While his projected salary is considerably lower, injuries limit Leury Garcia's potential as much they do Avisail's
In a day — day and a half, tops — White Sox fans could be done arguing over Avisail Garcia forever.
Friday marks the non-tender deadline, and the decision regarding a contract for Garcia is front of mind, as well as top of page on whitesox.com. Scott Merkin didn’t tilt either way with his contemplation:
But a non-tender of Garcia might serve as a greater indication of the White Sox underlying confidence in adding an outfielder during the coming months. Garcia, much like [Jose] Abreu, is under his last year of contractual control with the White Sox, but as Hahn pointed out, there’s not a rush to make a long-term decision on these players.
Abreu seems more likely to be part of the contending White Sox plans than Garcia, especially with the White Sox teeming with young outfield talent; seven of their present top 15 prospects are outfielders.
Garcia’s merits (tremendous 2017, newfound power despite injuries in 2018) and demerits (injuries in 2018, everything besides 2017) basically make him a typical end-of-winter acquisition. If a GM found his team a little short on corner production and couldn’t convert on other players during the offseason, Garcia wouldn’t be the worst player to turn to.
Contract situations being what they are, though, Garcia has to be among the White Sox’ first choices, and there’s reason to believe the Sox could do better for that $8 million.
He’s not the only arbitration-eligible Garcia the White Sox have, nor is he the only one worth considering. Leury Garcia’s situation could be just as much of a bellwether for the size of the overhaul Rick Hahn has in mind.
Granted, Leury Garcia’s contract figure is a lot easier to absorb than Avisail’s. MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to make $1.9 million during his second year in arbitration, which isn’t a bad number for somebody who can play all three positions up the middle.
He flashed starter quality for a moment, hitting .298/.345/.459 with a greatly reduced strikeout rate over his first 200 plate appearances in 2017. Then he injured his thumb on a slide, and he hasn’t been able to rediscover that form since. In 400 plate appearances since that injury, he’s batting .257/.292/.374, with the strikeout rate regressing on him and leg injuries scattered throughout. That .800 OPS now looks like an aberration, whether due to a random small sample, the juiced ball or both.
Like Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia is eminently rosterable at some point over the winter. But like Avisail, there are a bunch of players who can cover a lot of Leury’s skills. Sizing up Leury against the list of non-tender candidates and the Rule 5 pool, and I wonder if the Sox would rather explore the freedom of that 40-man (and 25-man) roster spot.
The biggest specific selling point for Leury is that he’s the only one who can keep Adam Engel honest in center, at least among talent on hand. Ryan Cordell hit .108/.125/.216 with zero walks and 15 strikeouts over 40 plate appearances in September, and didn’t stand out in Charlotte before that. As unimpressive as Cordell was, Charlie Tilson didn’t even warrant a September call-up.
So indeed, Garcia is the only solid bet to outproduce Engel … except Garcia’s been in this supposed safeguard role for the last two seasons, and his injuries have entrenched Engel more than anything else.
If I had a gun to my head about this, that’d be weird. Regardless, I’d wager the White Sox will tender Garcia a contract, because that’s typically been their style among useful players making less than $2 million. It doesn’t stop the Sox from pursuing upgrades, even if it results in them designating Garcia for assignment later in the winter.
But there is opportunity cost to consider here with roster spots, and when tabulating the entries in the Offseason Plan Project, more than a quarter of the planners saw the same possibilities available by opting for flexibility, even if there’s some irony involved non-tendering a player known for his versatility.