SURPRISE, Ariz. — Lucas Giolito and his family expressed frustration and disappointment Wednesday over having to go through the arbitration process with the White Sox after the two sides, $200,000 apart in their filings Tuesday, failed to reach a settlement.
Arguably the ace of the Sox’ pitching staff and a candidate to be their Opening Day starter for a third consecutive year, Giolito filed for $7.5 million while the Sox filed at $7.3 million. Giolito said the sides were as close as $50,000 ($7.4 million and $7.45 million) in pre-filing negotiations before the Sox lowered their number.
Such a tiny gap seems unnecessary, but the Sox standing their ground and drawing a line in the sand went over like a lead balloon with fans, many sharing their displeasure with management on social media.
“Very frustrating,” said Giolito, who clearly wanted to address the issue with reporters at the team’s spring-training complex at Camelback Ranch. “I love White Sox fans and I appreciated all the love from those guys [on social media]. It’s just very unfortunate, disheartening.”
One agent suggested it could be a placeholder while a long-term deal is negotiated.
“It would be absurd if they actually went to a hearing on this,” the agent said. “It would signify hard feelings on both sides. Not a positive for either side.”
Giolito, who earned $4.15 million in his first year of arbitration last season, will be eligible for free agency after the 2023 season and seems headed elsewhere if he doesn’t sign an extension.
“Like I’ve always said about extensions, I absolutely love this team,” he said. “The more I play the more I understand my value as a player. And I just want fair. It’s always fair for me, that’s where I’m at.”
Giolito’s father expressed frustration with the Sox in harsher terms on Twitter.
“It would be ridiculous to arbitrate over $50K,” Rick Giolito tweeted. “The arbitrator would say WTF? I do not appreciate that the Sox lowered their offer almost twice as much as Lucas raised his. Luc was trying to be fair. Sox trying to punish him for not taking their offer?”
General manager Rick Hahn, who declined to discuss particulars of the negotiation, spoke face to face with Giolito Wednesday morning and said the process won’t have “negative impact on that relationship going forward.”
“This is not a reflection of anything to do with him,” Hahn said. “This is a function of the arbitration process.”
After posting a 6.13 ERA and walking an AL-worst 90 batters in 2018, numbers that classified him as arguably the worst starting pitcher in baseball, Giolito bounced back in a big way, finishing sixth, seventh and 11th in AL Cy Young voting the last three seasons. He has an All-Star Game appearance and no-hitter on his resume and is one of the team’s biggest and brightest personalities.
“For it to come down to a 50K difference prior to the filing, it’s like, ‘Come on,’ ’’ said Giolito, who is the team’s player representative. “It’s an upsetting part of the process. It’s why a lot of us don’t enjoy the business side of the process.”
“Usually these things come down to a small amount,” Hahn said. “Last year on Lucas in fact, there was a slightly larger gap at the end and we reached to get something done and were successful. We tried to reach again this year and thus far came up a little short. But obviously you look and we’re $200 grand apart sitting here today . . . that being a small gap, we’ll see where things go.”
Because of the lockout, arbitration hearings will take place during the season. The Sox have gone to arbitration only with Avisail Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez during Hahn’s tenure.
Hearings can get contentious. But Giolito said that won’t affect his performance.
“At that point it’s out of your hands and I am able to focus on the team and what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “It has no effect on that whatsoever. I’m always going to give 100% for the guys behind me, and we’re trying to do something special this year. It was just frustrating. You want to get something fair done and it’s unfortunate this is the spot we’re in today.”