Palka could end up seeing most of his playing time in left field in 2019 after general manager Rick Hahn said Saturday that he expects Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso to fill most of the starts at designated hitter and first base, Phil Rogers of MLB.com reports. Heading into the winter, there was some thought that Abreu and Palka would split first base and DH duties during the upcoming campaign, but the recent acquisition of Alonso temporarily spells an end to that plan. Like Palka, Alonso also bats from the left side, so even a timeshare between the two wouldn't be an ideal arrangement when both are healthy. As a result, Palka's clearest path to playing time looks like it'll come as a strong-side platoon bat in the corner outfield, barring other major offseason additions at the position. Palka graded out as a negative defender in both right and left last season, so deploying the 27-year-old slugger in the outfield doesn't seem like a tenable long-term plan. Fortunately for Palka, both Abreu and Alonso can both become free agents after 2019, so there's a good possibility that one or both players will be dealt ahead of the trade deadline if the White Sox aren't in playoff contention.
Palka will work out at first base during the offseason, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Palka, who has played both corner outfield spots and designated hitter this season, has played first base in the Diamondbacks and Twins minor-league systems and taken grounders in practice for the White Sox. Manager Rick Renteria is pleased with Palka's power but understands his outfield defense will limit the manager's flexibility. Palka could be the primary DH next season, and by expanding his position versatility, he can work his bat into the lineup at first base or the outfield when Renteria uses the DH spot to spell a position regular.
Palka went 2-for-5 with two RBI in Tuesday's 5-4 win over Cleveland. Palka rescued the White Sox from defeat with a two-run, walkoff single. Palka's an adventure in the field, but his production at the plate -- he leads the team with 27 home runs and his 66 RBI are second only to Jose Abreu -- could land him a gig as the primary designated hitter in 2019.
Palka hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in Friday's win over the Cubs. The blast was his fourth as a pinch hitter this season -- setting a new White Sox record -- and his 27th homer overall, which leads major-league rookies. His defense in the outfield remains an adventure, but Palka's production at the plate puts him on the radar for a gig as the primary designated hitter next season.
Palka is out of the lineup for Friday's game against the Cubs. Palka and his .191/.276/.294 slash line against lefties will take a seat for the series opener against Jose Quintana and the Cubs. Another left-hander in Jon Lester will take the mound Saturday, leaving Palka in an undesirable position, even if he does start. Kevan Smith will bat sixth as the designated hitter Friday.