Tony La Russa, having already used Aaron Bummer, Michael Kopech and Liam Hendriks, didn’t have a best idea for the 10th inning on Wednesday night. He went with Ryan Burr, who entered the game having allowed 16 baserunners over 6⅔ innings in July, ended up giving up a walk-off single on an 0-2 pitch with two outs.
But there wasn’t a clearly better option. Garrett Crochet had pitched the 10th inning of three games and had three losses to show for it. Codi Heuer had thrown nine scoreless outings out of 10 this month, but that only lowered his ERA to 5.12, and his walk rate is on the rise. Reynaldo López would’ve been pitching on consecutive days, and he’s also Reynaldo López.
Today’s trade attempts to alleviate that issue and provide La Russa a clear option behind his best arms. The White Sox acquired Ryan Tepera from the Chicago Cubs for 2020 fifth-round pick Bailey Horn.
Tepera rolls across town with a 2.91 ERA over 43⅓ innings over 43 appearances. He’s allowed just 22 hits and 12 walks while striking out 50. The performance is legit according to Baseball Savant, as his .173 XBA, .285 XSLG and .213 XwOBA are all in the top 10 percent of the league.
His cutter — classified as a slider this year by Statcast — leads the way, as it’s turned into a major swing-and-miss pitch over his time with the Cubs. He briefly stumbled at the end of June, around the time the league started cracking down on foreign substances. However, it never showed up in his spin rate, and he’s thrown six scoreless outings in July, allowing just three singles against nine strikeouts, and stranding all six inherited runners.
Tepera gets chases, he gets whiffs, and the contact he does allow is on the quiet side. That’s about all you can ask from a deadline relief acquisition, with the understanding that performances can be volatile regardless of credentials. He’s a free agent at the end of the year.
The White Sox are sending Horn across town, at probably the nadir of his value. The fifth-round pick (who received the third-highest bonus of the class) posted a 13.09 ERA with Winston-Salem issuing 11 walks on top of 12 hits over 11 innings with the Dash. He was better with Kannapolis beforehand, and a 189 ERA after one start in High-A might’ve rattled him. He’ll get a chance to reset his numbers.
Combine it with the Cesar Hernandez trade that sent Konnor Pilkington to Cleveland, and the White Sox have dealt away two college lefties signed out of the SEC on six-figure bonuses from a three-year period. 2021 third-round pick Sean Burke will be able to replace one of them in terms of depth, although he went to Maryland.
(Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)