The Chicago White Sox are tentatively less than one month away from reporting to spring training for what appears to be their most important season in over a decade. General manager Rick Hahn has addressed several of the team’s needs this offseason, including signing closer Liam Hendriks, signing outfielder Adam Eaton, and traded for pitcher Lance Lynn. Hahn has yet to address the team’s fifth starter role, a role that has been an issue for the last several years.
The White Sox Haven’t Had A Reliable Fifth Starter In Over Six Seasons
Since 2014, The White Sox have failed to have a full rotation in which the team had a reliable fifth starter. Whether it was John Danks, Mat Latos, Ervin Santana, Dylan Covey, Ross Detwiler, Gio Gonzalez, or Carlos Rodon, the team has failed to have a quality fifth starter. One of the attributing factors to the prolonged issue has been the team’s short-term solutions.
Rasmus leads off fifth with a home run. Astros have scored in four of the first five innings, lead White Sox and Mat Latos 4-1.
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) May 19, 2016
Instead of trying to find a long-term solution via free agency or trade, the team has either taken a risk on a sox pitcher returning from significant injury or signing a pitcher to a one-year deal. In 2016, the team turned to Danks, who appeared to be past his prime, to be the fifth starter. The former 2012 Opening Day starter struggled as he posted a 4.71 ERA over four starts.
Said one White Sox player about John Danks: "No one feels worse about the way he pitched than John."
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) May 3, 2016
During the rebuilding phase from 2017 to 2019, the White Sox did not sign or develop a reliable starter to fill out their starting rotation. Although Chicago in a rebuild, the organization could not find a pitcher for the role over the three seasons. Although Hahn brought in pitchers such as Ivan Nova, James Shields, and Derek Holland, the White Sox simple could not add another pitcher to be an inning-eater during the rebuild.
The worst moment of the three years came in 2019, where on several occasions, Chicago either had to call up a minor league starter or go have a bullpen day because they didn’t have a full five starters in the rotation. Although there were injuries involved, it was still the organization’s fault for not adding starting pitching in the offseason.
Why is Ervin Santana pitching on the White Sox in 2019
— CWS DINGER ZONE (@CWSDingerZone) April 9, 2019
2020 Could Serve As A Warning for 2021
Last season, it appeared that the team had enough depth to ensure a full five-man starting rotation. Due to COVID delay, pitcher Michael Kopech chose to sit out the 2020 season, while Rodon, Gio Gonzalez, and Reynaldo Lopez either all struggled with injuries or to be effective. The team overcame the issue given the shortened 60-game season, but the lack of starters would come back to hurt the team in the playoffs.
Two-thirds through the 2020 season.
Jimmy Cordero and Ross Detwiler: 34.1 IP
Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez & Michael Kopech: 15.1 IP
The White Sox are in first place.
— Write Sox (@WriteSox) September 7, 2020
In the team’s best of three playoff series against the Oakland A’s, the White Sox virtually had only two reliable starters in Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. In the third and deciding game, the team couldn’t decide whether to start Dylan Cease or Dane Dunning. No matter who the White Sox started in the third game, many believed the starter wouldn’t be given a long outing. Manager Rick Renteria pulled Dunning after two outs in the first inning and used an MLB record nine pitchers in the 6-4 loss.
In the offseason, the team traded for Lynn but gave up Dunning in return. At the moment, Chicago’s projected starting rotation is Giolito, Keuchel, Lynn, Cease, and potentially either Lopez or Kopech. Again, Hahn and the White Sox could be in a position where their fifth starter is either ineffective or suffers an injury, which is likely as one pitcher has pitched since 2018.
The #WhiteSox were rumored for Garrett Richards all winter. I don't think they want to spend $10 million on a SP4. This is questionable but they believe in Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech for 2021. I still believe another back end starter will be added.
— James Fox (@JamesFox917) January 23, 2021
The White Sox could sign a proven pitcher as free-agent pitchers such as Trevor Bauer, Felix Hernandez, Jake Arietta, and Trevor Cahill. Chicago missed a perfect opportunity to find a reliable back of the rotation starter in pitcher Jose Quintana. Quintana signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as he made back to back 30 start seasons in 2018 and 2019.
Jose Quintana wanted to come back to the White Sox but they didn’t pursue it. They should have just given him his $8 million to be the #5 starter and been done with it.
— Mike (@ChiSoxFanMike) January 23, 2021
If the 2021 season starts on time, the team will be playing a full 162 game season in which a five-man rotation will be needed. If Kopech or Lopez fail in the role, the team could be at risk of losing vital games and or may have to trade quality prospects to fill the spot before the trade deadline. Hahn and the front office have had several years to resolve this issue and have failed to do so. Unless Chicago makes another move this offseason, the team could repeat the mistake this year as they are slated to contend for not just a division title but for the World Series.