Chicago White Sox: Was the offseason productive enough to contend?
There is certainly some cause for excitement on Chicago’s South Side following the White Sox offseason, but did they do enough to bounce back from two consecutive miserable seasons? The “Pale Hose” are 136-188 the past two seasons, and have not given fans much reason to be excited. Their neighbors to the North appear to be building a contender through the draft and free agency, but are the White Sox doing the same thing?
The highlight of the offseason for the White Sox was bringing Jeff Samardzija back to the Windy City. The tall righty finally showed ace potential last season, with a 2.99 ERA with the Cubs and Athletics. He also garnered his first career All-Star nod. Unfortunately, I am not quite so bullish on Samardzija’s ace potential. A deeper look at his career numbers is required.
Samardzija spent the first four seasons of his career used primarily as a reliever. He has only been starting the past three seasons, and has shown some flashes of ace potential. This is what three seasons worth of starting has yielded for Samardzija – a 26-42 record and a 3.86 ERA. His career ERA as a reliever you ask – 3.84. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Samardzija has yielded runs at roughly the same rate, regardless of his role.
With Samardzija, it is important to remember that he did come into the league extremely raw after focusing mostly on football at Notre Dame. Maybe he has finally figured out how to pitch. His walk rate did decline below 2.0 BB/9 last year for the first time in his career. The White Sox only have Samardzija under contract for one year, and he will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time after this season. Bringing him in for this season was a great move for the Chi Sox, and could pay off in the long run if Samardzija’s 2014 season proves to be the norm.
The team did make two other notable moves in the offseason, signing Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. The LaRoche signing was necessitated by the retirement of White Sox all-time great, Paul Konerko. LaRoche will continue to do what he has done his whole career, that is, hit about .255 with 25 home runs. His addition will allow the White Sox to keep Jose Abreu off the field. Cabrera is another solid add. He will bring a steady presence to the top of the batting order, and can provide a bit more pop than the league average leadoff hitter. Paired with Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox will have a solid top of the order combination.
The White Sox also signed David Robertson away from the Yankees. Robertson is a solid closer, but innings one through eight are of far greater concern for a team coming off two very disappointing seasons. Robertson will not blow many games, but if the Sox cannot get to him with a lead, how valuable is he?
There is a growing expectation that the White Sox should contend in 2015 on the heels of these offseason moves, but I am not so sure. Samardzija may very well be the real deal, and form a great 1-2 punch with Chris Sale. This team struggled not because of their pitching, but because of their inability to score runs. The additions of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera may not have been enough to push this team over the hump.