While I was writing about how Dan Jennings has pitched well of late and had risen to the top of a bullpen absolutely decimated by trades and injuries, the White Sox traded him to Tampa Bay for Casey Gillaspie. Jennings wasn’t an obvious trade candidate, as he was under team control through 2019, and given just how depleted the White Sox’ relief corps is it might have made sense to keep him around just to help get through this year while preserving some semblance of sanity. Similarly, the return he projected to command was modest, but on the heels of it being reported that the Rays were shopping for a left-handed reliever, this trade was announced.
As editor emeritus James Fegan pointed out on Twitter, Jennings has held hitters to a .146/.224/.270 line since June 1. Jennings doesn’t offer classic LOOGY platoon splits or anything, but can be used for more than one inning and does a very good job of limiting home runs. As a result he has been generally effective as a low-leverage option despite his poor K:BB numbers, and the White Sox definitely came out ahead in acquiring him for Andre Rienzo.
Tampa Bay sits only one game out of the Wild Card and two games back of Boston for the AL East lead, so a soft buy for a reliever on a modest salary makes sense.
As for Gillaspie, here are the pros:
- Former first round pick;
- Baseball America’s #74 overall prospect heading into 2017, and #69 overall prospect on their May 11, 2017 Top 100 update;
- Hit .286/.387/.482 across Double-A and Triple-A in 2016;
- Switch hitter;
- He’s a big dude;
- Conor’s brother!
That’s pretty much it for the good news. Gillaspie has had a down ’17 in his second look at Triple-A, turns 25 after this season and comes to the White Sox on the DL with a broken toe. He can only play first base, even before his recent struggles he projected only as a 55 hit / 55 power ceiling guy, and our evaluators have questioned his swing, his contact skills, and his power. If everything goes right, Gillaspie could look like a league average first baseman, but the Baseball America ranking looks like a bit of an outlier at this point.
That’s not to say this was a “bad” trade for the White Sox. Gillaspie likely represents a competent major league bench bat, and if that doesn’t sound like much, remember that the most recent White Sox playoff “contender” was hoping to get bailed out of their DH black hole by Jerry Sands and Justin Morneau. It’s a low ceiling without a whole lot of fallback options if he doesn’t hit, but he’s close to the majors and not without pedigree.
The White Sox have called up Aaron Bummer to take Jennings’ place in the bullpen. At a glance, one could describe this as simply calling up a lefty reliever from Triple-A to replace the loss of a lefty reliever from the major league bullpen. However, it does raise a bit of an eyebrow, as Bummer started this year in High-A, started last year in rookie ball, and had only thrown five innings in Charlotte.
A 19th round draft pick in 2014, Bummer missed 2015 with Tommy John surgery. The organization is clearly high on the 6’3″ lefty who throws in the mid-90s, touching 98-99, and singled him out as someone to watch before the year for the High-A squad. Bummer has missed bats at every level, and has seemed to improve with each promotion.
It’s the type of profile where one simply has to trust the organization’s pitching development and ability to find diamonds in the rough. If they think a hard-throwing lefty can succeed in a relief role, I hesitate to contradict them, and he has as much of a chance to succeed as anybody else who’s still left in the current White Sox bullpen.
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