Despite getting traded from a team that just won 104 games to a team that lost 101, Mike Soroka is excited to join the Chicago White Sox.
Soroka caught up with the Chicago media for the first time on Monday via Zoom and expressed optimism about his new team. MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reported that Soroka met with White Sox general manager Chris Getz, who helped sell him on the direction the team was headed.
“Pretty cool vision, actually,” Soroka said. “I kind of got giddy on the phone with him and I spoke to Jared Shuster and it was pretty much the same with him.”
Shuster was part of the five-player swap with the Braves that sent Aaron Bummer to Atlanta. Both Shuster and Soroka will have an opportunity to play a key role in the White Sox rotation in 2024.
“The staff I’ve talked to all seem to be on the same page and having (Getz) there is going to be a very good blend of the new stuff, the new analytical stuff that is coming into baseball over the last five years or so as well as the stuff that has always worked,” Soroka said.
These comments indicate that Soroka is not just a one-year acquisition. If he can produce the results that Getz believes he can, then an extension may be on the horizon.
Soroka is just 26 years old and was once considered a top-of-the-line starter. On the surface, it looks like he can be a productive member of the White Sox rotation for years to come. However, it is a hardened 26.
During his rookie season in 2018, he made five starts and posted a 3.51 ERA in 25.2 innings. He built off that initial success with a breakout 2019 campaign in his first full season as an MLB starter.
Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and a career-best 1.11 WHIP. His efforts earned him an appearance in the All-Star game, second palace finish in the NL Rookie of the Year Vote and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting.
That is when injuries began to catch up to the Canadian right-hander. He missed the entire 2021 and 2022 seasons after tearing his right Achilles tendon. Upon his return to the mound this season he did not look the same. Soroka had a 6.40 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 32 ½ innings in the seven games back he pitched in 2023.
Soroka was the headliner in the Bummer trade, however, he was likely a non-tender candidate for the Braves. Getz is banking heavily on the fact that Ethan Katz can work some of his magic to revive his career. Soroka does deserve the benefit of the doubt considering he was shaking off some major rust after not pitching for two full seasons.
“Essentially his first full season back from having a multi-year layoff,” Getz told reporters in his first media availability after the trade was announced. “There were 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.”
Getz is correct there were some signs in 2023 that Soroka could rebound. Opponents did not hit him very hard. Soroka’s opponent’s average exit velocity ranked in the MLB’s 87th percentile while he also limited their hard hit percentage to 34%, which also ranked in the top half of baseball.
However, he ranked in the bottom half of the league in whiff rate, strikeout rate, fastball velocity, expected batting average, and expected ERA. Pitching in a hitter-friendly park in front of a defense that was awful last season will not make things any easier.
The change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for the former first-round pick. In Chicago, Soroka will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself instead of getting lost in the shuffle like he was in Atlanta. His enthusiasm about the front office’s direction for the team should also have fans feeling cautiously optimistic.