Rozner: The White Sox need to find their Jon Lester. Can they make it happen?
The White Sox are searching for their Jon Lester.
It's not so much that they're following the Cubs' plan, but it's simply the next step in the rebuild, the adding of a veteran starter who's been through the postseason wars and can help a staff take the next step.
There's been much discussion about a right fielder and a left-handed bat -- these are indeed needs -- but the bigger get right now would be a monster free-agent starter to bolster the rotation.
In fact, securing two of them wouldn't be the worst idea.
Let's face it, the Sox need some luck when it comes to arms considering what's happened to Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert, to name not all but some of their pitching injuries.
If not for that, where might this rotation already be?
It really shouldn't have been a surprise to so many that Lucas Giolito performed the way he did in 2019, not with his stuff. It's just that there's an impatience that naturally follows someone with his talent, notwithstanding a century's history of pitchers needing time to find their way.
Same for Reynaldo Lopez, who wants to start 2020 the way he finished 2018, not the inconsistency he displayed throughout 2019.
This is the unpredictability of young or inexperienced pitchers. It's part of the development process, whether players like it or not.
Same for Dylan Cease, who has the talent to dominate, and yet could suffer again the way most great young arms do when they reach the big leagues.
The Sox hope Kopech will be Kopech in 2020, and they won't rush Rodon, but in just those five starters -- Kopech, Rodon, Giolito, Cease and Lopez -- the Sox have the makings of a great -- not merely good -- rotation.
That's three or four potential No. 1 starters right there, and it will make some wonder why you would spend a few hundred million on another starter or two.
For the reasons listed above, pitchers coming off serious injuries and because it takes most starters time to understand how to deliver every fifth day at the major league level.
So, yes, you can expect the Sox to make a splash in free agency this winter.
Again, it's not because of what the Cubs did, but in a similar fashion they have built quite the position player stable and they know it's not pragmatic to rely on only what they currently have from a pitching standpoint.
They have the money to spend and were willing to do so last winter, only to be left at the altar.
You ask how big of a splash, the Chris Farley cannonball or more the David Spade wake?
That won't be up to them, but you can be certain they will take a shot at the best that's out there.
"The agents will tell you nice things along the way," Rick Hahn told reporters at the GM meetings. "But when you hear directly from some of the players ... it's some positive reinforcement.
"In the end, dollars and contract terms tend to carry a little more weight, but at the very least it's good to hear that people are excited by the prospect of what we're building."
History tells us the Sox are more likely to wind up with Zack Wheeler and Dallas Keuchel than Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, but it's important this winter that they don't wind up without a chair when the music stops.
It's necessary for players and fans to see that they are continuing to make progress with the program and take the next step in the rebuild, especially after shooting so high last winter and missing, through no fault of their own.
"We are a logical destination for premium talent," Hahn told the media in Arizona. "Players want to come play for us, play on the South Side and be part of what we're building.
"If last year we announced that perhaps a little too loudly, it was in part a response to the general narrative that we weren't legitimate players for such talent.
"I think the message has already been delivered that we are a true destination for such talent, and now it's incumbent upon us to convert on some along the way."
It is again a big promise, but how that is perceived is far less important than the baseball part of it, the adding of big rotation pieces to take pressure off the existing staff and particularly those returning from surgery.
It's not a lack of faith in the starters already here, but in reality a statement that the Sox are getting closer to competing for the playoffs and they would like some veteran starters in place to show the way.
This is a big month -- or maybe two -- coming up for the Sox and they really need to cash in on this opportunity to improve the roster.
Let the spending begin.