ARLINGTON -- The White Sox did not approach Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline with the idea of trading Jake Burger.
Not when Burger sat second on the team with 25 home runs playing for a manager in Pedro Grifol who has talked numerous times about how much he detests ground balls. Not when Burger had made such a deep commitment to the organization and to the fan base, which was returned in full by the White Sox ardent supporters.
Marlins get: INF Jake Burger
White Sox get: LHP Jake Eder
So, the fact that the White Sox dealt Burger to the Marlins for left-handed hurler Jake Eder shows just how much the White Sox think of Eder. This was a pure baseball move, with no more consideration given to the player’s fit for the 2024 club or his contractual status than the other seven players who were dealt in the past week.
General manager Rick Hahn had to separate how he felt about Burger from the bigger needs for the team.
“Honestly, it’s brutal. It’s especially hard on a guy like Jake,” said Hahn during a Zoom on Tuesday. “Everyone in baseball should root for this kid. We've been clear that culture is of the utmost importance to us, and in that end, Jake Burger fits that, on the relationship side, on the human side, on the clubhouse side -- it's a difficult move to make.
“By no means did we enter this deadline period thinking, 'All right, we've got to find a home for Jake Burger.' We needed to be compelled to do that, and Eder, we think, has a chance to be very special and help many White Sox teams for a long time going forward. We love Jake; you try to remove that side of it, the more subjective side, and ultimately do what, from a baseball standpoint, is the best thing for the organization going forward. That's what we feel we did.”
Burger’s story is one that could someday be worthy of a book or a movie. He was selected with the 11th overall pick overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, only to rupture his left Achilles twice, deal with a lingering heel bruise and miss three years of baseball. The 27-year-old also dealt with depression, but opened himself up to help others after getting through his struggle to be a sounding board for their troubles.
While his stat line was far from perfect, Burger had improved defensively at third base and proved to be serviceable at second and first. He was just beginning to tap into his offensive potential, but that exploration will now take place for Miami.
“It’s been a long journey with the organization,” an emotional Burger said after the trade became official. “I’m grateful to the White Sox organization for believing in me when it didn’t seem like a lot of other people believed in me. A lot of good memories here. My son got to see me put on a White Sox jersey, but on the flip side of that, I’m going to Miami and I get to make a push for the playoffs in the Wild Card hunt. I’m really excited about that.”
“Obviously it’s not just what he does on the field, but the makeup and what he’s gone through to get back to where he is right now,” Grifol said. “How much he has improved this year, it’s definitely tough to lose him. At the same time, there’s an area of need in the organization, and that’s pitching. We were able to acquire a guy we feel we can develop into a top-of-the-rotation [starter] or close to it.”
The White Sox also traded reliever Keynan Middleton to the Yankees for Minor League hurler Juan Carela, and added right-hander Luis Patiño from the Rays in exchange for cash considerations. Patiño will join Triple-A Charlotte.
But Eder was the story of Tuesday’s action. The 6-foot-4 southpaw sits fourth among the White Sox Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, with Chicago adding six players to its Top 30 after this past week of deals.
What the White Sox were doing through the competitive window of their latest rebuild clearly was not working, dipping all the way into their system. Burger became a trade casualty of the team’s change in focus.
“Love the South Side fans. Never lose that respect and love for them,” Burger said. “It will sit heavy in my heart and my family’s heart. But it’s the business of the game. Now I have to go compete and have some fun with another fan base.”
“None of us wanted to be in this position,” Hahn said. “But we all feel very good about what we were able to accomplish once we accepted the fact this was the position we were in.”