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Don’t sleep on the baseball offseason.
Or should I say, don’t sleep during the baseball offseason.
Chris Getz’s mission to remake the White Sox started with a late-night surprise Thursday, when the first-year general manager dealt bullpen mainstay Aaron Bummer to the Braves for five players.
Getz getting five guys for Bummer strikes as a lot, even though the baseball world clearly values the left-hander more than White Sox fans might have after a rough 2023 campaign that saw him post a gruesome 6.79 ERA. But even after giving up career highs in runs (45) and walks (36), he still has obvious value because of his stuff, his ability to face both left- and right-handed hitters and his tendency to keep the ball on the ground. Plus, he’s under club control for another three seasons.
Though specifically responding to a question about Dylan Cease, Getz said during the GM meetings last week in Arizona that any trade of a pitcher like the team’s ace would have to address the team’s need in the starting rotation. Bummer is a reliever, of course, but this deal accomplished the goal of addressing the need on the starting staff.
The name that jumps out in the return package is former NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Mike Soroka, who dazzled in 2019 before an Achilles injury kept him out of major league action in both 2021 and 2022. He spent most of the 2023 season at Triple-A, though he made six starts for the big league club, posting a 6.40 ERA in major league action.
Getz landed another possible addition to the big league rotation in Jared Shuster. He made more starts, 11, for the major league Braves than Soroka did in 2023, though his success was limited, with a 5.81 ERA in those games.
Those two might not come close to challenging Cease for the top spot on the starting staff — should the mustachioed righty stick around, that is — but the White Sox didn’t have much to speak of, in terms of major league caliber starters, past Cease and Michael Kopech, the latter of which carries plenty of questions about his future into 2024.
Soroka and Shuster instantly become part of the mix, along with guys like Jesse Scholtens and Touki Toussaint, creating some competition and more options for Getz, new senior adviser to pitching Brian Bannister and pitching coach Ethan Katz. And let’s not forget that this is merely the first move by Getz, with a whole lot of offseason left to add to that group.
The White Sox, of course, also have two big holes on the infield after declining the option on Tim Anderson’s contract for the 2024 season. That’s where two others acquired in this trade, Nicky Lopez and Braden Shewmake, come in.
Lopez is well known to White Sox fans, a longtime Royal who hit .248 in five seasons in Kansas City. He was traded to the Braves at this summer’s trade deadline and hit .277 in 25 games with them. He brings big league experience on the infield, as well as experience playing for current White Sox skipper and former Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol. Lopez has played about as many games at shortstop as he has at second base in his career. It remains to be seen, certainly depending on what the rest of Getz’s offseason work looks like, whether Lopez will be suiting up for his hometown team — he’s a local product, a Naperville native — as an everyday guy at one of those positions or as a backup infielder.
Shewmake, meanwhile, was rated as the No. 15 prospect in the Braves’ system prior to Thursday’s trade. The lefty-hitting shortstop was a first-round pick in 2019, and he made his big league debut last season, appearing in two games for the Braves. He played 122 games at Triple-A, hitting .234 with 16 homers.
Getz landed one more player, Riley Gowens, in the deal. Gowens, like Lopez, is a local product. The Libertyville native was drafted out of the University of Illinois last summer and played at the Rookie- and A-ball levels before the end of the minor league season.
The players acquired in this trade might not be the sparkliest group, as those ERAs and batting averages might reveal, but it’s a large number of players to bring into the organization and ones who could have relatively instant impact at the major league level, despite how the 104-win Braves might have sparingly used them in 2023.
But Getz has addressed the starting-rotation and middle-infield needs with this trade. Perhaps not completely, but it’s a heck of a start when all it cost was one reliever. That said, there’s now an even greater need at the back end of the White Sox’ bullpen, with Bummer one of the only — perhaps the only — established arm back there.
Still, quite a first step on Getz’s path to remaking the organization.
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