What's next for Sox offseason after Lynn, Eaton additions


The White Sox were busy last week, adding Lance Lynn and Adam Eaton to a roster with championship expectations for 2021.The moves addressed the team’s two biggest offseason needs, but as is often the case during Hot Stove season, fans want to know what’s next.Rick Hahn said his front office will keep looking to improve the team, specifically saying that the relative affordability of the two acquisitions he made last week allows for flexibility to do more.So what could follow these two moves? Here’s a look.

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Lynn figures to be the White Sox major pitching acquisition this winter, and certainly the numbers back that up, as Lynn was one of the best hurlers in baseball during his two seasons in Texas. His arrival gives the South Side staff an impressive 1-2-3 pitching punch and is a big step toward giving them their desired championship-caliber rotation.

But the White Sox know well how fragile a starting staff can be, their depth in that department exhausted in each of the last two seasons, even when it looked like a preseason strength in 2020. Hahn always likes to say that a team can never have enough pitching, so will he go get some more?

The rotation is shaping up like this: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lynn, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. But though Lynn’s arrival adds some much needed reliability, that group isn’t without its question marks, particularly with the two guys on the back end. Cease had his struggles during the shortened 2020 season, and Kopech didn’t pitch at all and hasn’t since 2018. While few fans have fond memories of the Gio González experiment in 2020, a signing or two like that — low-risk ones that still have the potential to add some veteran heft — would be a nice safety net for the unproven young guys.

Hahn pointed out that the relative affordability of the Lynn and Eaton acquisitions — the two are making a combined $15 million in 2021 — allows the White Sox to pursue other additions this winter. It would be surprising, after acquiring Lynn, to see them go after a free-agent fish the size of Trevor Bauer. But Hahn didn’t close the door on adding more pitching.

"I don’t think we’re necessarily done when it comes to the pitching staff," he said.


While the White Sox tackled their two biggest needs of the offseason last week, one area remains from Hahn’s beginning-of-the-offseason list: designated hitter.

Now, it’s important to note that Hahn did his own bit of clarifying last week, saying that while DH is indeed an area in need of improvement — at the very least, the White Sox will simply need to find someone to put there after they declined Edwin Encarnación’s contract option — it doesn’t necessarily mean that a big outside addition is coming. Hahn brought up top ranked prospect Andrew Vaughn, who has seemed a logical candidate to plug into that spot in 2021.

"I think if Andrew had had daily competition outside of what we're able to do (at the White Sox alternate training facility) in Schaumburg, it would have been evident to everyone that he was ready for next year, if not sooner," Hahn said at the start of the offseason. "That was just sort of a mild casualty of the pandemic. But the skills are there, tools continue to grow. He's a remarkable hitter and real solid makeup and a guy we envision being part of this thing in the not too distant future."

But Vaughn hasn’t played above A-ball and didn’t play any games with the minor league season wiped out in 2020. Considering the White Sox have been on the hunt for dependability all offseason, Vaughn certainly brings some pretty big question marks when it comes to what he can do against major league pitching.

The free-agent market still has some big names out there, Nelson Cruz and Marcell Ozuna the biggest among them. And given his tenure on the other side of town, the recently non-tendered Kyle Schwarber has been a frequent topic of discussion when it comes to filling the DH vacancy on the South Side. The uncertainty of whether the National League will have the DH in 2021 adds a complicating variable to the mix, too, potentially keeping these players unsigned for some time as they wait for more options to open up.


Perhaps the biggest name on the free-agent market the White Sox have been linked to chasing is closer Liam Hendriks. While outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley have both been reported as out of the South Siders’ price range, they’re reportedly eyeing Hendriks, the top reliever on the market, to take over ninth-inning duties.

Hendriks, per a Monday report, is seeking a four-year contract, which is hefty, particularly for a closer. But he was fantastic the past two seasons as the ninth-inning man in Oakland, something the White Sox don’t need to be reminded of after he blew away three of the four batters he faced in the final inning of the decisive Game 3 of the AL Wild Card Series.

Adding a closer from the outside is not something the White Sox necessarily need to do. They have a cadre of young bullpen arms all coming off very nice 2020 campaigns, and any one of Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer or Matt Foster could be considered internal candidates to take over closing duties if need be.

But whether it’s bringing back Alex Colomé — who was excellent as the White Sox closer in 2020 — or signing a different free agent like Hendriks or Brad Hand, locking in a dependable, proven arm for the high-stakes world of closing would be a good move for the South Siders. Not only would it continue their offseason mission of adding reliable pieces ahead of a season with World Series aspirations, but it would maintain the status quo for all those other relievers, allowing them to continue in the roles they flourished in last season.

"I certainly understand the logic behind wanting that sort of security or safety net so to speak, or known quantity at least. I don't think it's a must," Hahn said. "I think having enough quality arms down there and a manager like Tony (La Russa), who knows how to mix and match a bullpen, certainly could be very effective. You rattled off a handful of arms, and there's a handful of others too that we feel really good about that will help get important outs regardless of where they arise. And it's also an area that we'll continue to explore here over the coming weeks."


The guesswork is already going over what Eaton’s role will be in right field, and neither Eaton nor Hahn had a definitive answer. It will be La Russa’s call, Hahn said, and for his part, Eaton said he’s open to whatever is asked of him.

Eaton, when healthy, has certainly produced well enough to deserve everyday at-bats. But a history of injuries during his four years in Washington, as well as an atypically woeful stat line in 2020, adds some mystery to whether he’ll pick up where he left off when the White Sox traded him in 2016. Eaton’s success hitting right-handers and a nice offensive season from Adam Engel in 2020 opens up the possibility of a platoon. Engel hit north of .300 against lefties last season.

And here’s some food for thought at the DH spot, too: Joc Pederson is still a free agent. While it might seem redundant to add Pederson to the right-field mixture after signing Eaton — Pederson is a left-handed hitter with bad numbers against left-handed pitching in his career — he’s been connected to the White Sox in offseason rumors for years now. If they finally wanted to bring him aboard they could — as part of the solution at DH.

Vaughn doesn’t have many numbers to go on, just 55 minor league games in 2019. But during that play, he mashed against left-handed pitching, absolutely crushing southpaws to the tune of a .941 OPS. His .800 OPS against righties is certainly nothing to shake a stick at either, but Pederson has been even better against them, with an .849 OPS vs. righties in his major league career.

Pederson is a proven playoff performer, as well, most recently coming through with some big hits for the World Series winning Dodgers. That’s the kind of thing the White Sox have valued this offseason, bringing in five World Series rings already between La Russa, Lynn and Eaton. Adding another — while providing extra pop off the bench and a bit of DH help as Vaughn gets thrown into the major league end of the pool — could be attractive.

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