MLB trade deadline: White Sox’ best trading chip, RHP Lucas Giolito, makes his pitch

“I love all the guys in here; I’ve been around them for years,” Giolito said. “And potentially my last year with the White Sox, I want to enjoy it.”

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Lucas Giolito has been the White Sox’ best starting pitcher this season.

Lucas Giolito has been the White Sox’ best starting pitcher this season.

Harry How/Getty Images

OAKLAND, Calif. — The deeper the White Sox sink, the more apparent it becomes that they’ll be sellers at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. To what extent remains to be seen. They still have time to decide.

Right-hander Lucas Giolito has been the best starting pitcher on a woefully underwhelming 37-49 team and would be an asset to a contender needing to bolster its rotation. With his contract expiring after the season — sending him into the free-agent market for the first time, a market potentially offering the kind of rich, lengthy deal the Sox historically are unwilling to make for a pitcher — Giolito could be one of the first to go.

But Giolito, who takes a 3.53 ERA into his start Tuesday against the Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field, doesn’t want to go anywhere.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I want to be here,” he told the Sun-Times. “I’ve been with this organization since 2017. They gave me an opportunity to be in the big leagues an entire year [2018] when I probably didn’t deserve it. So I have a lot of loyalty there.”

The American League Central is the worst division in baseball with the first-place Twins (42-43) and Guardians (41-42) owning losing records and leading the Sox by 512 games going into Monday night. Insiders don’t expect the Twins to be very active at the deadline.

“Considering the competitive level of our division,’’ Giolito said, ‘‘if we can just get hot and fire on all cylinders offensively and defensively, kind of like those last two games in Anaheim, it gives me hope that we can get back in the race and win the division. And I want to be here for that run, especially since after this year, it’s, like, the big question mark.”

The big question mark is free agency.

“I love all the guys in here; I’ve been around them for years,” he said. “And potentially my last year with the White Sox, I want to enjoy it.”

Giolito was part of a big trade for Adam Eaton in 2016 with the Nationals that kicked off a rebuild that has produced one wild card, one division title and two fall-on-the-face seasons to follow.

If there are teammates who wouldn’t mind going elsewhere to have a chance to win, Giolito understands.

“I get it,’’ he said. ‘‘You want to win; you want to have the best opportunity to win. But for me, it’s the loyalty I have for these guys. I want us to win. And even though we got off to a really, really bad start, I still feel that’s possible. I want to be able to do that for the rest of the season with these guys.”

Giolito is enjoying a bounce-back year after his 4.90 ERA last season. It’s not a foreign experience. In 2018, he made 32 starts, led the AL in earned runs (118) and walks (90) and had a 6.13 ERA. The next three seasons, he had remarkably consistent ERAs of 3.41, 3.48 and 3.53, was an All-Star in 2019 and finished sixth, seventh and 11th in Cy Young voting from 2019 to 2021.

Giolito could fetch a prospect or two in return, but the market is fluid. Timing is everything for the buyers and sellers. The Sox have Lance Lynn (club option for 2024) as another trade candidate, but he has a 6.47 ERA, almost twice as high as his career 3.68 mark over 12 seasons.

Despite Lynn’s numbers, Sox pitching ranks third in the majors since May 13 with a 3.63 ERA. Per Baseball Reference WAR, Giolito, Michael Kopech, Mike Clevinger and Dylan Cease are the Sox’ most valuable performers after All-Star center fielder Luis Robert, although Clevinger and Kopech are on the injured list but expected to come off it soon.

Giolito, for one, would like to see them stay together.

“I’m trying to do everything I can when I get the ball, and I know the other starters are, too,” he said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”

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