Lucas Giolito is ready to deal, deal or no deal

With all due respect to Mike Wright, Jacob Lindren, Kade McClure, Bennett Sousa, Kyle Kubat, Danny Dopico, Alex McRae, Kodi Medeiros, Ryan Burr, Tayron Guerrero and Felix Paulino, the structural necessities of the White Sox pitching staff will finally emerge in Cactus League play this afternoon when Lucas Giolito takes the mound against the Texas Rangers.

(The game will be streamed on the White Sox’s website and social platforms. Here’s the entire broadcast and streaming schedule, if you hadn’t seen and saved it already.)

It’s fitting that Giolito will lead the way, and not just because he’s the presumptive Opening Day starter. By at least one projection system, he’s supposed to be the best starter in all of baseball. The White Sox maybe don’t need that kind of quality from Giolito, but a lot of their hopes rest on Giolito resembling something close to that.

Giolito is acquainted with massive expectations of a sort. He was one of baseball’s most-hyped prospects when the Nationals called him up in 2016. Mechanical issues robbed him of velocity and command and sent his stock plummeting, but after Cy Young finishes in each of the last two seasons, the latter of which featuring a no-hitter and a statement start in his first taste of the postseason, the hype is higher than ever.

Giolito told James Fegan that he’s comfortable with the burden, if only because he’s breaking it down to a much simpler goal of throwing 200 innings. If he throws 200 innings — especially during a season where workloads might be lessened after playing just 60 games in 2020 — everything else is going right for him. Within that goal are smaller imperatives, like conditioning to avoid the minor injuries that have cost him two weeks here and there, and trying to find his breaking balls earlier in starts.

Nothing about this is easy, because his job requires facing people who are tasked with making it hard. Nevertheless, Giolito makes it all sound doable, and stories like these are always easier to ingest when the player has already made and sustained drastic turnarounds, rather than somebody who is always turning corners into dead ends.

With Giolito’s staying power comes the concerns about whether the White Sox can or will lock him down to stick around past 2023, when he’s set to reach free agency. We’ve previously discussed that here, I’ve previously stated my belief that it’d cost the White Sox nine figures to do so, and nothing about Fegan’s story sways me from that.

“There haven’t really been discussions about an extension, which is fine,” Giolito said. “I think the organization knows that I value myself. I know kind of what I’m worth.”

Giolito’s exposure to the business side of baseball began at 17, when the status of his injured elbow became a negotiation point in the draft, and asserting his value became essential. He credits a close relationship with his agent, Ryan Hamill, for building out his understanding of the sport’s landscape. Giolito’s uncle, Robert Giolito, is one of the prominent labor attorneys in the country and represented the Screen Actors Guild in the SAG-AFTRA merger. He cited both as meaningful influences toward his belief in being an actively engaged member of the MLBPA.

“There’s no way that I wasn’t going to get into the union stuff, really caring about those kinds of issues where we’re at,” Giolito said. “I’ve seen some things over the last few years. I’ve learned a lot.”

During the #108Fest, I asked Rick Giolito, Lucas’ dad, whether it was true that Lucas signed with the Nationals only after they met his draft bonus demands 30 seconds before the deadline. Rick said it was 20 seconds.

Given this context — as well as the upcoming CBA negotiations and the Seattle Mariners’ role in inflaming passions — I’m not expecting swift progress on this front, even if Leury García and Aaron Bummer will tell you that the spring is a particularly fertile period for extensions.

I am expecting the uncertainty to make some White Sox fans uncomfortable because it can exploit the deep-seated abandonment issues that run through some portions of the base. I’d recommend fighting those feelings, because a Giolito extension is not a cure in and of itself. The White Sox signed Chris Sale to one of baseball’s best contracts in 2013, only for some fans to start panicking after 2015 that Sale would want to leave the Sox after 2019. Sure enough, the White Sox traded him after 2016.

The White Sox front office hasn’t helped, what with Rick Hahn insisting that other team-friendly extensions count as “spending the money.” It doesn’t, at least in a way that benefits the consumer. The extensions for and subsequent trades of Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton showed that such early-career commitments are closer to palliative care, at least until certain dynamics change.

Said dynamics can change. I’d rule out the White Sox spending money that makes them uncomfortable, because this was the time to do it, and they passed. However, we don’t know what the White Sox’s budget looks like after consecutive postseason appearances because the White Sox have never made consecutive postseasons in their 120-year-old history, so maybe the Sox will be in a better position to meet his number. Or, perhaps the White Sox’s fresh attempts at developing pitchers pays off, making Giolito’s excellence less necessary to retain, and there will be more urgent ways to direct those resources. There are lots of ways this can go.

There’s also the chance that nothing changes. That’s just not worth detailing, whether it’s unnecessary fearmongering, or just because we already know how to handle that. The Sale era was a lot of fun if you could isolate the excellence and enjoy it without worry over what may come, because we weren’t bereft of opportunities to dwell on the greater failure. Those lessons can be applied to Giolito at this juncture, except without the “greater failure” part. His excellence should have more company.

(Lucas Giolito portrait by Carl Skanberg)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

Articles: 3916
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
joewho112

I keep seeing comments about limiting innings after a short season. What is this logic based on?

Assuming pitchers were conditioning during the lockdown time, why isn’t the assumption that they are more ready to throw a lot of innings since they weren’t stressed last year? Basically the flip side of pitchers wearing down the season after a long playoff run.

I’m not saying the former is wrong. I just haven’t seen evidence that makes it more obvious than the latter.

HallofFrank

I’m not sure anyone really knows how the short season will effect pitcher usage, but the assumption that innings will decrease is reasonable based on typical expectations for pitchers. For instance, the expectation for a college/high school pitchers –> MiLB season or MiLB pitcher –> MLB season is that they can’t just increase their IP 50% or more from one season to the next, but rather that they should be eased into a bigger workload.

Now, quite clearly, those cases are very different from MLB pitchers who already are stretched out and just miss half a season or more. But, better safe than sorry, so teams will presumably slant towards underworking pitchers than overworking them in order to mitigate injury risk

Amar

For instance, the expectation for a college/high school pitchers –> MiLB season or MiLB pitcher –> MLB season is that they can’t just increase their IP 50% or more from one season to the next

If the concern is injury, the Verducci effect has been disproven.

Last edited 2 years ago by Amar
Trooper Galactus

The Verducci Effect has never really been accurate so much as somewhat predictive at best. I do think most teams will be hesitant to push young pitchers far past their innings from 2019, though, barring other factors beyond COVID.

asinwreck

$200 million is not a language Jerry Reinsdorf speaks. The only way Lucas Giolito is affiliated with the 2024 Chicago White Sox is if Jerry Reinsdorf is not.

knoxfire30

I don’t think Giolito needs the financial security so the “giving guaranteed millions” to save on the free agent years approach probably isn’t going to cut it. Im having a hard time coming up with what an extension may look like but id assume his next 2 arb years will be in the 12 mil then maybe 18 mil range…. so buying into his free agency years then probably costs 35 mil …. so say they gave him even a 6 year deal , 30 the first two years then 35 per over the next 4 (140) thats 6 years 170 and it feels light….

MrStealYoBase

DeGrom was $135M, Sale was $150M and Strasburgs first extension was $175M/6.

I think something in the $150-200M feels right.

MrStealYoBase

If they win a championship, I can see Jerry’s sentimentality overpowering his unwillingness to spend.

asinwreck

He underbid the Diamondbacks for Konerko after 2005…and Konerko took it.

knoxfire30

we need to win a championship to afford a championship level team is hilarious, but that’s basically jerry’s stance

dwjm3

Do you think they will win a championship? I personally do not.

They really needed to go all in on this year to the raise the likelihood of it happening and they chose not to.

Last edited 2 years ago by dwjm3
MrStealYoBase

MLB playoffs are chaos, closer to a random number generator than a true test of talent.

So the question is more like “can this team play at a championship level for a three week stretch?” and I think we’ve seen already that answer is yes. Of course, the likelihood of that stretch coinciding with October improves with more talent and depth, not to mention increasing the likelihood that you even get an invite to the dance to begin with.

All that to say I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a decent possibility if they make the playoffs.

Trooper Galactus

Their lineup is also stacked with free-swinging right handed hitters; something that has been exploited by opposing teams in playoffs in the past. Thankfully, I think they’re in a better position than the 2008 Cubs, who led the NL in runs but scored only six runs in a three game sweep at the hands of a Dodgers team running out a trio of RHP. This was in part because three of their righty mashers completely disappeared (Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Aramis Ramirez) and their two primary lefty bats went a combined 3-for-20 (Jim Edmonds and Kosuke Fukudome).

MrStealYoBase

I think this is a tad overblown. None of their regulars had a wRC+ lower than 90 against RHP and they had several above average bats last year. Eloy actually has significant reverse splits.

It just seems like they struggle so much because they go from essentially unbeatable against LHP (140 wRC+) to merely above average against RHP (105 wRC+)

As Cirensica

I predict Hahn will trade Giolito at some point during the Winter of 2022. I just don’t see the White Sox doling out a huge contract for a pitcher.

Trooper Galactus

Gonna be pretty hilarious when they trade Giolito and sign Dylan Bundy to replace him, thus fulfilling Beefloaf’s prophecy.

Eagle Bones

Completely off topic question. Does anyone here use the saved search feature on Savant? I’m trying to create a couple of queries over there that I can re-use and the “save search” button on the search page doesn’t seem to be clickable. Seems like I should have to create an account in order to do something like save searches, but I don’t even see that option anywhere. Anyone else ever run into this problem? Thanks in advance!

shaggy65

Hopefully the Sox rotation will include Cease, Kopech, Stiever, Crochet, and Thompson by 2024, with Dalquist, Kelly, and Norge Vera waiting in the wings, making a Giolito extension non-essential. Obviously they won’t all work out, but there are at least future options in the pipeline.

Last edited 2 years ago by shaggy65
Trooper Galactus

I REALLY want Crochet to be a starter, but I think we already used up our once-in-a-generation draft year lefty wunderkind in Chris Sale.

HallofFrank

Unless all of those guys reach like their 90% outcome, a Giolito looks pretty essential in that scenario.

lifelongjd

I believe the FO knows that a Giolito extension won’t come cheap and they don’t have a ton of leverage as he comes from a different background than let’s say Robert or even Sale. Part of the risk of developing good players is losing them in free agency, but the really good organizations replace them with internally developed players. Look no further than Cleveland for a prime example, especially pitching.
It would be a tough loss as Gio is literally the best performing and most consistent acquisition (so far I hope) during the rebuild. I hope Hahn finds a way to extend him, but also I hope he has a replacement(s) in the pipeline. I’m not holding my breath on either.

Trooper Galactus

As somebody who was a huge Buehrle fan, it SUCKED watching him pitch for other teams, and pitch well at that. There’s something to be said for keeping around somebody who can be a franchise mainstay, and Giolito seems like that type of guy (along with Anderson and Abreu).