With Hector Santiago being shipped to Anaheim in a three-team deal that brings Adam Eaton to the South Side, the White Sox will be looking to fill another spot in the starting rotation. Gone from last year’s starters are Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Dylan Axelrod and now Santiago. Let’s take a look at the players that remain and are in line to crack the starting five come next spring.
Will anyone else join Paulino, Johnson, and Rienzo in the hunt for a starting spot?
Locks to Make Rotation
Chris Sale: Obviously Sale will be the White Sox number one starter and will toe the slab on Opening Day. There was a lot of chatter on day one of the Winter Meetings that the Sox could be looking to trade Sale but the bottom line is that the Sox see Sale as a key piece of their future and given his team friendly contract, are not actively looking to move him. Sale is a legit ace and has only gotten better since moving into the rotation from the bullpen.
Jose Quintana: After a surprise rookie season, Quintana followed it up with an even stronger sophomore year. He lowered his ERA, WHIP, walks and increased his strikeouts. Quintana’s name was also talked about in trade rumors but it sounds like the asking price would be very high and likely too rich for most teams.
John Danks: After returning in May from a shoulder injury Danks had an up and down season for the Sox and finished with a very ugly 4-14 record. His walk numbers were down, as were his strikeout numbers but his K/BB ratio was the highest of his career. The bad news was that he gave up 28 home runs, tying a career high. Danks still has 3 years and almost $43 million left on his contract, which makes him hard to move otherwise he might have been the one heading out of town instead of Santiago.
Others in the Mix
Erik Johnson: The 23-year-old was the top pitcher in the Sox minor leagues last year posting a 12-3 record with a 1.96 ERA in 24 starts between AA and AAA. He also made five starts for the White Sox and was 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA. Johnson has progressed quickly through the minors and should have as good a shot as anyone to make the jump into the Sox rotation from the get-go next year.
Felipe Paulino: The Sox signed the former Royals pitcher to a one year deal with an option for a second year over the weekend. Paulino looked like he was on the verge of putting it all together in 2012 before needing Tommy John surgery. In his last full season Paulino made 20 starts for the Royals and was 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA. His strikeout numbers have always been solid (8.4/9 innings) but his walk numbers are high as well (3.7/9 innings). The Sox are taking a chance to see if he can find the form he had to start 2012. If not he may still be valuable as a bullpen piece.
Andre Rienzo: The 25-year-old Brazilian right hander made 10 starts for the White Sox last year after a solid minor league campaign. With the big club Rienzo was 2-3 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.482 WHIP. His biggest issue was walks (4.5/9 innings) as he was not able to strike out major league hitters at the same rate as in the minors to pitch around the bases on balls. He also gave up 11 home runs in 56 innings. I think that Rienzo is better suited to work out of the bullpen but he will certainly get a shot at the rotation.
Veteran Free Agent?
The White Sox could also look to add to their rotation depth by signing a veteran free agent pitcher. There are a ton of pitchers out on the market and while the price is high for a top to middle of the rotation starter, the Sox may be able to sign a bottom of the rotation guy to fill out their staff without breaking the bank. At this point in time I have no idea who that player may be but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox signed someone with some experience. Jason Marquis, for example.
The Sox should still be in pretty good shape in terms of their starting rotation but it likely won’t be nearly the strength it has been the last few seasons. Sale is a legit ace and Quintana is very solid. If Danks can bounce back then the top three pitchers are pretty solid, and all left handed. I think Johnson will be good and has a chance to be a very solid middle of the rotation pitcher.
Next year might be a bit of a patchwork at the back end but as young kids develop and depending on who the Sox get with their #1 draft pick next year they have a chance to have a very good rotation for years to come.