Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López are gone. The White Sox traded the pair of pitchers to the Angels in the wake of Wednesday’s miserable 10-7 loss to the Cubs.
Here’s what we don’t know:
The White Sox have yet to declare any sort of franchise direction as what’s expected to be a flurry of moves before Tuesday’s trade deadline started with the Wednesday night swap.
That Giolito and López are both slated to hit free agency at the conclusion of the season means this looks like a relatively typical deadline move, the Angels picking up a pair of rentals as they look to squeeze every last drop out of Shohei Ohtani before he goes the same way as Giolito and López and hits the open market.
Good for the Angels. What’s it mean for the White Sox, though?
Receiving highly rated catching prospect Edgar Quero in return, along with pitching prospect Ky Bush, the farm system just got better, the top of it, at least. Quero is rated by MLB.com as the No. 65 prospect in the game. Bush ranked right behind him on the Angels’ organizational list, at No. 3 there, if outside the league-wide top 100.
With old guys out and young guys in, is this the start of another rebuilding project on the South Side?
“Oh, geez,” Rick Hahn said during a late-night media session, considering the question premature. “Over the course of the next week or so, we are going to make the moves that make sense and put us in the best position going forward. In terms of declaring titles or where we are at as an organization going forward, there will be plenty of time for that.
“I think it makes prudent business and strategic sense to add future assets for those becoming free agents.”
In a way, he’s right. Indeed, this is not the type of deal that launches a full-scale rebuild, not like the trade that brought Giolito and López here in the first place, when Adam Eaton was dealt after the 2016 season and those two arms joined a rapidly growing number of top-flight prospects who were supposed to power the next set of glory days at 35th and Shields.
But that those glory days haven’t come, that the White Sox are a team 21 games below .500 dealing away those one-time future franchise cornerstones for prospects not quite eight years later makes the question extraordinarily valid.
While there will be tons of questions about what sorts of trades might manifest next, the only question that matters is what direction Hahn & Co. are steering this franchise. This move doesn’t answer that question, perhaps. But an answer needs to come, and it seems to be one Hahn will only be willing to give once the dust settles on deadline day.
“I’m certainly not going to lie,” Hahn said, “the idea where we’re at this point where guys like Giolito and López who we acquired back in ‘16 when we kicked off the rebuild in earnest are logically the guys that make sense to move, given their contract status, there’s an element of real deep disappointment that we’re at this point right now, that there wasn’t more postseason victories along the way as part of their tenure with the White Sox.
“But in terms of that, frankly, we have a job to do right now. I’ll have time come Aug. 2 to have a drink and a cigar. If I want to wallow in disappointment, I’ll do it then. But now is not the time. Now is the time to continue to improve the future of this organization, and I think we did that tonight.”
It’s true, all of this remains practically unthinkable, that a team carefully reconstructed for long-term success is sitting near baseball’s basement more than halfway through what was supposed to be a year in which it contended for a World Series. Instead of adding to an extremely talented group, though, Hahn is tasked with subtracted from an extremely disappointing one, and Giolito — the pitcher who led the White Sox to one of the just two playoff wins they had since the start of the rebuild — is the headlining departure.
Giolito was, per all the pre-deadline talk, one of the biggest trade candidates in baseball, his bounce-back year setting him up as a hot commodity in a market thin on sellers and thinner on those selling impact starting pitching. He’s swapped out — along with López, who has been quietly great in his relief role since exiting the closer’s spot earlier this season — for a couple Double-A players with bright futures, the same thing they were back in 2016.
So while we wait for Hahn to do more and bring word to the public about the franchise’s looming direction, we can only speculate whether the White Sox aim to construct a contender for 2024 out of the ashes of the 2023 group or whether longer-term planning is in the offing.
Quero is only 20 years old, perhaps not the immediate solution to the team’s catching problem at the major league level. Yasmani Grandal’s contract runs out at the end of the season, and Seby Zavala, for all the compliments he’s earned from White Sox pitchers, is batting around .150. Bush is just as far from the big leagues as Quero, perhaps not making him a fill for what could be at least three holes in the White Sox’ rotation heading into this offseason.
Hahn made those points Wednesday, while also throwing in that the White Sox see both players as having the ability to contribute next season.
“It’s certainly a long-term positioning on both these guys,” Hahn said. “Quero is 20. He’s the third or so youngest player in the Southern League. So to say he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster in ‘24 is a tick aggressive. Both he and Bush have the ability to contribute next year, we believe, but we’re certainly not going to rush their development. They’ll declare their own pace.
“Catcher development can be a little quirky. There can be fits and starts. Sometimes the offense is ahead of the defense, or vice versa, and you’ve got to wait for those things to even out. So far — he’s an extremely young player at a high level, an advanced level — he’s performed very well, and the defense continues to make positive strides to match where he was offensively when he was in A-ball.
“Very optimistic about the development path for both these players but not quite ready to put a timeline on them.”
And so, too, the timeline for the state of the team remains vague, or at least not declared by club brass. Frustrated fans can look around the diamond at one underachieving or consistently hurt player after another and make their own conclusions about the likelihood of contention in 2024. But as for whether the front office plans to field a team capable of grabbing a division crown or plans to mimic the intent of some of the rebuilding era’s lowest points, that remains to be seen.
There are still ample trade candidates on the roster, including the guy who started Wednesday night’s disaster, Lance Lynn. His name was bandied about in Twitter rumors all day leading up to him growing his league-worst ERA to a gargantuan 6.47 by giving up seven runs in 4.2 innings. Whether that had any impact on the reported interest shown by the Rays and Dodgers? We’ll find out.
Aaron Bummer and Joe Kelly were also talked about by those national-reporter types who do all the talking at this time of year. Kelly contributed to Wednesday’s fiasco, completing the White Sox’ blowing of a five-run lead by walking in back-to-back runs in the fifth inning.
Are all those arms and more heading out of town next? Will the White Sox be launching a new long-term rebuild? Will they aim to build a contender for next season?
Stay tuned. The answers are still to come.
“We’re looking to brighten the future of this club, and we’re not going to force a timeline in terms of the targets,” Hahn said. “We’re going to get as much talent and as high-caliber talent as possible. Talent that’s closer to contributing, certainly, is more appealing than talent that’s farther away. But just about every club’s going to feel that same way, so that’s nothing too unique.”
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