Avisail Garcia

Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade

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USA TODAY

Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade

The Milwaukee Brewers either really believe in Avisail Garcia or else they were desperate for a bat.

After losing Yasmani Grandal (White Sox) and Mike Moustakas (Reds) to free agency, the Brewers turned around and filled a need by inking Garcia to a two-year, $20 million deal Monday afternoon:

Garcia set a new career high with 20 homers in 2019 while playing with the Rays, but seemingly everybody set new personal bests in longballs last season and by comparison, 20 isn't a hefty total. He also only made $3.5 million after being non-tendered by the White Sox last winter, so this is a serious pay raise. 

The Brewers spent much of the offseason shedding payroll and revamping their roster, but it seems odd to turn around and invest all those savings into an outfielder who is not a great defender and has notched only 1.9 WAR combined over the last two seasons. For reference, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Garcia would sign a contract worth $12 million over two years and FanGraphs' crowdsource came in at two years, $13.5 million.

He's only 28, but Garcia has posted an above-average offensive season just three times in his seven years in the big leagues. He is a career .273 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage, but both of those numbers are buoyed by his 2017 season (.330 AVG, .380 OBP) that looks like an outlier against the rest of his career.

He also has never played even 150 games in a season while dealing with injuries every season.

Still, it's an upgrade for the Brewers who began the day with Ben Gamel projected as their everyday left fielder and Ryan Braun on track to move to first base full time. Garcia figures to slot in behind Braun, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Keston Hiura in the Milwaukee batting order. 

The offseason isn't over yet, but it's certainly a sizeable investment for a team with budget issues to spend on a player with major weaknesses in his game. Next season is shaping up as an interesting year for the NL Central as four teams (Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Cardinals) figure to be in contention.

Worth noting: Garcia is just 1-for-22 in his career at Wrigley Field, good for an .045 batting average. He has hit .143 with a .329 OPS against Cubs pitching in 12 career games. 

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Avi Garcia didn't like how things ended with White Sox, but he's back in town with no hard feelings

Avi Garcia didn't like how things ended with White Sox, but he's back in town with no hard feelings

White Sox fans will get to revisit the Avi Garcia Era over the next few days.

Whether that's something they particularly want to do or not is up for debate, but at the very least Garcia, who spent six seasons in the White Sox outfield, will be front of mind as his Tampa Bay Rays visit the South Side.

Garcia was non-tendered by the White Sox this offseason, bringing an end to a lengthy tenure for a guy who generated mixed reviews from the fan base. His potential was never a question, as he came to the White Sox from the Detroit Tigers in 2013 carrying comparisons to future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. But Garcia's time on the South Side was full of injuries and a general failure to match that hype.

He, of course, had one great season in 2017, when he made the All-Star team and ranked among the best hitters in the game with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. But last season, he was injured on Opening Day and played hurt the remainder of the season, making a couple trips to what was then called the disabled list. His numbers plummeted as a result — just a .236/.281/.438 slash line in only 93 games — bringing an end to the Avi Garcia Experiment as the White Sox looked to an outfield of the future featuring young players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and others.

Speaking from the visitors' dugout ahead of Monday's series-opener, Garcia said he wasn't happy about how things ended — not that he's harboring any hard feelings at this point.

"I was a little bit (disappointed)," Garcia said. "But you know, it is what it is. Business. So now I’m happy where I am right now. Just got to keep working and do my thing.

"I don’t know what they think. The only thing I know is I don’t like the way I came out from the White Sox. But it is what it is. It’s business. So, no hard feelings. Just trying to do my job and be happy with my team."

Certainly Garcia didn't have a bad career on the South Side, and he had plenty of supporters who believed that his 2017 success was the start of that potential finally turning into something sustainable. Injuries prevented him from being able to prove he could replicate those 2017 numbers, and heading into just his age-28 season, there were fans who thought he deserved a shot at being part of the White Sox long-term future.

Garcia might not have been pleased with the ending to his time here. But he said he remembers that time fondly.

"In baseball, sometimes things go good and sometimes it goes bad. I’m just happy," he said. "I got a lot of memories in Chicago. I went to the All-Star Game here for the first time, my kids were born here. So I got a lot of memories here. Walking the street, walking here to the ballpark, meeting with the guys. It’s just special."

With their focus on the long-term future, though, the White Sox are probably not regretting their decision. Garcia was set to get a raise to roughly $8 million through the arbitration process had the team tendered him a contract, and that money can now be put to better long-term use. Jimenez, with his new long-term deal, is entrenched in left field. And while young players like Robert and Micker Adolfo might not reach the big leagues in 2019, a path is cleared at the major league level for them to get a crack at those outfield jobs when they're ready.

Plus, the team might have simply seen enough to know that Garcia was not a fit for their long-term plans.

Regardless, he received praise upon his return to his old home ballpark.

"He gave us everything he had all the time that he was here with us," manager Rick Renteria said Monday, "respected, I thought, playing the game a certain way. Was always, I thought, a good teammate with everybody. Everybody enjoyed being around him. It’s nice to see him back. I hope he doesn’t do anything against us. Yeah, I’ve got good memories of Avi."

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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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