HomeMLB RumorsWhite Sox Acquire Corey Julks From Astros

White Sox Acquire Corey Julks From Astros

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The Astros have traded outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox, per announcements from both clubs. The Astros, who designated Julks for assignment last week, will receive minor league right-hander Luis Rodriguez in return. Julks has been optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. To open a 40-man spot for Julks, the Sox designated outfielder Rafael Ortega for assignment and recalled outfielder Dominic Fletcher to take Ortega’s spot on the active roster.

Julks, 28, was an eighth-round pick of the Astros back in 2017 and wasn’t really considered a very noteworthy prospect in the years following that selection. He put himself on the radar with a strong 2022 season, hitting 31 home runs and stealing 22 bases in 130 Triple-A games. In the hitter-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League, his .270/.351/.503 batting line led to a 108 wRC+.

That got him to the big leagues in 2023 but he didn’t immediately hit the ground running in the majors. He stepped to the plate 323 times for the Astros last year and hit .245/.297/.352 for a wRC+ of 80, though he also stole 15 bases and got solid grades for his outfield defense.

He’s been back at Triple-A this year and has another five home runs and six more steals in 31 games. His 12.8% walk rate is a few points higher than the 9.5% rate he had in 2022. His overall production this year is considered to be around league average for the PCL, but it’s an intriguing combination of skills.

Despite the interesting stats, Julks is 28 years old now and was blocked by a crowded outfield mix in Houston, so they nudged him off their roster. The White Sox have far more of a need and more of an ability to take a chance on a player like Julks, given their status as a rebuilding club.

Giving playing time to a veteran can yield to a positive result, as the Sox just recently traded Robbie Grossman to the Rangers for Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa. A similar path with a player like Ortega would have been ideal but he hit .071/.176/.071 in his 17 plate appearances for the Sox in recent weeks and wasn’t trending towards any kind of Grossman-like return. The Sox decided it was a better use of a roster spot to grab Julks and see how things go with him, while giving Ortega’s spot on the active roster to Fletcher.

Julks still has two options, meaning he could potentially be sent to Triple-A for the rest of this year and one more. He also has less than a year of service time, meaning he can be cheaply retained for the foreseeable future.

For now, Fletcher will share the big league playing time with guys like Andrew Benintendi, Tommy Pham and Gavin Sheets. Pham is on a one-year deal and will be a trade candidate this summer. Sheets could perhaps be on the block as well since he’ll reach arbitration for the first time this winter and has been in good form this year. That could perhaps open some playing time for Julks later in the year, though the eventual return of Luis Robert Jr. from the injured list will also be a factor. Oscar Colás and Zach DeLoach are also on the 40-man but neither is performing especially well on optional assignment right now.

For the Astros, they have  Kyle TuckerYordan AlvarezChas McCormickJake MeyersMauricio DubonJoey Loperfido and Trey Cabbage in their outfield mix, with prospect Pedro León banging on the door as well. Since pitching depth is a greater concern for them, they recently grabbed Alex Speas off waivers and let go of Julks.

By doing so, they were at least able to add a pitching prospect to their system. The 20-year-old Rodriguez tossed 33 innings over 15 appearances in the Dominican Summer League last year with a 3.55 earned run average, 32.6% strikeout rate and 4.3% walk rate. In January, he got a brief mention on the FanGraphs list of top White Sox prospect from Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin. They noted that Rodriguez has a fastball in the 88-90 miles per hour range and a strong curveball.

The Sox will now have a week to trade Ortega or pass him through waivers. He was signed to a minor league deal this winter and added to the roster in late April. He has received sporadic playing time which hasn’t gone well for him, as mentioned. He has enough service time that he can reject an outright assignment and elect free agency. He had a strong season with the Cubs in 2021, hitting .291/.360/.463 while stealing 12 bases and spending a lot of time in center field. But he hit .241/.331/.358 the next year and got non-tendered, with only limited big league looks since then.

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