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Lucas Giolito: Angering an ace

With the South Siders needlessly taking their top starter to arbitration, let’s take a look at the team’s stingy history.

MLB: ALDS-Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
Well, we’ve got him for 2022 and 2023, at least.
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few days, we have been given another example of how cheaply the White Sox are run.

At first, this was just illustrated through a lack of free agency signings during this condensed signing period. Now, the team has decided to allow an arbitration hearing with Lucas Giolito, one of the few proven starting pitchers that the team has at the moment.

If you have been following this team for any length of time, this is not surprising. The biggest free agency contract that the White Sox have ever given out was Yasmani Grandal’s four-year, $73 million deal in November 2019. The biggest extension the team has given a player is Yoán Moncada’s five-year, $70 million deal in the spring of 2020. Jerry Reinsdorf and company do not like to give out long-term deals to anyone.

The team also has a history of trying to avoid the usually nasty process of going into arbitration, with this being only the third time since 2001 that the team has reached this point. Previously, the team went into arbitration with both Avisaíl García and Yolmer Sánchez in 2018 and came out losers.

The problem is that the difference between what Giolito was willing to take and what the team was willing to give was $50,000. In the regular world, $50,000 is a decent amount of money. For a lot of us, it would be life-changing. For the White Sox, a team worth $1.76 billion according to Forbes, it’s nothing.

Now we have to wonder if this will come back to haunt us similar to the Chicago Cubs and their core-four situation, which ended with Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kris Bryant all being traded and Willson Contreras being a hot topic of trade talks. While a lot of people will compare it to the Cubs making Bryant wait an extra year for free agency by manipulating his service time, I see it as more like Rizzo’s contract dispute with the team.

The Cubs tried to lowball Rizzo first with a four-year, $60 million extension, and then a five-year, $70 million extension. Meanwhile, the White Sox offered Giolito a four-year, $50 million deal in the spring of 2021. The deal would have bought out his remaining arbitration eligible years and his first year of free agency, and would have included a club option for 2025.

The problem is when you see a similar pitcher such as Jose Berríos get a seven-year, $131 million deal this past offseason, it’s clear that Giolito deserves more. Giolito and Berríos between 2019 and 2021 have similar ERAs (3.47 vs 3.66), ERA+ (128 vs 120) and WHIP (1.076 vs 1.168). Both are similar ages and have pitched a similar amount of innings over the last three seasons. And that’s not to mention the leadership role and popularity Giolito holds with the White Sox and his teammates.

But because of the way that the White Sox have operated for years under Reinsdorf, do not be surprised if once Giolito is eligible to become a free agent in 2024, he remembers how he was treated in 2022.