The White Sox's highly active winter continues apace, as ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that the South Siders have agreed to terms with veteran right-handed reliever Steve Cishek on one-year contract worth $6 million. According to Passan, the deal also includes an option for 2021.
Cishek, 33, is coming off a 2019 season with the crosstown Cubs in which he pitched to a 2.95 ERA and a 1.97 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. In 2018 for the Cubs, he was even better, which is to say he's been an important part of that bullpen.
For his career, Cishek owns an Alex Colome.of 151 across parts of 10 major league seasons. Thanks to a low arm angle and a sinker-slider approach, Cishek over that same span has limited right-handed batters to a slash line of .199/.265/.288. With the White Sox, Cishek figures to be the primary right-handed setup man to likely closer
The Cishek addition is the latest flourish by White Sox GM Rick Hahn, who's been among the most active of operators this offseason. Thus far, Hahn and the White Sox have, most notably:
- Signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to four-year contract;
- Re-signed first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year restructured extension;
- Signed lefty Gio Gonzalez to a one-year contract;
- Signed lefty Dallas Keuchel to a three-year contract;
- Traded for outfielder Nomar Mazara;
- Signed DH Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year contract;
- Signed top prospect Luis Robert to a six-year contract;
- Reportedly agreed to terms with Cishek.
Thanks to these targeted additions in tandem with an impressive core of young talent -- Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Robert, and others -- the White Sox profile as serious contenders in the AL Central, where the Twins look like regression candidates and the Indians aren't really trying.
Contrast that with the team 13 stops north on the Red Line, the Cubs. While the Cubs have a much higher payroll than the White Sox, they've done almost nothing this winter to improve their lot in the tough NL Central. They've added Hernan Perez to the bench and Ryan Tepera to the bullpen. Oh, they also made a Rule 5 pick. Stated another way, the White Sox moved their needle more on Christmas Day alone (the Encarnacion signing) more than the Cubs have moved theirs all offseason -- unless you think going from Joe Maddon to David Ross in the dugout makes up the ground.
To be fair, the Cubs still project as the better team in 2020, but the Cubs -- despite vast resources -- are operating with an unnecessarily strict budget, which explains their almost total lack of spending this offseason. That also explains why the likes of Kris Bryant might be traded away even though the team is notionally in contending mode.
While the 2020 season may bring different results, the White Sox are easily the "city champs" of the winter. That's not worth much at the moment, save for a jump in ticket sales, but it could be determinative once the games start being played.