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Where Sox go to fill Nick Madrigal's spot at second base

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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The Chicago White Sox have another hole to plug.

They've already spent the first two months and change of the regular season attempting to make up for the absence of Eloy Jiménez in left field and the last month and change trying to make up for Luis Robert's absence in center.

And at least initially, with another everyday position player afflicted by a months-long injury recovery, they'll utilize a similar strategy at second base in the absence of Nick Madrigal, who's torn hamstring, depending on what course of action the White Sox take, could wipe away the remainder of his 2021 season.

RELATED: Sox looking into why leg, hamstring injuries have piled up

Danny Mendick and Leury García are the next men up, as the baseball cliche goes.

"That’s the two guys who will get the playing time," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "Danny is a quality player. ... Leury will have that double duty, where he’s playing right tonight and play second some during the weekend. We don’t want to run him into the ground.

"Two guys will play second, and they’re excellent. You’ve seen García and Mendick play second, they offer a lot.

Mendick was a Gold Glove finalist at the position a year ago. And García might be called on to play the infield more often than he's been playing the outfield, explaining why the White Sox brought veteran Brian Goodwin up from Triple-A instead of an infielder in the wake of Madrigal's injury Thursday.

 

Neither Mendick nor García have been overly impressive with the bat this season, which could be the difference between the reserve strategy that has worked in the outfield — thanks to Andrew Vaughn, Yermín Mercedes and the recent return of Adam Engel — reaping the same rewards on the infield.

Madrigal was one of the team's hottest hitters of late, and his torn hamstring blasts another hole in a lineup already missing two extremely important bats.

With a third of that lineup missing from action, general manager Rick Hahn and his front office might be forced to explore outside options with greater urgency than in the wake of the injuries to Jiménez and Robert. But even that will seemingly have to wait until the conversations around the trade deadline, which is still more than a month and a half away, heat up.

"It's June 10. This is still a little bit early for things to be getting done," Hahn said, "but the talks will become a little more focused here, we'd expect, here in the coming weeks."

As far as potential targets go to replace Madrigal, one name already jumping around White Sox Twitter is that of Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier, who came into play Thursday leading baseball with 78 hits and 21 doubles. The Bucs, dead last in the National League Central, are obvious sellers.

So, too, are the Arizona Diamondbacks, last in the NL West. Whether they'd want to part with versatile star Ketel Marte and his .977 OPS remains to be seen. But his lengthier contract and higher star quality would likely make for a heftier price tag than whatever Frazier, slated to hit free agency after the 2022 season, might command. Still, the White Sox could make a strong case that Marte would become an instant part of the long-term planning any such deal might affect.

"Teams know where we are at and what we are trying to do over the long term," Hahn said. "There has been no secret over the last several years about the vision for this organization both in ’21 and beyond.

"As a result, we are going to certainly engage — even without any of these injuries, we were going to engage in trade talks about ways to improve the ’21 club. We always reserve the right to say no to something that doesn’t make sense for us in the short or long term."

But until the trade talk really gets going, it will be the same strategy that the White Sox have ridden to first place in the American League Central and a spot among the game's true contenders. Next man up might be cliche, but it's also worked for the White Sox as they've navigated life without Jiménez and Robert. Now it's life without Madrigal, too.

 

"We're going to potentially have some help from our own guys internally who are going to get additional opportunities," Hahn said. "We're going to potentially have help from some injured players returning. And obviously, we could well have an interesting next few months leading up to the trade deadline based on where our needs fit at that time."

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