Nicky Lopez was at the rehearsal dinner for his wedding when he found out about the trade.
“Great timing, right?” one of the newest members of the White Sox said Tuesday.
Dealt along with four other players from the Braves to the Sox for left-hander Aaron Bummer, Lopez said the deal wasn’t a total bummer for him. After all, the 2013 Naperville Central graduate was a Sox fan who attended Game 2 of the 2005 World Series against the Astros. When he played his first game at Guaranteed Rate Field as a Kansas City Royal in 2019, he said it sounded like he was getting a standing ovation.
“I had 300 to 500 people there, thank God I didn’t have to buy tickets for all of them,” Lopez, 28, said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “When I got into the box it was a dream come true. I always dreamed of playing in Chicago, always dreamed of coming home and playing in front of my friends and family and I will never forget that day. It was pretty special.”
It should become a routine occasion now with the left-handed hitting Lopez figuring to play shortstop or second base or both for the Sox in 2024. He comes with solid and welcomed fielding credentials — a commodity sorely lacking on recent Sox teams — and .249/.312/.319 career hitting line. After the Braves acquired Lopez at the trade deadline last season, he batted .277/.333/.369 in 25 games after batting .213/.323/.281 in 68 games for the Royals, his fourth season in Kansas City.
“He can play shortstop, he can play second, he can play third base,” said general manager Chris Getz, who was reportedly nearing a deal to sign free agent shortstop Paul DeJong Tuesday. “He’s coming from a championship culture in the Atlanta Braves. Nicky can provide improved defense and that’s certainly something we’ve been set out to do.”
“One thing I do hang my hat on is being versatile and playing Gold Glove caliber defense, whether it’s at short, second or third,” Lopez said. “Played a little of the outfield as well. Knowing I can go fill a spot wherever they need me is something I take a lot of pride in.”
When Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos informed Lopez, who’s rehearsal and wedding were in Rancho Mirage, California — the three-day event was featured in People magazine for those interested in more details — that he was traded to the Sox, “I was just like, ‘If I was to go somewhere, why not go home?’ ’’
Home, where his father, Bobby “Lopes” Lopez was a Chicago 16-inch Softball Hall of Famer who played for Rich Melman’s Lettuce teams that won multiple national ASA championships. Nicky was a batboy for some of those squads.
“This has been a whirlwind but it’s been unbelievable,” Lopez said. “I grew up watching the White Sox. I remember going to Game 2 of the World Series when Konerko hit that [grand slam] home run right in front of us, in the bullpen, and then Scotty Pods [Podsednik] hit the walk-off. I remember all of it and it’s kind of full circle, which is really cool.”
Cubs promote Jared Banner to assistant GM
Jared Banner was promoted to an assistant general manager title with the Cubs on Tuesday. Banner, who had been vice president of player development the last two seasons, will work under GM Carter Hawkins and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer.
Banner fills a vacancy in the front office created when Craig Breslow left to become head of baseball operations for the Red Sox.
The Cubs farm system was ranked first by FanGraphs and fourth by MLB Pipeline under Banner.