The White Sox aren’t going anywhere this year. At 19-39, they have the second-worst record in baseball. But their saves still have some value to us, and with that, we have to consider the usage that showed in Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Nate Jones, the supposed closer, was brought into the first game, asked to protect a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning. Minnesota’s better half of the order was up, and alas, it bit Jones — he allowed four runs, including a three-run homer to Eduardo Escobar. Jones only recorded two outs, and even if he somehow escaped the inning with the lead, he probably had too many pitches in the bank to finish out the save.
The White Sox lost that game but salvaged a doubleheader split, taking the nightcap, 6-3. Joakim Soria was back in the closing chair, allowing one hit and needing a modest 19 pitches on the final four outs.
A closer is often a luxury for a non-contending club. Soria is 34 and Jones is 32; if they were in the midst of knockout seasons, it would probably make sense for the White Sox to flip them before the trading deadline. The next Chicago contender will probably have many different names in the bullpen.
Soria has the better stats thus far, for what it’s worth. His ERA is a little lower — 3.74 to 4.50 — and his K/BB rate is a lot better (25/4, compared to Jones’s 24/12). Fielding-independent stats suggest Soria’s ERA should be a run lower, while Jones basically has the ERA he deserves.
Perhaps the club can find a taker for Soria or Jones later this summer. Maybe Tuesday’s events push Soria back in the closing chair, the temporary holder of the baton. Jones won’t be kicked to the curb entirely — he had eight scoreless outings before the Tuesday hiccup. Coincidentally, the last two times he’s allowed runs, it’s been a total blowup — the Pirates got him for four runs on May 9.
If I had to make a closing guess in a muddled situation like this, you bet on the momentum. That’s so often how managers do it. Soria is unowned in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Although the teenaged Guerrero has been tearing up the Eastern League, rocking a .401/.453/.663 slash with 11 homers in 52 games at New Hampshire, the club has him on a slow track. This week it was floated that Guerrero might be headed to Triple-A Buffalo within the next month, an odd comment given that anyone crushing Double-A competition like this is generally ready for the majors. And the Blue Jays haven’t had a healthy Josh Donaldson all year; he’s currently on the disabled list. (Okay, maybe Guerrero isn’t much of a fielder, maybe he’s headed towards a DH path. But angels weep when he swings the bat.)
And the service-time manipulation game goes round and round.
Alas, Baby Vlad might have his own roadblock for the moment. Guerrero suffered an undisclosed injury in Wednesday’s game and signaled that he needed to come out. So now our waiting game is attached to another waiting game.
• Sticking with AL East prospects, the Red Sox are going to take a look at LHP Jalen Beeks. He’s had a nice start to his age-24 season at Triple-A Pawtucket, with a 2.56 ERA, a WHIP under one, and 80 strikeouts (against 14 walks) over 56.1 innings. Drew Pomeranz can’t go Thursday, so Beeks draws the Tigers, a reasonable opponent. Detroit is 12th in runs, 16th in OPS. It’s a neutral matchup.
This could easily be a one-and-done assignment, but maybe Beeks will do something flashy and force the issue. He’s free for a rental in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• The Indians have a logjam of outfielders, but Bradley Zimmer is currently out of the way. He was optioned to Triple-A, which ostensibly turns Greg Allen into a regular.
Allen is usually found at the bottom of the Cleveland lineup, but he’s posted a .296/.367/.444 slash over the last eight games, with three steals. We’ll make this clear — he’s getting on base, and he’s running (in a season where almost nobody runs). This could turn into mixed-league relevance, at least on the deeper end. Allen is owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues.