Two weeks after declining the 2024 option on shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox are shoring up the middle of their infield.
The team has a one-year deal with free agent shortstop Paul DeJong, a source confirmed to the Sun-Times Tuesday. Last week, the Sox acquired middle infielder Nicky Lopez in a six-player trade with the Braves.
DeJong, 30, who attended Antioch High School and Illinois State University, played for the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Giants last season and slumped offensively, batting .207/.258/.355 with a .602 OPS in 127 games.
He was second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 after he batted .285/.325/.532 with 25 homers, and was an NL All-Star in 2019 when he hit 30 home runs. He has hit 42 in four seasons since 2019, however, his production waning significantly after he signed a six-year, $26 million extension before 2018.
DeJong started last season on the injured list, and after getting traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays on Aug. 1, went 3-for-44 before getting designated for assignment. Like Lopez, DeJong arrives with an above average reputation as a fielder. DeJong has 41 defensive runs save in his career.
The Sox have top shortstop prospect Colson Montgomery likely starting the season at Triple-A Charlotte, but Montgomery could make his debut by mid-season.
General manager Chris Getz and manager Pedro Grifol identified defense as a priority on their lists of offseason needs, and DeJong and Lopez, a Naperville Central graduate, fill the bill in that regard.
Lopez could be the starting second baseman alongside DeJong in what would be an all-Chicago area keystone combo on Opening Day.
The left-handed hitting Lopez also brings 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,” general manager Chris Getz said. “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 on a Zoom call Tuesday. “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.”
Lopez got word of the trade from Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos Thursday during the rehearsal for his wedding in California.
“I was just like, ‘If I was to go somewhere, why not go home?’ ’’ Lopez said.
“This has been a whirlwind but it’s been unbelievable. 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.