Bryan Shaw, Nick Avila Won’t Make White Sox Opening Day Roster


The White Sox have informed right-handers Bryan Shaw and Nick Avila that they won’t be part of the team’s Opening Day roster, James Fegan of The Athletic reports (Twitter link).  The two pitchers are at opposite ends of the experience spectrum, as Shaw is a 12-year MLB veteran in camp on a minor league contract, while Avila has yet to pitch beyond the Double-A level but was Chicago’s pick in the Rule 5 Draft.

Avila’s R5 status creates an immediate obstacle, since the Sox are required to keep him on their active roster for the entire 2023 season in order to fully obtain his rights.  (Or, at least 90 days on the active roster and the rest of the time on the injured list, in the event of an injury.)  If the White Sox don’t meet this criteria for Avila, they have to offer him back to the Giants, his original team, for $50K.  Fegan writes that the Sox might still look for ways to keep Avila around, though outside of a proper trade agreement with the Giants or a suddenly injury to Avila, Chicago’s options are fairly limited.

The 25-year-old Avila had a stunning 1.14 ERA over 55 1/3 combined innings at the high-A and Double-A levels in 2022.  It was the righty’s first full season as a reliever and he clearly took to the new role, also posting good strikeout and walk rates in addition to his minuscule ERA.  MLB Pipeline ranks Avila as the 20th best prospect in Chicago’s farm system, giving his fastball and cutter both 60-grades and noting how Avila’s five-pitch arsenal gives him “a more diverse repertoire than most relievers.”

Avila couldn’t keep the production up in Spring Training, however, posting a 7.20 ERA over 10 innings of work even though his underlying metrics were still good.  By contrast, Shaw had a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 Spring Training innings, but it wasn’t enough to land the 35-year-old a spot on the active roster.

Shaw isn’t an Article XX(B) free agent and thus didn’t have an automatic opt-out decision on March 25, though it is quite possible his minor league deal included some kind of different opt-out language.  His impressive spring numbers might certainly convince another team to take a look at Shaw if he does end up leaving the White Sox organization (either by opt-out or release), and a reunion with the Guardians can’t be ruled out considering his longstanding ties to Cleveland.

Shaw spent the last two seasons (and seven of his 12 MLB seasons overall) in Cleveland, though he struggled to a 5.40 ERA over 58 1/3 innings out of the Guardians bullpen in 2022.  Apart from a solid 2021 campaign, Shaw hasn’t been very reliable for most of the last five seasons, as he has a 5.23 ERA over 268 1/3 innings since the start of the 2018 campaign.

With Avila and Shaw out of the running, Gregory Santos and Keynan Middleton appear to be the favorites to land the final spot in the otherwise set Chicago bullpen.  Santos also came to the White Sox out of San Francisco’s farm system, and after being acquired from the Giants in a December trade, the righty has yet to allow a run over 8 1/3 spring innings.  Middleton is in camp on a minor league deal, and has a rockier 6.00 ERA in nine frames of Cactus League work.

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