As first reported by Scott Merkin, the White Sox claimed 31-year-old reliever Nik Turley off waivers from the Oakland Athletics.
The 6-foot-4 left hander was drafted by the Yankees in the 50th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. As a Harvard-Westlake HS (Los Angeles, CA) prospect, he opted out of a commitment to play college ball at BYU when the Yankees called his name.
Turley spent seven years in the Yankees farm system, where he was developed as a starter, making 113 appearance (104 starts) with stops at every level. He had success in the minors and was selected as a Florida State League All-Star in 2012 as part of the High-A Tampa Yankees after going 9-5 with 116 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA in 23 games. Turley’s ERA and WHIP climbed in step with his advancement through the Yankees’ farm system.
Turley was granted free agency in 2014 and later signed with the San Francisco Giants where he made 19 starts for the club’s Triple-A affiliate the Sacramento River Cats, going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 102.2 innings. After becoming a free agent again, Turley signed with the White Sox, but never made an appearance, and was released prior to the 2016 season.
Turley found his way into the bullpen after signing with the Boston Red Sox, making 20 appearances with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs where he had a 12.1 K/9 ratio.
He had his first cup of coffee in the Majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2017, but struggled with the club over his 17.2 innings pitched, turning in a sultry 7.06 FIP and a WHIP over 2.1. The Twins waved him after the 2017 season, and he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In January 2018, Turley was suspended 80 games for performance enhancing drugs. After serving his suspension, he was inserted back into the Pirates’ bullpen, making 25 appearances during the shortened 2020 season. While still nothing to write home about, Turley’s second stint in the majors showed improvement as he increased his ERA+ 50 points compared to his 2017 effort, and dropped his WHIP to a more manageable 1.10.
Prior to the 2021 season, Turley was traded to the Oakland A’s for cash, and given an opportunity to compete for a bullpen spot. He seemed primed to break camp, being completely out of options on a team with a lack of lefty arms. However, the team’s signing of closer Trevor Rosenthal shifted things, moving Jake Diekman further up the bullpen list. The A’s also added lefty Adam Kolarek to the mix.
Turley’s 2021 spring training which ended up being the nail in his coffin. Turley completely imploded in March, giving up 10 runs (four home runs) in only 4.1 innings of work. His spring made Oakland’s decision on his future with the club rather easy.
Turley, who as mentioned is out of minor league options, has a chance to control his own destiny on a White Sox team who lost Jimmy Cordero this week for the entirety of the 2021 season. Turley was a 38% ground ball pitcher in 2020, and still has power with an average fastball velocity of 97 mph, but his control has been poor recently. He will need to find his aim again and prove to Tony LaRussa and Ethan Katz that he can be a contributor on this team. If he can’t, this journeyman will be packing his bags and looking for a new home yet again.