The Chicago White Sox are in need of starting pitching and middle-infield depth this offseason.
They made a dent in both departments late Thursday in a six-player trade with the Atlanta Braves.
The Sox sent veteran reliever Aaron Bummer to the Braves for right-handed pitcher Mike Soroka, left-hander Jared Shuster, infielders Nicky Lopez and Braden Shewmake and minor-league right-hander Riley Gowens.
“(Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos) put something on the table that I felt like was a step forward for where we needed to go — acquiring starting pitching innings and also improving our defense,” Sox general manager Chris Getz said Friday in a video conference call.
“It now allows us to open some things up when it comes to acquiring free agents or future deals. So much of this is at the mercy of other clubs and the urgency of some of these free agents and when they want to sign. I think this is a foundational move for us.”
It’s the first major trade since Getz became the GM in late August.
“It was an opportunity to really help us in multiple different areas and set us up for more opportunities this offseason,” he said.
In Soroka and Shuster, the Sox get starters with big-league experience.
“I’m fairly confident that one or both will be in our rotation, but we want to create a competitive environment,” Getz said. “We will acquire more pitching and we’ve got younger pitching in our system that will be pushing here shortly.”
Soroka, 26, went 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA and 29 strikeouts in seven games (six starts) with the Braves. He spent most of 2023 with Triple-A Gwinnett, going 4-4 with a 3.41 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 17 starts.
He made the National League All-Star team in 2019 and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 29 starts.
Soroka has a 17-8 career record with a 3.32 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 44 games (43 starts) during parts of four seasons with the Braves. He suffered a torn right Achilles tendon on Aug. 3, 2020, and retore in June 2021. 2023 was his first time back in action since 2020.
“Navigating a season like that after being off, certainly it can be tricky,” Getz said. “But to have that under his belt, learning where his body is now. I think there is some upside there.”
Shuster, 25, went 4-3 with a 5.81 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 11 starts with the Braves and 5-6 with a 5.58 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 16 starts with Gwinnett in 2023.
“(The Braves) had a pretty strong rotation last year, and he was often times the insurance policy for a championship-type club,” Getz said. “So there could be more opportunities for him here.”
Lopez, 29, had a combined .231/.326/.307 slash line with eight doubles, three triples, one homer, 25 RBIs, 26 walks and 32 runs in 94 games between the Kansas City Royals and Braves in 2023. He committed just two errors in 277 chances.
The Naperville Central graduate has a career .249/.312/.319 slash line with 71 doubles, six home runs, 131 RBIs, 220 runs and 42 stolen bases in 546 games during five seasons with the Royals (2019-23) and Braves (2023).
“Defensively he’s got a strong reputation,” Getz said. “He can play shortstop, he can play second, he can play third base.
“Nicky can certainly provide improved defense, and that’s certainly something we’ve been set out to do.”
Shewmake, 26, spent most of 2023 with Gwinnett, hitting .234 with 28 doubles, 16 home runs, 69 RBIs and 79 runs. He appeared in two games with the Braves.
“Middle-infield defense is a strong suit for him,” Getz said. “He’s got some left-handed power. And just to provide infield depth for us, where we’re certainly in need of, made him attractive.”
Gowens, 24, went 1-1 with a 1.15 ERA and nine strikeouts in five games (three starts) between the Rookie League Braves and Class A Augusta in 2023. The Libertyville graduate was selected in the ninth round in 2023 out of Illinois.
“There were some attributes in his pitching repertoire that we felt like we could work with and potentially turn him into something,” Getz said.
In the deal, the Sox acquired three former first-rounders with Soroka (No. 28 in 2015), Shuster (No. 25 in 2020) and Shewmake (No. 21 in 2019).
Bummer, 30, is on the move after seven seasons with the Sox.
The lefty with a knack for inducing grounders went 5-5 with a 6.79 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 15 holds in 61 appearances in 2023. He was 14-15 with a 3.84 ERA and 309 strikeouts in 289 career outings with the Sox.
“There was a fair amount of interest in Aaron Bummer,” Getz said. “Left-handed relievers are always heavily sought after. Going back to what our needs are presently and you compare that to the needs of Atlanta of where they are and their process, it just aligned.
“There were conversations with other clubs and certainly assessing what is the best deal for the White Sox here, we felt it was the deal with Alex and Atlanta.”
The White Sox agreed to terms on a 1-year, $750,000 contract with reliever Matt Foster, avoiding arbitration.
All remaining unsigned players on the 40-man roster have been tendered contracts for the 2024 season.