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South Side Mailbag: What will the White Sox do with Lucas Giolito?

by Adam Kaplan

All the way back in early May, USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale reported that the White Sox were planning on trading away rotation mainstay Lucas Giolito if the team was out of it by the trade deadline.

With just a few weeks until the deadline, it’s debatable whether or not the White Sox are truly out of it. While they do have one of the worst win-loss records in the league, they are still in the thick of it thanks to a weak AL Central and one of the easiest remaining schedules.

Lucas Giolito will most likely be a free agent by the season’s end. While Giolito is on the record stating he loves being in Chicago and would agree to a long-term extension with the club, he also is going to take the contract he rightly deserves. Further, GM Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office have a tumultuous history with Giolito when it comes to contract negotiations. Per James Fegan in The Athletic, the Sox previously offered the righty $50M over four years, which would have covered the 2021 through 2024 seasons. This offer was “declined without a counter made by Giolito’s camp, as it was not viewed as being suitable enough to drive further discussion.” Later, during the 2022 arbitration hearings, Lucas Giolito offered $7.5M, and the White Sox countered at $7.3M. Pursuant to Lucas’ dad Rick Giolito on Twitter, this was an outrage (and rightfully so).

The history between the Chicago White Sox and Cy Young vote-getter Lucas Giolito had had its ups and downs, to say the least. As both the Sox’s and Lucas Giolito’s future is up in the air, we asked many of our contributors here at Sox on 35th to weigh in.

What do you think Lucas Giolito’s contract looks like this offseason?

Jordan Lazowski | Editor-in-Chief

  • PREDICTION: 6 years, $140M ($23.3M AAV)

The comps here are as follows:

  • Luis Castillo: 5 years, $108M
    • Castillo’s contract is interesting because he’s pitching this season under this contract but in his Arb 3 season. In reality, his free agent contract is 4 years, $96.6M ($24.15M AAV) with a fifth-year option ($25M). This covers his age 31-34 seasons – and potentially age-35 if the option is picked up.
  • Zach Wheeler: 5 years, $118M
    • Wheeler, like Castillo, also signed this deal at age 30. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the White Sox offered Wheeler 5 years, $125M – which I’m sure Giolito’s camp brought up in any conversations.
  • Kevin Gausman: 5 years, $110M
    • Gausman didn’t have the length of track record that Giolito will have heading into this offseason, but his 2020-2021 seasons were so solid that he rightfully earned $22M AAV.
  • Chris Bassitt: 3 years, $63M
    • As we will review below, Bassitt’s numbers are similar to Giolito’s – and perhaps even a bit better at times. His age prevented him from getting a long-term deal, but $21M AAV is perfect for a pitcher of his age/makeup.
  • Marcus Stroman: 3 years, $71M
    • Stroman’s $23.67M AAV was likely helped out by his agreeing to a shorter-term contract. He’s also a different type of pitcher than all of the other comps, though his results are similar to Giolito’s. This falls within the range of all the other comps, regardless.
  • Jameson Taillon: 4 years, $68M
    • Taillon represents the floor for Giolito’s contract. Because of the similarities in their five-year numbers below, teams are likely going to start negotiations around $18-$19M AAV but be willing to negotiate up from there in order to find a fairer market value.

Here’s another way of visualizing Giolito’s numbers as compared to his fellow comps at the time of their big deals:

Seasons Covered2019-20232018-20222017-20212013-20192018-20222016-20212017-2022
Age at Free Agency29313130343131
Previous Season ERA3.532.992.813.963.423.023.91
5-Year ERA3.813.644.053.773.293.693.91
Previous Season FIP4.
5-Year FIP3.763.634.863.713.773.733.81
Previous Season K%25.6%27.2%29.3%23.6%22.4%21.6%20.7%
5-Year K%28.6%26.2%24.4%22.8%22.9%19.9%21.8%
Previous Year fWAR2.7*
5-Year fWAR15.8*16.312.912.59.915.312.0
*Giolito’s fWAR is projected across 180 IP in 2023

Obviously, each of these players had a “down” season of sorts over the five-year period laid out above. This is why the statistics for each player in their “walk year” alone were also listed out as well. Just like each of these pitchers, however, Giolito will also be getting paid for the pitcher he was at his best from 2019-2021 as well as 2023, with the recognition that 2022 is an outlier season – though it can’t necessarily be forgotten.

Looking at the players above, Giolito fits right into this quality level of players in terms of results. So, $21-$25M AAV seems more than fair, especially factoring in some natural inflation in AAV values. The biggest difference between Giolito and the others? Giolito will be 29 next season – at least one or two years younger than most of his comps. This fact, combined with how the market has operated the past few seasons (players getting a year or two more than expected on a deal), leads me to believe that Giolito will in fact seek – and get – a six-year guaranteed deal to pitch in his age 29-34 seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team who won the bidding for Giolito also gave him a seventh-year option.

Adam Kaplan | Contributor

  • PREDICTION: 5 years, $115M

Lucas Giolito is an above-average pitcher, who will have an ERA between 3.50 and 4.00 for the foreseeable future. He is very good, but I don’t think he’ll reach the level of being a true Ace (i.e. be in legitimate contention for a Cy Young). I do not mean that pejoratively, but I am trying to use his realistic on-the-field performance to gauge how I think the league views and values him.

I think the player performance he most resembles who was recently a free agent is Chris Bassitt, who just received a three-year, $63M contract from the Toronto Blue Jays – for an AAV of $21M. Lucas Giolito has the benefit of being five years young than Bassitt. As such, I think he can easily get $25M a year from any team who feels they are in contention. A four-year, $100M contract feels like the baseline. Ultimately, I think Giolito might have to take a slight pay cut per AAV if he wants that fifth year.

Brian Barry | Contributor

  • PREDICTION: 5 years, $130M

Similar to the Zack Wheeler contract the White Sox offered, plus inflation.

Michael Suareo | Contributor

  • PREDICTION: 5 years, $125M

Last year, Luis Castillo signed a five-year, $108M contract with the Mariners at 30 years old. Before the 2020 season, Zach Wheeler signed with the Phillies at the same age for a five-year, $118M contract. Giolito’s agent will surely be looking to top those contracts, as Giolito is hitting the open market at a year younger and worth similar value in terms of fWAR between 2019-2022 (13.1 compared to 14.1 for Castillo and 13.5 for Wheeler). Castillo also signed his contract while still under team control, while Giolito will have plenty of suiters driving up the price on the open market this offseason. Giolito should have no issues getting five years, with the possibility of six years based on teams’ recent willingness to guarantee more years to cut down AAV.

Thatcher Zalewski | Contributor

  • PREDICTION: 5 years, $95M

Lucas Giolito is set to be a free agent this offseason and it is hard to determine what kind of contract he will receive. However, when looking around the league and comparing Giolito to similar pitchers, it is easier to get an estimate of what he will receive this offseason. I think Giolito will get a contract of around five years and 90-95 million dollars. 

Does it make sense for the White Sox to not trade Giolito and just make him a Qualifying Offer at season’s end?

Jordan Lazowski: No, It Does Not Make Sense To Keep Giolito and Make Him a QO

This answer pains me, as Giolito has been one of my favorite Sox pitchers during his tenure.

However, as it stands, the White Sox have two options:

  1. Offer Giolito the QO, assume he turns it down, and retain an extra second-round draft pick
  2. Trade Giolito in a seller’s market and *likely* receive a Top 100 prospect in return for Giolito

The second-round draft pick is an unknown – it’s unclear who will be available and what their career trajectory will be. However, a Top 100 prospect is a more known commodity – as much as a prospect can be considered a “known commodity.” When you have the ability to pick exactly which player you’re receiving, that player is much more valuable because they, ideally, fit the system you have created.

You’re taking a risk either way when trading away a major leaguer for someone you’re hoping is going to be a major leaguer. Because of that, it’s better to mitigate the risk by getting a more well-known commodity than the wild card which is a second-round draft pick. In order to do that, the White Sox will unfortunately have to trade Giolito.

Adam Kaplan: No, It Does Not Make Sense To Keep Giolito and Make Him a QO

The White Sox have three options on what to do with Lucas Giolito at the trade deadline/at the season’s end:

  1. Trade Giolito at the Trade Deadline for prospect(s)
  2. Work to extend/re-sign Giolito
  3. Allow Giolito to re-sign with another team next year.

Allowing Giolito to walk is the worst option this organization can choose. I don’t care how games behind they are in the AL Central, this team is not going to the playoffs. An argument could be made that the Sox can make Lucas Giolito a qualified offer at season’s end, and earn an additional second-round draft pick, but seeing as what happened with Carlos Rodon, it’s not a guarantee the front office will even make Giolito a Qualified Offer. Either trade Giolito at the Trade Deadline or extend him before the season’s end. A half-measure of a Qualified Offer is not acceptable.

Brian Barry: No, It Does Not Make Sense To Keep Giolito and Make Him a QO

If Lucas Giolito really wants out, there’s little point in keeping him. However, he’s stated multiple times that he loves Chicago, wants to win here, and he appreciates this organization giving him the opportunities to fail (before becoming a success). It comes down to the fact that he simply wants a fair deal. A starting pitcher of his caliber should be extended to a long-term deal. 

Michael Suareo: No, It Does Not Make Sense To Keep Giolito and Make Him a QO

The qualifying offer is the best leverage the White Sox have right now, as there is little doubt Giolito would reject it if this is the situation that played out. Because of this, the Sox can wait on a trade offer that is both more valuable than the qualifying offer and is worth the White Sox admitting defeat in a weak division.

My answer to this is dependent on two variables: what offers are on the table, and whether or not this team is capable of not only making the playoffs but being competitive once in. Based on what I have seen, I am not too confident that they can compete with other playoff teams even if they do win the division, and contending teams should be willing to pay a significant amount for the top rental pitcher on the market.

Because of this, my vote would be to still trade him and begin replenishing the farm system.

Thatcher Zalewski: Yes, It Does Make Sense To Keep Giolito and Make Him a QO

If the White Sox decided not to move Lucas Giolito at the deadline due to them still being in contention, I’d be fine with that, especially under the contingency that they offer Giolito the qualifying offer. If he decided to go elsewhere, then you at least get an extra draft pick out of it.

Assuming Giolito is traded, who do you think is the IDEAL trade partner and package?

Jordan Lazowski: RHP Chase Petty and OF Hector Rodriguez from the Cincinnati Reds

The Baltimore Orioles – as everyone else will eventually mention here – are also a great choice for this one, as they have plenty of prospects without a future spot coupled with a dire need for starting pitching if they’re serious about a playoff push. However, in recent weeks, the Reds have made it clear that starting pitching would be a need for them as they have taken the reigns of a wide-open NL Central.

Overall, White Sox fans are likely to be underwhelmed with the return for Giolito – because of his performance and the market, they’ll likely get a back-end Top 100 prospect for him but not much more than that. The package I’ve outlined includes a former first-round pick in Petty and a rising wild card player in Rodriguez.

Petty is the 94th-ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s latest rankings and is the Reds’ #7 prospect. In 32 innings in High-A this season, the 20-year-old has a 1.13 ERA, 28.1 K%, and 5.8 BB% and projects as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter in the future. It’s still a long road for him at the age of 20, but it’s the sort of arm that would be awesome to add to a system that only has a few intriguing ones at current.

Rodriguez ranks as the team’s #14 prospect and is answering some previous power concerns by ranking second in the Florida State League in home runs. The 20-year-old is hitting .306/.359/.570 on the season and could be a true rising star in the minors despite previously being projected as a fourth outfielder at best. This would be a nice wild card pickup for the White Sox.

Other teams that make sense are the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Braves, Astros, and Rangers – with deGrom going down with a second Tommy John Surgery in his career, the AL-West leading Rangers could use some help.

Brian Barry: 3B Coby Mayo and OF Colton Cowser from the Baltimore Orioles

Per MLB.com, Colton Cowser is the 14th-ranked prospect overall and Coby Mayo is the 79th-ranked prospect overall.

Michael Suareo: 3B Coby Mayo or C Samuel Basallo from the Baltimore Orioles

The main team I am looking at is the Orioles here, who could use an addition to their rotation and have a surplus of infield prospects that they could move. Lucas Giolito would immediately slot in as the ace of their pitching staff, so there should be plenty of interest here. If the Sox can land a prospect such as 3B Coby Mayo or C Samuel Basallo, that should be considered a win.

Thatcher Zalewski: 3B Coby Mayo or OF Colton Cowser from the Baltimore Orioles

I think the ideal trade partner for Lucas Giolito is the Baltimore Orioles. They are a team that needs a frontline starter and being able to acquire someone like Lucas Giolito, if made available, should be a priority for them. If the White Sox were to deal Giolito to Baltimore, I’d like to see them acquire a prospect like Coby Mayo or if possible Colton Cowser. Cowser is the 14th-ranked prospect in baseball, so it is very unlikely they acquire him in a potential package. However, a prospect like Coby Mayo who is ranked 79th in all of baseball seems like a fair return for Giolito. 

Assuming Giolito is traded, who do you think is the MOST REALISTIC trade partner and package?

Jordan Lazowski: INF Vaughn Grissom and RHP Dylan Dodd from the Atlanta Braves

Again, I think Sox fans will be underwhelmed by the return – they’re not going to get a prospect ranked any higher than maybe 90th for 7-8 starts of Lucas Giolito. On the flip side, if they look for a closer-to-MLB-ready package, they’re going to have to look at guys who may have some tools, but overall may end up being utility players or back-end starters.

Enter the Braves, who lead the NL East by a wide margin but still face some starting pitching health questions. Acquiring Giolito would go a long way in shoring up their rotation in hopes of making a deep playoff run. Plus, re-uniting longtime friends Max Fried and Lucas Giolito would be a great story for those of us who will be watching the playoffs without strong rooting interests.

Grissom burst onto the scene last year for the Braves to help fill in for an injured Ozzie Albies. He skipped Triple-A entirely, going on to hit .291/.353/.440 in 156 plate appearances down the stretch last season. However, in 70 plate appearances to start 2023, Grissom hit just .277/.314/.308 (70 wRC+), leading to his demotion to Triple-A. At just 22 years old, Grissom’s best days are ahead of him, but it could make plenty of sense for the Braves to move a player like Grissom who doesn’t have a set position on the infield just yet – while the White Sox could potentially line him up to be the next long-term second or third baseman on the South Side.

Dodd, on the other hand, would be a left-handed arm with the ceiling of a fourth starter. He averages 92 on the fastball but is known for his pinpoint command. He struggled mightily in his major league stint this season, posting a 7.40 ERA with just a 10.5 K%, so a bit more seasoning may be in store for the 25-year-old. However, should the White Sox be able to refine his arsenal a bit, the club could see some nice value via spot starts or even a back-end rotation spot from Dodd heading into 2024.

Overall, this wouldn’t be a terrible return for Giolito, though these are two players who are a bit closer to major-league-ready. If you’re looking for a more future-oriented package, Maddux Bruns, River Ryan, or Josue De Paula from the Dodgers would fit that description as interesting names to consider. Additionally, the other main package I considered here was 2B Justin Foscue and RHP Cole Winn from Texas – a similar style package to the one I eventually decided on for this.

Brian Barry: 3B Cam Collier and RHP Chase Petty from the Cincinnati Reds

According to MLB.com, Cam Collier is the 58th prospect overall, and Chase Petty is unranked.

Michael Suareo: C Dalton Rushing from the Los Angeles Dodgers

Honestly, this feels like a trade the LA Dodgers will be all over. They have a team that is ready to win and a deep farm system that they can use to get pieces without hurting their long-term success. The catching position specifically is one where they have a surplus, and getting a future solution there for the Sox makes a ton of sense. If the Dodgers are interested, Dalton Rushing would almost surely be at the center of any trade package.

Thatcher Zalewski: C Dalton Rushing from the Los Angeles Dodgers

If Lucas Giolito gets traded, I think the most realistic team would be the Dodgers. The Dodgers are currently in second place in the NL West and trading for a guy like Giolito could help push them past the Diamondbacks. I do think Giolito nets back a top-100 prospect, so a guy like Dalton Rushing could make sense here. He is currently blocked by Will Smith and the Dodgers also have Diego Cartaya waiting in the wings in Double-A. Therefore, the Dodgers could have some flexibility in moving the 22-year-old catcher.

How Would You Like to See the White Sox Handle the Lucas Giolito Situation?

Jordan Lazowski: Trade and re-sign Giolito in the offseason

In order to maximize value on a lost season, I do think it makes the most sense to trade Giolito in-season to get back some pieces to hopefully help in the future. However, with just two starters lined up so far in the projected 2024 rotation, it makes all the sense in the world for Giolito to return to the White Sox in 2024 and beyond.

Lucas Giolito has been a personal favorite of mine for quite some time – simply entertaining the idea of trading him is not one I enjoy at all. The reality is that there are very few pitchers who have come across the South Side recently who have been as consistent as Giolito over the course of 4-5 seasons at a time. The White Sox would be smart to recognize that value and make him a continued part of the organization as they look to reshuffle the deck and re-tool heading into 2024.

Simply put, of all the issues this team has, Lucas Giolito is not one of them – the club would be smart to keep him around as part of the future solution to the problems they currently face.

Adam Kaplan: Re-sign Giolito

As of this writing, there are only two starting pitchers guaranteed to be in the rotation next year: Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. Lucas Giolito and Mike Clevinger are free agents, and it does not make fiscal or baseball sense to pick up Lance Lynn’s $18M club option for 2024. Why does this team want the mainstay of their rotation for the past few years to move on?

There is a part of me that feels like $22-25M a year is just too rich for my blood, but what’s the alternative? I don’t want to pay $17M a year for a pitcher like Jameson Taillon or pay three low-level, back-end rotation types for $10M each. Any savings in payroll would most likely be negated by the pitcher’s on-the-field performance. Add in the fact that Lucas Giolito is a fan favorite, and it just makes too much sense to re-sign him. I also believe an extension of Giolito is still more beneficial to the long-term health of the club than whatever bottom half Top-100 prospect they’ll most likely get in return.

Brian Barry: Re-sign Giolito

The Sox should offer Lucas Giolito my aforementioned (and fair) 5-year, $130M deal and build a rotation around Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech. Dependable starting pitchers who consistently limit runs are hard to come by. However, the Sox are notoriously cheap penny pinchers and this deal has a low chance of actually happening. 

Michael Suareo: Trade Giolito to the Highest Bidder

As both a White Sox and a Lucas Giolito fan, I would love both sides to come together to figure out a way to keep him here through the prime of his career. Unfortunately, this team has a lot of concerns, and another rebuild/retool might be the best answer moving forward. With this core not developing the way many thought it would, and the front office’s failures to build around the core, a mini reset seems necessary. This is just a situation where my heart wants them to figure it out and keep Giolito around, but what I see on the field from the rest of this team makes me think it’s time to move on and get as much prospect capital in return as you can for him.

Thatcher Zalewski: Re-sign Giolito

I think the White Sox should do everything they can to try and extend Lucas Giolito. The 2024 rotation at this current moment only has two locked-in starters: Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease. If the Sox were able to keep Giolito around, that would help them greatly, as they aren’t known as a team to spend big on starting pitchers in free agency. However, if the White Sox are out of contention come August 1st, I could understand if they decided to trade away Giolito.

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Featured Image: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Unfortunately the Sox will probably keep Giolito and not trade him. In-fact, they won’t make any significant moves. This is based on this organization operated both past and present. Plus, the current state of not only the major league roster, but also their putrid minor league system…. with the exception of Giolito, there is not much else another team would want.

The Buffoon Kenny and Clown-show Hahn, most likely believe they can win the division and limp into a first round playoff exit. They can reward Ebenezer Jerry’s blind loyalty by giving him a potentially one home playoff game. The earnings obtained from said game will increase his bank account.

Then, based on prior decisions by this team, Giolito will walk as FA in the off-season. No QA will be extended. Sox will not pay, even for the one year payout the QA provides. Nor will Ebenezer Jerry, deal with Scott Boras. Giolito is going to get a contact well north of $100-million. Also long as Reinsdorf is in control, Sox will not pay exceed that threshold.

The Sox will also limp into the off season with Hahn and Williams still in charge. Any changes will be with the FO or coaching staff will be window dressing at best.

There will be NO major signings in free agency again, as Reinsdorf will continue to refuse to pay market rate for players required to actually compete. They patch work the pitching staff from garbage piles from other teams castoff’s. 2nd base, right-field & catcher will continue to be glaring holes. And, we will be told by Buffoon Kenny and Clown-show Hahn, this team still has a core that complete for playoffs. The status quo will remain.. but the only outcome will be this team falls further into the abyss.

George Conley

Try to be professional for a change, instead of coming up with unclever tags for Williams and Hahn. You might blame the players for the problems; they’re the ones screwing up, not management. Also, nobody is forcing you to be a fan of the team.

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