It’s not a surprise that the 62-100 Chicago White Sox have some holes to fill in their every day lineup. There are crater sized spaces in centerfield and third base but the situation in right field is tenuous as well. Avisail Garcia has occupied a segment of the outfield corners since 2014. The 6’4″ right-handed hitter was acquired in exchange for Jake Peavy back in 2013. While he’s flashed some of the promise that made him an attractive acquisition in the first place, a proclivity for getting injured and a career 4.9 bWAR has led to disappointment overall.
The Venezuelan is now at a bit of a crossroads at the age of 27. Garcia struggled in 385 plate appearances with Chicago last season despite battling a balky knee for the duration. He did slug 19 homers with a career best .202 ISO but his .236/.281/.438 line left much to be desired. Getting on base just wasn’t accomplished enough with his .304 wOBA and 92 wRC+ as proof of that. It was an anticlimactic result coming off his best year in 2017.
For the 2017 White Sox, Avisail slashed .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs in 561 plate appearances. He posted a .375 wOBA and a 137 wRC+ as well with an ISO power percentage of .176. It was a promising year regardless of the unsustainable BABIP and underwhelming outfield defense. The numbers offered a brief glimpse of promise after succumbing towards being one of the very worst offensive regulars in the sport in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Now, he’s knocking on the door of unemployment once again.
In a recent piece for The Athletic, James Fegan touched on some Hahn quotes and painted the picture of a guy that might be on his last legs in Chicago. Garcia should make well over $7 million in arbitration in 2019 and that might ultimately prove to be too rich for the club. In talking about next year’s team and the players that would make up that potential roster, Hahn failed to mention Garcia’s name. This could be mean nothing or it could give a glimpse into future plans.
When the outfielder’s name was brought up, Hahn said, “We’ve been talking about Avi for a long time now and I think we know him as well as anybody about what he’s capable of doing when he’s fully healthy as well as some of the challenges created by the health issues for him.” The General Manager went on to say that, “with one year currently left of control, we’re having conversations right now about how to best proceed.”
How Will The White Sox Proceed?
In regards to Avisail Garcia specifically, the team has multiple options. Before November 30th, the club will have to decide whether or not to tender him a contract for the 2019 season. If they choose to do so, they will likely go through the arbitration process and Garcia will return on a one-year contract. Another option would be to non-tender the veteran outfielder. If the White Sox decide to go down this path, Garcia would become a free agent and enter the marketplace as a 27-year-old. The team could tender him a contract and still decide to move on later in the offseason while only paying a fraction of the contract amount as well.
The front office could also move on if they find an adequate trade return from another organization. Rumors were that there wasn’t much of a market for the Venezuelan’s services last offseason so finding a taker this year in a flooded environment could be tricky. The remaining option would be to extend his service. While seemingly unlikely, the White Sox could theoretically sign Garcia to a team-friendly contract extension. An extension would appear to be the least likely of the potential outcomes however. There is a multiplicity in the outfield due to the critical mass of talent that the front office has procured and locking Avisail and his vast array of question marks in for an extended amount of time would run contrary to the plan that has seemingly been set forth.
The White Sox are in an enviable spot in their rebuild but roster construction for 2019 is still in question. Someone needs to play the outfield next season. Eloy Jimenez will receive the bulk of the playing time in one outfield corner but the rest has yet to be decided. If a decision to non-tender Garcia does in fact happen, next year’s right fielder likely isn’t in the organization yet. There’s a chance, albeit a small one that the White Sox will shock the baseball world and convince Bryce Harper to play his home games at 35th and Shields. According to reports, the franchise is likely to spend and spend like never before.
There are some alternative options to Avisail Garcia and Bryce Harper as well though. Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reported recently that the White Sox made an early offer to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley. The former Indian is 31-years-old now and has been oft-injured. In 630 plate appearances last season though, the left-handed hitter posted a 124 wRC+ while slugging 17 long balls. Brantley provides a left-handed stick and possesses on base ability that would be a welcome sight on the south side.
Other potential options on the open market could include Andrew McCutchen, Marwin Gonzalez, or Nick Markakis. Lonnie Chisenhall is another former Cleveland Indians prospect that could be a bit of a buy low candidate. The White Sox could be active in trade discussions and a player like Nick Castellanos from the Tigers would be a logical addition. Rick Renteria could also choose to deploy Daniel Palka in right field every so often but he likely wouldn’t be counted on to play an every day role in that spot.
The derby for Bryce Harper’s services has just begun and super agent Scott Boras has a tendency to milk these negotiations for all their worth. The Pale Hose are believed to be firmly in the mix and resolution shouldn’t be expected until December’s Winter Meetings at the earliest. The club will have to decide on the conundrum of their own outfielder well before then though and resolution will be known prior to the deadline at the end of the month.
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