Could the White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez Become a Yankee Trade Target?

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are 33-17 on the season and two games in back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox; however, the series loss over the weekend to the Houston Astros shows just how far short Yankee starting pitching comes when up against the toughest offense in Major League Baseball.

Wallace Matthew of the New York Times wrote after Sonny Gray’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday:

“But as the season grinds on, it is becoming clear that if the 2018 Yankees have an Achilles’ heel, it is their starting pitching.”

With the exception of Luis Severino, the starting rotation has shown signs of faltering with CC Sabathia coming off three weeks of sub-par outings, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka struggling to find consistency and rookie replacement Domingo German learning the hard way.

Fans and experts alike have begun speculating not whether but when and who the Yankees will target to improve the starting rotation.

Rumors have swirled around top-flight names such as Michael Fulmer (Detroit), Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco), Cole Hamels (Rangers), James Paxton (Seattle) and Patrick Corbin (Arizona).

And, indeed, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman may pull off a trade for one of these top of the line starters.

However, just under the radar, there are a number of pitchers with break-out potential who are worth a look.

The Chicago White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez, 24, is just such a pitcher. Currently the number three guy in their rotation, Baseball America ranked him as the number three prospect in the White Sox system in 2017 and the number 31 overall prospect in MLB.

He made his debut with the White Sox in ’17 and in eight games he posted eight quality starts, throwing at least six innings in seven of the eight. Lopez was 3-3 on the season with a 4.72 ERA.

In 2018, Lopez earned a starting spot for the White Sox and, according to Ruben Ceniceros of South Side Show, he has been the White Sox best pitcher this season:

“Starters with at least eight games started, Lopez has the least runs allowed, lowest ERA, lowest batting average against, lowest WHIP, lowest BB/9, lowest H/9, and highest K/BB ratio. Lopez doesn’t have the most inning pitched or the most strikeouts or the highest win percentage but he’s been dominant in many of his outings.”

Lopez is 1-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 games for the White Sox in ’18 with a 4.65 FIP, 3.8 BB/9, 6.2 K/9. Lopez has had an excellent start to the season, and it puts him in some pretty select company. Ceniceros writes:

“His WAR for the season is sitting at 1.4, which is better currently than Jose Berrios, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Strausburg, Lance McCullers, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw.”

His 1.4 WAR is also better than every Yankee starter with the exception of Severino. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has even speculated that Lopez may get a nod for the All-Star game on the strength of his early success.

The six-foot right-hander throws his fastball consistently above 95 mph and can touch triple digits.  According to Brooks Baseball, Lopez also throws a curveball, changeup, slider, cutter and sinker.

Lopez, like most pitchers on weak teams, has not benefitted from much run support from the White Sox offense. Sullivan points out that as of Sunday’s action, Lopez had the 14th lowest support (3.14 runs per start) among major league pitchers.

Lopez has been the most impressive player on a rebuilding White Sox team this season. If the Yankees decide to trade for a starting pitcher, perhaps Cashman should take a look at the South Side of Chicago for a player who is quickly transitioning into the ace of his team’s rotation.