Batman and Robin, Han and Chewie, Butch and Sundance and…Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija. Do those last two names belong?

The Chicago White Sox certainly hope so.

When the White Sox acquired Samardzija from the Oakland A’s for a package of players on Dec. 9, they weren’t just getting one of the top available right-handed starters; they were getting one half of an awesome twosome. Or so the plan goes.

Sale is arguably the best left-hander in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw (though Madison Bumgarner might have something to say about that), and the Sox’s next-best starter, Jose Quintana, is also a southpaw.

So the Chicago White Sox, which is engaged in a full-blown reload after limping to a fourth-place finish last season, went searching for balance.

They found it in Samardzija, who posted a 2.99 ERA and 1.065 WHIP with 202 strikeouts in 219.2 innings for the A’s and Chicago Cubs last season and made his first All-Star team.

Put those numbers next to Sale’s 2014 line—2.17 ERA, 0.966 WHIP, 208 SO, 174 IP—and you’ve got the makings of a dominant one-two punch.

Here’s what Samardzija had to say after his move back to the Windy City became official, per

I think we’re going to be the most competitive rotation in the league, and I mean that internally. The best starting rotations are made when there’s three or four guys that want to be the best and they want to go out there and clinch that three-game series or win that Sunday sweep game.

In addition to landing Samardzija, the White Sox inked former New York Yankees closer David Robertson to a four-year, $46 million deal.

And they’ve signed first baseman/DH Adam LaRoche (two years, $25 million) and outfielder Melky Cabrera (three years, $42 million), giving Cuban slugger and reigning American League Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu needed protection.

“The only message we want to send at the end of the day is when our roster is complete, that people can dream again,” executive vice president Kenny Williams told‘s Dan Hayes.

If the dream is a return to the top of the AL Central—which ESPN Insider‘s Buster Olney (subscription required) thinks may be “baseball’s best”much of the burden will fall on the talented shoulders of Sale and Samardzija.

That’s simply the reality in this pitching-rich age; the team with the most aces usually takes the pot.

After throwing out of the bullpen in 2010 and 2011, Sale slid into a starting role in 2012 and never looked back. Since joining the rotation, the 25-year-old has made three straight All-Star teams and watched his strikeouts per nine innings rise from 9 to 9.5 to an AL-leading 10.8.

Samardzija, who turns 30 in January, also began his big league career in the pen before cracking the Cubs’ rotation in 2012. He eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the first time in 2013 and truly broke out last year when he put up career bests in virtually every statistical category.

There are more similarities between the two. Both are tall (Samardzija is listed at 6’5″, Sale at 6’6″), and both feature fastballs that top out in the high 90s complemented by an array of secondary pitches, including plus sliders. 

Whether all that ability translates into a winning season on the South Side is an open question. Here’s another one: Will Samardzija stick around?

Unless Chicago locks him up, the right-hander will become a free-agent next winter, joining another ridiculously rich pitching class. 

General manager Rick Hahn acknowledged the possibility that Samardzija could be a one-year rental shortly after the trade, telling The New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner, “It might be a little bit of a gamble, but we are optimistic we might be able to extend his stay.”

For now, weary White Sox fans who haven’t tasted the postseason since 2008 are simply hoping Samardzija and Sale can deliver in 2015and join the ranks of history’s dynamic duos.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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