Avisail Garcia

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

There are two questions surrounding Avisail Garcia.

1. Can he repeat the career year he had in 2017?

2. Is he a part of the White Sox long-term future?

Those questions are linked together, of course, with the answer to the second depending on the answer to the first. But the thing is, even if the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second question is anything but determined.

Garcia was terrific last season, quietly one of the best hitters in the American League. He ranked second in the AL with a .330 batting average, a mark second only to league MVP Jose Altuve. He ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage, trailing only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Altuve, Eric Hosmer and Joe Mauer. His 18 home runs were a career high, as were his 80 RBIs, 75 runs scored, 171 hits, 27 doubles and his .506 slugging percentage.

The 2017 season — which also included his first All-Star appearance — was a culmination of Garcia's quest for big league success, which had long been forecasted but never attained even though he's been a major leaguer since 2012, when he came up as a 21-year-old with the Detroit Tigers.

But because this was the first real full season of sustained success at the major league level, the question still remains if he can do it again.

Garcia thinks he will no doubt be able to prove anyone who thinks he was a one-year wonder wrong.

"100 percent. Nothing changes," he said before SoxFest festivities got going last weekend at the Hilton Chicago. "No pressure. Confidence. Positive. I work hard, so you've got to get confidence and be positive. If you're negative, no chance. You've got to be positive and do your best to get better every year.

"It's hard. You think a lot. I talked to myself, 'You've got to do something.' Because I know the talent's there. So that was my confidence. I knew the talent was there, and I said to myself, 'You've got to do something different.'

"I lost weight, started eating better. I'm working out at 5 a.m., go to hit and then go back to my house. That's my whole routine for the offseason last year and this year."

Right now, Garcia's bat is fixed squarely in the middle of the White Sox batting order, right alongside Jose Abreu, the other half of the team's dynamic hitting duo. If he can keep his 2017 success going into 2018, it's not going anywhere — unless it does.

Much like Abreu, Garcia's name was ths subject of much speculation this offseason, speculation that the White Sox could capitalize on his career year and send him elsewhere in exchange for more young talent to add to Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort. Garcia's contract, one that has him under team control for only the next two seasons, helped fuel that speculation, as well.

That obviously didn't happen, but a first half of 2018 that mimics what he did in 2017 could bring that speculation back. With the White Sox not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, a Garcia trade — in the middle of the 2018 season or after it — could add some more pieces for the future. And the better he hits, the better a return package becomes.

But the better he hits, the more attractive a potential contract extension becomes. Garcia is just 26 years old and could definitely line up with all the highly touted prospects making their way through the White Sox organization. Even if the team isn't expecting its contention window to open fully until the 2020 season, Garcia could be an anchor of the lineup and in the outfield.

It's what leaves that second question unanswered.

The existence of so many options is a good thing for Hahn and his front office. Garcia, though, is worrying about keeping the good vibes from last season going.

"I don't know what's going to happen because I only have two years," Garcia told NBC Sports Chicago. "I want to stay here for sure, but you know how baseball is so you wonder if you're here or you go to another place. So who knows. I want to be here. I want to be part of this team for a long time, but let's see what happens.

"I don't pay attention to all that (speculation) because if you read the papers or internet, you'll go crazy. So you don't have to read anything, don't worry about anything. Just worry about yourself and worry about your preparation."

Why the White Sox didn't trade Jose Abreu this offseason


Why the White Sox didn't trade Jose Abreu this offseason

On paper, it seemed to make sense: A 31-year-old Jose Abreu was coming off a massively productive season and has two more years left of team control, meaning he isn’t guaranteed to be around when the White Sox expect this rebuilding process to produce a playoff contender. So why not trade him?

Back in November, that was rumored to be a possibility. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the White Sox were in “active” talks with the Boston Red Sox, who were one of the four finalists to sign Abreu as a free agent back in 2014. The thought of adding another elite prospect to the team’s bursting-at-the-seams farm system was tantalizing, wasn't it?

It also was never a realistic possibility.

“There was clearly speculation that he conceivably could have been moved this offseason,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Part of the reason that he wasn’t is that we do put a large value on what he does in the clubhouse, how he represents himself and the organization, what he does for our young players — the way he goes about his business is the epitome of a White Sox player. That probably leads to us valuing him a little more highly than other organizations who haven’t had the pleasure of having him, which makes it that much more difficult to line up on finding value on a trade.”

Abreu’s on-field production speaks for itself. He slugged 33 home runs last year with a .906 OPS and has had a triple-digit RBI total every year of his career. He has the 13th-most home runs since 2014 (124) and has the 13th-highest slugging percentage (.524) in the same timespan, putting him just outside being one baseball’s elite sluggers — which is still a pretty good place to be.

But the real reason why the White Sox didn’t trade him is what Hahn touched on in his quote above. Abreu has blossomed in his four-year career into a pillar of the White Sox clubhouse, someone who’s taken hotshot prospect Yoan Moncada under his wing and leads by example on a team that’s shipped plenty of its veterans away over the last 15 months.

“He’s the face of the organization,” outfielder Avisail Garcia said.

“His standards as a player, as a human being, have been an example for me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I’ve been trying, always, to follow him as an example, as the guy that I want to be.”

Hahn and manager Rick Renteria know this wave of young talent won’t arrive at 35th and Shields as a collectively polished product. There’s a lot of development that still have to happen after a player graduates to the majors, whether it’s in how to handle the grind of a 162-game season or all the media attention that comes with a hot streak or a slump. Having Abreu around, they figure, can be beneficial to those younger guys as they learn what it takes to be a major league player.

“His actions speak for themselves,” Renteria said. “It also crosses an understanding to all the players, whether you’re Latin or American or whoever you are. They see how he goes about doing his business. Is it important? Yes. I think he’s establishing an understanding for a lot of the younger players what it is to go about to prepare for a daily grind and play in the big leagues.”

Abreu’s experience has a slightly more tangible benefit than him being a good clubhouse guy, too. Hitting coach Todd Steverson said he’s an excellent conduit for his message to young players, especially given all the success he’s had mashing the ball for the last four years.

“Young kids being able to see how he goes about it structure-wise lets them know, if I want to be at that level at some point, or somewhere close to that level, it’s going to take me doing certain things,” Steverson said. “He kind of would be like a dad, almost: ‘What are you doing, make sure you do that right.’ It’s good on my end to have somebody able to say hey, be more accurate, be more definitive in what you’re trying to do. It’s not always coming from myself or (assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks).

“It holds a lot of weight when what I say and what he says mirror each other.”

It’s worth noting, though, that the White Sox hardly were in a desperate situation to move Abreu this winter given they still have him under control for two more years. He’s not a move-him-or-lose-him guy, nor does he fit the profile of the cheap, young, successful players traded away for huge hauls since the end of the 2016 season (Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana). If the White Sox were going to deal Abreu now, they'd have to be blown away by a package of prospects.

That doesn’t mean a team couldn’t swoop in and make Hahn an offer he can’t refuse. But the benefits to keeping Abreu just might out-weigh the benefits to trading him at this point.

“I feel I have a responsibility with this organization and a responsibility with the manager and all the people involved in this organization,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “And that responsibility is to step up and set an example for all the guys, especially for the young guys. I know that my English is not so good right now, but I’m trying to get better in that aspect. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be better this year in how I can influence them in the clubhouse. That’s one of my goals, I started doing it last year and I think this year I’ll be more able to do it with more confidence.”

Fantasy baseball: Taking another crack at projecting the White Sox 2021 lineup


Fantasy baseball: Taking another crack at projecting the White Sox 2021 lineup

Playing a rebuild-centric edition of fantasy baseball is all the rage for South Side baseball fans.

After Baseball America forecasted the White Sox starting lineup for the 2021 season, it sparked a new round of projections, and we weren't going to be excluded.

So here's a guess at what the South Siders will look like three years from now, with some variables obviously being discussed such as additions the team could make through free agency or a trade — Manny Machado? Nolan Arenado? Christian Yelich? — and which of their bevy of young pitchers could be left out of the starting rotation of the future.

Also be sure to send us your future lineups on Twitter. We're @NBCSWhiteSox.