The White Sox and Their Overstuffed Bullpen

While #108WeightLoss trudges along, the holiday season is a time where the BeefLoaf not-so-nimbly tries to avoid the usual binge #108ing and binge eating. I’m changing scales this week in the contest, so maybe I can blame my less than stellar performance on that set of events. Speaking of being overstuffed, it got me thinking about the White Sox bullpen. We all know how our fearless GM loves his 1 inning lanzadores. And at this point in time, at least one of those fearless competitors is on the minds of other MLB GM’s as free agency idles towards a potentially quiet Xmas break.

Liam Hendriks is clearly the best reliever the White Sox have. Quite possibly the best guy that throws the 9th inning in MLB, but let’s range out and look at the White Sox bullpen as a whole while we assess why he is hot on everyone’s minds.

Roster Resource – White Sox CURRENT Bullpen

Above is the White Sox 2023 bullpen as we sit here today on December 21st, the first day of Winter. Oof! It’s littered with the usual suspects. The aforementioned thoroughbred Hendriks, 2022 free agent signing Joe Kelly, whose ugly 2022 might be an aberration, and Kendall Graveman. You have the oft-injured, but usually effective Aaron Bummer, the recently visually enhanced Reynaldo Lopez and pitcher Leury Garcia: Jose Ruiz. Lastly, you have Hahn’s lone, weird 2022 Trade Deadline deal subject Jake Diekman and Rule 5 pickup Nick Avila. I know nothing about Avila, really, so I’ll let my guy Jordan Lazowski bring him to you in full technicolor.

That’s an impressive bullpen. And we haven’t even mentioned the people that haven’t crept into the top 8 on Roster Resource. In fact, Dan Szymborski’s early ZiPS projections have the White Sox bullpen at a whopping 6.5 fWar for 2023, which is a huge number on a 50th percentile basis. They are expensive though.

That total would be far and away #1 in MLB for relievers in spending. Spotrac is projecting the White Sox as such right now albeit with a lower number as they don’t have some of the arbitration raises included. Look, your boy is a KEEP SPENDING UNTIL IT HURTS kinda fan. But, this is the White Sox and we have the owner we have and we have the GM we have. Plus the modern GM does like to tweak their budget so that the bean counter folks like me see them as savvy (we don’t).

So the swirling winds about a White Sox bullpen trade do make sense. Couple that with the fact that the keystone is hardly settled, Right Field is being left to an unproven rookie and the squad lacks Starting Pitching depth and you have a perfect storm.

Trade Liam Hendriks?

About the 50 minute mark of the 108 podcast (video above) we discuss the White Sox trading Liam Hendriks. In fact, Chorizy and I annually engage in the exercise of creating White Sox trades with every team in MLB. We do this shortly after the season ends and we in fact both had Liam Hendriks trades in our blogs. Chorizy’s trade with the Rangers is featured HERE. My trade with the Dodgers is featured HERE.

As I note in the podcast, the confluence of events have come together to allow the White Sox to make such a trade while improving the current roster. They have excess value and plenty of depth at the position (we’ll get to the rest of that in a minute). The White Sox have needs on the rest of the roster. They also have an elite trade piece, in Liam Hendriks. It’s a rare opportunistic situation for our brain trust in which they do have the leverage.

I understand those of you reading this that think, look Beef, you can’t be a serious contender if you are trading a closer. I get those of you who think that Rick Hahn won’t be able to make a proper trade here and so it’s too risky to do. I’m sympathetic to those of you who just love watching Liam pitch and don’t want him to leave. These are all valid points. But we are here. Now. And it’s possible that the best path forward is to consider moving on from a very good player.

Can’t the White Sox Trade Someone Else?

Picture from Baseball Savant

The Short Answer. YES. The Long Answer. Why the fuck would they want to? I know how yous are feeling. It’s tough to trade a guy as good as Liam. However, trading basically anyone else in the group here probably won’t move the needle. There are a lot of Joe Kellys out there. Dozens, on each team. Kendall Graveman, c’mon. My guy Alex Rude has been trying to convince me that the “soon to be mentioned in this blog” Jimmy Lambert has a lot of trade value but he’s clearly gas-lighting me. Reynaldo, Bummer, etc. Jake Diekman was traded to the White Sox as a salary dump. Ain’t no other GMs dumb enough to give you something for that. Nick Avila was already free to anyone that wanted him. Jose Ruiz, we barely need him.

It’s LIAM. If it’s done, it will hurt. But it will help. Much like that time your mom took away your Mario Cart game so you could pass your fucking Phonics test in 3rd grade you dumb ass. If making the team better is your goal, it’s gotta be Liam. Liam and only Liam.

The Good News?

The Good News is that we are a thousand words into this blog and I haven’t mentioned Garrett Crochet and I have barely mentioned Jimmy Lambert. Currently, the White Sox list of arm barnsmen on Roster Resource can’t even fit these dudes. Lambert was an almost-failed starter. He gave the Sox a desperately needed 40 1/3 innings out of the pen in 2022 at a 2.90 ERA (3.26 ERA overall). There have been some whispers that maybe he should be sent back to Charlotte to stretch out and start. Given his abject MEH-ness as a starter though, me thinks, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Also, psss, he has a minor league option. So valuable.

Crochet has been the subject of much discussion since he was drafted 11th overall by the Sox in June of 2020. He shot right to the majors in the weird COVID season and been in the bullpen ever since. He’s been really good to dominant the entire time he’s been here (60 1/3 IP with a 175 ERA+) when he hasn’t been injured. Currently he’s on the shelf recovering from Tommy John surgery. Drafted originally as a starter, but immediately used in a relief role, he’s also been the object of fan discussion about trade. Even the earliest estimates of his return don’t have the lid-lifter in Houston their calendar, but possibly soon after that. He’s still a guy that when fully healthy could vault right to the back of this already robust bullpen.

What about Tanner Banks?

Nice shirt Tanner!

Even when we peer past these 10 arms. There’s still more!?!?!??! Dats right. My guy, the chronically poor shirt buttoner Tanner Banks gave the team 56 IP of 3.56 FIP outta no damn where last year. Matt Foster is still around, despite MySoxSummer trying to drag him down by forcing him to change his intro music. These are the KNOWN arms hanging around, not to mention the recent starter converts like Kade McClure who could be on the verge.

In closing, I am not saying the White Sox SHOULD trade Liam Hendriks. All I am saying is that if there were a pool of players on the roster that you could grab the best one of and bounce back and still be very good, it is reliever. It’s a chance to take a real look at the market place, listen to offers and possibly find the one that improves the 2023 White Sox. You can save some money for Jerry, make Rick feel smart and most importantly add some wins to this squad for us, THE FANS.



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