The Chicago White Sox are rebuilding. Everyone knows that -- you don’t have to look any further than their offseason trades, or 75-win SportsLine projection to know that this is going to be another trying season on the South Side.
Still, the White Sox did something surprising on Friday, releasing veteran second baseman Brett Lawrie:
Lawrie, 27, is coming off a better season than you think: he hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 plate appearances, numbers resulting in a 99 OPS+. Depending on your opinion of his defense, you could argue he was a league-average producer, or thereabout. So why did the White Sox release him -- thereby opting to pay him a portion of his salary?
Part of it has to do with Lawrie’s health. He was shut down last July with a mysterious leg injury, and recently told team officials he wasn’t feeling quite right. Another part of it likely has to do with his personality -- he comes across as a can of Red Bull poured in a human wrapper. But there’s also this aspect: the White Sox have baseball’s best middle-infield prospect waiting in the wings.
That prospect is Yoan Moncada, part of the payout in the Chris Sale trade. Only 21, he was recently named as the second-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com, who cited his five average or better tools. With Tim Anderson occupying shortstop, Moncada figures to slot in at the keystone in the short term. (It’s worth noting some scouts believe he’ll end up in center field.) Moncada’s ability to hit for average and power and run well could in time lead to a few All-Star Game appearances.
For now, though, Moncada is likely to open the season in Triple-A -- due to financial and developmental purposes alike:
Not reading between the lines and it makes sense.. it sounds as if Yoan Moncada won't break camp with the team.— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) March 3, 2017
As such, the White Sox are likely to enter the season with a combination of Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez (previously known as Carlos Sanchez) at the keystone. Make no mistake about it, however: Moncada is the White Sox’ second baseman of the very, very near future -- and that future got a little closer with Lawrie’s release.