The White Sox biggest addition to their bullpen became official Tuesday, the team announcing a one-year deal for Steve Cishek.
The former Cubs hurler adds some heft to the back end of the South Side relief corps, the owner of a 2.55 ERA in his two seasons on the other side of town. Cishek has proven to be dependable above all else, trotted out 150 times by Joe Maddon during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.
"We believe Steve is a solid addition to our bullpen," general manager Rick Hahn said in the announcement. "He complements our other relievers well, provides a different look to opposing hitters later in games and has consistently proven to be both durable and successful throughout his career."
Like the addition of 37-year-old slugger Edwin Encarnacion, bringing in the 33-year-old Cishek is another indication of the White Sox win-now intentions. While multi-year deals for Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel not only improved the team in the short-term but also matched up with what the front office hopes is an extended contention window, these short-term deals for older players point to a run at a playoff spot in 2020.
If that's where the White Sox are going to end up, playing October baseball for the first time in more than a decade, they'll need a reliable bullpen. With Cishek in the fold, that corps doesn't seem terribly difficult to project, though there are a few points of note.
The back end seems secure with closer Alex Colome, setup man Aaron Bummer and Cishek. Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero don't have the same track records as some of the more veteran members of the 'pen, but they're strong performances in 2019 figure to have earned them spots in Rick Renteria's high-leverage rotation.
Kelvin Herrera and Jace Fry struggled in 2019, but the White Sox think highly of both and will keep them around for 2020. Herrera has a great track record of late-inning success from his days as a key member of those pennant-winning Kansas City Royals squads of the last decade. Hindered by the after effects of a foot injury last season, he finished with a 6.14 ERA in his first year on the South Side. The hope is that a healthier 2020 will produce better numbers. Fry, meanwhile, has to find his control if he's going to be the high-impact relief arm the White Sox believe he can be.
There's some mystery in projecting how the bullpen could round out come the end of spring training. Carson Fulmer, Ian Hamilton and Jose Ruiz all remain on the 40-man roster. Young guys like Zack Burdi and Matt Foster might not be ready to make the jump to the majors. Will the White Sox want a long man? The hope would be that they wouldn't have to use one quite as much as they have in recent seasons. Dylan Covey, DFA'd to make room for Cishek, could fit that bill. But there's the thought that he or Ross Detwiler, who rejoined the team this offseason on a minor league deal, would be more valuable as starting-pitching depth at Triple-A Charlotte.
Heck, Hahn and his front office might even have another move up their sleeve before the March 26 opener rolls around.
But the guys you'll see trotted out in high-leverage situations are in place. Colome, Bummer, Cishek and more will play big roles if the White Sox are going to reach their new playoff expectations.
White Sox officially add Steve Cishek as 2020 bullpen takes shape originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago