Considering the bullpen looked like the one area the White Sox would actively seek proven upgrades this winter, it’s pretty easy to explain Rick Hahn’s motivations for wedging his way into Thursday’s deal with the White Sox and Dodgers.
Here’s how the bullpen picture changed after acquiring Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan and $3 million for Jake Peter, in order of trustworthiness:
The White Sox received $1 million from the Royals, which takes care of Soria’s buyout for 2019. They also received $2 million from the Dodgers, which could take care of Avilan’s entire salary, as MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to make $2.3 million in his second arbitration year.
Soria was a whipping boy for Royals fans due to a homer-heavy 2016, but he stabilized last year by going to his changeup nearly one-third of the time. He’s probably a mid-leverage guy from here on out in most bullpens, but Soria could inflict some pain on his former fans with a renaissance, which is fun to think about. Avilan throws his changeup more often than his fastball, which fits with the White Sox’ m.o. of letting relievers throw their secondary pitch as their primary offering.
Simple accounting says the White Sox paid $9 million or so to get two MLB relievers. That’s better than the going rate in free agency, especially if the White Sox would’ve had to pay extra to lure relievers who know they might be dealt. If Soria and/or Avilan have a great half-season, nothing’s stopping the White Sox from flipping them the way they did several relievers last summer.
All in all, the Sox made good use of Jake Peter, the lone White Sox prospect involved in the deal, especially if you expected the Sox to lose him in the Rule 5 draft. Hahn said they liked Peter, but Yoan Moncada makes other second basemen expendable.
“Jake does have some versatility and is a quality baseball player but with that versatility, potentially becomes a valuable option for a big league roster in the future. Given that we have similar such players at the big league level and coming along behind Jake, it made it a little easier to part with someone we weren’t by any stretch looking to move, but was important to this deal.”
Peter was previously lost in the shuffle, but his path to the roster became a little more clear over the course of the year. Tyler Saladino slugged .229 last year while battling back problems and the White Sox cut Alen Hanson. If Yolmer Sanchez becomes the everyday third baseman, it’s easy to see another utility player being necessary, and I’d call Peter more interesting than Saladino. That doesn’t say as much as it used to, and similar players tend to shake loose from other organizations (see Hanson). Ryan Cordell can supposedly play third, too, if his back allows him to play at all.
If this goes the way it’s supposed to, the White Sox traded one superfluous middle-infield prospect to protect multiple relief prospects.
Avilan keeps the lefties in line. Aaron Bummer handled an aggressive series of promotions as well as anybody could expect for a 19th-round pick, but he could use more than five innings in Triple-A. Jace Fry’s career is off to a historically awful start, but the White Sox called him up because they were going to protect him anyway. He since responded with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. Perhaps the White Sox will look to one of them to give Renteria a second lefty, but Farquhar’s changeup makes him a decent situational option among the righties.
Soria does the same down the line with guys like Thyago Vieira and maybe Zack Burdi (their availabilities might not overlap). That responsibility is just as much on Nate Jones, who missed most of 2017 with ulnar nerve repositioning surgery. Hahn expects Jones to be healthy, and such hope isn’t unfounded. That procedure is less critical than the two others he’s had. Then again, he’s had three surgeries, so who’s to say a fourth isn’t around the corner?
As the final “???” shows in the table above, the White Sox still have room to add an arm or two, and Hahn said additional depth remains a priority. That could mean another arm to come in a specific move, but I’m guessing the bulk of it will come when we look at the club’s non-roster spring training invitees. That’s how Swarzak joined the club last year.
I’m more interested in the Royals’ immediate plans. Cutting Soria’s $9 million salary could be part of an overall goal to lower payroll by shedding unnecessary veterans, but if there’s any truth to the Eric Hosmer rumors, such a trade also accommodates them toward that end.