“The seemingly annual Pederson trade rumor is already upon us. It seems the White Sox are interested in his services. They had a deal lined up for him last winter, but it was contingent on the Dodgers signing Bryce Harper, which obviously did not happen. If the Dodgers are “willing to listen to trade offers on several of their high-priced players,” Pederson would fit that description. He’s projected to make $8.5 million via arbitration and if the Dodgers have their sights set on adding more than one big free agent (or trade acquisition), offloading Pederson’s salary could be a key to making that happen.”
Now, I personally am not sure what the deal would have been to send Pederson to Chicago, but three names that seemed to come up last year (though it may have been all sourced from one person speculating) were Carson Fulmer, Bryce Bush and Aaron Bummer.
Fulmer, who turns 26 this month, has struggled mightily in parts of four seasons in the majors and ended up spending significant time in AAA last year. Bush, who turns 20 on Dec. 14, did not exactly replicate his strong first professional season in Single-A.
Bummer, on the other hand, has significantly raised his stock since those trade rumors a year ago, so much so that a quick search of his name has White Sox fans saying he wouldn’t be worth trading for Pederson. Meanwhile, I see some Dodgers fans saying a reliever isn’t enough for Joc. I don’t really care to dive into what a fair trade would be. Instead, I thought pointing out Bummer’s excellent 2019 performance was worth the time on the slim chance Joc is traded (and it is to the White Sox and Bummer was involved).
To start, the left-handed Bummer turned 26 in September and has pitched in 125 games across three major league seasons. A 2014 19th round pick out of Nebraska, Bummer threw 22 innings in Rookie ball that year. A surgery to clean up his elbow caused him to miss the start of 2015 before an eventual Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of that year. Returning to the field in July 2016, Bummer jumped through all levels of the minors and reached the White Sox in July 2017. As a result, Bummer is under team control through 2024, his age 30 season. Bummer struggled with his control in 2017 before pitching much better than his ERA showed in 2018 (a .402 BABIP partly to blame).
This past season Bummer took another huge step forward, finishing the year with a 2.13 ERA and a 3.14 FIP in 67 2/3 innings and 58 appearances. Those numbers included a .178/.213/.233/.446 and 2.54 FIP/3.13 xFIP in 25 1/3 innings against left-handed batters (for his career, Bummer is now .196/.253/.277/.530 3.05 FIP/3.54 xFIP in 51 2/3 innings against lefties).
To compare it to someone the Dodgers already have on their roster, Adam Kolarek finished 2019 with a .178/.221/.262/.483 line and 2.94 FIP/2.40 xFIP in 29 2/3 innings against lefties (and .156/.182/.188/.370 against 33 batters with the Dodgers). Other possible bullpen lefties on the 40-man roster — Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson — don’t offer much in the way of a split between batters.
While Bummer wasn’t quite up to Kolarek’s standard against lefties, he finished .188/.299/.264/.563 and 3.92 FIP/3.71 xFIP in 42 1/3 innings against right-handed batters. Kolarek unfortunately compiled a .282/.362/.495/.857 5.82 FIP/5.30 xFIP in 25 1/3 innings against righties (of his 11 1/3 innings with the Dodgers, only 2 1/3 came against righties and they still led to 4 hits and a walk against 12 batters).
What really stood out about Bummer’s 2019 season was his 72.1% ground ball rate, second in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 50 innings trailing only Zack Britton’s 77.2% (Kolarek was third at 66.3% and Joe Kelly sixth at 61.2%). Again using 50 innings as the cutoff, Bummer’s 25.1% hard contact rate was the lowest in the majors.
He achieved those rates by throwing his sinker on 67.7% of his 1039 pitches, with his cutter following at 20%. According to Baseball Savant, both of Bummer’s pitches produce a drop well above the league average.
Here’s a visual of the two pitches:
While the sinker was always part of his repertoire, the cutter was added in 2018. Both however took a leap in usage this season, with the sinker up from 55.7% and the cutter from 10.8% in 2018.
Bummer’s other notable strength in 2019 was his ability to finish at-bats. With two strikes, Bummer was effectively unhittable. That might sound obvious given the advantage in the count, but I glanced at a few elite relievers to see how they compared and these truly stood out.
As I stated above, I have no idea if Bummer would/could be a part of a trade with the White Sox. But his numbers from last season with the change in pitch usage, even if some regression comes, show he’s a pretty valuable pitcher given the team control involved.