Wheeler signing with Phillies won't deter White Sox's pursuit of free agents

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • As they head for the winter meetings, the Chicago White Sox are stinging from starting pitcher Zack Wheeler signing with the Phillies. The Sox still have plenty of time, and money, to fill holes on the roster.

    As they head for the winter meetings, the Chicago White Sox are stinging from starting pitcher Zack Wheeler signing with the Phillies. The Sox still have plenty of time, and money, to fill holes on the roster. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/7/2019 6:30 PM

"In free agency, these guys have a choice, and they've earned the right to make their decision on any factor they wish, ranging from location to family preference to guaranteed money to trade protection or out clauses or whatever other factors come into these long-term deals. What we can control is putting ourselves in the best position to convert."

That was White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, and he wasn't talking about Zack Wheeler.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hahn was talking about Manny Machado last February, still stinging after the star free agent turned down a 10-year offer from the Sox that could have maxed out at $320 million.

For financial reasons, Machado signed with the Padres for a guaranteed $300 million over 10 years.

For family reasons last week, Wheeler turned down the White Sox's offer of $125 million over five years. His wife-to-be is from New Jersey, so the high-end starting pitcher took a little bit less ($118 million for five years) to join the Phillies and stay close to home.

Life goes on, and so does the Sox's pursuit of veteran talent moving into this week's winter meetings.

Hahn did land catcher Yasmani Grandal with a four-year, $73 million contract, and Jose Abreu is returning on a three-year, $50 million deal.

Heading into the off-season, two starting pitchers, a right fielder and a designated hitter were on the White Sox's target list, and it remains a work in progress.

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Grandal and fellow catchers James McCann and Zack Collins might wind up sharing DH duties, so a pair of starters and a right fielder are still priorities.

On Saturday, rumors out of the Dominican Republic had free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna signing with the Sox on Monday.

Over the past three seasons -- the first with the Marlins and last two with the Cardinals -- Ozuna batted .280 and averaged 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

Eloy Jimenez is set in left field for the White Sox, and that's been Ozuna's primary position.

Over his seven-year career, Ozuna has played 450 games in left field, 410 in center and 65 in right.

The Sox have plenty of money to spend after rebuilding the last three years, and they'd rather sign free agents than trade prospects to fill holes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If they decide to take the second path, the White Sox could try to package some of their top minor leaguers and get right fielder Joc Pederson from the Dodgers.

As for starting pitchers, Wheeler would have been a great addition, but there are plenty of options remaining on the free-agent market.

Madison Bumgarner was one of the top starters in baseball from 2013-16, but the 30-year-old lefty can still help the Sox's rotation if the price is right.

While tying for the major-league lead with 34 starts last season, Bumgarner was 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 207.2 innings for San Francisco.

The White Sox need left-handed help in the rotation and Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are available.

Pitching for the Dodgers last season, Ryu led the majors with a 2.32 ERA while going 14-5.

Keuchel, the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2015 while pitching for the Astros, signed late with the Braves last season and was 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts.

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