The White Sox have signed right-hander Joe Barlow to a minor league deal, according to his transactions tracker at MLB.com. He’s been assigned to Triple-A Charlotte for now but will presumably receive an invitation to major league Spring Training.
Barlow, 28, is coming off a rough year but is not too far removed from being a big league closer. He debuted with the Rangers in 2021 with 31 appearances, posting an earned run average of 1.55 in those. A tiny .143 batting average on balls in play surely helped him out that year and his 10.8% walk rate was a bit on the high side, but he also struck out 24.3% of opponents and racked up 11 saves. In 2022, the ERA normalized to 3.86 as he saved another 13 games for the club. He dropped his walk rate to 8.9% but he only punched out 19.2% of opponents.
But in 2023, the Rangers signed Will Smith to fortify their bullpen prior to the season, then later traded for Aroldis Chapman and Chris Stratton at the deadline. Those moves coincided with a drop-off from Barlow, who only tossed 9 2/3 innings for the Rangers last year with an ERA of 4.66 in that time. He spent most of the year on optional assignment in Triple-A and then went to the Royals in August via a waiver claim. Between those two clubs, he threw 44 innings at the Triple-A level with a 5.52 ERA. The Royals outrighted him off their roster in September and he was able to elect free agency at the end of the season.
It was obviously not a great year for the righty but he’s a sensible gamble for the White Sox to take. The club itself was also facing plenty of struggles in 2023 and ended up moving significant pieces at the deadline, and then into the current offseason as well. In the past six months, they have traded relievers Kendall Graveman, Reynaldo López, Aaron Bummer, Keynan Middleton and Joe Kelly out of the organization. Also, Garrett Crochet is planning to get stretched out as a starter going into the spring, potentially subtracting another arm from the relief corps.
That should leave plenty of opportunities available for a reliever or two to step forward. That could be an internal option like Gregory Santos, a major league signee like Tim Hill or Rule 5 pick Shane Drohan. As for Barlow, he was getting big league saves not too long ago and would be a nice pickup if he could make steps to get back into that form. If he is added to the roster at any point, he still has two option seasons and less than two years of service time, meaning the club could retain him well into the future if the results justify such a path.