The waiting is the hardest part: What do the White Sox do at second base, while we all wait for Nick Madrigal to arrive? (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)
Hello everyone, and welcome to 2020! Thanks to James and everyone who wished for Luis Robert to be locked in for the New Year — you are scholars, and I salute you.
With all the excitement going around on the recent free agent and Luis signings, I’m hearing no chatter but still seeing a gap around second base.
While (almost) everyone is sad to lose Yolmer and his Gatorade-dumping ways, the Sox have yet to really puzzle out how they’re going to fill the hole. If all goes according to whatever plan Rick has, Nick Madrigal should be gracing the field one day in the future. In the meantime, I don’t think he’s going to be up from Charlotte by Opening Day, or even September, so here are some potential options we have until Madrigal is ready, in a little thing I like to call …
… former enemies become our friends
Brian Dozier is available, and he possessed the highest 2019 WAR out of the crop of remaining free agents at second base, with a hearty 1.7. He’s 33, so age-wise he’s in an OK spot if the Sox want to pick him up for a couple of years. There’s an added bonus of being familiar with the AL, because he was part of the dreaded Twins for years (if you care about the AL/NL sort of thing) before he got a ring with the Nats last season on a one-year/$9 million contract. There’s not a lot of chatter coming on Dozier, as second base seems like a low-priority across the league, so if the Sox play their cards right they have a veteran out there for the taking. It looks like second base is low on the list for the Nationals, so the environment is there for Dozier to get snapped up by another team. The nice thing about Dozier being on the older side of things is he may not be willing to take something short-term while we wait for Madrigal to mature.
Local boy Jason Kipnis is out there as well, for those of you that want to yell at me about a left-handed bat in the lineup (keep yelling, I don’t care about lefty/righty). Staying with the argument of being familiar with the AL, Kipnis has been a good middle-of-the-lineup guy for the Tribe since 2011, and had a 2019 WAR of 1.1. The problem with Kipnis is that he started and ended 2019 on the IR. He had $16.5 million option for the 2020 season, but Cleveland opted instead for a $2.5 million buyout, most likely due to decline and injuries. There’s some upside with Kipnis, but the risk is that he could become our latest Jimmy Rollins or Orlando Hudson.
Stealing from the other Sox
Brock Holt is another lefty bat, with a batting average slightly higher than Kipnis and Dozier (.297 vs. .238 and .245, respectively) with a WAR of 1.0. Holt is at a good age (31), so if the Sox want to snap him up for a couple of years to not only fill a hole but allow Madrigal time to develop, they would get a player with solid production in offense and defense. His 2019 deal with the Red Sox was one-year/$3.5 million so he’d be the cheapest out of the three options, with a higher potential return: He’s healthy and budget-friendly. Red Sox have been pushing for Michael Chavis to be the star starter (speaking of players struggling with health…) and are counting pennies to keep Mookie Betts, so re-upping Holt is not a big priority right now. Holt did say almost a year ago that he’d want to retire a Red Sox, so time will tell on how willing the Bosox front office is to play ball with him.
If the White Sox are looking internally and trying to save money at this point, depth charts have Leury García and Danny Mendick projected for second base, neither being a perfect fit: Mendick has mostly filled in at shortstop and third while we all know Leury as our resident fill-in-the-blank outfielder choice. Given how quickly the White Sox moved Yoán Moncada off of second base, I’m really hesitant to trust the team rolling the dice with someone who isn’t a tried and true second baseman.
Depending on what the White Sox want to spend and what they’re still looking to prioritize or add, there are three solid outside options for 2020. While Madrigal shot through the minor leagues like a rocket, I would be absolutely stunned if he were ready for Opening Day, so there’s still a hole to fill in the meantime.