Although Chris Getz bought in bulk with the return for Aaron Bummer, the five players the White Sox received from the Braves in the Thursday night trade don’t figure to offer a meaningful, big-picture transformation of the 26-man roster.
But in the first months of a new administration, change for change’s sake can be its own sort of immediate objective. The White Sox needed starting pitcher candidates and a good MLB middle-infield glove more than they needed an erratic reliever who made some of the bad luck he experienced. The 40-man roster looks different, there are more players competing for spots, and while none of their names should be written into any role with anything stronger than a No. 2 pencil, the state of the team is such that Bummer’s absence won’t be felt, no matter what kind of rebound lies in store.
Such a forgiving window doesn’t last very long. Getz made it sound like more will be on the way, but the novelty will wear off if and when Getz starts trading players who were the foundation for the second of the White Sox’s failed rebuilds, because Even Rick Hahn could make exciting trades for proven MLB players.
It also accentuates the dunderheadedness of Jerry Reinsdorf’s notion that handing the reins to Getz would somehow accelerate the process, when really he was just too lazy and isolated to look outside the organization. Getz seems to see the rot and decay, but 35th and Shields isn’t particularly a well-ventilated operation, so he’ll need all the luck in getting rid of it.
Getz spoke to reporters today about the trade, and while he isn’t any longer on specifics than the typical GM at this point in the year, a few players did get singled out. Eloy Jiménez hasn’t seemed long for the White Sox because Getz has emphasized defensive value, and Jiménez’s go-with-the-flow mien works a lot better when there’s sufficient energy elsewhere.
Sure enough, Getz fielded specific questions on Jiménez, and while Getz tried to emphasize that he wouldn’t be selling low, it sounds like selling could be a prominent part of the program.
“I made it very clear that the White Sox are willing to listen to ideas on any of our players,” Getz said. “When it comes to Eloy, we just had a visit with him down in the Dominican Republic. He is off and running with his offseason strength program. He looks very good. He looks motivated and determined. He needs to maintain that, but his lack of consistency was based mostly on missed time. Teams are interested in him. (A deal) just has to make sense for both sides.”
Related to the trade he just pulled off, the presence of Lopez gives the White Sox an identifiable, playable middle-infield option to cover the positions that Colson Montgomery could be slated for. I was a little concerned when Getz dodged eliminating Montgomery from the Opening Day mix earlier this month:
“I don’t want to have the expectation for Colson to think he’s going to be our Opening Day shortstop,” Chris Getz told reporters at last week’s general managers meetings in Phoenix. “But I don’t want to cap anything for him, either, because it’s important for him to stay motivated and be ready to go in spring training because who knows how 2024 unravels for him.”
But with Lopez aboard, Getz made it a little more clear that he’s not a premature Plan A like Andrew Vaughn and Oscar Colás were.
Speaking of Colás, he was going to play winter ball, but now he’s not, and we’ll see if it’s because he thinks Pedro Grifol isn’t his real dad:
Regarding the five-player haul that the White Sox received in return for Bummer, Keith Law and Eric Longhagen both provided their assessments of the prospect bundle. There’s general agreement that it’s more quantity than quality, but Jared Shuster seems like the guy with the biggest capability of determining how much mileage the Sox get out of his deal.
Lefty Jared Shuster was Atlanta’s first-round pick in 2020 out of the baseball factory of Wake Forest, a command and control lefty with solid secondaries, and had success all the way up through Double A in 2022. He struggled in Triple A and the majors last year, both with command and with hitters getting too much of his fringy four-seamer, which is 90-92 and flat with a little run. His slider is a 55, and the changeup has been that good in the past, although he missed with it more often in the majors than he had in the minors and gave up more hard contact even though the pitch missed some bats. He also walked way too many right-handed batters at both levels, which I think was a case of trying to avoid hard contact on the four-seamer. There’s still back-end potential here but he’s a full grade of command away from it.
And here’s Longenhagen:
There was a brief period a few years ago when Shuster was throwing significantly harder than he has of late, likely due to extra rest and lighter workload created by the pandemic shutdown in his draft year. For the last several seasons, he has been a changeup- and command-oriented lefty with well-below-average fastball velocity. Perhaps because he’s had to nibble more with his vulnerable fastball as he’s climbed to Triple-A and MLB, his walk rate rose to a concerning 12% in 2023, much higher than his career norm; his strikeout rate also dropped to a career low. His slider usage has surpassed his changeup usage not because it’s become his best pitch, but because you need a non-fastball way to get ahead of hitters when you’re sitting 91 mph. Lefties with changeups as good as Shuster’s screwball-style cambio and command on the level that he has historically shown tend to have long, productive MLB careers, and I think it’s fair to hope for a bounceback.
The other interesting element Shuster might bring is a sort of institutional knowledge that the White Sox may yet lack. Wake Forest, his alma mater, is among the most advanced collegiate programs when it comes to using data and technology to help develop pitchers; the Braves also appear competent in this regard. Perhaps he will bring some of that with him in a way that has a long-term impact on Chicago’s implementation of these concepts, which may be held up due to a lack of willingness to invest in them at the ownership level rather than a lack of understanding in the front office.
That latter paragraph sounds ridiculous, but players making the league minimum while taking on light front office duty is Reinsdorf’s American Dream.
On a more encouraging note, while Soroka’s MLB career is a little out of Longenhagen’s direct purview, I thought this sentiment was worth relaying:
The White Sox, however, have a much longer, lower-stakes runway to find out if he can be healthy and effective once again. Even if he can’t, his reputation as a hyper-competitive badass (I guarantee Soroka knows Mike Nikorak’s career stats) might help the new Sox regime build a more competitive clubhouse culture as the team navigates a few seasons of rebuild and transition.
Spring training competition is usually a euphemistic way to learn that none of the guys involved may be a solution, but with the White Sox phasing out most of their guaranteed contracts, I am curious to see whether the on-field product looks any different when the motivation is more easily identifiable.
While it would’ve been funny for the White Sox to non-tender Soroka or Lopez immediately after acquiring them, the Sox offered contracts to them and the rest of their arbitration-eligible players (Trayce Thompson and Clint Frazier no longer qualify, as they declared minor-league free agency after the Sox outrighted them).
That also includes Matt Foster, who signed a $750,000 contract. His status was the only doubtful one, as he was a medium-leverage-at-best reliever even before his Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in April, so he should be back in action at some point during the first half of the season.