GLENDALE, AZ – The Chicago White Sox announced on Friday afternoon that they requested waivers on often-injured second-baseman Brett Lawrie, for the purpose of releasing the 27-year-old.
Lawrie was acquired by the White Sox prior to the 2016 season in a trade that sent two minor-league arms to the Oakland Athletics in an effort to address a major area of concern at the time, the second base position. When the White Sox acquired him in the winter of 2015, the injury questions had already surrounded Lawrie for much of his major-league career with the Athletics and Blue Jays, but the then 25-year-old was coming off of a 149 game season with the A’s in 2015, the most games played in one season to that point in his career.
A repeat performance was not in order for Lawrie in 2016 with the White Sox, as the enthusiastic infielder would miss the majority of the second-half of the season with a string of lower-body injuries. Lawrie played in just 94 games for the White Sox in 2016, posting a lack-luster .248 batting average with a similar slash line of .310/.413/.723 to go along with 12 home runs, and 36 RBI.
Lawrie and his high-energy antics drew mixed reviews from White Sox fans in 2016, but the majority of the fan-base enjoyed his visible emotion during the game, especially when the White Sox roared out to a 23-10 start to the season.
Lawrie entered camp this spring looking to leave behind a season of lower-body ailments, caused by according to Lawrie, Orthopedic shoes that he had never worn before, and affected his body negatively and resulted in nagging injuries. Just days into camp Lawrie was again sidelined with what was classified as “general lower-body soreness”. Lawrie is yet to play in a Cactus League game and has been limited in all other areas, with no timetable for return.
The White Sox will only have to pay Lawrie roughly $574,000 dollars of Lawrie’s $3.5 million dollar salary that he was given in December in order to avoid an arbitration hearing, but because Lawrie was an arbitration eligible player, his contract is not guaranteed until Opening Day.
Cutting ties with the oft-injured Lawrie was another move in the direction of finding out what talent they have internally moving forward, and looking for pieces to help build around in the near future. Obviously, the White Sox top-prospect, Yoan Moncada being the presumptive second-baseman of the future made the move an easy one to make, but the White Sox will use the period between now, and when they are ready to move Moncada into his new new role, to give guys like Tyler Saladino, Yolmer Sanchez, and even Leury Garcia some extended opportunities.
Tyler Saladino will likely assume the everyday second base role come Opening Day for the White Sox, but Saladino was already factored into the team’s 25 and 40-man roster situations, so the spot vacated by Lawrie will open space for the likes of Geovany Soto, Peter Bourjos, or even Leury Garcia, who has been red-hot this spring for the White Sox.
Saladino impressed in his extended opportunity in 2016, assuming the majority of the starts at second base after Lawrie went down in July, posting a .282 batting average, .57 points higher than his rookie campaign in 2015 where he hit just .225. Saladino also posted measurable improvements in most offensive categories, and increased is WAR more than a full win, jumping from 0.1 in 2015 to 1.5 in 2016.
Geovany Soto will likely serve in a platoon role with second-year catcher Omar Narvaez to begin the 2017 season, and Bourjos and Leury Garcia are in the mix for a potential bid at the final Opening Day roster spot with Charlie Tilson‘s status again in question for the time being.
Leury Garcia is likely the leading candidate to assume the final roster spot at this point, sitting at .357 with two doubles, five RBI, a run scored, a walk, and a stolen base in six games to this point in the Sox Cactus League schedule. Garcia can play all over the diamond for the most part, making him a versatile depth option for the White Sox if he can continue to improve offensively.