Micheal Kopech is slated to move into the starting rotation. Despite the promotion, Rick Hahn has made it clear that Kopech will still be under an innings limit. The Chicago White Sox are going to be cautious with how hard they push him in 2022.
The idea of occasionally resting him ten days rest between starts then having him make a bullpen appearance or two to stay sharp has been floated around. Regardless of how they use him, his departure from the bullpen leaves a hole for the White Sox to fill. Garrett Richards could fit the job description.
The Boston Red Sox just declined Garrett Richards’ $10 million option making him a free agent. Richards posted a 4.87 ERA in 2021. On the surface, those are some unimpressive numbers. He began the season as a starting pitcher for the Red Sox but was jettisoned from the rotation after 22 starts.
In those starts, he had a bloated 5.22 ERA to accompany an alarming 9.5% walk rate in 110 1/3 innings. Richards admitted that he used sunscreen and rosin so a midseason rule change affected his performance. He refound his form in the bullpen and revitalized his season.
Garrett Richards would be a really solid addition to the 2022 Chicago White Sox.
The 33-year-old veteran logged three saves and had a 0.87 ERA in his first 20 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. His strikeout rate rose from 17.2% to 29.4%. He also had a 48.1 ground ball percentage which is advantageous for double plays, especially when he inherited runners. He had a few clunkers which inflated his ERA as a reliever to 3.42.
Not only did his average fastball velocity jump from 94.2 mph to 95.3 mph, but he also raised his whiff rate from 9.4% to 10.8%. On top of that, opponents failed to barrel him up like they did when he was in the Red Sox starting rotation. Opponents average exit velocity against him as a reliever was just 89.4 mph as opposed to a 91.6 mph mark against him as a starter.
It should be noted that Richard’s sample size as a reliever is small. Because he is turning 34 years old and his best stretch as a dominant starter was back in 2013-2015, his price should be fairly reasonable. His age also suggests he is in line for a short-term deal.
The versatility Richards provides is intriguing. He can pitch in long relief or late in games as shown by his three saves last season. He would have the ability to pitch for the White Sox in a couple of spot starts too if necessary. As a buy-low option, Richards could be a cost-effective addition to the White Sox pitching staff.