Cole Hamels signs with Braves, forcing White Sox elsewhere for starting pitching

Vinnie Duber

So much for the idea of Cole Hamels bringing his veteran presence and championship experience to the South Side.

Not long after he discussed what he could provide the White Sox with Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast, Hamels agreed to a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

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Hamels ending up somewhere besides the White Sox is hardly a surprise, considering he said on the podcast that more than half the teams in baseball had reached out to express some level of interest. The White Sox were one of them, though, according to Hamels, they had some other priorities they were attempting to address before circling back to the veteran left-hander. That lines up with the team's early signing of Yasmani Grandal and their continued pursuit of Zack Wheeler, who's expected to make a decision on his future soon.

The White Sox are looking to add a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation this winter, and Hamels would have fit nicely as the second, a guy who could pitch in the middle or back end of the rotation while mentoring the young pitchers on the staff and bringing winning experience as the 2008 World Series MVP. Hamels raved in his interview on the podcast about teams like the White Sox, who have a group of young players revving up for a leap into contention mode, saying "those are the teams you want to go jump on board with."

But Hamels is now jumping on board with a very good, young Braves team, meaning the White Sox will need to look elsewhere for starting-pitching assistance. They're reportedly willing to pay big bucks for Wheeler, who's forecasted to receive a five-year deal worth more than $100 million. But there is competition there, too, perhaps most strongly from the Philadelphia Phillies, who were reported to be the top bidders Wednesday morning. The White Sox haven't been nearly as tied to the names at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner.

Other free-agent starters include Hyun-Jin Ryu, who just turned in a fantastic season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Dallas Keuchel, who has the same kind of winning experience as Hamels from his days as a world-champion Houston Astro. But the market does thin a bit after that, with names like Michael Pineda and Tanner Roark the next most attractive. If the White Sox are indeed looking for someone to pair with Lucas Giolito at the top of their rotation, the number of free-agent options is hardly limitless.

That fact puts more pressure on their pursuit of Wheeler than it does make losing out on Hamels look costly, but for a team in search of starting-pitching improvements, the number of them out there is decreasing as this offseason is shaping up to be busier than those in the recent past.

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Cole Hamels signs with Braves, forcing White Sox elsewhere for starting pitching originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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