On Tuesday, the Chicago White Sox officially added Steve Cishek to the bullpen.
While it’s still officially a one-year, $6 million deal with a team option for a second year at $6 million, officially the contract reads one year at $5.25 million, with a $750,000 buyout after 2020.
“We believe Steve is a solid addition to our bullpen,” says GM Rick Hahn in the White Sox press release. “He complements our other relievers well, provides a different look to opposing hitters later in games, and has consistently proven to be both durable and successful throughout his career.”
To make room for Cishek on the 40-man roster, the long anticipated optioning of Dylan Covey finally was initialized. The 2016 rule 5 draft pick from Oakland went 6-29 in his White Sox career (his .171 winning percentage is the worst in White Sox history among pitchers with more than 170 IP) with a 6.54 ERA and 5.56 FIP. His -2.8 bWAR is the second-worst in White Sox history, behind Jaime Navarro (-3.7).
The lanky (6´6´´, 215) righthander now enters his 11th MLB season as a member of the White Sox. He was drafted in 2007’s fifth round by the Florida Marlins, and debuted for the team at the end of the 2010 season. After the Marlins, Cishek went on to play for St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Cubs.
Cishek is a sidearmer/submariner who answers to the nickname “Speedpass.” His list of closest career comps on Baseball-Reference reads like a list of honorees in the Hall of Very Good, including Todd Worrell, Tom Henke, Kent Tekulve, Joakim Soria, Sergio Romo, Jeff Montgomery, Heath Bell, and Mark Melancon.
While his season FIPs have been far shakier, Cishek has suffered just one campaign with an ERA of higher than 3.17 — and even that 2015 season was plenty fine (3.58). So Chicago has acquired in Cishek an experienced hand who simply doesn’t slump for extended periods, which isn’t exactly the modus operandi of many relief pitchers.
Presumably, Cishek enters 2020 as the primary right-handed setup man to Alex Colomé, but the White Sox have just purchased some insurance in case an Attack of the Foreboding Peripherals induce a Colomé meltdown. Cishek has spent three seasons as a primary closer (2013, 2014, 2016) and compiled 98 saves in those three years (career saves: 132, 105th all-time and 17th among active pitchers).
Cishek’s only drawback, to the untrained eye, lies in a bit of wildness. But in his last two seasons, on the North Side, the righty has been pure filth: 150 games, 134 ⅓ innings, 93 hits, 135 strikeouts, 57 walks, 2.55 ERA, 11 saves. Last year alone, Cishek went 4-6 with a 2.95 ERA and seven saves, 12 holds, 23 games finished, a .210 average against, seven homers allowed, 1.203 WHIP and 57 strikeouts over 70 games. Right-handers hit just .206 against him, lefties .216. Per the White Sox, Cishek’s 25.3 soft contact percentage was the sixth-best among major-league relievers, and he posted a 0.66 ERA over his final 16 appearances of the season.
Cishek is sixth among major-league relief leaders since 2011 in appearances (569), ninth in strikeouts (581) and 13th in ERA (2.71). His 150 appearances since 2018 are the third-most in baseball, indicating some overwork on behalf of the north side bumblers. However, Cishek’s 2.69 career ERA is the fifth-lowest among active pitchers with 500 or more relief outings. the workhorse has made 60-plus relief appearances six times.
The conclusion of various analysts seems to be that the north siders’ bullpen woes last season forced Cishek into too much work. Lessen his workload, and a full return to some sweet stats is anticipated.
On the other hand, statistical deep dives on how to rid a player of Cubbie stink are in their infancy, so there is no reasonable projection of how the 33-year-old will shake off his two years at Wrigley.