That didn’t take long.
A day after the White Sox sent Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to the Angels, they agreed to two more today-for-tomorrow trades on Friday. They have sent Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to the Dodgers and Kendall Graveman to the Astros.
That’s five pitchers — two starters and three relievers — traded away in a span of about 24 hours, which could wind up improving the White Sox’s position in the 2024 draft. They entered Friday night’s game against Cleveland at 41-63, positioned for the fourth overall pick. They’ll have a hard time grabbing one of the first two picks — the A’s are 28-76; the Royals 29-75 — but could wind up picking third after auditioning pitchers for two months.
Lynn, Giolito, Kelly, Graveman and Lopez have pitched1410 major-league games, including 750 starts, over a combined 49 seasons. In exchange for them the White Sox have acquired three minor-league pitchers, two catchers and a serviceable big-league outfielder in Trayce Thompson.
This was not how Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf felt things would go after he signed off a team-record payrolls after the Sox reached the postseason in 2020 and ’21.
Manager Tony La Russa resigned after the ’22 team went 81-81 but the team has regressed under first-year manager Pedro Grifol. This may lead the extremely loyal Reinsdorf to overhaul his front office, which has largely been together since Ken Williams replaced Ron Schueler as general manager in 2001.
General Manager Rick Hahn, who was promoted to his role before the 2013 season, appeared to have successfully rebuilt the roster around trades of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana and the signing of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. But the Sox have won only three post-season games since winning the 2005 World Series.
It is a bitter pill for the organization to trade veterans for prospects, as some in the organization still chafe at the recollection of the so-called White Flag trade with the Dodgers in 1997. Reinsdorf may not have abandoned the thought of contending in 2024, as Hahn has reportedly rebuffed trade interest in controllable players like Dylan Cease and Luis Robert, but the Sox reached a crossroads where it made more sense to gamble on prospects than stick with the status quo.
Industry analysts believe Hahn did well in landing a highly regarded catcher in 20-year-old old Edgar Quero (along with pitcher Ky Bush) in the deal that sent Giolito and Lopez to the Angels. Right-hander Nick Nastrini heads the return they got from the Dodgers and Astros on Friday.
Nastrini, a Double-A starter with good stuff, was acquired alongside power reliever Jordan Leasure and Thompson (who began his big-league career with the 2015 White Sox) in the trade that sent Lynn and Kelly to the Dodgers. That’s a solid return for two veteran pitchers who figure to be rental pieces (although both Lynn and Kelly have options for ’24).
Graveman was traded to Houston in a one-for-one deal for former first-round draft pick Korey Lee, a Triple-A catcher who appeared with the Astros in 2022.
Lee, who hit behind White Sox first baseman Andrew Vaughn at Cal, is blessed with power and a strong arm but never sold Houston’s staff on his potential to be a regular. He’ll likely get that chance with the Sox, who would love to find a taker for veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal. But Quero is seen as the more likely long-term option.
Both Nastrini and Leasure have the kind of power arms that organizations love to accumulate. Leasure has struck out 153 in 104 innings pitched as a pro, with a high-90s fastball that gets on hitters quickly thanks to a low release and good extension. Nastrini not only has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s but can blow away hitters with a wipeout slider. Control and command figures to be a key for both.
It won’t be surprising if the Sox take a look at all of the newcomers from Friday’s deals before the season is over. They’d love to provide some optimism for their fans.
The Sox have saved about $17 million in 2023 payroll by trading Giolito, Lopez, Lynn, Graveman and Kelly. They also take $10 million off the books for ’24 (Graveman is signed for $8 million, both Lynn and Kelly have $1 million buyouts on their club options).