The offseason is just a few days old, but the White Sox are already starting the process of reshaping their roster ahead of the 2021 season.
The team announced its decisions on its three contract options for the 2021 campaign Friday, declining the options for designated hitter Edwin Encarnación and pitcher Gio González and picking up the option for utility man Leury García.
The Encarnación signing looked like a good one when the White Sox announced it around Christmas, bringing in the dependable slugger to provide some more pop to a lineup that desperately needed a power infusion following the 2019 season. But Encarnación failed to live up to his typically reliable level of production. Though he still hit 10 home runs during the shortened 60-game season, he slashed an abysmal .157/.250/.377.
He was lauded as a positive presence in the clubhouse and the dugout — often sparking fits of laughter from his teammates whenever he did just about anything that involved running the bases — the White Sox championship-level expectations for 2021 mean they'll be looking for a more productive bat in the DH spot, perhaps turning to top-rated prospect Andrew Vaughn to fill that void.
González, too, seemed a solid offseason addition, bringing veteran depth to a pitching staff that lacked it a year earlier. Drafted by the White Sox all the way back in 2004, González was thrilled to finally have an opportunity to pitch for his first pro organization. But when he did, things didn't work out quite so well, and whether due to injuries or underperformance, he couldn't make it a successful season on the South Side, finishing the year with a 4.83 ERA in 31.2 innings of work as a starter and out of the bullpen.
The White Sox will again be on the hunt for starting pitching this winter.
García, however, seemed like a no-brainer for retention heading into 2021, given his relatively affordable $3.5 million salary. In addition to the positional versatility he's displayed in his now eight seasons with the White Sox — he has the ability to play all three outfield spots and three of the four positions on the infield — he had some of his better offensive production in a small sample size in 2020. He posted a career-high .758 OPS, though he only appeared in 16 regular-season games, sidelined for most of the season after severing a ligament in his thumb sliding into first base. García returned in time for the AL Wild Card Series and started Games 1 and 2.
The versatility has long been appreciated by the White Sox, and García obviously figures to be part of the reserve mix for the South Siders in 2021.
For all you 40-man roster fans out there, the White Sox also reinstated Michael Kopech from the restricted list Friday. The pitcher elected not to play in 2020 due to personal reasons after missing the entirety of the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the White Sox expect him to be part of their pitching puzzle in 2021. Additionally, pitcher Jimmy Lambert was reinstated from the 45-day injured list, and infielder Yolmer Sánchez went to the Baltimore Orioles on a waiver claim. The 40-man roster stands at 36.