(670 The Score) With a comfortable eight-game lead in the AL Central entering play Monday, the White Sox are focused on targeting the final pieces that can fortify a championship contender before the trade deadline passes on July 30.
The White Sox’s main priority is adding to their bullpen, sources said. Beyond that, finding a second baseman and another catcher are also on the wish list. That focus comes as the returns of center fielder Luis Robert and designated hitter/left fielder Eloy Jimenez are expected down the line. Jimenez is already on his rehab assignment, so he could be back fairly soon.
If there’s one area of the White Sox that hasn’t lived up to expectations, it’s their bullpen. A group many thought would be baseball’s best hasn’t been as deep as hoped. Entering Monday, the White Sox bullpen had a 3.97 ERA, which was tied for the 12th-best mark in MLB.
Of course, part of the answer for the bullpen to find its dominant form is internal improvement.
"The simplest answer for us as a group is to ignore the work that is being done upstairs,” manager Tony La Russa said of his players. “We must concentrate on who we are playing that day and what pitcher we are up against. Of the priority of the things that can beat you, distractions like that are right at the top. It’s too much to think about – ‘What if we add this, add that? We try to not let the group think about it.”
While closer Liam Hendriks is having an All-Star season and right-hander Michael Kopech and left-hander Garrett Crochet will be crucial pieces to the back end of the White Sox’s bullpen in the playoffs, the team could still use some help. Injury and a lack of command have led to an inconsistent performance from lefty reliever Aaron Bummer, who has a 4.35 ERA in 33 appearances. Beyond that, right-hander Matt Foster was recently optioned to Triple-A after struggling, and it’s unclear when and in what form right-hander Evan Marshall could return from a strained right flexor pronator.
"There are a lot of things I wouldn't be surprised that happen,” Hendriks said when asked if additions before the trade deadline would help. “I still think our bullpen is good enough. But if we get a couple of guys here to do what they have done in the past, we will be completely fine. Saying that, I wouldn't be opposed to bringing in a veteran pitcher who is a little different personality that I am. That guy could be better with some of the kids here who like to show a little less emotion. I still like to think I am having a positive contribution down there. That being said, not everybody has the same vibes or on and off switch that I have. I do not want to force my mantra on anyone else.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.