On Saturday came news of another deal in the Great 2023 Sell-off, this time starter Lance Lynn and reliever Joe Kelly heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Double-A RHSP Nick Nastrini, Double-A RHRP Jordan Leasure ... and former White Sox draft choice Trayce Thompson.
We’ll circle back and flesh out this flash story shortly, but Nastrini is a 6´3´´, 215-pound, four-pitch starter ranking No. 10 on Baseball America’s Top 30 (No. 9 on MLB Pipleline) for the Dodgers. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2021 out of UCLA. He’s started 17 games for the Tulsa Drillers, going 5-3 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Plus, his name ends in “ini.”
Nastrini measure up nicely against his peers, as seen in the form of this Baseball Cube talent ratings:
Nastrini’s advanced pitch mix and dependability likely launches him to the top of the White Sox starting pitching ranks in the upper org, with no legit competition at either Triple- or Double-A currently. Despite the big club’s pressing need for starters, the White Sox will likely wait for the righty to settle in and string a few starts together before a possible more up to Triple-A Charlotte. A rotation spot in 2024 is not out of the question.
Leasure also runs 6´3´´, 215 and was a 14th-round pick in 2021 out of the University of Tampa. He is closing this year for the Drillers, with a 3.09 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and nine saves in 29 games. He runs out 16 walks against 56 strikeouts, but has a bit of a longball issue, surrendering six this year at a 1.54 rate per nine innings.
Although the more minor piece in this deal, Leasure ratings leap off the page:
Leasure immediately becomes the top-ranked reliever in the White Sox system and could conceivably see time on the South Side in 2023.
And perhaps more significantly, given some of the lat issues facing Ky Bush (acquired in the Giolito-López deal on Wednesday), neither Nastrini nor Leasure have been slowed by injury during their brief professional careers.
Thompson is on the 60-day IL, having strained an oblique on a check-swing on June 3, and was likely included in the deal on the Dodgers end for luxury tax purposes given their inflated team payroll. Whether the White Sox plan to utilize their 2009 second-rounder at all, as Triple-A depth or MLB bench help, remains to be seen.
Thompson was sent to L.A. originally in 2015 in the three-team trade that netted the White Sox Todd Frazier. He has been in seven different organizations in the intervening years, including a brief return to the White Sox in 2018. It’s been a journeyman existence, interrupted by a resurgent 2022 that saw Thompson put up a career-best 2.0 WAR in part-time play for the Dodgers.
Lynn spent two-and-a-half years and 70 starts on the South Side, and a top-three finisher in 2021’s Cy Young voting. That was the high point. It got much worse from there, including a slide into 2023 (6-9, career-worst 6.47 ERA that ranked as the worst among all MLB starters this year). Nonetheless as a “gamer” and veteran, Lynn had a solid market this trade season, reportedly drawing interest from a number of playoff teams who seem to believe that his poor run prevention numbers are belied by still-excellent stuff that’s led to a 27% strikeout rate, well-above league average.
Kelly’s 74-game tenure with the White Sox over the past two season was almost unbearably bad, particularly for a luxury arm paid in the neighborhood of $13 million by the White Sox. His career 5.59 ERA was certainly betrayed by bad defense, strategy and luck (3.14 ERA), but Kelly was paid to come to the White Sox as a steady veteran setup man for closer Liam Hendriks and ended up performing like a run-of-the-mill, community-college 12th-rounder. His strikeouts were up in Chicago, but so were walks and hits — and 75+ ERA (104 career) tells you that luck or not, Kelly was an abject failure in Chicago.
To help patch the bullpen loss of Kelly, the White Sox called Declan Cronin up from Triple-A Charlotte on Friday, and he is set to make his major-league debut this weekend for the White Sox. He’s sporting a 4.03 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 41 games with the Knights this season, including two saves.