Perhaps the reason the White Sox (surprisingly) pivoted away from Arizona as their dance partner for Eduardo Escobar at the trade deadline was finding a prettier option, closer to home.
On the heels of the announcement that Escobar was shipped yesterday to Milwaukee, the White Sox struck for Cleveland’s Gold Glove second baseman César Hernández.
In return, the White Sox send Double-A starter Konnor Pilkington (4-4, 3.48 ERA, 0.919 WHIP) east. Make no mistake, this is a good get for Cleveland, as Pilkington is by any account the top starter — definitely, the top southpaw starter — in the White Sox system. That it’s the White Sox system, thereby reducing the potency of all prospects remaining in the minors by some 25% or so, eases some of the sting. But this reduces the major league-prepatory arms in the upper minors to ... zero? Jimmy Lambert (sort of), Jonathan Stiever (nope), and Kade McClure (maybe?) ...
In order to fit Hernández on the roster, Tyler Johnson (injured for some of this season and apparently having undergone surgery just this week) was released. He was a touted arm who some believed (to be fair, I number myself there) was our top reliever in the system. There is a thought that, injured, Johnson will go unclaimed and, as happened with Ryan Burr’s release two offseasons ago, Johnson will return to the White Sox to rehab and work back into the system.
On the other hand, this was Tyler’s reaction to the news, so, maybe not:
And they said the post surgery anesthesia hits hard. https://t.co/9JyZqgV45t— Tyler Johnson (@TyJohnson_21) July 29, 2021
Here is the full, copyedited White Sox release:
WHITE SOX ACQUIRE GOLD-GLOVE WINNING SECOND BASEMAN CÉSAR HERNÁNDEZ FROM CLEVELAND IN EXCHANGE FOR KONNOR PILKINGTON
KANSAS CITY – The Chicago White Sox have acquired infielder César Hernández (“SEH-zar”) from Cleveland in exchange for left-handed pitcher Konnor Pilkington. To make room for Hernández on the 40-man roster, the White Sox released right-handed pitcher Tyler Johnson.
Hernández, 31, is hitting .231/.307/.431 with 17 doubles, two triples, a career-high 18 home runs, 47 RBIs, 60 runs and 38 walks in 96 games with Cleveland in 2021. The switch-hitting Hernandez ranks among the American League second base leaders in extra-base hits (tied for second, 37), homers (third), total bases (third, 162), slugging percentage (fifth), doubles (sixth), RBIs (sixth), OPS (sixth, .738) and hits (seventh). His 18 home runs are tied for the third-most among major-league switch hitters this season.
A native of Valencia, Venezuela, Hernández won the AL Rawlings Gold Glove at second base in 2020. He finished the season with a .981 fielding percentage (four errors in 210 chances) and ranked second among AL second baseman with six defensive runs saved. Hernández also led the AL and finished third in the majors with 20 doubles.
“César Hernández provides our club with a valuable combination of a power bat in the middle infield and Gold Glove-quality defense,” says Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. “Adding a player like César gives Tony a strong and proven option at second base for the stretch run of the season and hopefully into October.”
Hernández is tied for second in the AL and third in the major leagues with five leadoff home runs this season, and his 18 career leadoff homers are tied for the seventh-most in baseball since 2016. He has played in 476 games since 2018, the fifth-most in the majors, and six behind MLB leader Freddie Freeman (482) of Atlanta.
Hernández signed with Cleveland as a free agent on Dec. 29, 2019 after spending his first seven major-league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in 161 games in consecutive seasons with the Phillies, recording 15 homers and 60 RBIs in 2018 and 14 home runs and 71 RBIs in 2019.
Hernández is a career .272/.347/.388 hitter with 150 doubles, 39 triples, 67 homers, 320 RBIs and 502 runs in 986 career games over nine major-league seasons between the Phillies (2013-19) and Cleveland (2020-21). He played in both of Cleveland’s AL Wild Card Series games vs. the Yankees last season, his only career postseason appearances. Hernández originally was signed by Philadelphia as an international free agent on July 2, 2007.
Pilkington, 23, is 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 14 starts with Double-A Birmingham this season, his fourth in the White Sox system. He originally was selected by Chicago in the third round of the 2018 draft out of Mississippi State University.
Johnson, 25, is 0-1 with a 9.56 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 combined relief appearances among Triple-A Charlotte, High-A Winston-Salem and Low-A Kannapolis. He originally was selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of the University of South Carolina.
The White Sox 40-man roster remains at 40.
An earlier version of this story termed Konnor Pilkington a “power arm,” which is by any measure, untrue. But it’s the product of quick writing and (likely) prospect rounding-up syndrome.