The White Sox made a notable outfield cut Saturday, sending Nicky Delmonico to Triple-A Charlotte not long after Eloy Jimenez signed his new six-year deal.
Rick Hahn wouldn't 100-percent confirm during the press conference whether or not Jimenez would be on the team's Opening Day roster, but the new deal eliminates the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and allows him to make his major league debut when the regular season starts next week in Kansas City.
If Jimenez is going to end up on the Opening Day roster, the White Sox will need to make room for him. That could mean cutting another outfielder in addition to Delmonico, but not necessarily. More on that in a bit.
Delmonico might have had a tough time making the Opening Day roster even if Jimenez would've started the season in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfield is a crowded one after the offseason addition of veteran Jon Jay. The presence of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and the versatile Leury Garcia made it difficult to envision a place for Delmonico, who had a disappointing, injury-filled season in 2018 after showing promise at the end of the 2017 campaign.
It seems as if, eventually, the White Sox could have to move another one of those aforementioned outfielders to make room for Jimenez, who figures to be the team's everyday left fielder in 2019. But that decision could be delayed until mid April thanks to a bunch of built-in off days at the start of the regular-season schedule.
Both Hahn and manager Rick Renteria have discussed the possibility of the White Sox using only four starting pitchers at the outset of the season. Thanks to those off days, those four starters can all pitch on regular rest until as late as April 17. So, theoretically, Ervin Santana, who figures to wind up as the team's fifth starter, wouldn't be needed on the major league roster until that finale of a home series against the Kansas City Royals in mid April. That's one less pitcher that needs to be on the roster and one more position player that can be on the roster.
The versatility of Garcia, who has torn the cover off the ball this spring, and infielder Jose Rondon, who has added a little bit of outfield to his repertoire this spring (and is out of options), means they're likely not going anywhere. But instead of having to potentially dispatch of fan favorite Palka before the season even begins, there are potentially two spots available for three players, those two and Engel. Palka brings power, while Engel brings defense. Both have their weaknesses, too, Palka seeming best suited for a DH role that has been given to the combination of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso, and Engel the owner of a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.
It's important to note in all of this, too, that Renteria has said that Jay might not be an everyday player. Jay's versatility in the outfield also means he might be playing at one set position all season. So for those arguing that the White Sox could have an everyday outfield of Jimenez, Jay and Palka for the next six months, it might not be so simple. And if Jimenez and Palka are in the corners, that makes Engel's glove all the more valuable.
Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup for Saturday's Cactus League game, perhaps another sign that he could return to the major league roster after being optioned to Charlotte prior to the announcement of the new contract.
Whether his making the roster would force off another outfielder remains to be seen.
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