The White Sox are reportedly in agreement with right-hander Chris Flexen on a one-year, $1.75MM guarantee. There are an additional $1MM in incentives available for the O’Connell Sports Management client.
Flexen lands a big league deal despite a frustrating 2023 campaign. The 29-year-old opened the season in long relief with the Mariners, starting four of 17 appearances. He couldn’t find any rhythm, battling significant home run issues en route to a 7.71 ERA in 42 innings. The M’s designated him for assignment in early July, trading him to the Mets alongside reliever Trevor Gott.
New York only wanted Gott from that deal, agreeing to assume the nearly $4MM remaining on Flexen’s $8MM contract in the process. The Mets immediately released him. Flexen signed a minor league deal with Colorado and returned to the majors after two starts in Triple-A.
Making seven of 12 starts at Coors Field is a tough assignment for a pitcher looking for a rebound opportunity. Flexen continued to struggle (both at home and in his five road outings), posting a 6.27 ERA over 60 1/3 innings as a Rockie. Between Seattle and Colorado, he allowed a 6.86 ERA through 102 1/3 frames. Among pitchers to reach 100 innings, only Adam Wainwright and Joey Wentz allowed earned runs at a higher rate. The longball was the biggest contributor, as his 2.20 home runs per nine was the highest in the majors.
Flexen returned to free agency at season’s end despite having less than six years of MLB service. That’s common for players who sign a major league deal after a stint in a foreign pro league, as he did during the 2020-21 offseason after one year in the Korea Baseball Organization. Flexen will be a free agent again next winter despite still not reaching the six-year threshold.
It’s difficult to find many positives in Flexen’s 2023 performance, but he was an effective pitcher for Seattle over the preceding two years. Initially signed to a two-year, $4.5MM guarantee by Seattle, Flexen combined for a 3.66 ERA while starting 53 of his 64 appearances. His 16.5% strikeout rate over that stretch was well below-average, but he limited walks and did a much better job keeping the ball in the park. Flexen looked like a serviceable back-end starter two seasons ago.
The Sox will take a low-cost flier on a rebound, continuing an offseason of inexpensive depth pickups for first-year general manager Chris Getz. The Sox have also signed Tim Hill and Paul DeJong to one-year deals and agreed to terms with Martín Maldonado on a $4MM pact. Chicago rolled the dice on veteran catcher Max Stassi in a trade that paid his salary down to the league minimum. Their only multi-year pickup thus far was a two-year, $15MM deal for KBO returnee Erick Fedde.
Fedde has a rotation spot secure. Dylan Cease would be the Opening Day starter if the Sox don’t trade him this offseason. Michael Kopech and Michael Soroka project for middle-of-the-rotation roles, while Jared Shuster, Jesse Scholtens and Touki Toussaint could battle for jobs at the back end. Flexen steps into that fifth starter/long relief competition.
Chicago’s payroll is up to roughly $150MM, according to Roster Resource. That’s nowhere near last year’s $181MM Opening Day mark, although the Sox might not match that spending level as they rework the team. The 40-man roster is at capacity, so they’ll need to make two corresponding moves when they finalize the unofficial pickups of Flexen and Maldonado.
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