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The White Sox acquire Corey Julks from the Astros

The Astros traded for an outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox, with announcements from both clubs. The Astros, who designated Julks to work last week, will get the minor league right-hander Luis Rodriguez in return. Julks was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. To make room for Julks on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated an outfielder Rafael Ortega to get the assignment and remember the foreign player Dominic Fletcher to take Ortega's place on the active roster.

Julks, 28, was an eighth-round pick of the Astros back in 2017 and wasn't considered a high-profile prospect in the years following that pick. 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 Pacific Coast League, his .270/.351/.503 batting line led to a 108 wRC+.

That put him in the big leagues in 2023 but he didn't hit the big leagues early. He went to the plate 323 times for the Astros last year and hit .245/.297/.352 with an 80 wRC+, though he also stole 15 bases and received strong marks for his outfield defense.

He returned to Triple-A this year and has five home runs and six 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 league average for the PCL, but it's an interesting combination of skills.

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

Giving the veteran some playing time could bring a positive outcome, as the Sox recently traded Robbie Grossman to the Rangers Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa. A similar approach with a player like Ortega would be nice but he's hit .071/.176/.071 in his 17 games for the Sox in recent weeks and hasn't trended toward any kind of Grossman-like comeback. The Sox decided it was a better use of the roster spot to hold onto Julks and see how things go for him, while giving Ortega's spot on the active roster to Fletcher.

Julks still has two options, meaning he could be sent to Triple-A for the remainder of the year and beyond. He also has less than a year of service, which means he can be kept cheaply for the foreseeable future.

For now, Fletcher will share big league playing time with the boys Andrew Benintendi, Tommy Pham again Gavin Sheets. Pham is on a one-year contract and will be up for election this summer. Sheets may be on the block as he will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and has been in good form this year. That could open up playing time for Julks later in the year, though he eventually returns Luis Robert Jr. In the list of injured will be a feature. Oscar Kolas again Zach DeLoach and of these 40 men, none of them are doing very well in the assignment they have chosen for themselves.

For the Astros, they have Kyle Tucker, Jordan Alvarez, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Mauricio Dubon, Joey Loperfido again Trey Cabbage in their foreign mix, hopefully Pedro León slamming the door. Since depth is a major concern for them, they have recently caught on Alex Speas stop being stopped and let go of Julks.

By doing so, they were at least able to add some incredible hope to their program. The 20-year-old Rodriguez threw 33 innings in 15 games in the Dominican Summer League last year with a 3.55 earned run average, a 32.6% strikeout rate and a 4.3% walk rate. In January, he received a brief mention on FanGraphs' list of the top White Sox prospects from Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin. They noted that Rodriguez has a fastball in the 88-90 mile per hour range and a solid curveball.

The Sox will now have a week to trade Ortega or move him off waivers. He was signed to a minor league contract this winter and was added to the roster in late April. He got some playing time at times which didn't go well for him as stated. He has enough service time to decline a direct assignment and opt for free agency. He had a strong season with the Cubs in 2021, hitting .291/.360/.463 while stealing 12 bases and spending more time in center field. But he hit .241/.331/.358 the following year and did not receive a tender, with limited major league appearances since then.

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