As the Chicago White Sox await the possible signing of Manny Machado, the team still has accomplished much this off-season. General manager Rick Hahn has added more veterans to a young team hoping to improve in 2019. The biggest and most important upgrade may be that of the bullpen.
Hahn has added two former All-Stars and two proven closers in relievers Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera. Colome was acquired in a trade from Seattle for catcher Omar Narvaez while Herrera was signed via free agency last week. Both are seen as reliable relievers who have had success in closing games in recent seasons.
Colome has been one of the league’s premier closers as with the Tampa Bay Rays he led the Majors in saves with 47 in 2017. The year prior he recorded 37 while posting an ERA of 1.91. Last season he split time with the Rays and Mariners and still was able to put up respectable number finishing 2018 with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings average.
Herrera also played for two teams in 2018 as he began the season as the Kansas City Royals closer and finished the season with the Washington Nationals. He recorded 14 saves with the Royals and was an All-Star both in 2015 and 2016. From 2015 to 2017, Herrera had an ERA of 2.75 or lower.
With two proven relievers at the back end of their bullpen, the White Sox could have their best bullpen in years. Having Colome and Herrera allows returning White Sox relievers to be slotted in their normal spots. Nate Jones and Jace Frye both struggled and excelled at different parts of last season due to the constant state of flux by the bullpen. During the past two years of rebuilding baseball, Hahn traded off any reliever who showed value to other teams as a to acquire younger talent. The team’s closers in 2017 and 2018 were David Robertson and Joakim Soria, both of whom were traded before the deadline each season. This forced relievers who had no previous experience closing game to try and save games for the first time.
Jones, although a proven reliever, struggled mightily in the closer’s role as blew several save opportunities for the White Sox last season resulting in losses. Frye was extremely dominant and impressive when called upon last season, but struggled in the closer role also when called upon.
This season, manager Rick Renteria will have the comfort of having several veteran arms in the bullpen. Jones can be used in the setup role where he has performed his best. In two of the three seasons where he has made 60 or more appearances, Jones has recorded an ERA of 2.50 or lower.
The goal for the White Sox will be to shorten the game from nine-innings to a seven-innings by having a shutdown bullpen. The Kansas City Royals playoff run from 2014 to 2016 was due in part to their bullpen that when called upon would hold onto a lead consistently. With a large number of young relief arms in the minors, including future projected closer Zack Burdi, the bullpen could be a massive strength for the White Sox in 2019.
With the additions of Jon Jay and Yonder Alonzo, the team will be better both offensively and defensively. The team will get an added offensive boost when number one prospect Eloy Jimenez is called up in mid-April also. A revamped bullpen will be able to better hold on to leads lost in prior seasons leading to a possible White Sox resurgence in 2019.