The Chicago White Sox took a huge step towards contending in 2015 by acquiring right-handed starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and closer David Robertson on the first day of the winter meetings.
To land Samardzija and pitching prospect Michael Ynoa, the White Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien, pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, and first baseman Rangel Ravelo to the Oakland Athletics. While Samardzija only has one year remaining on his contract before he becomes a free-agent, this is a good trade considering the White Sox did not have to surrender any of their top prospects to get a top-tier starting pitcher. Samardzija will likely slide nicely between lefties Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, giving the White Sox a formidable trio at the top of their rotation. Samardzija is coming of a 7-13 season in 33 starts, but his record is deceiving. The righty tossed a combined 219.2 innings with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics, while striking out 202 batters and owning an impressive 2.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. It remains to be seen if the White Sox will be able to work out an extension to keep Samardzija on the south side for several years, but even if they don’t, the White Sox will receive a compensatory draft pick by simply offer Samardzija a qualifying offer at the end of the season.
Robertson comes to the White Sox as a free-agent after agreeing to a four-year, $46 million deal. I’ll be the first to admit that paying $46 million to closer is a hefty price, but if you saw the White Sox bullpen last season, you will agree that they desperately needed dramatic improvements. Robertson saved 39 games in 44 opportunities while striking out 96 batters in 64.1 innings during his first season as a closer with the New York Yankees. While that was the only season Robertson has served as his team’s closer, the veteran reliever has been remarkably consistent over the past four seasons. Robertson has hurled more than 60 innings pitched while striking out at least 77 batters and owning an ERA under 3.08 and a WHIP under 1.04 in each of the last four years. Considering that most relievers are a volatile bunch, Robertson’s consistency will be a welcomed addition to one the league’s worst bullpens in 2014.
With the two moves, the White Sox have fulfilled arguably their two biggest holes on the roster with two of the better options available on the market. Add that to the signings of first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche (.259 avg, 26 HR, and 92 RBI) and left-handed reliever Zach Duke (2.45 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 11.4 K/9); the White Sox appear to be going all-in in 2015. Having said that, there is still work that needs to be done if the White Sox want to be a serious threat to make a playoff run.