It’s been 10 years since the Chicago White Sox won the World Series, and have only been to the playoffs once since that time span. The team is coming off of back to back losing seasons, but second year general manager Rick Hahn is looking to change that.
Going into November, there were multiple holes for Hahn to fill including the bullpen, starting rotation, left field, designated hitter, third base, and catcher. Heading into March, the South-Siders look ready to compete.
With the Detroit Tigers losing pitchers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, on top of no upgrades in their bullpen and the Kansas City Royals losing pitcher James Shields and designated hitter Billy Butler, the American League Central looks wide open for the taking.
Executive Vice President and former general manager Kenny Williams hinted this offseason would be one to remember by saying he hoped “that people could dream again.” This coming shortly after the first signing of left-handed reliever Zach Duke. Williams went on to say “If we can supplement the right guys, the right veterans and get some leadership in the mix, I think we can start to have some exciting baseball again on the South Side, but we have some work to do still.”
With three prospects in the mlb.com’s “MLB Pipline”, 2014 first rounder Carlos Rodon, shortstop Tim Anderson, and pitcher Franciles Montas (who was acquired as the “final piece” of the Jake Peavey trade) headline a much improved farm system. On top of that, Hahn has control over the majority of his 40-man roster for years to come.
With many holes going into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at exactly what Williams and Hahn were able to accomplish.
Zach Duke (Left-handed reliever) Three-year, $15 million.
Last year, the bullpen was one of the most glaring weaknesses on the team. After trading away closer Addison Reed, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton, the bullpen had no closer, an injured Nate Jones and no major league caliber lefthanders out of the ‘pen.
Enter Duke. Last year, the lefty pitched in 75 games while compiling 58.2 innings, a 5-1 record and a nice 2.45 ERA. While these numbers were impressive, Duke averaged 11.35 strikeouts K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) and walked just 17 over his 75 appearances, while giving up just a .222 average and a 1.3 WAR.
Duke is exactly what the doctor ordered for the White Sox and more than fills their left-handed specialist role if he continues his re-birth from last year.