The White Sox have sent lefty reliever Aaron Bummer to Atlanta for Five Guys, starting what I hope will be the process of selling off pretty much everyone. This is our first big transaction of the offseason.
Bummer, a reliable left-handed reliever, is acquired by Atlanta. He had a rough year in 2023 as a major leaguer because of an uptick in his walk rate (which is his fault) and a rise in his BABIP (which seems to be unluck). He is a good full-inning hitter who could likely handle high-leverage work if the walks start to decline again since he has always minimized strong contact and shown his ability to get right-handers out. Bummer provides Atlanta a second lefty behind A.J. Minter to start the season, and plenty of flexibility if and when Matzek returns to the majors. Tyler Matzek is currently recovering from surgery on his Tommy John sustained in late 2022.
The White Sox chose quantity over quality, which makes some sense considering the state of their system, but the ratio of quantity to quality also highlights how awful the system appears to be — the White Sox had enough room on their 40-man roster for all five of these players, many of whom were likely non-tenders or non-selections for Atlanta and probably for a number of other teams as well.
Quickstop Known to White Sox General Manager Chris Getz from their time together in Kansas City, Nicky Lopez is the most well-known person involved in the trade. With a career slugging percentage of.319, which may even be overstated, and only six home runs in 1,901 plate appearances, Lopez is essentially a CR2032 battery that can play great defense at shortstop or second base. The White Sox’s acquisition of Nick Madrigal, a superior fielder, is somewhat ironic, but Lopez at least adds some defensive value, and they had no one worth playing in their middle infield anyway.
Due to two rips in his Achilles tendon, Michael Soroka was sidelined for almost all of 2022 and 2021. In addition, he finished his 2023 season on the disabled list due to inflammation in his shoulder, which also kept him on the list for 2018 and 2019. The good news for the White Sox is that he returned to his previous velocity in 2023 when he pitched, and even though he used different pitches at Triple A, he was still pretty productive. Although he was a sinker/slider man prior to 2021, he focused more on the four-seamer this year, which reduced his groundball percentage to about 44% from 51% in 2019, his lone big league season.
The White Sox may be expecting for three or four healthy months from him, maybe with improved outcomes by moving the sinker back up in his pitch hierarchy, in order to move him in July, since he has one year left before he becomes a free agent.
Left-handed Out of Wake Forest’s baseball factory, Jared Shuster was selected by Atlanta in the first round of the 2020 draft. A command and control lefty with strong secondary offerings, Shuster succeeded all the way to Double A in 2022. His fringy four-seamer, which is flat and goes 90–92 mph with a little run, was too much for batters to handle, and he battled both with command and with that in Triple A and the majors last season. His changeup has been very excellent in the past, but he missed more bats in the majors than in the minors and gave up more hard contact even if the pitch missed some.
His slider is rated a 55 (in the 20–80 scouting scale). At both levels, he also walked far too many right-handed hitters, which I believe was an attempt to avoid making heavy contact with the four-seamer. Back-end potential is still there, but he’s a full grade of command away from it.
Infielder Braden Shewmake, Atlanta’s second-round selection in 2019, looked like he could stick at shortstop but also hit enough for any infield position. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit since the pandemic, posting a mediocre line of.237/.299/.407 in 2023 while playing as a Triple-A repeater. I can see the attraction as he is capable of handling shortstop in the majors and makes contact (19.3% strikeout rate at Triple A), particularly if the White Sox believe they can push him to stronger contact. The odds are long, however, since he is about to be 26 soon.
In July of this year, Atlanta selected Riley Gowens, a 23-year-old redshirt junior from Illinois, in the ninth round of the draft. With a number of 45s in his toolbox, he is a strike-thrower who delivers hits cleanly but lacks great arm speed. Unless anything major changes with any of his stuff, he’s definitely an org pitcher.
In exchange for catching prospect Kody Huff, the Rockies received right-hander Cal Quantrill, who had been designated for assignment by Cleveland. With his commanding style and low strikeout percentage, Quantrill doesn’t seem like a good match in Colorado, where balls in play are valued more and the Rockies’ defense is currently mediocre. While I recognize that innings must be added, I’m concerned that Quantrill may either start to give up too many hits or develop a serious home run tendency, which would prevent the Rockies from getting the size they need. Still, he would have been a perfect match for the Padres.
Huff, a high baseball IQ player and the son of Diamondbacks scout Tim Huff, was selected by the Rockies in the seventh round of the 2022 draft out of Stanford. Cleveland loves contact more than any other club, and Huff lacks much power. As a 22-year-old in Low-A Fresno last season, Huff hit.262/.357/.374, a decent park for power. Given that Drew Butera had a 12-year career with a comparable skill level, I believe he can be a backup in the majors.