On the surface, it looks like the White Sox got a haul in return for a trade that sent Aaron Bummer to the Atlanta Braves. White Sox General Manager Chris Getz managed to net five players for Bummer, who had become the subject of criticism amongst many fans for his bloated ERA and walk rate. But quantity doesn’t always equal quality.
In exchange, the White Sox got right-handed starter Micheal Soroka, left-handed pitcher Jared Shuster, infielders Nicket Lopez and Braden Shewmake, and minor league right-hander Riley Gowens. So how did Getz do in his first trade as the White Sox general manager?
Getting anything of value for a reliever who had a 6.79 ERA over 61 games last season is impressive. The White Sox have little need for a late-inning reliever next season. Given the amount of holes they have trading him makes sense. Getz also admitted that other teams were interested in Bummer.
It is important to note that the Braves did not give up anything of value. The players the Braves traded were likely to get non-tendered to make room on the 40-man roster.
This is also not a cost-cutting move for the White Sox. The five players they got in return will exceed the cost of Bummer’s $5.5 million he is owed next season.
Meanwhile, this was an ultimate buy-low deal for the Braves. The fact that he is under team control until 2026 with two club options after the 2024 season, probably helped increase his value even after a down season.
It is easy to see why a contender would want to bolster their bullpen with a reliever like Bummer. The 30-year-old southpaw’s numbers from last season are a bit misleading.
His strikeout rate and whiff rate ranked in the MLB’s top 87th percentile. His 12.03 K/9 innings was also the second-highest mark of his career.
Bummer also carried a respectable expected ERA of 3.53 and an expected batting average of .215 which suggests that opponents struggled to make hard contact against him. This is further reinforced by the opponent’s 2.7 barrel percentage against him, placing Bummer in the MLB’s 99th percentile.
Bummer induced a lot of weak contact but ran into some tough luck due to the White Sox subpar defense. The former Nebraska Cornhusker had a 60.1 ground ball percentage which placed him in the league’s 97th percentile.
However, not all of his struggles were due to bad luck. Bummer carried a 1.53 WHIP and averaged 5.55 walks per nine innings. Bummer’s kryptonite came in the form of walks. The Valencia native carried a 13.5 percent walk rate which was among the worst in the league. It was also his highest walk rate since his rookie year. All those free passes got Bummer into trouble.
If Bummer can find the strike zone don’t be surprised to see him have a bounce-back season in Atlanta with a much better defense behind him. Meanwhile, the White Sox needed starting pitching depth and a second baseman, so this trade helped check off two of those boxes.
Nicky Lopez fits Getz’s vision of making the roster more athletic and better defensively. He was reportedly a target of the White Sox last offseason and is a former Royal.
Lopez was tied for 10th in the MLB with 31 Outs Above Average since 2020. He was also in baseball’s 88th percentile with a Fielding Run Value of 8. In 2021 Lopez ranked third in the AL in double play and assists at shortstop. The Naperville native will likely serve as the bridge at shortstop in 2024 until Colson Montgomery is MLB-ready.
However, the offensive numbers leave a lot to be desired. Lopez doesn’t make much hard contact. He has ranked in the MLB’s bottom four percent in exit velocity in three of the last five seasons. Last season he hit .231 with a .632 OPS and hit one home run and 25 RBIs. For his career, he owns a .249/.312/.319 slash line.
As things currently stand Mike Soroka will join Dylan Cease and Micheal Kopech in the White Sox rotation.
Soroka has a career 3.32 ERA and a 17-8 record in 44 career games. There are some significant injury concerns surrounding Soroka. In 2020 he tore his Achilles tendon and hasn’t looked the same since.
Before the injury, he looked like a bonafide ace. During his rookie season, he posted a 3.51 ERA in five starts. He followed that up with a 2.68 ERA in 25 starts in 2019. Soroka was named an All-Star that season and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.
After missing two seasons due to injury Soroka had a 6.40 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 32 ⅓ innings in his first seven games back in 2023. His average fastball velocity dropped to just under 93 mph and he struggled to generate swings and misses.
Getz is banking on a bounceback season.
“Essentially his first full season back from having a multiple-year layoff,” Getz told reporters when asked about Soroka. “There were certainly some moments and flashes of what Soroka was earlier in his career. Navigating a season like that after being laid off, it certainly can be tricky. But to have that under his belt, learning where his body is now, there is some upside there.”
Soroka is only 26 years old. If he can get his career back on track this could be the best piece in the return.
Shuster is a 25-year-old right-hander who will also have a chance to crack the White Sox starting rotation. He split time between the big leagues and Triple-A last season.
He went 4-3 with a 5.81 ERA and 30 strikeouts during his 11 starts with the Braves. His Triple-A numbers were not much better. Shuster posted a 5.01 ERA with 5.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in Gwinnett. His 45 walks in just 79 innings are also somewhat of a concern.
Don’t expect Shuster to be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter with the White Sox.
Braden Shewmake & Riley Gowens
Shewmake is a defensive-minded shortstop who quietly put together a solid minor-league campaign in 2023. The Braves 15th-ranked prospect hit 16 home runs and drove in 70 RBIs. He is going to have to compete for a spot on the big league roster but don’t be surprised if he takes a roster spot from Romy Gonzalez.
The Braves took Gowens with the ninth pick of the 2023 Draft out of the University of Illinois. The left-hander had 201 strikeouts in 177 innings in college and could be an interesting piece thrown into the deal.
Neither player figures to play a key role for the White Sox anytime soon but it was a good opportunity to take a flier on two players with potential upside.
On the surface, it looks like the White Sox won the trade. In reality, the Braves landed a talented reliever who has two more years of team control and did not give up any players who they were probably going to get rid of anyway.
Getz was able to fill some holes on the roster, but none of them represent a significant upgrade from what the White Sox were trotting out last season. Still, he managed to move a reliever who the White Sox had no use for and was coming off a down year.
Time will tell if Soroka can return to form or if Lopez can give the White Sox the defensive boost they need.