White Sox reliever Evan Marshall will undergo Tommy John surgery next month, reports James Fegan of the Athletic (Twitter link). He missed the final few months of the season with a flexor pronator strain in his right arm and had been trying unsuccessfully to rehab the injury without going under the knife. He’s almost certain to miss the entire 2022 season.
It’s a very unfortunate development for both Marshall and the club, as he had been enjoying a late-bloomer breakout with the Sox over the past few seasons. After a solid debut in 2014, Marshall became a stereotypical journeyman for a number of years. From 2015 to 2018, he played for Arizona, Seattle and Cleveland, never logging more than 15 1/3 big league innings in a season and never having an ERA that started with a number lower than six. However, after the 2018 season, the righty was signed to a minor league deal by the White Sox that turned out great for both sides. The club selected his contract May 1st, 2019, about two weeks after Marshall’s 29th birthday. Over 2019 and the shortened 2020 campaign, Marshall logged 73 1/3 innings with an ERA of 2.45. In 2019, he succeeded mostly as a ground ball guy, as his 19.6% strikeout rate was subpar. But in 2020, he shot that up to an outstanding 32.3%, while marginally improving his grounder rate at the same time.
Unfortunately, that trajectory didn’t continue into 2021. He went on the IL June 30th and never returned to the majors, although he did make five Triple-A appearances as part of a rehab attempt that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Before hitting the shelf, he threw 27 1/3 major league innings in 2021, with an ERA of 5.60. Perhaps owing to the injuries, his strikeout and ground ball rates went down, while walks and homers went up.
Marshall has logged just over five years of service time thus far in his career. The White Sox could control him for another year via arbitration, but that seems unlikely given that he’ll probably miss the entire campaign and would be owed a raise on his $2MM salary from 2021. More likely, he’ll be designated for assignment or released soon, or perhaps some kind of extension could be worked out that would cover the rehab process as well as a future season or two. Those contracts have been given out in recent years to pitchers such as Ken Giles and Tommy Kahnle, to name just a couple.
Even without Marshall, the White Sox bullpen should be in good shape. In 2021, the team bullpen produced 7.8 fWAR, the second-highest tally in the majors. They also fared well in terms of strikeout rate (2nd), walk rate (8th) and ERA (12th). The only notable member that will be departing via free agency is deadline-acquisition Ryan Tepera. Craig Kimbrel has a $16MM club option, although it was reported last week that the club’s plan in that regard is to pick it up and then shop Kimbrel around in trades. Even without Marshall, Tepera and Kimbrel, the unit would still feature a strong core of Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crotchet and Ryan Burr.