Here’s where White Sox stand as ‘22 season nears

March 13th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The White Sox were somewhat active prior to this offseason’s lockout, but their work certainly is not done.

Here’s a look at what has transpired for the 2021 American League Central champs and a few more questions to examine as Spring Training gets ready to begin.

What deals have already gotten done?

Right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman, who pitched effectively in each of the three Houston victories over the White Sox in the American League Division Series, agreed to a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal on Nov. 30.

Leury García agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal on Dec. 1. The versatile talent, who has played every position but first base and catcher in his Major League career, will have a 12-year run with the White Sox if he plays out this contract. The team also picked up the $16 million option on veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel and declined the $6 million club option on César Hernández.

What are the biggest remaining needs and potential targets?

Addressing second base, right field and pitching should be on the White Sox agenda, although they have internal options for all three. Michael Conforto is a free-agent target who would provide left-handed power and on-base percentage for right field, while finding a second baseman could be more a function of a trade.

Which free agents are gone?

Hernández, the switch-hitting second baseman acquired from Cleveland last season at the Trade Deadline, signed a one-year deal with the Nationals.

Any possible free-agent reunions?

The White Sox non-tendered Carlos Rodón after the 2020 season, but they brought him back via a one-year deal last February before the start of Spring Training. Rodón, who was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in ‘21, signed a two-year deal with the Giants, according to sources..

Are there players they are looking to trade?

Kimbrel gives the bullpen a truly elite look if he pitches as he did in the beginning of ’21 as the closer for the Cubs. But is Kimbrel better served being somewhere else where he can continue to close out games? The hard-throwing right-hander would figure to bring back a decent return.

With the one-time highly rated prospect talent from the rebuild now consistently contributing at the Major League level, most of the tradeable White Sox Minor Leaguers are years away from big league action. Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger could entice other teams as young everyday players, but they also have shown their capabilities and value to the White Sox as part of a division-winning squad. Sheets already represents the left-handed power bat sought by the organization.

Where does the White Sox 40-man roster stand?

The 40-man roster stands at 37, with the White Sox purchasing the contracts of right-handed pitcher Jason Bilous and left-handed pitcher Bennett Sousa from the Minors, and the free-agent deals for Graveman and García.

Who is arbitration eligible?

The list of arbitration-eligible players features right-handers Lucas Giolito (paid $4.15 million in ‘21) and Reynaldo López ($2.1 million) and outfielder Adam Engel ($1.375 million).

Are there any extension candidates?

Giolito warrants prime consideration as one of the frontmen in the starting rotation and a leader in the clubhouse. He said there had been no talks of an extension as of early November.

“I'm open to it. I'm always interested in a long-term contract, something where it essentially makes me a White Sox player for life,” Giolito said then. “But the business of baseball is the business of baseball.

“A lot of that's out of my hands, so for the time being, I'm just going to focus on what I focus on, which is getting better, especially in the offseason right now. Getting my body strong … and refining some of my pitching stuff and going out there and giving it my all for my team. That's all I can control. The other stuff, it is what it is.”

Is this José Abreu’s last year in Chicago?

As Abreu reaches the final year of a three-year, $50 million deal, his future in Chicago is uncertain beyond ’22.

The first baseman, who played 10 seasons at an elite level in Cuba before coming to the White Sox, has become one of the more significant players in franchise history over eight years in the Majors. He enters ’22 ranked third all-time for the White Sox with 228 homers, seventh in RBIs with 788 and seventh in doubles with 263. He even ranks third with 105 hit-by-pitches, including a career-high 22 during a physically taxing ’21 season.

Who are the players to watch?

The choices are limitless on this talented team. Sheets looked to be figuring things out at the end of last year. Andrew Vaughn will benefit from playing a full season in the Majors, while center fielder Luis Robert is a five-tool AL MVP candidate simply by stepping on the field. But let’s focus on Tim Anderson, primarily because the White Sox shortstop has so many entertaining, impactful moments over a 162-game season.