MLB Free Agency

Lucas Giolito Contract Extension: Where White Sox, Ace Stand

Where Sox, Giolito stand on possible extension for ace originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Will Lucas Giolito be the next franchise cornerstone to join the Chicago White Sox' contract-extension club?

It's a great question, one that plenty of South Side baseball fans are itching to get an answer to.

The front office handed out long-term deals to young stars Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert to inject optimism into the idea of a lengthy contention window, a continuation of the trend that started with Tim Anderson in the early stages of his big league career.

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But according to Giolito, at least at the time he spoke with media members early last month, there were no updates to provide on any talks between the White Sox and the ace of their starting staff.

That doesn't mean, though, that there's not interest in finding a way to keep Giolito in a White Sox uniform for a long, long time.

"I mean, I'm open to it," Giolito said. "For me, I'm always interested in a long-term contract, something where, essentially: Make me a White Sox player for life.

"But the business of baseball is the business of baseball. A lot of that's out of my hands, so for the time being, I'm just going to focus on what I focus on, which is getting better, especially in the offseason right now. Getting my body strong, honing in and refining some of my pitching stuff and going out there and giving it my all for my team. That's all I can control. The other stuff, it is what it is."

The White Sox seem to feel similarly.

"I think our track record probably speaks for itself on that matter," general manager Rick Hahn said last month during the GM meetings in Southern California. "We've got a pretty long history of being aggressive in trying to sign young guys to long-term deals that extends their stay in a White Sox uniform.

"Obviously it takes two to tango. There's got to be mutual interest in that. We haven't necessarily converted on every one of our targets over the last couple of decades of working under that approach, but I think it's safe to assume we'll continue to work that way going forward.

"I've got nothing but great things to say about Lucas in a White Sox uniform, from his performance to his leadership in the clubhouse, to the way he represents himself and the club off the field, is exemplary."

So given the love, where's the deal?

Well, there are plenty of things that might have prevented a long-term pact to this point, and it should come as no surprise that it has a lot to do with the nuances of that business of baseball Giolito was talking about.

If Hahn wants to draw a comparison to the team's recent success in locking up its core players, Giolito is in a far different spot in his career than Jiménez and Robert were when they signed their deals and even a different one than Moncada was. Jiménez and Robert had yet to appear in a major league game when they inked the extensions that will keep them on the South Side through the 2026 and 2027 seasons, respectively. Moncada had one very good season under his belt, but only one very good season, when he signed up to stick around through 2025.

Giolito, meanwhile, is three years into a career resurgence that saw him make the All-Star team in 2019, throw a no-hitter and pitch a dominating playoff game in 2020 and continue to show he's the ace of the staff for a division champion in 2021. He's finished in the top 11 of the American League Cy Young vote in each of the last three years, with top-seven finishes in 2019 and 2020.

That's a lot more bargaining power than any of the three aforementioned position players had at the times of their long-term extensions, and it could make free agency, which Giolito is due for after the 2023 season, all the more enticing. Not to mention, ace pitchers have made a habit of landing massive, record-breaking contracts on the free-agent market over the last several offseasons. Who knows if Giolito can get up to the kinds of deals that Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Max Scherzer got the last three winters, but he's got two years to make it happen.

Giolito, of course, has said all the right things about his desire to remain on the South Side for a long while, whether it was the above line about wanting to be made a "White Sox player for life" or his preseason insistence that "I don't want to play anywhere else." That should go a ways toward soothing the worried minds of any White Sox fans who might fret the ace making a return to his native California as a free agent.

But money so often talks, and the White Sox find themselves in the unique position among major league teams to discuss an extension with one of the AL's top arms before he hits free agency two years from now.

That two-year window might appear lengthy enough that there's no rush, not with other priorities on the White Sox' offseason to-do list, whenever the lockout ends and Hahn's winter work is able to resume. For what it's worth, when asked at the GM meetings about further securing the services of Anderson, Hahn pointed to his shortstop's free agency — slated for 2024, a year after Giolito's — as not being "a pressing matter," given the three remaining seasons of club control.

But Hahn is also quick to remind that the White Sox typically handle their extension conversations during the offseason. Robert's extension was announced in early January, with the deals for Jiménez and Moncada coming during spring training. It was last spring that ESPN's Jeff Passan reported that the White Sox were engaging both Giolito and Andrew Vaughn, who had yet to play a big league game, in extension talks.

The White Sox have made a habit of making spring "extension season." Maybe then Giolito will have something to report and White Sox fans might get some more answers to this popular question.

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