Avisail Garcia

Take a break from Machado Mania, here's a new White Sox trade rumor involving Avisail Garcia

1214-avisail-garcia.jpg
USA TODAY

Take a break from Machado Mania, here's a new White Sox trade rumor involving Avisail Garcia

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Looking to take a short break from Machado Mania? There's a new White Sox trade rumor involving Avisail Garcia.

The outfielder has been the subject of trade speculation this winter, and he's finally getting some reported interest, with USA Today's Bob Nightengale listing both the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays as teams that have talked with the White Sox about Garcia.

The Winter Meetings started with questions about potential trade candidates Jose Abreu and Garcia, who both put up great offensive numbers last season. Garcia was statistically one of the best hitters in the American League, ranking second behind only MVP Jose Altuve with a .330 batting average and sixth with a .380 on-base percentage.

That production and the White Sox rebuilding efforts seemed to make Garcia a logical trade chip, someone who could potentially further stockpile the minor league system with more highly touted talent.

The option, of course, also exists for the White Sox to hold on to the 26-year-old outfielder, who despite being in the bigs since 2012 didn't put together a big offensive season until 2017. They could keep him and trade him at a later date, once the rest of baseball finds out if he's capable of repeating what he did last season. Or they could keep him for good, extending him and including him as a part of their long-term core.

Of course, all of that talk was obliterated by the Thursday morning reports about the White Sox and a potential trade for Baltimore Orioles superstar third baseman Manny Machado. Starting with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, several national writers reported on the White Sox aggressive push for Machado, who's set to become one of the headlining members of the 2019 free-agent class.

There are pros and cons to trading for Machado, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn spoke about the team's thinking before departing the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

But perhaps Machado isn't the only subject of trade talks on the South Side right now.

Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason? More important question is whether he can replicate 2017 success

1213-avisail-garcia.jpg
USA TODAY

Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason? More important question is whether he can replicate 2017 success

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason?

With his name completely absent from trade rumors, the logical conclusion to draw is a “no.”

But there is a more pertinent question, the answer to which will go a long way in determining whether Garcia ever gets dealt away from the South Side: Will he repeat what he did in 2017?

Garcia was an All Star last season and one of the best hitters in the American League. He slashed .330/.380/.506 during his breakout season, ranking second in the AL in batting average (behind only MVP Jose Altuve) and sixth in on-base percentage.

It’s that production that figured to make him a trade chip for the White Sox this season, joining Jose Abreu as valuable bats the team could deal away and further bolster their highly ranked farm system, perhaps acquiring packages of minor league talent similar to the ones received in deals involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last December and the one involving Jose Quintana in July.

But there’s been little to no reported interest from other clubs, leading to the conjecture that any teams thinking about adding Garcia in a deal are waiting to make sure 2017 wasn’t a fluke. After all, Garcia’s been at this whole Major League Baseball thing a while now, in the bigs since 2012. He’s had high hopes and lots of hype both with the Detroit Tigers and with the White Sox. And really, he failed to put it completely together until last season.

If Garcia can keep hitting and hitting big in 2018, then interest would figure to pick up. Garcia is under team control for two more seasons, giving the White Sox options when it comes to keeping him or moving him. If they can bring back a lot of young talent, it’d make sense to move him. If he hits really well (remember, he’s only 26 years old), the White Sox could choose to extend him and keep as a centerpiece of this rebuilding effort.

The possibilities are many. But regardless of what the eventual fate ends up being, the White Sox are indeed confident that Garcia can keep the momentum from 2017 going.

“I understand if there’s some teams that have some level of skepticism of Avi’s ability to repeat what he did, his All-Star season,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “I think that us being in the position to see the amount of work and commitment that went into that, not just with the weight loss, the change in diet, the fitness but the mechanical adjustments, the approach each and everyday to carry that ‘close and late’ approach that he had in ’14, ’15 and ’16 over to every at-bat, and carry that approach over 500 plate appearances in 2017, I think each of those things give us more confidence that this is closer than to the new normal for Avi than what we previously saw from him prior to 2017.

“So maybe that does make us value him more than other clubs because they have that skepticism about his ability to repeat. He’s a player who everyone throughout baseball was bullish on his tools for many years. He’s now entering his prime and he’s played at an All-Star caliber level in the recent past. That’s a valuable guy.”

As Hahn mentioned, the White Sox know what went into Garcia finally figuring things out last season. It’s what makes them think so highly of him and makes them think he can keep doing what he did in 2017.

While Hahn hasn’t shown any timidity when it comes to trading big names (Sale, Eaton, Quintana), the team admits there is value they see that other teams can’t. Abreu is extremely valuable for his clubhouse contributions. In Garcia, the White Sox have seen his evolution and know how good he can be.

Will that impact the likelihood of a deal, now or in the future? Maybe. Garcia — and Abreu, too — provide options for Hahn and his front office. But in order to keep all of those options available, Garcia has to have another strong season at the plate.

The White Sox think he can do it.

“Confidence for him has been a key to his growth,” manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. “His routines and some adjustments that he’s made have helped him maintain that consistency. I’ve only been here a couple years. The first year he started off pretty good and then he kind of tailed off. Last year he maintained and had a little wall but then he continued to move forward. I think that’s just his experience and understanding that he is a good player.

“He has confidence that he’s a good player, but he’s also understood that the work that’s been putting in was going to ultimately pay off, it started to. I think for him it’s just continuing to maintain the consistency in which he did last year. I think that is very possible.

“I don’t know that he’ll hit .330. Somebody just asked me that a little while ago. They say, 'between .315 and .330?' Yeah, I’ll see that. All I know is that if he maintains that consistent approach that he’s had both emotionally, confidently and the work structure, he’s got a good chance of doing what he did last year.”

White Sox leaving door open for activity at Winter Meetings, even if staying quiet looks more likely

White Sox leaving door open for activity at Winter Meetings, even if staying quiet looks more likely

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — To trade or not to trade?

That seems to be the question for Rick Hahn at this week’s Winter Meetings.

The rebuilding White Sox don’t have to do what they did a year ago, when they exploded out of the rebuilding gates with a couple of huge trades, shipping Chris Sale to Boston, sending Adam Eaton to Washington and bringing back a boatload of highly rated prospects in return. The foundation was laid, and now the time has come to sit back and let all that young talent develop.

But the biggest mystery of the week is whether Hahn & Co. will be active or stay quiet. Will they trade their assets to once again bolster the farm system or simply play the waiting game?

It seems the White Sox are leaning toward having a quiet Winter Meetings this time around. But that doesn’t mean the guy who dealt away Sale, Eaton and Jose Quintana in the last 12 months is closing any doors.

“If we’re able to find a similar match in the coming days we’ll move on it, but at this point my common theme of needing to be patient needs to be reiterated — not necessarily for White Sox Nation but for those of us up in the room,” Hahn said Monday at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

“I’d be lying to say that you don’t feel the impact of being down here. You know that deals are taking place. You know that teams are more serious, that free agents are coming off the board. The focus of not only White Sox fans but all of baseball is on these four days here. I’d be lying if I said we were impervious to the desire to show some fruit of our labors down here.

“That said we’re pretty good at taking a longer term view. We’ve got in a good pace of doing that in the last year plus. So we have enough sensible people in that room that will stop anyone from doing anything too impetuous here in next few days.”

Just because the White Sox might be in a position to stand pat and let their minor league talent continue to cook doesn’t mean they’ve been absent from the barrage of trade speculation that’s flown through these Winter Meetings like a certain local airborne elephant.

Most of the Sox-related chatter has involved Jose Abreu, the team’s best hitter who in 2017 became the fourth player ever to hit at 25 homers and drive in 100 runs in each of his first four major league seasons. Reports have simultaneously suggested that the White Sox are unlikely to deal the slugger and that he’s being pursued by multiple teams. Hahn did not announce one way or the other which way the team will go with Abreu, prudently keeping multiple possibilities alive.

And if nothing else is a certainty about the Abreu question, it’s that he gives his general manager plenty of options. Of course Abreu’s bat makes him a strong trade candidate. But his value as a team leader and mentor to younger players in the White Sox clubhouse is also extremely valuable. And at this stage in the rebuild, the White Sox might see more value in the latter, making a trade increasingly unlikely.

“It's very tough to quantify,” Hahn said, speaking of Abreu’s off-the-field value. “I think all 30 clubs can put some sort of cash value on what he does between the white lines, using whatever metrics you favor and coming to generally the same area. The sort of softer-science side of things, the example he sets in our clubhouse, the work ethic, the way he plays the game, the way he represents us in the community, that’s really tough to quantify and it’s something we value. It’s something the organization has valued for years on various players, whether it’s (Paul) Konerko or (Mark) Buerhle or others come to mind immediately. And it probably makes it a challenge at times to overlap with another club that doesn’t quite fully know what to make of that, because they haven’t had the opportunity to have them yet.”

In addition to being a strong argument as to why the White Sox would benefit from keeping Abreu on the South Side, it’s also a possible explanation as for why a trade just won’t happen. Surely, as reports have indicated, it would take a big package to pry Abreu away, and in asking for that sizable return package, the White Sox are perhaps thinking of things that other teams are not considering. To trade or not to trade when it comes to Abreu? The answer is never no for Hahn. But you can plainly see why it’s been reported that a deal is unlikely.

Of course Abreu isn’t the only thing on Hahn & Co.’s minds this week. Avisail Garcia has been speculated about as a potential trade chip. And then there are the necessary additions the team needs to make to its starting rotation and its bullpen.

When it comes to free-agent activity in general, the White Sox were one of the first teams to make a move this winter, inking Welington Castillo to a two-year deal (with a possibility for a third) at the beginning of the month. That was a somewhat surprising signing, the rebuilding White Sox adding a win-now type player coming off a career year offensively and defensively.

So maybe the White Sox front office could surprise with more signings like that or it could make more expected additions, like adding veteran starting pitchers to help balance out a young rotation, or bullpen arms to make up for the many trades made involving the relief corps during the 2017 season.

Regardless of what the direction ends up being, Hahn said that the team was expecting those moves to come later, only for the Castillo signing to get things started early. And now, baseball-wide, activity is in full swing at the Winter Meetings.

“It’s funny because we did think a fair amount of whatever our free-agent activity that would be for the White Sox this year would be closer to the holidays or perhaps first of the year based on how previous markets have unfolded. But we had the opportunity to sign Welington Castillo, one of the first free-agent signings of the year,” Hahn said. “Coming down here it did seem like it would be a quiet market at least as of a week ago, but now based on our conversations in the last three or four days, it seems some of the players in that category are starting to move as well.

“So I can’t give you a great answer on the timing other than to tell you that we initially thought it would be a late-developing market and we were ready for that, but if the opportunity, as it did with Castillo, arises to do something that improves us, we’ll move on it.”

And so one day into these Winter Meetings, the door remains open for some White Sox activity. To trade or not to trade? To sign or not to sign? To stand pat or not to stand pat? Those questions don’t have answers yet, and that’ll keep things interesting.