The White Sox have added hard-throwing left-hander Jake Diekman in a trade with the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Reese McGuire. It is a small move, but it still addresses a need for the White Sox.
Despite signing Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly during the offseason, adding bullpen help was still the number one priority for Rick Hahn. The White Sox were in desperate need of some left-handed relief options. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring, Garrett Crochet was lost for the season. Aaron Bummer has also missed a large chunk of time with a strained lat. Before adding Diekman, 30-year-old rookie Tanner Banks was Tony La Russa’s only option out of the bullpen.
The other lefty relievers on the 40-man roster are Anderson Severino and Bennett Sousa. Neither inspires a ton of confidence. Diekman now gives La Russa someone who can manufacture swings and misses in high leverage situations.
He isn’t just a one-year rental either. The former 30th-round draft pick is playing on the first year of a two-year, $8 million contract. It also carries a $4 million club option for the 2024 season. If Diekman performs well, the White Sox can use him out of the bullpen for the next two seasons.
What They Got
The White Sox will be Diekman’s seventh team in eleven years. He has made stops in Philadelphia, Texas, Arizona, Kansas City, Oakland, and Boston.
Diekman has a career 3.77 ERA in 494.1 innings pitched. He has logged 15 saves, 632 strikeouts, and a 1.380 WHIP during that time.
His best season came during the shortened 2020 campaign when he posted a career-best 0.42 ERA and averaged 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
This season he owns a 4.23 ERA with 51 strikeouts (12.0 K/9) and a WHIP of 1.487. Opponents are batting .203 off of him. Diekman produces a lot of swings and misses. His strikeout percentage and whiff rate rank in the 86th and 90th percentile in the MLB.
However, command is a major issue for the southpaw. He owns a 17.5 walk rate, the worst walk rate amongst qualified MLB relievers.
The 35-year-old has a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup. Opponents can expect a healthy dose of four-seam fastballs as he throws them 43.8% of the time. Diekman’s fastball averages 95.7 mph and 15.4 inches of horizontal movement, which is 7.2 inches above the MLB average. His fastball produces a 35.2 whiff rate.
Diekman uses his slider 39.3 percent of the time. It has 16.5 inches of horizontal break and clocks in at 81 mph. His sinker and changeup are not used as often. He throws his sinker 16.7 percent and his changeup just 0.3 percent. Like his fastball, his sinker averages just over 95 mph, while his changeup is around 87.4 mph.
What They Lost
Reese McGuire had only been with the White Sox for 53 games before getting moved once again. McGuire is expected to get the bulk of the responsibilities behind the plate for the Red Sox after they shipped Christain Vazquez to Houston.
McGuire was a nonfactor offensively. He slashed .225/.261/.285 with just 10 RBIs and no home runs for the White Sox. However, what he lacked in production at the plate he made up for with his defense behind it. He had +7 defensive runs saved, caught runners stealing at a 31 percent rate, and received high pitch framing grades from Statcast.
The White Sox will undoubtedly miss his defense, but they were trading from an area of strength. After Yasmani Grandal landed on the IL, the White Sox called up Seby Zavala. Zavala surprised many with an impressive offensive output.
He is batting .294 on the season with 16 RBIs, two home runs, and a .768 OPS in 31 games. With Yasmani Grandal back from the IL, McGuires playing opportunities were limited. The White Sox were not about to keep three catchers on the roster.
Ultimately the decision came down to McGuire and Zavala. McGuire is out of minor league options. For a team that has been mired with offensive inconsistency, the choice to keep Zavala was an easy one.
The fact that the White Sox were able to get something of value for McGuire is a savvy move for Hahn. The White Sox needed a reliever of the left-handed variety. This trade checks those boxes. He is also controllable and can help the White Sox for the next couple of seasons.
But with all the other bullpen options available such as Matt Moore and Andrew Chafin, this isn’t enough to move the needle. Diekman would be a fine depth piece in the bullpen if this were part of a string of additions. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
He does not make the White Sox significantly better, and his lack of control is a concern. The trade is acceptable, but it fails to move the needle. The White Sox needed to make more of a splash.
First game looked good, 3 ⬆3⬇.
So our ONLY move is to pick up a guy who has the worst walk rate amongst qualified MLB relievers. For that reason alone, Hahn should get an F