Steve Cishek Signs One-Year Deal With White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with right-handed reliever Steve Cishek, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The contract includes a $6 million option for a second year as well.

Cishek, 33, is coming off a two-year, $13 million deal with the Cubs, where most recently he posted a 2.95 ERA and 4.95 xFIP over 70 relief appearances and 64 innings of work in 2019 for the North Siders.

The Falmouth, Ma. native was viewed as a potential fit for the Red Sox in 2020, as he could help supplement an already solid bullpen and he had a previous connection to Boston’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom when the two were in Tampa Bay.

Per MLB Network’s Peter Gammons, Cishek even had interest in signing with his hometown team as recently as last week, but because he earned $7.1 million with the Cubs in 209, he was believed to be out of the Red Sox’ pay range.

As it turns out, Cishek wound up taking just south of $7.1 million to remain in the same city he had spent the previous two years in.

I don’t have any inside information, but I would have to imagine this is how things went down before Cishek agreed to that deal with Chicago on Tuesday:

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made his offer of one-year, $6 million to Cishek that included that aforementioned option for 2021. Cishek’s camp at Jet Sports Management makes one last call to Bloom and Co. to ask if they can go higher than that. Bloom responds by saying they can’t, and that’s that.

The fact that the Red Sox were unable to land a quality late-inning reliever, albeit one who does have injury concerns, for a mere $6 million just goes to show how handcuffed they are by the goal of getting below the $208 million luxury tax threshold ahead of the 2020 season.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Steve Cishek

Even without a head of baseball operations as things stand right now, the Red Sox are going to be in the market for relief pitching this winter.

Over the course of a disappointing 84-78 campaign in 2019, the Sox bullpen ranked sixth in all of baseball in innings pitched (665.0), 17th in ERA (4.40), eighth in FIP (4.14), 10th in xFIP (4.43), and fifth in fWAR (5.5) while names such as Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman emerged as a legitimate core to build around.

In the past few days, both The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey and MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith have pinpointed a handful of relievers that Boston could target once free agency begins, and one name that stuck out to me was right-hander Steve Cishek.

I should probably preface this by first saying that I am a big Steve Cishek guy, and I’ll explain why now.

Cishek, 33, posted a 2.95 ERA and .210 batting average against over 70 appearances and 64 total innings pitched this past season with the Chicago Cubs, the second of a two-year, $13 million deal he signed back in December of 2017.

A native of Falmouth, Ma., Cishek has experience closing games, as he has racked up 132 career saves between the Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, and Miami Marlins.

Per FanGraphs, Cishek has been worth $9.2 million over the last two seasons, so it is hard to imagine his asking price being all that high.

One thing to be wary of is that the sidearm reliever has dealt with his fair share of issues with his left hip, most recently spending 10 days on the injured list due to left hip inflammation in August.

With a pitch arsenal that heavily relies on a sinker and a slider, as well as a four-seam fastball and changeup, Cishek could provide the Boston bullpen with a unique look from a unique arm slot.

As a noted former Red Sox fan himself, it would be interesting to see how intrigued Cishek would be with a potential homecoming.