With Cueto hitting the market, White Sox starting rotation still one arm short
Much of the blame for the White Sox's 81-81 season fell on the offense.
While they ranked third in the American League with a .256 batting average, the Sox were 10th in homers (149) and ninth in runs scored (686).
The poor showing cost hitting coach Frank Menechino his job. While it's not official yet, Mike Tosar is expected to join new manager Pedro Grifol from Kansas City and take over as hitting coach.
Ethan Katz is returning as pitching coach, and he's still waiting to see who will join Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech in the rotation.
Johnny Cueto, who signed a one-year, $4.2 million contract with the White Sox in early April and pitched well (8-10, 3.35 ERA) after joining the rotation in mid-May, is a free agent.
"Obviously, we need another starter," Katz said. "That right now is our biggest need from the pitching standpoint. We're having dialogue. We'll see how things play out, but we do need another starter."
The Sox are in good shape at the top of the rotation with Cease, who finished second in Cy Young Award voting this season with a 14-8 record, 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 184 innings.
"His progression, it's been evolving for a couple of years now," Katz said. "Just watching the day-to-day work, the conversations we have, the belief and trust in his stuff, he has grown a lot."
Lynn isn't getting any younger, but the 35-year-old righty should be better next season after having knee surgery in early April and not taking the mound until June 13.
After a rough start, Lynn was 7-3 with a 2.43 ERA from the beginning of August through the rest of the season.
Giolito is coming off a disappointing season (11-9, 4.90 ERA). The right-hander came out of the 99-day lockout carrying a lot more bulk and could never get his mechanics ironed out.
"He's always bounced back," said Katz, who also coached Giolito in high school. "Last year was frustrating to him and he's highly motivated. He's working hard as we speak. We have a really nice idea of where he needs to go from here and what his off-season should look like."
Kopech showed flashes of brilliance in his return to the rotation, but he was slowed by shoulder and knee injuries. He had right knee surgery in early October and is likely to be limited at the beginning of spring training.
"He's rehabbing, it's going well," Katz said. "It's going to be a little slower progression than we originally thought but he's still on track to be ready for spring full go. We have it mapped out for him breaking camp, being able to finish camp at 5 innings and 85 pitches, which would put him in a good spot to start the season. He's in a good spot."
As for Cueto, he's going to be 37 next season but the right-hander is still effective and efficient when healthy.
"We've had conversations about bringing him back, that's for sure," said Katz, who coached Cueto in 2020 with the Giants. "I know Johnny really enjoyed his time here. I have a relationship with Johnny, I like Johnny a lot. I think free agency has to take its course and have to see where, how it plays out.
"I don't get into the numbers and that kind of stuff but obviously, I would love to have him back."