Baseball

White Sox Rumors: Cease, Bummer, Lynn, Kelly

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The White Sox’ long-expected status as deadline sellers was cemented last night when they traded impending free agents Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to the Angels in exchange for prospects Edgar Quero and Ky Bush. Further deals for the South Siders between now and Tuesday’s deadline are a certainty, but a broad-reaching teardown still appears unlikely. Teams who have inquired on the availability of righty Dylan Cease, who’s controllable through the 2025 season, have repeatedly been turned away, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.

Cease, last year’s Cy Young runner-up, has been one of the most speculated-upon trade candidates in baseball this season, even as it’s continued to seem unlikely he’s moved. The White Sox are intent on reloading and taking another run at contending in 2024, making it far less likely that they’d deal a controllable top-of-the-rotation arm of Cease’s caliber.

The 27-year-old Cease hasn’t pitched as well in 2023 as he did in 2022. He’s sporting a solid 4.04 ERA with an excellent 28% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate through 113 2/3 frames so far this season. He’s been particularly effective over his past nine starts, however, firing 51 innings of 3.00 ERA ball while punching out one-third of his opponents and recording an improved 8.5% walk rate. Cease is earning an affordable $5.7MM in his first season of arbitration eligibility and will be due a raise on that salary next season.

Cease isn’t the only controllable arm drawing interest on Chicago’s roster. Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that several contenders have expressed interest in lefty reliever Aaron Bummer despite a disastrous 6.56 ERA. Bummer’s season got out to an awful start, but he’s logged a 4.50 ERA in 24 innings dating back to May 12; five of the dozen earned runs he’s yielded in that time came in one meltdown on July 6.

Looking deeper into Bummer’s season, he’s fanned an impressive 28.3% of his opponents and kept the ball on the ground at a hefty 54.3% clip. The 29-year-old has been plagued by a .347 average on balls in play and an abnormally low 48.1% strand rate this year, both of which figure to trend back toward his career averages of .300 and 69.5%. Bummer hasn’t allowed a home run yet this season, which isn’t sustainable, but the overall package of a hard-throwing lefty who misses bats and piles up grounders while pitching on an affordable contract understandably has appeal for contending clubs. Bummer is playing out the final season of a five-year, $16MM contract but can be controlled another two seasons via a pair of club options valued at $7.25MM and $7.5MM, respectively.

As with Cease, Bummer can be a part of the White Sox’ efforts to contend both in 2024 and 2025, so there’s no guarantee he’s moved. However, reliever performance is more volatile, evidenced by Bummer’s current ERA after logging a 2.59 mark in 160 innings from 2019-22. If the Sox can get some near-MLB help that could more affordably contribute to the 2024 roster, it’s feasible they’d be open to the possibility.

At some point in the next few days, the Sox will quite likely move right-handers Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Keynan Middleton, all of whom can become free agent at season’s end (though Lynn and Kelly have 2024 options on their contracts). The Rays and Dodgers were both reported to be in talks on Lynn yesterday, and the Dodgers were tied to Kelly.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic adds further fuel to those rumors, writing this morning that the Rangers and White Sox discussed a trade that would bring both Lynn and Kelly to Texas yesterday. The talks didn’t gain enough traction to bring about a deal, but Texas’ interest in both pitchers highlights the number of balls the Sox have in the air and the number of paths they could take as they look to retool in the coming days.

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