderson‘s quickly expiring contract and Montgomery’s large upside. This thought process leads to the thought of trading players away from the current big league club. Who and what can the White Sox afford to lose?
Lucas Giolito tops my list of current White Sox players who are tradeable and carry some relatively high value. Giolito had a down year in 2022 posting a 4.90 ERA and a less-than-desirable 1.435 WHIP. Giolito lost the opportunity to have a standard off-season following his 2021 campaign due to the lockout among other things. Lucas chose to add bulk in an attempt to extend himself and the team deeper into the playoffs in 2022. Fast-forward to the end of 2022 and the playoffs were an afterthought for Giolito who had his worst campaign since 2018 when he was widely considered the worst starting pitcher in baseball.
Lucas Giolito should bounce back next season and that is where the conundrum lies for the 2023 White Sox. If Giolito does bounce back and has a fantastic season for the Sox, they will undoubtedly lose him to free agency following the 2023 season. If Giolito fails to bounce back and has an abysmal season in 2023, the White Sox will have failed again in 2023 to compete following a rebuild, and will likely have to tear it down again.
This is the best reason to move him now. While Giolito would have undoubtedly had more value just one season ago, there is still plenty of value and the White Sox still have plenty of holes to fill. Making Giolito the centerpiece to trading for an outfielder or a second-baseman makes sense. Putting a trade together like the one below with the Seattle Mariners seems viable and has a ton of upside for the White Sox and could help move the Mariners further toward their goal of competing for the AL West crown. The Mariners made the playoffs in 2022 but finished a whopping sixteen games back of the Houston Astros. Starting pitcher Matt Brash has huge upside and years of team control. Brash would be arbitration eligible in 2026 and would not be an outright free agent until 2029. Outfielder Jesse Winker had a down year in Seattle and would likely enjoy a return to a smaller ballpark much like he had in Cincinnati.
While trading Lucas Giolito makes sense for the White Sox, trading Liam Hendriks may make more sense and actually provide a larger return for the White Sox. Liam Hendriks is simply a luxury a team like the White Sox cannot afford. Hendriks is great and amongst the top closers in the game but Reynaldo Lopez could step into the closer role. Among other candidates for the Sox to close were they to trade Hendriks would be Kendall Graveman and Garrett Crochet.
The return for Hendriks could be large and fill a serious need for the White Sox. While the trade shown below would be one player for two, Ian Happ could fill a much larger need for the White Sox than Hendriks does. White Sox fans must face the facts. Liam Hendriks, while great, is simply too expensive for the front office’s taste.
The White Sox not wanting to add payroll has their fans annoyed after an underwhelming 2022 season and moves need to be made. Liam Hendriks is not the problem, but trading him could absolutely be part of the solution.
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