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Sport Paul Sullivan: Now the pressure is really on the White Sox to sign a frontline starter

01:25  12 december  2019
01:25  12 december  2019 Source:   chicagotribune.com

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The White Sox have raised hopes this offseason with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and the pursuit of Zack Wheeler. Now the team has no choice but to hit it big with a frontline starter . Column: Now the pressure is really on the White Sox to sign a frontline starter .

- The White Sox have not announced Carlos Rodon as their Opening-Day starter , though really there is no other option. Rodon not only pitched well Rodon not only pitched well enough last year in his comeback from shoulder surgery to merit the honor, but also has tenure in the Sox rotation, having

SAN DIEGO — Before getting a record nine-year, $324 million deal from the Yankees for pitcher Gerrit Cole on Tuesday night, agent Scott Boras dished out one of his patented strained metaphors, saying “major league teams are like birds” during the offseason.

a baseball player throwing a ball: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyu-Jin Ryu works against the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 11, 2019, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.© Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyu-Jin Ryu works against the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 11, 2019, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

“There are hummingbirds where they’ll buzz around and move through the process,” Boras said at the winter meetings. “There are probably sparrows who have a big desire to get something big and can’t carry the weight of it. Lately there are a lot of owls where they are wise and mostly work at night in what they do, very thoughtful.

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“Certainly we have a lot more hawks than we’ve had in the past. And probably the biggest concern is you don’t want to be an ostrich and lay the biggest egg.”

So where do the White Sox stand in the ornithological order after acquiring right fielder Nomar Mazara from the Rangers while the Yankees were reeling in Cole?

To those expecting a big name to fill the hole in right field, the Sox no doubt were an ostrich.

But they probably would prefer to be considered a raven, one of the smartest of birds and usually associated with Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem.

Mazara certainly wasn’t on anyone’s list as a must-have player. He’s a former top prospect who didn’t develop into the star the Rangers expected, which is why he was expendable for Class A outfielder Steele Walker, one of the Sox’s better prospects.

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How is the White Sox rotation shaping up? Don't ask. Prospective fifth starters Ervin Santana, Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey all have issues with He signed early in camp after being left unwanted on the free-agent market following a subpar season with the Twins in which he underwent surgery on

But he’s a left-handed bat, which the Sox need. He’s expected to make less than $6 million in arbitration, which is far less than what they would’ve paid for Nicholas Castellanos or another prime-time free agent. And Mazara is young enough to live up to his potential, perhaps blossoming late like Royals outfielder Jorge Soler, a premier slugger whom the Cubs cast off for a one-year rental.

At the very least, Mazara is a short-term fix who can be replaced at midseason if he doesn’t pan out. And if it works, the Sox might have another James McCann-type pickup.

General manager Rick Hahn talked Wednesday about Mazara’s “untapped potential,” though many Sox fans were hoping for a splashier name and a proven bat.

“I haven’t heard from those fans,” Hahn said.

Informed of their existence, Hahn said Mazara is a “four-plus tool” player who can “do some damage” against right-handers.

“We didn’t have that on the roster yesterday, and it came at a cost we were comfortable paying,” he said. “Whether ultimately that’s satisfying in terms of the final roster and the role he plays, that remains to be seen.”

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If the Sox had acquired Mazara last month and signed free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal during the meetings, perhaps fans would be happier.

Hahn said that may be right, and as someone who was a fan growing up, he “gets it.”

Last year the Sox were more akin to a vulture, a bird of prey that circles its target and feeds off the dead flesh. They acquired the dead-weight contracts of Yonder Alonso and Ivan Nova and signed Ervin Santana, none of whom made an impact. Only Nova survived the season when the Sox couldn’t find a suitor at the trade deadline. And only McCann worked out after the Tigers let him go.

The Sox obviously have raised hopes this offseason with the signing of Grandal and the pursuit of Zack Wheeler, but the Mazara acquisition will be met with a collective “meh” by fans. Now the team has no choice but to hit it big with a frontline starting pitcher.

With expectations raised, does Hahn feel more pressure to convert?

“It doesn’t change,” he said Tuesday before the announcement of the Mazara deal. “It’s just the same as rebuilding. I mean, look back to three years ago today when we did the (Chris) Sale deal, you’ve got to hit on that. That’s too premium of an asset, too important to the future to whiff on.”

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The Sox didn’t whiff on Sale, but they had three years to wait on Yoan Moncada to develop into the star he now is. Michael Kopech, for all his promise, gets an incomplete grade after Tommy John surgery in 2018 set him back a year. The Adam Eaton deal paid off with Lucas Giolito’s emergence, but Reynaldo Lopez is still a question mark in the rotation and Dane Dunning’s injury set him back as well.

I believe there’s much more pressure on Hahn now because he has to see immediate results from his offseason moves. But Hahn disagreed.

“At the same time you want to come out of that (Red Sox) deal, having traded a potential future Hall of Famer in Chris Sale, feeling good about the potential for that return,” he said. “Now obviously things are going to happen. Guys get hurt. Guys can regress. There could be reasons they don’t fulfill what you saw when you saw the promise.

“But when you’re dealing with multiple clubs and you’re trying to get multiple prospects back, you’ve got to get that right. But that’s no more important than when we get to the final other extreme and we’re looking to add that premium talent to help get us over the top.

“You feel pressure for different reasons from that. But not the pressure level in terms of me personally. It’s the same as it ever was.”

The bright side is no one can compare the Sox to the dodo bird, which was so easy to catch, the species became extinct. That designation would probably apply to the Orioles, Tigers, Marlins, Royals and Mariners — teams that have no chance of surviving the 2020 season because they’re either tanking or just inept.

The Sox, at least, are making moves to try to escape the monotony of another sub-.500 season.

The price tags of starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner probably went up a bit after the Cole deal, and teams such as the Dodgers and Angels will be throwing money around after missing out on Cole.

Will the Sox convert on one of them and give their fans real hope for an October run? Or will “nevermore” be the sad refrain of 2020?

Asked to talk about his optimism for 2020, Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf declined.

“I’m tired of being optimistic and then seeing my optimism replaced,” he said with a grin.

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Former Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu agrees to four-year deal with Blue Jays .
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