Where do I start? This is like introducing your family to a girl at Christmas time that you know will be out of your life by New Year’s.
Remember David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, and Dan Jennings? Well, get used to the transiency of the White Sox bullpen until Rick Hahn senses a contending team evolving. For this season and probably next, we’re in for a bullpen that will require nametags. Anybody that performs well out of the bullpen in 2018, with a couple possible exceptions, will be shipped to a contending team.
The pre-rebuild holdovers all suffered injuries that kept them out for significant chunks of time in 2017. Nate Jones, Jake Petricka, and Zach Putnam have battled the disabled list numerous times in recent seasons and 2017 was no different. Jones pitched 11 innings before elbow surgery shelved him for the remainder of the season. Petricka dealt with elbow and lat issues last year and pitched to a 1-1 record with a 7.01 earned run average in 27 games. Putnam managed 8 innings before Tommy John surgery put an end to his season.
Jones has seen success, despite his unusual delivery that seems to show the ball to the batter before he delivers it. His last full season in 2016, he was 5-3 with a 2.29 era and an 80 to 15 k to bb rate in 70.2 innings pitched. If he can remain healthy to begin 2018, his fastball-slider combination will be an attractive asset to a contending team looking for a 7th or 8th inning guy.
In Petricka’s 2015 season, his last full season in the bullpen, he put up respectable numbers, albeit not Jones caliber. He went 4-3 with a 3.63 era in 62 games. His strikeout to walk rate was ordinary at 33 to 18, but he only allowed two home runs in 52 innings pitched. MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration calculator has Petricka earning 900,000 dollars this year, so provided he’s healthy, I’d say he’ll stick around despite last year’s struggles.
Putnam will most likely be out for the year and his career with the White Sox is probably through.
Three veteran journeymen, all 30 to 31 years old, deserve a chance to come back and pitch for the White Sox in 2018. They are:
Al Albuquerque: (31), 10 games, 1.13 era
Danny Farquhar: (31 in February), 2-0, 15 games, 4.40 era
Gregory Infante: (30), 2-1, 52 games, 3.53 era
They are all dirt cheap and you never know. Dan Jennings brought a #12 ranked prospect from Tampa. Anthony Swarzak brought a #18 ranked prospect from Milwaukee. Tommy Kahnle (along with Todd Frazier and Robertson) helped bring prospects ranked #3 and #19 in the New York Yankees’ system. Perhaps one of these three vets will yield a young player that is integral or ancillary for the 2020 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox!
Intriguing younger pieces that could see bullpen time include Juan Minaya, Thyago Vieira, Jordan Stephens, and Jordan Guerrero.
Minaya, 27, saw significant time with the White Sox last year, saving 9 games and striking out 51 in 43.2 innings pitched. It is conceivable that if he improves his control moving forward he could be a bullpen piece when the White Sox turn the corner.
Vieira, recently acquired from Seattle for international bonus pool money, can throw a baseball through a brick wall, and will make the team out of spring training if he proves he can throw strikes.
Stephens and Guerrero (are people naming their kids Jordan because of Michael or the shoes?) both pitched at Double A Birmingham last year to varying degrees of modest success. However, at mid season if anyone is moved, replacements will be necessary. Stephens and Guerrero, 25 and 24 in May, respectively, aren’t the most exciting White Sox prospects, but they may be the most MLB ready aside from Kopech.
The Sox may search the scrap heap for a lefty bullpen guy or two to compete with in house candidates Aaron Bummer (why was a White Sox season ticket package not named after him?!), who walked 15 hitters in 22 innings and Jace Fry (it would be awesome if he’s around when Jake Burger makes it to The Show), who pitched to a 10.80 era in 11 games.
Who’s left? Dylan Covey struggled mightily as a starter for the Sox in 2017. He may get a chance in the bullpen this coming season. Rob Scahill, 31, was recently signed to a minor league deal by the White Sox. He threw 22 1/3 innings for the Brewers last season. Could Kopech (like Chris Sale before him) be used out of the bullpen to start his major league career, before transitioning to a starting role?
Next: The 2016 anti-Cubs manifesto is on sale now AND the rebuild roadmap.