What previous rental markets suggest for White Sox and Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Inflation dropped to 3 percent in June, and rent accounted for 70 percent of that inflation. If the White Sox could count on the MLB trade market following national economic trends, they’d be in pretty good shape with Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. Alas, the recent history of trades involving impending free agent pitchers hasn’t been all that impressive.

Oddly enough, the greatest source of discomfort is also the greatest source of solace, in that not many teams involved in this exercise have experienced the 2023 White Sox’s sharply declining fortunes.

Normally, the rental pitchers are categorically so, acquired on one-year contracts the winter before with the hopes of flipping them at the deadline. The most prominent pitchers in a given July — Luis Castillo, José Berríos, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, etc. — usually have another year of control to follow, because their teams had the luxury of reading the unfavorable forecast. These White Sox were knocked around by rogue waves in April, and have been listing ever since.

With that in mind, most of the following trades are going to be closer to Lynn than Giolito on the can-this-guy-start-a-postseason-game-for-us spectrum.

2022 Trade Deadline

Phillies acquire RHP Noah Syndergaard from Angels for OF Mickey Moniak and OF Jadiel Sánchez

Syndergaard had pitched reasonably well on a one-year deal for the Angels (3.83 ERA, 3.95 FIP), even if his velocity was nowhere near his peak with the Mets. The Angels sent him to the Phillies for Moniak, a former first-overall pick who hit .129/.214/.172 over 105 plate appearances across various auditions with the Phillies. He flailed away in his first cup of coffee with the Angels, too, but he’s finally experiencing his first success in the majors this year (.326/.358/.632 over 151 PA) despite problematic plate discipline (four walks, 47 strikeouts). Sánchez looks like a throw-in.

Cardinals acquire LHP José Quintana and RHP Chris Stratton from Pirates for RHP Johan Oviedo and 3B Malcom Nuñez

Quintana Plinko’d his way down the hierarchy of MLB teams before reaching the Last Chance Saloon known as the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation. He seized the opportunity to pitch his way into a midseason trade with the Cardinals (Stratton was included, a veteran reliever having a pedestrian year). The Pirates received Oviedo, a swingman whose stuff had a chance of translating into starting success, and Malcom Nuñez, a bat-first corner infielder who ranked in the second 10 of Cardinals prospects. Oviedo’s had some moments (the White Sox saw one of them in April), but Nuñez is now a first baseman, making the bat a little harder to dream on alone.

2021 Trade Deadline

Dodgers acquire RHP Max Scherzer and SS Trea Turner from Nationals for C Keibert Ruiz, RHP Josiah Gray, RHP Gerardo Carrillo and OF Donovan Casey

The Nationals received the Dodgers’ top two prospects and a couple of mid-range prospects for the market’s two best rental players. Can you halve the package and say each player was worth one top prospect, and one lesser minor leaguer? It’s probably a starting point to distilling Scherzer’s worth, if nothing else.

Cardinals acquire LHP Jon Lester from Nationals for OF Lane Thomas

St. Louis had four pitchers on the shelf, so even an end-of-the-line Lester had some appeal. It cost them Thomas, a 25-year-old outfielder who had some potential as a right-handed platoon outfielder. He’s turned into a bright spot for the Nationals, hitting .299/.348/.490 this year.

Mariners acquire LHP Tyler Anderson from Pirates for C Carter Bins and RHP Joaquin Tejada

Anderson blazed the trail for Quintana the year before as a back-of-the-rotation lefty getting a chance to throw as many innings as possible for the Pirates. He parlayed it into a midseason deal to the Mariners. The Pirates received a couple of prospects outside the MLB.com top 30. Bins was seen as the better of the two, and he has a chance to reach the majors if he can put a dent in his 36-percent strikeout rate, because he’s still an actual catcher.

Mets acquire LHP Rich Hill from Rays for RHP Tommy Hunter and C Matt Dyer

The Rays thought they might’ve reached the end of Hill’s utility as a starter during a midseason fade while the Mets needed anybody, so they basically swapped salaries between Hill and Hunter. Dyer was an interesting project when he was a catcher, but he’s since moved off the position.

2020 Trade Deadline

Blue Jays acquired LHP Robbie Ray from Diamondbacks for LHP Travis Bergen and cash

When the Blue Jays acquired Ray, he didn’t look anything close to the guy who ended up winning the Cy Young for them a year later. He wore a 7.84 ERA with the Diamondbacks after walking 31 guys in 31 innings. It was mostly a salary dump, with the lefty reliever Bergen heading the other way. He never pitched for Arizona.

Blue Jays acquire RP Taijuan Walker from Mariners for PTBNL or cash

Walker had spent the previous two seasons struggling with both Tommy John surgery and a knee operation, but he finally proved himself healthy enough over five starts of the shortened 2020 season to make himself appealing to the Blue Jays. The player was later named outfielder Alberto Rodriguez, an undersized bat-first DSL prospect who now ranks in the late teens on Mariners system rankings because he’s moved to right field.

Takeaways

The 2021 Nationals are probably the closest thing to the White Sox, in the sense that they went from 93 wins to 97 losses over just two seasons. The Nationals just happened to win the World Series in that 93-win season, while the White Sox were bounced out of the ALDS in theirs

Giolito isn’t quite Scherzer, but he’s superior to every other pitcher on this list when combining current-year performance, track record and age. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask for a top-100 prospect, at least in a vacuum. The only question is how many other postseason-grade starters will join him on the block, and whether that could create enough supply to lower demand.

Lynn, on the other hand, fits a little too well in this group, which is one of the reasons the White Sox are in the shape that they’re in. The odds of a productive return aren’t encouraging — the trades seem to involve either down-market prospects or former prospects who lost their sheen — but the potential for a Lester-for-Thomas pleasant surprise means it’s still worth trying. Just like those Nationals, the White Sox’s greatest luxury remaining is the kind of playing time they can offer to anybody with a major-league skill. It didn’t work with Clint Frazier, but that only highlights the need to generate more options.

Author

  • 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.

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a-t

Giolito is not quite Scherzer, but he is considerably cheaper than Scherzer, with approximately 1/3 the salary. This does matter bc it makes him noticeably more attractive to budget-conscious teams like the Reds or Orioles… but this year, very unusually, that includes the Dodgers, who are trying to skate juuuust under the lux tax line. So it’s possible his value might not be too different.

Last edited 11 months ago by a-t
PauliePaulie

Sox will regret not trading Cease before the deadline.

Right Size Wrong Shape

It could still happen. Ask Houston for the moon and see what happens.

Augusto Barojas

I did not realize he was only under contract through 2025, not 2026. That’s just two more years after this one. Exceedingly unlikely they will be good before he is gone. His max value might be now, possibly.

His agent is Boras, so the possibility of an extension is literally zero. Robert has 2 more years than Cease, he is the only one on the roster where it makes sense to make him untouchable. It’s far from a given that Cease ever has a year like 2022 again. Makes sense to listen to offers at least.

Last edited 11 months ago by Augusto Barojas
Right Size Wrong Shape

How about to Houston for Luis Garcia and Korey Lee?

Augusto Barojas

Garcia only has one more year under contract than Cease, and Lee is like the Astros 5th best prospect. Garcia has only thrown 27 innings this year so I assume he’s been hurt a lot too. Not the kind of trade package I would hope for.

Astros farm system isn’t good, I’d look to teams with better prospects like the Dodgers, Rangers, or Rays. I’d hope for some team’s top 3 prospects or something for Cease. Gio is just a rental, but Cease should be worth a LOT.

I doubt they do anything with him if they say they are not looking to deal him. It would make sense to listen to offers, they probably aren’t smart enough to think that far ahead or accept that this team will be garbage for the rest of Cease’s time here.

Last edited 11 months ago by Augusto Barojas
Right Size Wrong Shape

Yeah, I thought Garcia had more years on his deal.

Augusto Barojas

I thought Cease had more years on his deal until I checked as well. They should be looking to move him in the next year while he isn’t just a 1 year rental.

Rambler303

I agree with you, the likelihood of him being around when/if this team is competitive again, plus the fact that he is going to command a salary Jerry has never paid before, prevailing wisdom says to trade him while he is cheap and controllable for a much as you can get.

But this is the Sox and they continue to do stupid things