The Chicago White Sox traded away their ace in Chris Sale this offseason, leaving them with a rotation that won’t draw much envy from other teams. Despite high hopes at the start of the season, the White Sox finished 78-84 and fourth in the American League Central.
Their fourth straight losing season pushed Jerry Reinsdorf and Rick Hahn to the limit, convincing them to sell off their best assets. With Chris Sale out of Chicago, the White Sox’s rotation has a much different feel than in past years. Here’s how it’s shaping up with spring training right around the corner.
1. Jose Quintana: One of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball, Quintana could have easily been an ace on a number of major league teams the past four seasons. However, with pitching in the shadow of Sale and being the victim of low run support, Quintana has largely flown under the radar throughout his career. Well, the 28-year-old can finally be considered the ace of the staff, and it’s not even close. Quintana has reached 200 innings in each of the last four seasons, with a career ERA and WHIP of 3.41 and 1.242. His value skyrocketed after last season after putting together 23 quality starts with 181 strikeouts, a .246 BAA, a 1.163 WHIP and a 3.20 ERA in 208 innings pitched. These were all career bests, proving that he was ready to be the guy on top of the rotation. With his value at an all-time high, Quintana may not even start the season in Chicago, as they may elect to trade him for even more top prospects, but for the time being he is far and away the number one starter in the White Sox’s rotation.
2. Carlos Rodon: The White Sox’s first-round draft pick in 2014 was supposed to be their future ace after Sale. However, Rodon has largely become a “what if” story. His first two seasons in the majors have been disappointments, going 18-16 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP in 51 starts. That’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots in Rodon’s game. His 9.16 K/9 last season brings some optimism. Just like he did in 2015, Rodon put together a fantastic final two months of the season. In his last 11 starts, he was 7-2 with a 3.11 ERA. Those are the numbers White Sox fans were expecting when Rodon was called up, and with much uncertainty regarding his consistency, many fans aren’t sold that they’ve seen the real Carlos Rodon. So what if he can start the season the way he ended the last two? I think he’ll start the season as the number two starter in the rotation, and if he can pick up where he left off, the White Sox may have a decent one-two in Quintana and Rodon.
3. Miguel Gonzalez: Gonzalez put together a solid season in his first with the White Sox. Over 23 starts he was 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA and a 1.237 WHIP. He significantly cut back on his walks, just 39 in 135 innings, and struck out 95 in 2016. Even more impressive was his drop in home runs allowed, as he gave up just 11 in 2016 after giving up at least 24 in his last three seasons. For the first time in his career, the 32-year-old is in a contract year, and if he can get his innings count up towards the 180 mark he could find himself in line for a decent payday as a middle of the rotation starter. I see him as the number three starter in the White Sox rotation to start the season.
4. James Shields: The past two seasons has turned James Shields into not much more than “the guy who gave up the homer to Bartolo Colon.” Shields’ 2016 was absolutely horrendous and earned him the honor of being tied for the most losses in baseball. He went 6-19 over 33 starts with the Padres and the White Sox and posted a 5.85 ERA and a 1.596 WHIP. Both were career worsts, and went alongside his 82 walks, also a career high. Shields has always been a workhorse who gave his team high-quality starts day in and day out, and from 2011 to 2014 he was among the best pitchers in the game. Well that James Shields is long gone. He was still a workhorse in 2016, throwing 181.2 innings, but they were far from quality. However for a team amidst a rebuild, a guy throwing close to 200 innings will surely make the front office happy. Shields won’t do much more than eat innings in 2017, which is more than enough for new manager Rick Renteria to keep him in the back of the rotation.
5. Lucas Giolito: The White Sox may have gotten the top prospect in all of baseball this offseason, Yoan Moncada, in the Chris Sale trade, but Moncada isn’t the only prospect that may have an impact in 2017. 22-year-old Lucas Giolito was traded to the White Sox as the headliner in the Adam Eaton trade, and will immediately get a shot in the rotation to start the season. He entered 2016 as the top pitching prospect in the game, and while his first stint in the majors left much to be desired, Giolito is ready to prove that he can live up to his hype. In four starts with the Nationals, he posted a 6.75 ERA and a 1.781 WHIP. He walked twelve and struck out 11 in 21.1 innings. These numbers aren’t very encouraging, but as always with a player’s first stint in the majors, they should be taken with a grain of salt. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Giolito has the size of a guy capable of throwing 200 innings on a regular basis. He’ll get to grow and learn under respected pitching coach Don Cooper, and could emerge as one of the top arms in the league in 2017.
At the rate the White Sox have been going this offseason, anything can still happen. Half these guys may not even be on the roster come Opening Day. Regardless, the White Sox’s rotation should be able to put up decent numbers despite losing Sale.
The White Sox, under new manager Rick Renteria, get a fresh start on April 3rd when they take on the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field.