A seemingly minor trade might pay major dividends for the White Sox this year.
In organizational meetings after the 2018 season, Chicago scout Bill “Yogi” Young pushed hard for lefthander Manny Banuelos.
“(Young) was the one who pounded the table and said, ‘Look, this kid is back to being who he was before. He can help us now,’ “general manager Rick Hahn said.
After pitching effectively last season with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers’ system, Banuelos figured to attract a lot of interest on the open market if allowed to become a minor league free agent.
With that in mind, the White Sox acquired the 27-year-old in a Nov. 1 trade that sent low Class A first baseman Justin Yurchak to Los Angeles. They promptly added Banuelos to the 40-man roster to retain his rights.
“Very interesting guy,” Hahn said of Banuelos. “He was once a top prospect before the injuries derailed him. At one point, I think he was viewed as potentially untouchable by the Yankees as he was on his ascent. He’s obviously had some setbacks, but he pitched last year without restriction. His stuff seemed to come back to the level it was at before.”
In 31 games (18 starts) with Oklahoma City last year, Banuelos went 9-7, 3.73 while finishing fifth in the Pacific Coast League with 127 strikeouts.
Signed by the Yankees in 2008 as a 17-year-old phenom out of Mexico, Banuelos was tracking in the right direction until he missed the 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery.
He had another procedure in 2015 to remove bone spurs from his elbow, but Banuelos has gradually gotten back up to speed, particularly with his fastball.
Banuelos will likely compete with Dylan Covey for the final spot in the big league rotation.
Banuelos has spent 11 seasons in pro ball but part of only one in the big leagues. He pitched 26 innings for the Braves in 2016.
Because Banuelos is out of minor league options, Chicago could keep him on the 25-man roster as a reliever.
“He brings lefthanded starting ability to the organization,” farm director Chris Getz said. “He’s a player we identified early on in the offseason who can come right into spring training and compete for major league innings.”