Three Free-Agent Relievers The White Sox Should Target Early


The champagne from the Astros World Series championship has not fizzled out yet and the hot stove is already cooking. Teams around Major League Baseball made a flurry of roster decisions and the forecast looks stormy for the general manager meetings in early November. With scores of decisions ahead the White Sox will set their wish list with an arsenal of cash and lots of flexibility.

Item No. 1 on the White Sox wish list might be one, or a few, reclamation projects. Pitchers tend to return more value as a flip and the White Sox have a depleted bullpen with lingering questions about the rotation.

Yes, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez will anchor the top two spots in the rotation, but Carlos Rodon underwent shoulder surgery and is shelved for at least the next six months. That leaves James Shields in the third spot with two gaps to fill.

Dylan Covey was a nice story last season but it became painfully evident he was drowning as a starter. Perhaps a move to the bullpen might uncover a niche for him, but he doesn’t feature any put-away pitch that would suggest his success – at best he is a mop-up guy.

Mike Pelfrey fared well enough as a starter and although he wouldn’t return much value in a trade, at least he can compete and hold down a spot until Michael Kopech forces his way into the big leagues. Assuming Rick Renteria wants to run a standard five-man rotation there is one slot that might be filled through free agency. Yet, Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish are certain to battle for that last spot at Spring Training.

But starters are low hanging fruit in the offseason – the math is easy. The more complex and difficult calculus is relievers. The relief market in free agency is a fickle devil and most of the time no one knows who is going where for how much. But let’s take a whack and naming three right-handed relief pitchers that the White Sox could target.

Huston Street

Street’s roster spot is not even cold yet but the White Sox should take a quick, hard look at the once-dominant closer. After sending David Robertson to the Yankees and jettisoning Tyler Clippard, Street fits the bill as a fallen star looking for an opportunity.

He struggled with two injuries last season that practically eliminated his season and he will have to beg teams for an opportunity. Street posted his worst season in 2016 logging a 6.45 earned run average in only 26 games. He has 324 career saves and had a stretch of outstanding seasons from 2009 to 2014.

Street was an All-Star in 2014 and hammered out 40 saves in 2015. But the right-hander is 34 years old and his body seems to be deteriorating. He trimmed his body fat and tried to get in better shape after a rib cage injury in 2016, but a lat strain, groin strain and rotator cuff strain plagued his entire season.

And believe it or not, the White Sox might be able to get Street on a minor league deal. The combination of age and injury scares a lot of clubs and offering anything more than one-year deals seems foolish. If enough teams pass on Street the White Sox might find a gem in their pen.

Joe Smith

Smith will gather a lot of attention. He is one of the few side-arm relievers with dynamic stuff. His cutter glides across the zone while his sinker dives hard at right-handers feet. He has been a dependable reliever for nine years and consistently finds himself traded to contenders.

Smith started 2016 with the Angels and finished with the Cubs while starting the 2017 season in Toronto and ending up with the Indians. Indeed, he is a hot commodity at the trade deadline and this may drive his price higher than the White Sox are willing to pay.

However, the South Siders purged so much salary after the trade deadline last season that it makes sense for them to compete for this type of asset. Smith made $3 million last season and will likely fetch a similar figure. But his return on value at the trade deadline warrants his signing.

Not many pitchers have his kind of stuff with nary an injury. Rick Hahn should give this one a long look.

Sergio Romo

This is another risky proposition but if he returns to his dominant stuff that he had in San Francisco the White Sox will have a valuable asset. Romo signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers last offseason, a coming home of sorts for the L.A.-native. Yet, Romo quickly fell out of favor with the Dodgers and they designated him for assignment in July – a surprising decision to many.

Until 2017 Romo was lights out from the pen and demonstrated flexibility to swing from relief to closing. He was outstanding for the Giants in three postseasons and closed 38 games in 2013 while earning an all-star nod.

Romo never posted an ERA above 3.97 before 2017 and saved face after being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. In 30 2/3 innings of work at the end of the season, Romo posted a stifling 1.47 ERA and 0.848 WHIP.

Even though Romo struggled with the Dodgers his quick correction with the Rays will restore his value. He made $3 million last season and will have to settle for less give his age (34) and statistical stumble.

There are plenty of other attractive names to ponder, but like I said, the relief market is usually pandemonium and you gotta go where other teams might not.