MLB’s lockout is over. Players are beginning to report to camp and Spring Training games are slated to begin next week. And now, GMs can finally get back to improving their teams, whether through free agent signings or trades.
For the White Sox, that could mean trying to find a new second baseman, or opting for an everyday right fielder instead of platooning young players like Andrew Vaughn and Adam Engel. But when addressing the media for the first time since the lockout began, GM Rick Hahn said the team won’t focus as much on position players to start.
“I think the combination of the shortened ramp up, the lack of dialogue over the last few months, as well as obviously our high expectations for this season, has created the expectation that pitching depth is going to be a priority,” Hahn said.
For the White Sox, that depth will be especially key in the bullpen. Before the lockout began, the team added stellar set up man Kendall Graveman. Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet and Craig Kimbrel are still in the fold, too. But Michael Kopech is headed from the pen to the starting rotation, and Evan Marshall, Jace Fry and Ryan Tepera are all free agents. The White Sox will need to add several more arms to fill out the bullpen.
The rotation is a little more set with Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel and Kopech all set to return to the South Side. There are some questions about Keuchel, since he struggled mightily in the second half of 2022. Setting those questions aside, depth in the rotation will be key for the starters, too, especially early in the season.
Hahn said, generally speaking, the White Sox will have its staff on pitch counts given the shortened ramp-up period for players to get ready for regular season action.
“Over the course of the next 10 days to two weeks is going to be a fair amount of effort and communication involved in making sure guys don't try to do too much, too soon, try to make up for any lost time, or force the issue in terms of their preparation and getting them lengthened out.”
One thing that could help the White Sox is the potential return of taxi squads, especially given the new rule which says a player can be optioned to the minors a maximum of five times per season.
“That was something that they were going to revisit and once spring training was up and running,” Hahn said. “They obviously had some more immediate, bigger fish to fry from the last few days. But there is a plan to revisit April rosters and plans for the early part of the season in the next few weeks.”
Whether they come from the White Sox minor league ranks, or outside the organization, expect the team to bolster the pitching staff before too long.
“We want to make sure we have enough viable options to have a handful of guys who are capable of helping us win at the major league level when needed.”