White Sox ace Chris Sale is a strikeout machine. After fanning 15 batters against the Cubs last Sunday, the southpaw struck out 14 batters over seven innings last night as part of an 11-4 win over the Mariners.
Sale held the Mariners scoreless over the first six innings before giving up a three-run homer to Mark Trumbo in the seventh. It was the lone blemish in another dominating outing. He allowed just four hits and one walk while amassing 22 swinging strikes.
Sale now has 12 double-digit strikeout games in his 24 starts this season. He leads the majors with 222 strikeouts over 164 1/3 innings. He projects to get around eight more starts this season, so he still has a chance at 300 strikeouts. No pitcher has reached 300 strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson (334) and Curt Schilling (316) each got there in 2002 while pitching for the Diamondbacks.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.