The White Sox have agreed to minor league contracts with Wes Benjamin and Patrick Kivlehan, according to the club transactions log at MLB.com. Both players saw some big league action last season but were later outrighted off their teams’ respective rosters and qualified for minor league free agency.
Benjamin is joining his second club, having previously spent his entire career with the Rangers. A former fifth-round pick, he made it to the majors for the first time in 2020. Benjamin had an alright debut showing, pitching to a 4.84 ERA across 22 1/3 frames in a multi-inning relief role. The left-hander induced swinging strikes on a solid 12.3% of his offerings that season and showed passable control, only walking 7.1% of opponents. Benjamin served up four home runs in that time, but he looked like a potential long relief/spot starter option for Texas heading into 2021.
Things went off the rails last year, though. He was tagged for an 8.74 ERA in 22 2/3 innings. His swinging strike percentage dipped to 9.5% while his walk rate more than doubled to 15.2%. The 28-year-old struggled just as much with the Rangers’ top affiliate in Round Rock, where he posted an 8.29 ERA in 15 outings (including 10 starts). Benjamin wasn’t as homer-prone in the minors, but he mustered subpar strikeout and walk numbers and allowed a .402 batting average on balls in play.
There’s no risk for the White Sox in giving Benjamin a non-roster opportunity to rebound from his rough year. He has plenty of starting experience in the minors and has been a capable performer up through Double-A. The University of Kansas product posted a sub-4.00 ERA at each stop until Triple-A and could serve as either rotation or long relief depth with Chicago.
Kivlehan has logged some MLB action in four different seasons. The bulk of that experience came with the 2017 Reds, for whom he tallied 204 plate appearances and hit .208/.304/.399. He showed some power and walked at a solid 10.8% clip that year, but he fanned in 29.9% of his trips and otherwise has scant big league experience. Kivlehan has a cumulative 46 MLB plate appearances in three additional seasons with the Padres and D-Backs, including five games with San Diego last May.
The 32-year-old has far more experience at Triple-A, where’s generally been an effective hitter. Over parts of five seasons at the minors’ top level, Kivlehan owns a .262/.324/.485 line. He spent last season with the Friars’ top affiliate in El Paso, posting a .261/.316/.508 mark with 21 homers in 91 games (albeit in an extremely hitter-friendly environment). He’ll give the White Sox a right-handed bat with some pop to stash in the upper minors. The bulk of Kivlehan’s MLB time has come in the corner outfield, but he’s logged more than 3,000 innings at third base and nearly 2,000 frames at first base in the minors.