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.”