The White Sox made a shrewd move Thursday night, acquiring relievers Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan, and cash considerations in a three-team trade with the Royals and Dodgers. Minor league utility infielder Jake Peter was sent to the Dodgers as part of the exchange.
After the “All Relievers Must Go” mega sale last season, as well as the non-tendering of Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka earlier in the winter, it was obvious the White Sox were going to need to bring in some relief help because even during another season where contention is not anticipated, it turns out guys still need to eat innings. The White Sox reliever depth chart on MLB.com prior to the trade included a top seven bullpen of Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, and Thyago Vieira. Reinforcements were necessary.
Soria is the name you’re likely most familiar with from his dominant stint with Kansas City a decade ago. From 2007-2010 he tossed 255 innings, posting a K/9 of 9.9 and a 2.01 ERA. He missed the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery and subsequently bounced around from Texas to Detroit to Pittsburgh over the next few years before landing back with the Royals the last two seasons, where he wasn’t great in 2016 before rebounding for a solid 2017. Now 33 years old, he’s coming off a season where he struck out his most batters per nine since 2014 with a cFIP (78) that suggests he was much better than his 3.70 ERA would indicate. One would expect Soria to be in the mix with both Jones and Minaya for late-inning work in 2018.
Avilan is a 28-year-old lefty who misses both bats and the plate at a high rate. After coming to the Dodgers from Atlanta during the 2016 he saw a huge jump in both his BB/9 (2.5 to 4.6) and K/9 (8.3 to 12.8). He was solid in a limited role for the Dodgers last season, striking out 52 in 46 innings of work with a 2.93 ERA and a complementary DRA of 3.19. He was left off the Dodgers’ playoff roster after suffering from left shoulder inflammation toward the end of the season. With the unproven Bummer and Fry the only lefty relievers on the White Sox 40-man roster, he’s a reasonable option there.
The player the White Sox sent away in exchange for bullpen depth, Peter, was the subject of much discussion when they decided to leave him off the 40-man roster and thus, unprotected heading into the Rule 5 draft earlier this winter, where he was not selected. Peter was among the “Next 10″ in BP’s Top 10 White Sox Prospects list released earlier this offseason, with our prospect team saying about him:
Peter spent another year bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A, playing all over the diamond, and basically having the Jake Peter season. In a bit of a twist though, he socked nine home runs in 45 International League games after hitting just eleven total in his first three professional seasons. This may be a sample size blip of course—and Peter’s profile has always been more “scrappy utility type” than “future Brian Dozier”—but even if that is the case, he’s pretty much major league ready and a reasonable bench upgrade for a team that gave an awful lot of at-bats to Tyler Saladino and Alen Hanson last season. And hey, Brian Dozier’s profile was never “future Brian Dozier” either.
The path to playing time was hard to envision for Peter in Chicago. As a utility infielder who’s best position is second base, the existence of Yoan Moncada, not to mention Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, and the players mentioned above, there was no readily-available playing time for a player who is nearly 25.
Peter may turn into an adequate major league contributor, but given the blockade of middle infielders ahead of him, not to mention the fact that no team was willing to take a shot on him in the Rule 5, he’s a reasonably subtraction in a deal that nets the White Sox a pair of plus relievers and some cash to boot.
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