The White Sox announced Monday that they’ve exercised their $4.65MM club option on right-hander Nate Jones and declined a $16MM option on righty James Shields in favor of a $2MM buyout. The Sox also reinstated Michael Kopech from the 60-day disabled list, filling a 40-man spot for the bulk of the offseason. Kopech underwent Tommy John surgery late in the season. Chicago’s 40-man roster now contains 34 players.
It’s the first of three club options that the White Sox hold over Jones, who turns 33 in January. His contract also comes with a $5.15MM option for the 2020 season and a $6MM option for the 2021 campaign. Both come with $1.25MM buyout figures attached to them.
Jones missed nearly three months of the 2018 season with a pronator strain in his right arm but was, as usual, a high-quality bullpen option for the Sox when healthy. In 30 innings of relief this season, he pitched to an even 3.00 ERA with a 32-to-15 K/BB ratio, four homers allowed and a 39.5 percent ground-ball rate. Control was a bit more of an issue for Jones than in a typical season, but he’s averaged a manageable 3.3 walks per nine innings in his career, making the recent blip a bit less concerning. Jones also maintained his premium velocity, averaging 97.2 mph on his fastball, which no doubt contributed to his strong 13.6 percent swinging-strike rate.
The veteran Shields has become synonymous with the ill-fated deal that brought him to Chicago in the first place (wherein then-unheralded but now-elite prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. went to the Padres), but the 36-year-old had somewhat of a rebound season in 2018. While his 4.53 ERA won’t do much to impress anyone, Shields started 33 games and pitched in 34 overall, racking up 204 2/3 innings while averaging 6.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. He’ll turn 37 in December and may be a far cry from his peak seasons as “Big Game James,” but he displayed in 2018 that he’s still plenty durable and can provide some serviceable innings at the back of a thin rotation — likely at a highly affordable rate on a one-year deal.