The Chicago White Sox are looking to make drastic improvements this offseason and are reportedly interested in both Zack Wheeler and Joc Pederson.
So much of the Chicago White Sox rebuild reminds me of what the Chicago Cubs were doing at this time five years ago. A young team, loaded with potential, on the cusp of being competitive and entering the offseason ready to make some noise. For the Cubs, the Jon Lester signing was the franchise-changing move that ultimately got the team over the hump, and the White Sox are looking to do the same. But their Jon Lester is Zack Wheeler, according to several reports.
Wheeler, 29, struggled to stay healthy from 2015 to 2017 but lived up to his potential in both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns that saw him post a 3.31 and 3.96 ERA, respectively. The former sixth-overall pick of the 2009 MLB Draft made 60 starts over the previous two seasons and is reportedly receiving offers from teams in the nine-figure range. While it seems like a risky price to pay for a pitcher who missed the better half of two seasons, he’s shown both the durability and dominance that a team like the White Sox would love to have in their rotation.
“Wheeler, 29, has received at least one $100 million offer and will land a five-year deal in excess of that amount, according to major-league sources.
The White Sox, Twins, Reds, Rangers and Blue Jays are among the clubs pursuing Wheeler, who is the leading free-agent alternative to fellow right-handers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg even though his career ERA+ (ERA adjusted to park and league) is exactly league average.” – The Athletic
The White Sox are arguably one starter away from fielding a competitive team, after already adding Yasmani Grandal in free agency last week. The offense, on paper, looks legit with the highly-anticipated arrival of Luis Robert next season to go along with Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, and Tim Anderson. But it appears that White Sox GM, Rick Hahn, isn’t banking on all of his prospects to flourish as the team is reportedly interested in trading for Dodgers outfielder, Joc Pederson, as well.
The 27-year-old was a highly-touted prospect coming up through the Dodgers organization and posted his best season in 2019. Pederson slashed an impressive .249/.339/.538 with 36 home runs and 74 RBI (127 OPS+) and is projected to make $8.5 million in arbitration this offseason. He’s under contract through next season, so any trade would likely include a contract extension to keep him in on the south side for years to come.
And while the White Sox could certainly entertain the idea of signing both Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, I believe it’s a smart strategy to aim a bit lower while still allowing the financial flexibility to keep improving the roster. Keep in mind that the White Sox will eventually need to re-sign their key free agents, with several of them set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
The American League Central division appears to run through Minnesota for the time being. Still, many executives around the league believe that the Cleveland Indians could potentially part ways with both Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber this offseason. Combined with the rebuilding Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, the arrow appears to be trending up for the White Sox, and they could take advantage quicker than most anticipate.
Signing Wheeler and trading for Pederson could accelerate the process, and the Chicago White Sox would officially put the league on notice.