The White Sox announced Monday that they have designated right-hander Zack Burdi for assignment to clear a spot for right-hander Mike Wright, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Charlotte. Chicago also placed outfielder Adam Engel on the 10-day IL with inflammation in his left shoulder, recalled righty Ryan Burr from Charlotte and optioned righty Matt Foster to Charlotte.
Burdi, 26, was a first-round pick out of Louisville back in 2016. As was the case with his older brother, Nick, he was drafted as a flamethrowing righty with the potential to emerge as a dominant late-inning reliever. Unfortunately, both Burdi brothers have been repeatedly hindered by injuries. Both had Tommy John surgery — Zack’s back in 2018 — and Zack has also missed significant time due to a torn patellar tendon in his knee.
Those injuries, as one would expect, have limited Burdi’s time on the field. He’s pitched just 16 1/3 innings in the Majors, all coming since Opening Day 2020, and allowed 15 runs in that time. The damage has come largely on the strength of an alarmins seven home runs, which have been a problem for the younger Burdi throughout the upper minors (combined 1.40 HR/9 between Double-A and Triple-A).
Despite being drafted back in 2016, Burdi has thrown just 141 1/3 innings total innings between the big leagues and the minors. He’ll have one more minor league option remaining beyond the 2021 season, however, so a club that’s intrigued by the raw arm strength could potentially overlook the 7.30 ERA and eight home runs he’s logged in 24 2/3 innings of Triple-A this season in order to take a speculative look. With the trade deadline now passed, Burdi will be placed on outright waivers within the next week.
Wright, 31, has pitched 258 innings in the big leagues and had his own struggles, working to a combined 6.00 ERA between the Orioles and the Mariners. He spent the 2020 season with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization and posted a 4.68 ERA in 157 2/3 innings before returning to the U.S. on a minor league deal with the ChiSox. He’s made 16 starts and compiled a 3.40 ERA in 95 1/3 frames with the Knights this year, striking out 23 percent of his opponents against a 7.4 percent walk rate with a 47.7 percent ground-ball rate.
The loss of the 29-year-old Engel for a yet-to-be-determined period of time stings a bit, given the outfielder’s breakout showing at the dish. Engel had a terrific 2020 season, albeit in just 93 plate appearances, and has largely backed that up with a similarly strong showing in 121 trips to the plate this year. He’s hitting .269/.336/.492 across the past two seasons, with 10 homers, 11 doubles, a triple and eight steals in his past 214 big league plate appearances.
Chicago recently welcomed stars Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez back from the injured list, and the South Siders have also gotten fine work from Brian Goodwin and first baseman-turned-outfielder Andrew Vaughn. They’re certainly equipped to handle the loss, particularly with the AL Central already effectively wrapped up, but the hope is obviously that Engel will return in short order to give the club as much depth as possible for the forthcoming postseason run.