Herrera will receive $18 million across two years with the White Sox. Ken Rosenthal reported that the third year is a club or vesting option worth a further $9 million.
The White Sox have been labelled as major players this offseason. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado rumours have been frequent for Chicago, who have not had a winning season since 2012 and not made the playoffs since 2008. The White Sox’s payroll is still barely over $80 million, meaning they have plenty of room to sign one, or maybe even both, of the headline free agents.
Herrera joins Alex Colome and Nate Jones at the back of the Chicago bullpen. The White Sox’s relieving group ranked 23rd in MLB in ERA last season. Assuming that trio can stay healthy, they should rank much higher in that department in 2019. That’s a triumvirate with nasty stuff that can put out fires and convert good starting performances into wins.
Despite an impressive CV, Herrera is only heading into his age 29 campaign. He was traded from the Kansas City Royals, who he won a World Series with in 2015, to the Washington Nationals midway through last season, but had a torrid time in the capital. Disabled list stints meant Herrera was ineffective as a National and often pitched through pain. His ERA was 4.34 in 18.2 innings for Washington.
The injury-disrupted 2018 might have allowed the White Sox to get Herrera on a slightly cheaper deal than they otherwise would have done. Teams will understandably be concerned about injuries for any free agent – those worries will be exaggerated when a player has missed time in the previous season.
Bullpen depth is a necessity for any team looking to contend in baseball right now. Herrera, Jones and Colome alone is not enough, but it is a potentially dominant core. With only two guaranteed years and plenty of payroll flexibility, this is a solid deal for the White Sox.
Eloy Jimenez will be up in early 2019 and 2018 first round pick Nick Madrigal could appear later in the year if Chicago choose to push him. The long rebuild is showing signs it could end. This season might be a year early, but adding Herrera, along with Yonder Alonso and Colome, gives the White Sox a chance of pushing for a wildcard spot in 2019, even if they don’t land Machado or Harper.
One reliever is not going to change a team’s fortunes. Herrera is the latest step in Chicago returning to contention, though, and gives them the start of a strong bullpen should they play their way into the playoff picture this coming season.