GLENDALE, Ariz. –- If we travel back to Spring Training 2019, then the five-year, $16 million deal agreed upon between left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer and the White Sox, as announced Saturday, would not have seemed possible.
“It's kind of crazy that last spring I was getting my teeth kicked in,” said a beaming Bummer during his Saturday press conference after the Cactus League opener against the Angels at Camelback Ranch was postponed. “I think I had a 22.00 ERA or something like that. To be standing here now, it's kind of an amazing feeling.”
To be fair to Bummer, his ERA checked in at 12.00 over seven games in Arizona to go with nine strikeouts and seven walks in six innings. Those numbers changed drastically during the regular season, when the 26-year-old became one of the best relievers in baseball.
Bummer went 0-0 with a 2.13 ERA, one save, 27 holds, 60 strikeouts and a 0.99 WHIP over 58 relief appearances with the White Sox in 2019. He ranked among the American League relief leaders in inherited-runners-scored percentage (2nd, 19.4), first-batter efficiency (tied for 4th, .115), holds (tied for 6th), ERA (7th) and opponents average (tied for 9th, .184).
Those 27 holds were the third-highest single-season total in White Sox history, trailing only Barry Jones (30 in 1990) and Nate Jones (28 in 2016). Bummer held left-handed hitters to a .178 average and held right-handed hitters to a .188 average, an important combination of effectiveness with Major League Baseball’s new three-batter minimum rule this year.
According to Statcast, Bummer’s 71.4% ground-ball rate ranked second behind Zack Britton (76.7). His 2.3% barrel-rate allowed sat third behind Brandon Workman and Mark Melancon, and Bummer had the fifth-lowest expected slugging allowed. His sinker-heavy approach plays well at hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field.
Under terms of the contract, Bummer will receive $1 million in 2020, $2 million in ’21, $2.5 million in ’22, $3.75 million in ’23 and $5.5 million in ’24. The White Sox hold options for $7.25 million in ’25 and $7.5 million in ’26, with $1.25 million buyouts for either season.
“Any time you are looking at relievers, there’s the capacity to come in in key situations, high leverage, and be that guy you can count on in any situation. That’s what we have with Aaron,” said White Sox assistant general manager Jeremy Haber, who mentioned the team initially approached Tom O’Connell, Bummer’s representative, after SoxFest. “In addition, the nature of the position, there’s ups and downs.
“He’s experienced that in his career on and off the field. He demonstrated that resiliency that you look for in that position.”
Super-utility player Leury García, who could open the 2020 campaign at second, and the White Sox also agreed upon a one-year, $3.5 million deal that includes a club option for ’21. The switch-hitting García will receive $3.25 million in 2020, while the White Sox hold a $3.5 million option for ’21 with a $250,000 buyout. García, 29, previously had agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.25 million contract on Jan. 10 to avoid arbitration.
García hit .279 with 27 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 40 RBIs and 93 runs scored over 140 games last season. He led the Majors with 14 outfield assists, and García’s 160 hits from the No. 1 spot in the lineup were the fifth-most in baseball.
But it wouldn’t be a White Sox Spring Training without locking down some part of their core. The Bummer deal follows previous ones agreed upon with Chris Sale (2013), José Quintana (2014), Adam Eaton (2015), Tim Anderson (2017) and Eloy Jiménez (2019).
This move solidifies the 19th-round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft as part of what the White Sox hope is an impressive future, whether the southpaw is working as a setup man or in the ninth inning. There’s still time for another such deal to be finalized, with Lucas Giolito, Yoán Moncada, Nick Madrigal and Dylan Cease potential candidates.
“Our track record in terms of the organizational approach to these is pretty clear at this point,” said Haber, adding that it’s a natural time for such speculation. “But today we are just talking about the ones we’ve been able to get done.”
“Physically, mentally, I feel like I'm in a great spot,” Bummer said. “This definitely kind of relieves some pressure, mentally going through a season we know we have a little bit more stability, me and my wife. We can't complain. Arm feels good, body feels good. Now to be able to take care of my family for the rest of our lives, that's pretty awesome.”