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White Sox settle with López, Engel; Giolito prepares for day in court

Team appears set for first arbitration hearing since 2018, third since 2001

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MLB: ALDS-Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
We feel you, Gio.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox announced on Wednesday that they had reached deals with two of their three arbitration-eligible players, giving Adam Engel a $650,000 raise on last year’s $1.35 million salary and bumping Reynaldo López to $2.6 million, up from $2.1 million in 2021.

With much of the team’s young core signed to exploitative, below-market extensions that negate the need for negotiation — Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, and Aaron Bummer would otherwise be arbitration-eligible — the team entered the 2022 offseason with outstanding contract situations for just three players: Engel, López, and staff anchor Lucas Giolito. After playing 2021 on a one-year, $4.125 million deal agreed to last offseason, the latter has yet to reach an agreement with the team on the terms of his second-to-last season before reaching free agency, with the team submitting an offer of $7.3 million and Giolito requesting $7.5 million. The pair will go to a hearing for a third party to settle the difference if they can’t do so independently before the scheduled date.

The White Sox have historically been one of the most arbitration-averse teams in baseball over the past two decades: prior to going to trial with Avisaíl García and Yolmer Sánchez in 2017 (in which both players emerged victorious), the team hadn’t engaged in an arbitration hearing since the contentious 2001 negotiations with Keith Foulke that presaged his eventual trade to Oakland following the season.

Then, a $900,000 gulf separated the team from Foulke, who had led all MLB relievers with 11.2 WAR between 1999 and 2001. While the team’s lack of respect for the reliever’s dominance was ludicrous in its own right, the difference between the team and their 2022 ace is much more trivial, as it was reported that a measly $50,000 had initially separated the two sides before widening to $200,000 in the official filings.

Arbitration hearings are infamous for generating bad blood between club and player, as the process itself entails team representatives litigating all of the player’s flaws and explaining why they are undeserving of their request — in the full presence of said player.

As the news of this microscopic gulf between the White Sox and Giolito spread yesterday, fan disappointment was hot and tangible on social media, with Giolito’s father jumping in to commiserate with fans over the ludicrousness of such a disagreement. Giolito himself commented frankly on the seemingly insignificant gap between himself and the team, telling reporters:

“[It’s] very frustrating. First of all, I love White Sox fans ... It’s just very unfortunate. Disheartening. Honestly, I just love this team. You guys know how I feel about this team. For it to come down to, prior to the filing, come down to a $50K difference, it’s like, come on, It’s just an upsetting part of the process, I guess.”

When similarly questioned by reporters, Rick Hahn said of the situation:

“I don’t get into the nuances of any specific negotiation. Obviously, we prefer to talk about deals after they’re completed as opposed to the process. Usually, these things come down to a small amount and I’ve said, over the last two decades, we’ve been able to get it done. Last year on Lucas in fact, there was a slightly larger gap at the end and we reached to get something done and we were successful. We tried to reach again this year and thus far came up a little short.”

Notably, it appears that no reporter present pressed Hahn on the optics of haggling with their star pitcher over a sum that amounts the 0.0027% of owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s $1.8 billion net worth, and 0.7% of the salary Giolito is requesting. In layman’s terms, this might be viewed as roughly equivalent to refusing to pay more than $19,850 for a new car valued at $20,000. While a policy of not discussing the details of ongoing negotiations is perfectly reasonable, there is little reason that someone, anyone might not ask for comment on the seeming absurdity of such a disagreement given the above context. It remains to be seen whether any media member will take Hahn up on his offer of discussing the negotiation process after its completion.

A hearing date has yet to be announced, but is expected to be scheduled for early April.