White Sox 'excited' for Diekman to join bullpen

Veteran lefty, acquired via trade with Boston, is another high-leverage, late-inning option

August 2nd, 2022

CHICAGO -- The White Sox added a high-leverage, left-handed piece to their bullpen by acquiring Jake Diekman from the Red Sox in exchange for catcher Reese McGuire and a player to be named or cash considerations, as announced by the team on Monday evening.

But when looking at the team’s 2-1 loss to the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field just hours after the deal, the White Sox might want to look into giving the offense a little jolt before the 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline on Tuesday. Chicago (51-51) dipped back to .500 in dropping to 4-5 against Kansas City (41-62) and slipped two games behind the Guardians and three back of the Twins in the American League Central race, with both teams winning in extra-inning, walk-off fashion on Monday.

Postgame feelings probably were affected by this tough setback, where White Sox starter Michael Kopech (4-7) matched a career high by logging seven innings and set a career high with 100 pitches. Chicago also was adjusting to losing a teammate in McGuire, whom the club held in high esteem.

Monday marked Kopech’s 19th start of the season, with McGuire having been behind the plate for 17 of them.

“McGuire worked his [butt] off for us behind the plate all year,” Kopech said. “I had a lot of respect for him personally. Liked throwing to him.

“Hopefully he gets an opportunity to do what he was trying to do over here. We’ll get Diekman in return. Try to do the goal we’ve been talking about all season.”

Diekman, 35, is 5-1 with a 4.23 ERA and 51 strikeouts over 38 1/3 innings to go with 12 holds over 44 appearances this season, which was his first with the Red Sox. His 44 appearances led the Red Sox and are tied for eighth in the AL. Diekman has limited opponents to a .203 average in 2022, including a .188 mark with no home runs allowed to left-handers, and he has not yielded a homer to the last 113 lefties he has faced.

Liam Hendriks, who is the All-Star closer for the White Sox, played with Diekman in Oakland during 2019-20. He’s friends with Diekman and their wives are friends, with general manager Rick Hahn talking to Hendriks postgame on Sunday concerning the move. Hendriks believes Diekman will be an excellent fit.

“He's got one of, if not the highest ceilings of any left-hander in the league. I think his stuff is unreal,” Hendriks said. “Not only that, but he's going to mesh really well in this clubhouse. We've got some guys that have played with him. 

“We've got some guys that know him. But he's awesome. Great dude. Good family. Excited to have him and he's an add to our ‘pen. Especially with that high octane left-handed stuff and with everything he can throw up there, it just brings a different look to what we've got."

Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet were targeted as the primary left-handed relievers out of the White Sox bullpen. But Crochet was lost before the season to Tommy John surgery, while Bummer spoke recently of a September targeted return from shoulder issues, so Diekman will help immediately.

Diekman is 25-26 with a 3.77 ERA and 632 strikeouts in 494 1/3 innings, to go with 15 saves and 167 holds over 11 Major League seasons with Philadelphia (2012-15), Texas (2015-18), Arizona (2018), Kansas City (2019), Oakland (2019-21) and Boston (2022). He leads all active lefties in holds and ranks fourth in appearances.

In Diekman, the White Sox also add a little more contractual control to their relief crew. Diekman agreed to terms on a two-year, $8 million deal with a $4 million club option for 2024 ($1 million buyout) on March 16, 2022.

They need to add a little more offense to continue their fight for the division’s top spot. Despite 10 hits against Royals southpaw starter Daniel Lynch and three relievers ending with two innings from Scott Barlow (17 saves), the White Sox managed just one run.

“I expect that Rick is going to be trying,” manager Tony La Russa said. “I don’t know what more to say. I know he’s trying.”

“Whether they do or whether they don't, I know that we have the right talent in this room in case we don't bring anybody in,” Hendriks said. “We've made a move and I think there's more to come. But that's up to those guys up top."