The Yankees and White Sox have agreed to a trade that will send Keynan Middleton to the Bronx, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). Right-hander Juan Carela will head from New York to Chicago in return, according to YES Network’s Joe LoGrippo (via Twitter).
Middleton becomes the latest player moved in what has been a significant pre-deadline selloff from Chicago, while the Yankees have now made their first notable deadline move. While New York had been reportedly looking to add some controllable pieces, the Bombers will instead make a short-term move in Middleton, who is a free agent after the season.
Signed to a minor league deal by the White Sox over the winter, Middleton was looking to rebuild his career after a trio of rocky seasons with the Angels, Mariners, and Diamondbacks. Breaking into the majors as a member of the Angels’ bullpen in 2017, Middleton showed some intriguing promise in his rookie season but Tommy John surgery sidelined him for most of the next two years.
Now 29 years old, Middleton finally started to get back on track this season in Chicago. He has a 3.96 ERA over 36 1/3 innings, with an excellent 30.3% strikeout rate and elite chase and whiff rates. Control has been an issue, as Middleton’s 10.3% walk rate is well below league average, and he also has a 9.8% barrel rate despite good hard-hit ball numbers overall.
A lot of that damage has come within the last month. Middleton had a 2.33 ERA through his first 29 appearances and 27 innings, but he has since posted an 8.68 ERA over his last 9 1/3 innings of work, allowing at least one earned run in six of 10 appearances. These recent struggles surely impacted Chicago’s asking price, but the Yankees felt comfortable enough to take the plunge on the low-cost addition.
The right-hander joins a New York bullpen that has been one of the game’s better relief corps this season, and since the Yankees were otherwise very quiet with their deadline moves, it seems as though the club is doubling down on its strong pen to try and sneak into a wild card berth. Clay Holmes and Michael King get most of the save chances and highest-leverage work, but there’s plenty of flexibility for Middleton to earn him more looks in key late-game situations.
The 21-year-old Carela has a 3.67 ERA over 83 1/3 innings (starting 16 of 17 games) with the Yankees’ high-A affiliate in Hudson Valley this season, with a 9.1% walk rate and an impressive 31.1% strikeout rate. MLB Pipeline ranked Carela as the 29th-best prospect in New York’s farm system, describing the right-hander as a possible back-end rotation piece if he improves his control and command. Carela has a plus slider as well as a sweeper, a pitch taught to many hurlers in the Yankees organization in recent years.