Avisail Garcia

It sounds like there could be a White Sox reunion brewing with the Rays

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USA TODAY

It sounds like there could be a White Sox reunion brewing with the Rays

Get non-tendered by the White Sox, end up playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Is that this winter's hottest trend?

According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the Rays are moving toward a deal with Avisail Garcia, who was non-tendered by the White Sox earlier this offseason. This just a couple days after Rosenthal reported the Rays are looking at Matt Davidson, who the White Sox non-tendered earlier this offseason.

Garcia was in the White Sox outfield for six seasons and had one All-Star season in 2017, when he was one of the better hitters, statistically, in the American League with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. His numbers cratered, though, last season as he spent the entire year dealing with a knee injury. Garcia played in only 93 games and slashed .236/.281/.438, though he did hit a career-best 19 home runs.

Though they knew it was tough to evaluate Garcia based on last year's injuries, they opted to move on from him, choosing to better spend the money he was probably going to make in his final year of arbitration eligibility elsewhere.

Davidson, meanwhile, was coming off back-to-back 20-homer seasons (26 in 2017), but was generating more headlines based on his desire to pitch as well as hit. The White Sox couldn't keep two designated hitters on their roster, Davidson and Daniel Palka, and opted for Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last season.

Will Davidson get an opportunity to pitch regularly if he ends up with the Rays? Maybe. The Rays, who almost made the playoffs last season, showed a willingness to break baseball's norms by using "openers" on a regular basis, relievers starting the game and only pitching a few innings, sometimes just one inning. They could perhaps find value in Davidson as a two-way player — if he can show he can consistently pitch effectively. He only made three one-inning appearances last season with the White Sox, exclusively as an option to save the bullpen in games with lopsided scores. But Davidson expressed a desire to pitch in higher-leverage situations.

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Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Let’s begin this edition of the Sox Drawer with an appreciation for the one and only Omar Narvaez, who the White Sox selected in the AAA phase of the 2013 Rule 5 draft (30 picks AFTER they chose catcher Adrian Nieto — remember him?). Five years later, Narvaez became such a hot commodity, the White Sox were able to flip him to the Seattle Mariners on Friday for All-Star reliever Alex Colome.  

This is MLB’s version of winning the Rule 5 lottery.   

How unique is Narvaez? FutureSox ran the numbers. In the last 15 Rule 5 drafts, there have been 583 players selected in the minor league portion of the draft. Forty-one of those players have gone on to reach the majors. How many have generated a 3+ bWAR in their MLB careers like Narvaez? Only 5 of them, less than 1 percent!

Alexi Ogando, Alejandro de Aza, Justin Bour, Richard Bleier and Narvaez. That’s it.

Narvaez deserves a ton of credit for breaking through and becoming a certified major leaguer. Who else helped him? Believe it or not, an instructional video featuring one of the greatest hitters in baseball history: Tony Gwynn. True story.

After batting .168 in April and May last season, Narvaez told me he started watching this old hitting video of the late San Diego Padres Hall of Famer. Gwynn said that one of the keys to his success was simply watching the baseball come out of the pitcher’s hand. Gwynn obviously had an incredible eye; that helped. This novel concept also helped Narvaez, who went back and watched the video again, used Gwynn’s method in games and in the last four months of the season, he slashed .315/.401/.502.   

I can’t say who will be the next Omar Narvaez to win the Rule 5 lottery for the White Sox, but I can answer your questions right here, right now in the Sox Drawer!  

Q: Trading four years of Narvaez for two years of Colome and then non-tendering Davidson and Avi (assuming they improve those positions) seem like indicators the organization wants to begin competing for the division as early as next year. Am I reading too much into these moves? — DJ (@DeepFriedStack)

CG: At first glance, it might seem that way, but according to Rick Hahn, that was not the reason behind the moves. Rebuilding or not, the White Sox really need to improve the back end of the bullpen. With Welington Castillo signed for one more year with a team option for a second and with Seby Zavala and Zack Collins waiting in the wings and eventually needing major-league time at catcher, the White Sox had to make some room behind the plate long-term. They sold high on Narvaez and acquired a premium arm in Colome to either set up or close games.  

I know we’ve seen reports about how active the White Sox might be this offseason. How active are they? Hahn won’t say, but on Friday he did explain what they are trying to do this winter in terms of free agents: making calculated moves that fit the White Sox long-term plan. 

“In this free agent market, there are potential opportunities to convert on premium talent that would fit along with what we’re trying to develop for the long term,” Hahn said on a conference call with reporters. “Usually, when you look at a rebuild when you’re entering Year 3 as we are, it isn’t necessarily the time that teams push ahead in the winter and try to advance things unnaturally. That’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to stick with the long-term plan. But if in fact, there’s an opportunity to convert on unique talent that becomes available that fits that long-term plan, then yes, we’re going to be aggressive and fully explore it.”

The “unique talent” that Hahn describes at least sounds like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. If the White Sox are able to sign or acquire someone of that ilk to a long term deal and they end up competing for a division title next season, that would be great. But making moves to try to win the division next year at the cost of losing financial flexibility further down the road is not the plan. Still, the White Sox lost 100 games last year. There’s a lot of improving that can be done, even if it’s in the short-term. Getting Colome for 2 years is an example of that.

Q: Grandal is number 1 for catchers in catcher runs saved the last three years. Realmuto is 2nd to last at -25. Grandal’s number is +39. Grandal also has a great OBP for offensive catching standards. With all the attention being centered around Realmuto, can the Sox sign Grandal? — Scott Zablocki (@mr_zablocki)

CG: J.T. Realmuto has 2 years left on his contract. Probably not enough time to part ways with precious prospects anyway considering the White Sox window. I don’t see that happening.Grandal is a free agent. On paper, signing him seems more plausible, but then you’re completly shaking up the catcher position. You then have to trade Castillo, and what about the futures for Collins and Zavala, who the White Sox still believe in? I’m not saying the White Sox wouldn’t do it, but it would definitely be a sudden left turn.

Q: The Mets made a deal with the Mariners for Diaz with the Cano contract attached. Do you think the Sox could get involved with helping them move the underwater Seager deal (potentially still useful for us) attached to Haniger? That would be a nice deal. I would move a non-Eloy for. —Dayton Cripe  (@daycri83)

CG: Getting an All-Star right fielder like Mitch Haniger would be great for the White Sox. He’d fit right in with the plan. But taking on third baseman Kyle Seager and his contract (3 years, $57.5 million) feels like a sunk cost the White Sox wouldn’t want to acquire. While Seager is incredibly durable (he’s played at least 154 games in 7 consecutive seasons), his offensive numbers continue to drop. Last season, he bottomed out at .221/.273/.400. Third base is like a Rubik’s Cube for the White Sox. There are many possibilities for next season and beyond, from Machado to Moncada to Yolmer to Burger to Arenado to Donaldson, etc. However, I’m not sure I see them solving third base with Seager.

Q: What do you think about...
1. Trading a “B” tier prospect for Zack Grienke. (White Sox not on his no trade list, 3 years left on deal)
2. Signing Jonathan Schoop, 1 year prove it deal to bridge until Madrigal arrives. 
3. Does delmonico get the chance to prove himself as a starter? — Kaz Daddy (@AaronKaczmarksi)

CG: As much as I like Greinke, he’s entering the danger zone for a starting pitcher. He’ll be 35 this season. I’d be willing to take a risk on him at 35, but not at $35 million a year. If the Diamondbacks will eat about half his salary, that would help, but Arizona will want a lot more than a “B” tier prospect. As for Schoop, he’s a bit like Avisail Garcia: All-Star in 2017, rough season in 2018. Garcia is one year older. If Schoop isn’t signed until late in the winter and the White Sox haven’t found a third baseman, maybe then you sign Schoop to a 1-year contract and move Moncada to third. Finally, Delmonico got a chance to prove himself last season, but unfortunately he got hurt and couldn’t build on his 2017 season. It’s tough to say at this point where he fits in next season. As the founder of the Nicky Delmonico Fan Club, I’m hoping he sticks around and gets another chance, even if it’s off the bench.

Q: On a recent White Sox Talk podcast, you said that the Sox should aim for Moustakas. I think that would be a total step backwards for the franchise. Do you really believe that would be a smart move for the Sox now!? — Orlando Quintana (@LandoJQuintana)

CG: Sometimes when you think out loud on a podcast, you later realize that you might have been wrong, or in this case, partly wrong. On Episode 176, I said that despite their attempts to sign Manny Machado and possibly Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next offseason, the more realistic third base option for the White Sox might end up being Moustakas, because it’s not as easy to sign big-name free agents as it looks. I still believe that. But after thinking it over, I explained on the very next podcast, Episode 177, that Moustakas wouldn’t fit with the White Sox long term, because if they don’t get one of the premium free agent third basemen, Moncada will likely end up there. I can’t see them signing Moustakas long-term if Madrigal hits at second base and they have someone like Moncada who can play third. I can change my mind, can’t I? Thanks for listening to the podcast!

Q: How great is it going to be to have a Eloy, Pollock, Harper OF next year? — Michael Ricciotti (@Be_Like_Mike20)

CG: Can’t wait. World Series here we come!

Q: Let’s say the Sox don’t make any other significant moves by Opening Day. With the roster as it is now, what’s the Opening Day lineup, especially at RF and DH? — Bill (@hitless1)

CG: I think Daniel Palka is the DH. I have no idea who plays right field. To be determined.

Q: I want to know what’s on Rick Hahn’s mind. What’s next? — Mr. Rock Opera (@MrRockOpera)

CG: I’d like to know as well! Although I don’t mind the suspense. Hang in there! Winter Meetings are next week, by the way.  

Q: Who do you think is an underrated prospect in the White Sox system that people might be overlooking? — awkward standing klay (@klaymemeson)

CG:  One prospect you shouldn’t overlook is Micker Adolfo. I wrote about him last week.

I’ll give you two more:  Luis Gonzalez and Gavin Sheets. They’re ranked 14th and 15th in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, so it’s not like they’re off the radar, but when people talk about the White Sox future teams, you don’t usually hear either guy mentioned. Sheets, the White Sox second round pick in 2017, is a left-handed first baseman who slashed .293/.368/.407 last season at Class-A Winston-Salem. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the build to mash a lot of home runs (he hit 20 in 227 at-bats in his final year at Wake Forest), but the power has yet to arrive in the minors. If it does, look out. He’s one to watch this season. Gonzalez was drafted behind Sheets in the third round in 2017. He’s a grinder type who can play all three outfield spots. He hit .313/.376/.504 for Winston-Salem last season. I’m interested to see how both of them develop as the move up in the farm system.

Q: Two years ago was Delmonico, this year was Palka, who will the surprise breakout player be for the Sox in 2019? — Jake Horning (@JArthur)

CG:  That’s a good question, and a tough one to answer this early in the offseason. Matt Skole is a possibility. Get back to me in spring training!

Q: How long term is Moncada? do you see him being a long-term consistent, franchise player, or do you think he’ll go with one of these inevitable big time trades in the near future. — Kyle Schultz (@kyle_eschultz)

CG: Baseball can be a tough, unpredictable game. Trying to define who a player is and who he will become is very difficult, especially when you’re talking about a 23-year-old like Moncada who just completed his first full season in the big leagues. Despite his struggles last season, Moncada still had 55 extra base hits, that’s 11 more than Jose Altuve. When Moncada makes contact, he can do serious damage. He has the talent to become a franchise player who you keep as opposed to trade. Let’s see how he does in 2019. 

Q: Are you going to be reporting from the field again this year and if so, you need to let us know what games you are doing and come out to the tailgating! — Rob Landeck (@RLandeck66)

CG: Yes, I’ll be back on the field again, reporting for all the home games on NBC Sports Chicago. You tailgating?? I’m in!

Q: How many socks fit in the Sox drawer? — Brett Bauer (@DoubleB72)

CG: About 20.

And finally!

Q:  When will we be good? — Ryan Kelly (@rkelly1122)

CG: 2019 is possible. 2020 is more realistic. Better days are ahead!

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With Avisail Garcia gone, here are 10 free-agent options to be the White Sox right fielder in 2019

With Avisail Garcia gone, here are 10 free-agent options to be the White Sox right fielder in 2019

The White Sox decided to move on from Avisail Garcia, opting not to tender a contract to their right fielder of the past six seasons.

So there’s now a pretty big hole in the White Sox starting lineup.

Losing Garcia does not mean the South Siders are losing a ton of production. During an injury-ravaged 2018 campaign, Garcia’s numbers plummeted from his All-Star season just a year earlier, and he finished with a .236/.281/.438 slash line in 93 games.

But the internal options to replace him are not too appealing from a statistical standpoint, either. While top-ranked Eloy Jimenez is expected to reach the major leagues early in the 2019 campaign and to provide quite a boost to the lineup, he spent most of his time in left field last season. If that’s where he ends up once he arrives on the South Side, the internal candidates for playing time in right field are Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico and Ryan Cordell. Palka hit 27 home runs as a rookie but had an on-base percentage under .300 and might be better suited as the team’s primary designated hitter in 2019. Delmonico also battled a significant injury and came nowhere close to matching the nice showing he had at the end of the 2017 season. Cordell mustered just four hits in a brief taste of major league action in 2018.

In other words, the White Sox might need to go outside the organization to find an everyday right fielder for next season. The free-agent market has plenty of options, though they vary in how excited they’ll make the fan base. Here’s a look at some options.

Bryce Harper

We’ll start with the biggest name on the free-agent market and a guy the White Sox reportedly have interest in. Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and his coming to the South Side would change the franchise’s present and future. Would it make them a playoff team in 2019? Not sure I’d go that far. But it would make them a playoff contender for years to come once the organization’s fleet of highly touted prospects grew up around him. White Sox fans don’t need to be convinced that signing Harper would be a good idea. Harper needs to be convinced that signing with the White Sox is a good idea. Their financial flexibility could do a good deal of that convincing. But is planned future success enough to defeat a pitch of the ability to win multiple championships starting right now?

Michael Brantley

The hype around a Harper signing would be massive compared to almost any player in baseball, so it’s not surprising that the excitement level drops off significantly, even when you move to just the second-best available outfielder this winter. But respect Brantley’s credentials. He’s a three-time All Star, including in each of the last two seasons. Back in 2014, he finished third — third! — in AL MVP voting. He’s got a career .295 batting average and a career .351 on-base percentage, numbers raised by his .309 and .364 marks in those categories, respectively, last season. But unlike Harper, there’d be questions about Brantley’s long-term fit with the rebuilding White Sox. He’ll be 32 in May and despite a 143-game workload in 2018, he played in just 101 total games in the prior two seasons. Signing Brantley would be an obvious upgrade for 2019, but is he the guy to still be roaming the outfield when this team transitions into contention mode?

Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez makes a bunch of sense for the White Sox, just as he makes a bunch of sense for 29 other teams across the major leagues. Gonzalez can play every position on the diamond besides pitcher and catcher and has plenty of experience with a rebuilding success story, with the Houston Astros for the past seven seasons as they climbed from baseball’s basement to the game’s model franchise. His ability to play seven different positions — including right field — should make him a popular man this winter and overshadow a significant statistical slide from a sensational 2017. During the Astros’ championship season, he slashed .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs, but with more playing time in 2018, those numbers dropped to .247/.324/.409 and 16. Still, the best way to plan for an uncertain future is to get a guy that can plug seven different holes.

Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen is now three seasons removed from the end of an incredible four-year run that saw him finish in the top five in NL MVP voting four times, including a win of the award in 2013. But that doesn’t mean he’s washed up. McCutchen is just a few months older than Brantley (he turned 32 in October) and got on base at a slightly higher clip than the now-former Cleveland Indian in 2018, with an on-base percentage of .368 while playing for both the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. McCutchen didn’t play a lick of center field last season, so those days seem to be behind him. But he still hit 20 homers and 30 doubles and walked 95 times, the second-highest single-season total of his career. That last skill would be very much welcome in the White Sox lineup, but he carries with him the same questions Brantley does about being a long-term solution. Is it worth it to spend on a name like McCutchen if he’s not a part of the long-term plan?

A.J. Pollock

If it was November 2015, people would be lining up for a shot at the then-27-year-old Pollock, who slashed .315/.367/.498, hit 20 homers, banged out 39 doubles, stole 39 bases, went to the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove. But three years and a whole bunch of missed time later, Pollock isn’t looking like a franchise cornerstone anymore. He played in just 12 games in 2016, just 112 games in 2017 and just 113 games last season. His most recent crop of numbers, from 2018, look like this: a .257/.316/.484 slash line with 21 homers, 21 doubles and 13 stolen bases. He’ll be 31 next week, and he’s a center fielder. In fact, he hasn’t played corner outfield since 2014. Not that he couldn’t, of course.

Adam Jones

A five-time All Star and three-time Gold Glover in center field, the 33-year-old Jones was finally moved to the corners in his last season with the Baltimore Orioles. He perhaps isn’t as attractive an offensive upgrade as Brantley or McCutchen, though his .281 batting average in 2018 was significantly higher than McCutchen’s. Still, his power numbers nosedived last season, with only 15 homers (four fewer than Garcia) and a .419 slugging percentage that ranked as his lowest in a decade. Jones would likely not be a part of the long-term planning on the South Side, but — and this very well applies to Brantley and McCutchen, too — he’d figure to be a valuable clubhouse presence in the short term, a veteran player who’s at the very least been to the postseason.

Derek Dietrich

Here’s a name that probably won’t generate much excitement but is an interesting option. The 29-year-old Dietrich cleared waivers just a few days ago, becoming a free agent after spending the first six seasons of his big league career with the Miami Marlins. Like the aforementioned Gonzalez, he’s a jack of many trades, playing five different positions during the 2018 season: first base, second base, third base, left field and right field (he DH’d, too). The offensive numbers don’t scream “sign this man immediately,” but they’re far from bad. Dietrich slashed .265/.330/.421 with 16 homers in 2018. However, he also struck out 140 times last season, a 42-strikeout increase from 2017, when he had just 93 fewer at-bats.

Carlos Gonzalez

Had he been a free agent after the 2016 season, Gonzalez would’ve got a huge contract last winter. Instead, he was a free agent after a bad 2017 season, and he didn’t sign till late and with the same team. He didn’t find much redemption with the Colorado Rockies in 2018, with a modest growth in batting average and a .010 slide in on-base percentage. But he improved on his power numbers enough (two more homers, from 14 to 16, and four more triples, from zero to four) to grow his slugging percentage more than .040 points. Still, the 33-year-old’s best days might be behind him. After mashing a combined 65 homers in 2015 and 2016, he hit just 30 in 2017 and 2018, while still playing his home games at Coors Field.

Curtis Granderson

Bring the Chicago guy home? The Grandy Man might be better suited as a part-time or bench option, given that he only made 70 outfield starts last season. But even in his age-37 season he mustered a .351 on-base percentage and 13 home runs, not to mention he helped the Milwaukee Brewers come within a win of the World Series after he went there in a midseason trade. He played in the postseason for the fourth straight season and would figure to be a great addition to the clubhouse. But is he an everyday right fielder at 38 (the age he’ll be by Opening Day)?

Gerardo Parra​​​​​​​

Parra doesn’t swing too heavy a stick, with just six homers in 2018. But he hit .284, reached base at a .342 clip and has two Gold Gloves on his resume. He’ll turn 32 in May, just like Brantley. He’s perhaps not an exciting offensive addition, but he’d be an upgrade over Garcia.

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