Dylan Cease was one of the few bright spots during the Chicago White Sox disappointing 2022 season.
Cease finished second in the American League Cy Young voting. Cease posted a 2.20 ERA with 227 strikeouts and was a 4.4 wins above replacement (WAR) player.
The only thing Cease has left to prove is winning a big-time, late-season game. He was ineffective in Game 3 of the 2021 American League Division Series against Houston. He was unable to fully shut down the Cleveland Guardians last season in a must-win September game.
Otherwise, Cease is a clear pitching ace. The four other pitchers behind him in the rotation do not bring the reliability that Cease does.
The Chicago White Sox added Mike Clevinger to the rotation on a free-agent deal. Clevinger was a really good pitcher for the Guardians from 2017-2019. He sat out the 2021 season after having Tommy John surgery.
He returned last season with the San Diego Padres and put up mediocre results. He posted a 4.33 ERA with 91 strikeouts and was just a .4 WAR player.
His average velocity in the 2019 and 2020 seasons was above 95mph. Last season his average velocity was 93.5mph. The Sox have added a pitcher whose velocity and strikeouts are down. Not an ideal pitcher to add to a team hoping to bounce back and win the AL Central.
Then again, if Clevinger can have a bounce-back season, it will be a very good addition. That is where the rotation is questionable behind Cease.
The Chicago White Sox are relying on four pitchers to bounce back from subpar years or an injury.
Lance Lynn missed a good chunk of the 2022 season because of a knee injury. He struggled when he returned but did finish the season strong. He is going to turn 36 during the 2023 season and it is unknown how much he has left in the tank. Although, Fangraphs projects he will have a 3.90 ERA next season.
Lucas Giolito had a forgettable 2022 season. He posted a 4.90 ERA and his second-highest hard hit percentage in his career. Giolito was the staff ace in 2020 and 2021 but he fell hard from that role last season. There is some speculation that Giolito will be traded this offseason as he is under team control for just two more seasons and is projected to earn around $10 million next season.
Michael Kopech moved into the rotation last season. Injuries limited him to just 119 and one-third innings. Kopech is coming off offseason knee surgery but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Kopech’s injury history makes it highly questionable that he will make 30-35 starts in 2023.
The Chicago White Sox rotation is talented but is also missing a lefty.
The popular move would have brought back Carlos Rodon to the Southside. He is a strike-out master and also left-handed. He finally proved he can stay healthy for a full season. Rodon is going to be expensive and the Chicago White Sox are watching costs. That is why the Sox went with Clevinger.
Bringing in Clevinger and hoping pitching coach Ethan Katz can fix him means the rotation has the chance to be good. It also has the chance to be a repeat of last season and that was largely a disappointment.