The White Sox continued their flurry of veteran one-year deals and Korean baseball experience this weekend, announcing a one-year, $1.75 million contract with starting pitcher Chris Flexen on Saturday morning.
Flexen, 29, was a 14th round pick of the Mets in 2012 and appeared in 27 games in three seasons with them. He joined the KBO’s Doosan Bears before the 2020 season, where his 3.01 ERA in just more than 116 innings was enough to get him a two-year, $4.75 million deal with the Seattle Mariners. Flexen’s deal comes a day after a nearly identical agreement with left-handed reliever Tim Hill, who signed a $1.8 million contract.
Flexen gave Seattle a 3.66 ERA in 317 1⁄3 innings over those two seasons, and they rewarded him with an $8 million deal for 2023. Unfortunately, his high-wire, low-velocity act came undone, posting a 7.71 ERA in 17 appearances for the Mariners before he was traded to the Mets for reliever Trevor Gott. Flexen was waived by the Mets and caught on with the Colorado Rockies for the rest of the campaign, giving them a 6.27 ERA over 12 starts down the stretch.
Flexen has a whopping seven-pitch arsenal, and while his changeup and breaking balls didn’t perform poorly in 2023 — and were even good in 2021-22 — his four-seamer, sinker, and cutter all have been getting absolutely walloped. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement: They’re among the slower fastballs in the big leagues, and at age 29, it doesn’t seem likely that Flexen will suddenly develop Kyle Hendricks-esque command of them. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts has him projected as a reliever and spot starter, forecasting a 4.83 ERA over about 60 innings. His best use might be as a one-time-through-the-order, multi-inning reliever. You can take your chances with trying to get through a batting order more than once — and the White Sox probably will have to — but it won’t go very well.
Catcher Carlos Pérez was designated for assignment to accommodate Flexen on the 40-man roster. Pérez, 27, appeared in 27 games last summer, batting .204/.264/.347 with a homer, four doubles, and three driven in.
The White Sox have not hinted at whether they’ll use Flexen as a starter, reliever, or some combination thereof, but it seems likely that he’ll get an early crack at a rotation spot. While it remains to be seen whether Dylan Cease will still be in town come Opening Day, he, Michael Kopech, and Erick Fedde look to be locks to be in the team’s first turn through the rotation. Roster Resource currently has Michael Soroka and Touki Toussaint in the lead for the final two slots ahead of a blob that includes Jesse Scholtens, Jared Shuster, Jake Eder, and Cristian Mena. We’ll begin to find out in 45 days, when pitchers and catchers report.