The White Sox have been “engaging” with ace Lucas Giolito and top prospect Andrew Vaughn about possible contract extensions, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports. For now, no deal appears imminent with either player. Both Giolito and Vaughn are represented by CAA Sports.
Giolito will be paid $4.15MM in 2021 as per an arbitration-avoiding contract with the White Sox back in January, and the right-hander is under arb control through the 2023 season. Vaughn’s MLB service clock has yet to start, so an extension would make him the third White Sox player (after Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert) in as many years to sign a multi-year contract before making his big league debut.
At the start of March, Giolito said “there haven’t really been discussions about an extension” with the team, though it appears talks have picked up to at least some extent. To some extent, Chicago has time on its side given that Giolito is controlled through 2023, yet naturally the Sox would love to lock up Giolito now before his price tag could continue to rise. If Giolito pitches as well in 2021 as he did over 249 innings in 2019-20 (3.43 ERA with an impressive 32.7K% and 8.6BB%), the White Sox could be looking at an extension worth tens of millions more by this time next year.
Looking at other extensions for pitchers who had between three and four years of service time, Giolito would surely be looking to top the four-year, $45MM deal Aaron Nola signed with the Phillies prior to the 2019 season. That contract covered Nola’s first arb year — he and the Phillies were approaching a hearing — and also contained a club option that gives the Phils control over a second of Nola’s free agent years.
The White Sox could make the case that Nola was a more proven commodity with 569 MLB innings at the time of his extension and hadn’t suffered any major arm troubles, whereas Giolito already has a Tommy John procedure under his belt. Of course, Giolito’s camp could counter that prices have simply gone up in the two-plus years since Nola’s extension, and that Giolito’s durability isn’t a concern after he averaged 175 IP in 2018-19 (and obviously Giolito could have banked many more innings if the 2020 season wasn’t shortened).
Both Jimenez and Robert signed six-year contracts with two club option years attached, with Jimenez receiving $43MM in guaranteed money prior to the 2019 season and Robert $50MM guaranteed in January 2020. It’s probably safe to guess that White Sox GM Rick Hahn is proposing a similar framework to Vaughn’s representatives, so a full eight-year stint would keep Vaughn (who turns 23 next month) on the South Side through his age-30 season.
Selected with the third overall pick of the 2019 draft, Vaughn demolished Pac-12 pitching over three years at Cal, then got his pro career off to a quick start by batting .278/.384/.449 with six homers in 245 combined plate appearances at rookie ball, A-ball, and high-A ball. His 2020 minor league season was wiped out by the pandemic, but Vaughn’s bat is considered so ready for prime time that he is expected to play an important role for the big league team this coming season, projected for the bulk of DH at-bats and occasionally spelling AL MVP Jose Abreu at first base when Abreu needs a DH day.
A pre-career extension would allow Chicago to install Vaughn on the Opening Day roster without any of the service-time machinations that teams often deploy to keep top prospects in the minors for just long enough to gain an extra year of control. Like Jimenez and Robert, Vaughn is a consensus pick as one of the game’s best minor leaguers, ranking high on top-prospect lists from Keith Law (who ranks Vaughn 10th), MLB Pipeline (14th), Baseball Prospectus (14th), Fangraphs (14th), and Baseball America (21st).