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CHGO White Sox Weekly: The Kevin Pillar recall solves fourth-outfielder question

Vinnie Duber Avatar
March 25, 2024
Kevin Pillar

What’s up, Sox fans?

The Sox have seemingly settled on their fourth outfielder.

And it’s the guy they cut three days ago.

Let me explain.

The team announced on Friday that it had released both Kevin Pillar and Mike Moustakas, two veterans who were in camp on minor league deals. Those somewhat surprising cuts came alongside a flurry of similar moves across the league this weekend. Under the newest collective-bargaining agreement, players on minor league contracts who have at least six seasons of major league service time and finished last season on a major league roster are able to opt out of those minor league contracts at various points throughout the season, the first of those being Friday, five days before Opening Day. Teams then had the option to add such players to their rosters or release them over a 48-hour window, and the Sox chose the latter with both Pillar and Moustakas.

White Sox Weekly

It seemed the Sox had no room for either of them in their Opening Day plans. Moustakas’ exit paved the way for Gavin Sheets to make the team after a hot spring, while Pillar’s departure lessened the number of guys competing for the reserve-outfielder gig backing up Luis Robert Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Dominic Fletcher. The team announced a minor league contract for veteran Robbie Grossman the same day, vaulting a new player to the front of the line for that job in the minds of some.

But then Sunday, the Sox announced a major-league deal for Pillar, who had been a free agent for all of two days.

When the start of the so-called “opt-out window” came Friday, the Sox weren’t ready to commit to Pillar being part of the roster and encouraged him to explore other opportunities, which aren’t exactly rare at this time of year with teams experiencing springtime injuries. But after that exploration, Pillar expressed a desire to return, and the team found a way to make it happen for someone with a reputation as a strong defender and positive clubhouse presence.

That made Pillar part of the Sox’ major league roster and all but assured he will win the team’s fourth outfielder job.

So what does the rest of the White Sox roster look like?

The Sox’ roster seems to be just about set, though team brass told reporters on the final day of spring training in Arizona that it might not be official until the morning of the season opener against the Tigers on the South Side on Thursday.

That leads us to a few more days of guessing, but we might be able to make some pretty educated guesses at this point.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some twists and turns over the final week of the spring. In the last of these newsletters, I had no idea whether Garrett Crochet would even be part of the big league team. He’s getting the start on Opening Day. Additionally, Max Stassi could be heading to the injured list with soreness, forcing Korey Lee to return after getting the boot from Sox camp, pulling a similar comeback to Pillar, only under more traditional circumstances.

On top of that, all our speculating over who will be the fifth starter might be for nothing, considering the Sox might not even include a fifth starter on their Opening Day roster, not needing one until next week.

So here’s what we’ve got.

Catchers: Lee, Martín Maldonado

Infielders: Paul DeJong, Nicky Lopez, Yoán Moncada, Gavin Sheets, Braden Shewmake, Andrew Vaughn

Outfielders: Benintendi, Fletcher, Pillar, Robert

Designated hitter: Eloy Jiménez

Starting pitchers: Crochet, Erick Fedde, Chris Flexen, Michael Soroka

Relief pitchers: Tanner Banks, John Brebbia, Deivi García, Tim Hill, Michael Kopech, Jordan Leasure, Dominic Leone, Bryan Shaw, Steven Wilson

As mentioned, plenty of that is guesswork, mostly in the bullpen, and someone will be jettisoned from that unit when a fifth starter is needed just a few days after the season begins. Plus, several spots on the 40-man will need to be cleared in order to fit multiple non-roster invites onto the active roster.

As Getz said after trading Dylan Cease, there’s an “obsession” among plenty when it comes to the Opening Day roster, but things have a tendency to change pretty quick. We’ll see how it all plays out, perhaps no earlier than Thursday morning.

‘Til next time,

Vinnie Duber
CHGO White Sox beat writer

PS — I hope you’ve enjoyed receiving CHGO White Sox Weekly this spring. A friendly reminder that many issues of this newsletter will be Diehard exclusives now that the regular season is here . Sign up now to ensure they’ll keep coming plus get access to our 2024 CHGO White Sox season guide and your choice of a CHGO t-shirt, including the new White Sox-themed ones that will be dropping later today!

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