LAS VEGAS -- Acquiring right-handed starter Ivan Nova from the Pirates on Tuesday became a near necessity for the White Sox.
Not a necessity in terms of the big-picture rebuild, not with the soon-to-be 32-year-old owed just short of $9.2 million in 2018, per Spotrac, in the third season of a three-year, $26 million deal. Instead, Nova rates as an important piece of the present puzzle.
Although Nova has never thrown 190 innings in a season, he has totals of 162, 187 and 161 thrown over the past three seasons to go with 26, 31 and 29 starts, respectively. He's an innings eater who can ease the pressure placed upon young hurlers such as Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito in the absence of Michael Kopech and his ongoing recovery following Tommy John surgery, not to mention Dylan Cease, the 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year per MLB Pipeline, potentially later in the season.
Nova is also capable of handling the mentor role, a job formerly held by James Shields before the White Sox bought out his '19 option.
"We are going to have 25 guys on Opening Day, and it's important to figure out who they are going to be," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said from the Winter Meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Tuesday. "Again, this was a necessity. It doesn't necessarily have a long-term impact in terms of Nova's stay with the White Sox.
"Could be a multi-year stay we figure out after the season, him going into the last year of his contract. Or it could be a one-year fit. We do think he has the makeup and the presence that he will have a positive influence on some of our young players, which is something we have talked about having a longer-term impact through the mentoring or teaching and the effect it has on the young kids. There's benefit to that as well. This is also aimed at making sure we have the right mix come Opening Day of 2019."
Nova has a 3-1 career record with a 4.61 ERA over five starts at Guaranteed Rate Field, allowing three home runs in 27 1/3 innings. He posted a 9-9 record with a 4.19 ERA for Pittsburgh in 2018, striking out 114, walking 35 and yielding 26 home runs over 161 frames. He had a home ERA of 2.99 over 14 starts against a 5.42 road ERA over 15 starts, but Hahn believes a few flaws can be easily cleaned up, flaws the White Sox have had success working through in the past, which could make him more effective. The White Sox gave up right-hander Yordi Rosario, a 19-year-old Minor Leaguer, and $500,000 in international bonus pool money, once again speaking to how this move fits into the broader rebuild concept.
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There's no real prospect cost, primarily because the White Sox have plenty of payroll room to absorb Nova's salary. Two years of control still might have been palatable for the club for a player such as Nova, but to take on someone of this ilk for four or five years would be "a different animal," Hahn said.
"It better be someone we feel very confident [about], someone who is going to grow and peak ideally with this young group coming together," Hahn said. "In keeping with the general theme of what we are trying to accomplish, yes, we remain very true to the long-term vision here.
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"Part of that vision is not compromising our economic flexibility going forward so it's at our disposal when the time is right, and we are truly in a position to win. If the opportunity arises to add a premium piece that fits for the long term, we are going to fully explore and be as aggressive as we can be.
"In the interim, you are going to see moves that round out this roster that help make us better in the short term and potentially has a longer lasting impact on some of the other players. But also, obviously allows us to form a club out there that helps continue the process again as to where we want to be."