Nate Jones

White Sox find themselves in-between buy and sell mode at trade deadline

White Sox find themselves in-between buy and sell mode at trade deadline

The White Sox are in an interesting point in their rebuild ahead of today’s trade deadline.

They aren’t yet in position to be buyers, as they currently sit 18 games out of first place in the AL Central and 13 games out of a wild-card spot. At the same time, they aren’t in position to sell off assets for the sake of gaining anything valuable back in return, as they hold a 46-58 record and should be more competitive in 2020.

Although the White Sox shipped the oft-injured Nate Jones to the Rangers early Wednesday, they aren’t big time sellers. NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien broke down the state of the White Sox at the trade deadline on NBC Sports’ MLB Trade Deadline Show.

“[Jones has] only pitched 140 innings since 2013,” Garfien said. “The White Sox are basically turning the page on him and they’re just trying to get more pitchers in their system and they get him off the books for next season. That is really all of what that is.

“That’s kind of where things are at. The Sox are just in-between right now. They’re not big-time sellers, they’re not big-time buyers right now. They want to look forward to making a move next year and try to win next year, be a much more competitive team.

“But they’re also trying to figure out what they have and what they’re going to have going forward.”

Catch up on all of today’s news, post-trade deadline, today at 3 p.m. CT on the second rendition of NBC Sports’ trade deadline special. Here’s how you can tune in.

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Nate Jones, longest tenured White Sox player, traded to Rangers for minor league pitchers

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USA TODAY

Nate Jones, longest tenured White Sox player, traded to Rangers for minor league pitchers

Of all the White Sox relievers discussed as potential trade candidates ahead of Wednesday's deadline, none of them was Nate Jones.

But that's who got dealt Wednesday, just a few hours before the deadline, with the White Sox shipping their longest tenured player to the Texas Rangers, along with international signing money, in exchange for a pair of minor league arms: Ray Castro and Joseph Jarneski.

Making the deal so curious is the fact that Jones is out for the year while recovering from forearm surgery. But the Rangers are taking a flier on a guy with a club option for the 2020 season and a mutual option for the 2021 season.

A member of the White Sox organization since 2007 and a member of the big league team since 2012, Jones' tenure was often dictated by injuries, as only three times in those eight major league seasons did he complete a full campaign. When he was healthy, he was terrific, as evidenced by the 2.29 ERA and 10.2 K/9 he put up during a healthy 2016 season. But since, he made only 57 relief appearances combined during the 2017, 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

As for the two right-handed pitchers the White Sox acquired, neither has pitched above rookie ball yet. The 22-year-old Castro has a 2.02 ERA in the Dominican Summer League, and that's where he'll stay as he joins the White Sox. The 19-year-old Jarneski has a 1.62 ERA in the Arizona Rookie League, and he'll stay there upon joining the White Sox. Castro was signed as an international free agent in 2016, while Jarneski was a 12th-round draft pick in 2017.

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Nate Jones out for the year: Has he pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform?

Nate Jones out for the year: Has he pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform?

Nate Jones is out for the season after having surgery Monday to repair a tear in his flexor mass in his right forearm.

Unfortunately for a guy who at times during his career has looked like a potential shutdown reliever, his terrible health luck has continued. This is his eighth major league season, and he’ll finish it having averaged just 35 appearances a year.

It might not be the end for Jones, as general manager Rick Hahn was sure to point out. But is it the end for Jones on the South Side? He’s spent his entire big league career to this point with the White Sox, who picked up a team option on Jones’ contract ahead of this season. There’s one of those for next season, too. But how likely is it the White Sox would pick that up for 2020?

That decision won’t be made until the season’s over, at least not publicly, so don’t expect any definitive answers on that from White Sox brass while we’re still waiting for summer weather to arrive.

"I believe this is his third, possibly his fourth procedure in the last four or five years,” Hahn said. “Obviously a great competitor and someone who's worked very hard to get back each time, to now undergo another setback is, I'm sure, very discouraging.

“As Nate and I talked about a few weeks ago when it looked like it was heading down this path, there's been a decent number of very fine relievers in the last several years who have had this and been able to be productive into their mid, late 30s. Certainly there's no reason to think Nate can't be one, as well. Get this behind him, get him healthy and see where it goes.”

Jones is a likable guy, and certainly the White Sox don’t want to rudely end his tenure at this early stage in the season. But thinking about their long-term plans, it would figure that a team looking to get younger as it approaches its transition from rebuilding to contending would perhaps move on from a 33-year-old with persistent health issues.

Had Jones turned in a healthy 2019, the value would have been fairly obvious. He could have helped strengthen the back end of a bullpen already strengthened over the offseason by the additions of Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera. All that veteran presence in the highest leverage of situations could have aided the continued development of the young arms that could make up the relief corps of the future. A really good few months might have even led to a midseason trade, like the ones Hahn has used in recent years to add to the farm system.

Instead, Jones is out for the year just a month and a half into the season. And with another layer of uncertainty heading into 2020, the chances that the White Sox pick up that option would seem to get slimmer.

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