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White Sox to sign RHP Ronald Belisario

Now that the the Paul Konerko saga is over, we can go back to our scheduled offseason programming. The White Sox really enter the hot stove by signing RHP Ronald Belisario

Harry How

The White Sox move forward with their offseason by signing right handed reliever Ronald Belisario for one year and $3 million. Belisario had been with the Dodgers but was non-tendered on Monday after being with the team since 2009. He went 5-7 with a save and a 3.97 ERA in 2013.

Belisario mostly throws a mid-90's sinker and mixes in a four-seamer and slider as well.

Belisario missed the 2011 season because he was unable to obtain a visa. At the beginning of the 2012 season, Belisario admitted that he couldn't get the visa because he tested positive for cocaine and was unable to obtain the necessary paperwork to leave Venezuela.  That led to an additional 25 game suspension to start the 2012 season for Belisario.

With this move, the White Sox will get to 40 on the 40 man roster. Unless there's another offsetting move, they will not be participating in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings next week.



As a non-tender, the White Sox control his rights in 2014 and 2015 (EDIT: larry points out that Belisario was a Super 2, so the Sox actually control his rights through 2016), so he's the kind of guy the Sox might end up extending if they think he can be trusted. His substance abuse issues go farther back than 2011, so they're not just a blip. That said, he's managed two consecutive years as a guy who will take the ball when called upon. It's also the case that the White Sox have some experience dealing with those issues, given what we know about Bobby Jenks.

If you figure he's got his issues ironed out, he's exactly the kind of guy that the Sox could make into something useful. He's a classic hard-throwing fastball/slider reliever, with a bit of a twist. The heater isn't a four-seamer, it's a sinker. A legit 94-mph sinker that gets tons of ground balls. In 2012 he had a sub-3.00 ERA and threw a fastball 88 percent of the time. A la Matt Thornton, he's got one pitch that really works.

The slider is a work in progress. The difference between his stellar '12 and replacement level '13 was arguably his pitch selection. He dropped his fastball usage 10 points, upped his slider by about that and saw his whiff rate fall off a cliff. What you'd expect to see is the whiff rate on the FB go up and the slider go down with that kind of change, but they actually both went down fairly significantly.

More likely, there's more of a story there than just pitch selection. I'd guess that he wasn't quite as sharp with his spots, the league caught up a bit and he over-adjusted to his BABIP regressing to the mean. So he freaked out a bit and went away from his strength.

Fortunately, that puts him right in Don Cooper's wheelhouse. For one, Coop loves to get guys to focus on what they're good at. Two, he likes to get his pitchers to pitch to contact. Put another way: guys with good stuff can afford to miss in the zone. Matt Thornton is a great example. Cooper insisted Thornton stick with his strength ("Easy Heat"), ironed out some mechanics and made a great pitcher out of him.

Three, as soon as I said his slider is a work in progress, your ears should have perked up. If Cooper has a calling card, it's that he teaches the cutter better than anyone. Perhaps it's less known, but he's also very good with the slider, as the pitches are very similar. Chris Sale, Phil Humber, and Gavin Floyd all benefited from Coop's tutelage in that regard.

In sum, Belisario is--whether everything works out or not--exactly the kind of guy the Sox should be acquiring this offseason. There's a non-zero chance he becomes an elite level reliever if certain fixes can be made. If it turns out for the best, the Sox have a good chance to sign him to an extension that puts him on the team next time they don't suck. If not, the Sox aren't on the hook for 2015. In case the point isn't clear, he's the exact opposite of signing Paul Konerko.