Yes, it was a quiet off-season for the White Sox.
Quick question: When the one notable addition, third baseman Jeff Keppinger, signed a three-year deal with the Sox in December, did you wonder, “Who is Jeff Keppinger?”
While it’s fair to say new general manager Rick Hahn has yet to make much of a splash acquiring big-name outside talent, he did make two major moves in late October.
The first, and most important, was quickly pulling free-agent Jake Peavy off the market with a two-year, $29 million contract.
The second, also announced on Oct. 30, was picking up Gavin Floyd’s $9.5 million option for the upcoming season.
Peavy and Floyd are two key pieces in the starting rotation, which should again be the Sox’ strength this year.
Add in ace Chris Sale, the expected return of John Danks, Jose Quintana and possibly Hector Santiago and you’re looking at a potentially dominant starting staff.
“There’s no doubt,” Peavy said. “I think we have a great balance of righty/lefty. And I think we have a good balance of youth and guys who’ve been around the block some and guys who’ve been around the block a lot, like myself.”
After staying healthy in 2012 while going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA, Peavy could have gotten more years — and money — on the open market.
But the 31-year-old veteran has found a comfortable home on the South Side, and his veteran presence helped the White Sox’ three young left-handers, Sale, Quintana and Santiago, develop last season.
In addition to ranking ninth in the American League in ERA last year, Peavy was third in quality starts (23), complete games (4) and WHIP (1.10) and fifth in innings pitched (219) and batting average against (.234).
“If Jake was not added back ... we were going to be really challenged,” Hahn said.
Moving from the bullpen to the rotation last season, Sale was consistently an impossible challenge for opposing hitters.
Overcoming some early season elbow “discomfort” that nearly sent him back to the bullpen, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and finished sixth in Cy Young Award voting.
“I was fortunate last year,” Sale said. “And I’m very thankful to have the people around me that were around me. One of the biggest things that made me happy this off-season was seeing Jake sign back here. He was very instrumental in helping me last year. He kind of walked me through my first year as a starter. And having Johnny (Danks) back healthy, those two guys have helped me a lot.”
Danks insists he’s healthy six months after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a capsular tear and “minor” wear of the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
Considering Danks hasn’t pitched since May 19 and there is an extra week of spring training this year due to the World Baseball Classic, the Sox are in no hurry to get him back on the mound.
White Sox pitchers and catchers were on the field for the first time Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz., and Danks talked to reporters.
“I anticipate being ready (for the April 1 season opener),” Danks said. “ I’m able to throw and able to do what they have asked me so far. I’m where they told me to be at this point so hopefully that’s good enough. We’ll see.”
Floyd twice landed on the disabled list last season with elbow pain, but the 30-year-old starter managed to avoid surgery while having his option picked up.
The right-hander was again victimized by erratic stretches in 2012, but Floyd went 12-11 and joined Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and James Shields as the only AL starters to reach double digit wins for the fifth straight season.
Assuming Danks is ready to go April 1, Quintana is the Sox’ likely fifth starter.
After pitching for Class A Tampa in the Yankees’ system in 2011, Quintana was scooped up the White Sox and the 24-year-old lefty was a pleasant surprise (6-6, 3.76 ERA) in 22 starts.
Like Sale, Quintana ran out of gas during the final month of the season (1-3, 6.75 ERA), but the experience should pay off this year.
In each of the past two seasons, the Sox went with six-man rotations for extended stretches to protect injury-prone pitchers like Peavy and young starters like Sale and Quintana.
The White Sox could go with a six starters again this year and they have an intriguing candidate in Santiago.
In 2012, Santiago had a strong training camp and opened the season as the Sox’ closer.
Santiago wound up losing the job to another rookie, Addison Reed, but he thrived after being moved to the rotation in September. In 4 starts, Santiago was 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA.
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