Avisail Garcia

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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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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