After missing nearly two months with a hamstring injury, Avisail Garcia returned to the Chicago White Sox lineup late last month with designs on showing the baseball world that 2017 was no fluke.
With a slash line of .330/.380/.506, Garcia made his first All-Star team and finally began living up to the baby-Miguel Cabrera billing he’d been tabbed with since rising through the Detroit Tigers farm system. Luckily, signs of regression prior to the injury are looking like a thing of the past.
Garcia has hit safely now in every game since his June 22 return. Inside of that 11-game hitting streak (13 dating back to before he went on the disabled list), he’s now hit 6 home runs in the last 8 games.
For the White Sox, now it becomes a matter of playing the stock market. And timing is everything.
Here’s what we know. Long-term, Avisail Garcia is a player with enormous boom-or-bust potential. Despite what he’s done in the last year and change, the White Sox also have almost three full seasons worth of plate appearances where he wasn’t good.
He’d show flashes from time to time, but the overall body of work was poor. And he was injured frequently, with this season’s hamstring injury marking his third extended disabled list trip in three seasons.
While White Sox fan would all love to believe that what they’re seeing now is more indicative of what Garcia is going to be, you need absolute certainty about that heading into 2020 when he becomes eligible for free agency. There’s simply no guarantee you’re ever going to get that.
The White Sox could use the additional year of control they have to continue evaluating Garcia, building a bridge to what is sure to be an incredibly crowded outfield by 2020. However, if his numbers hold as they are right now, that’s probably going to cost them close to $10 million at arbitration. Then they’d run the risk of him regressing and losing any trade value he might have right now.
The flipside is that it’s also possible Garcia is a late-bloomer who is just now scratching at the surface of his potential. We’ve all seen displays of incredible raw power even during the multiple seasons of mediocrity, so the idea that he could morph into some .300-plus hitting, .850-plus OPS carrying star is enticing.
Even with Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe, Luis Gonzalez and company all producing their way into the “future of the outfield” conversation, that’s something you can find a place for. So perhaps you try to get an extension done for Garcia soon because you assume his value is still rising.
However, that’d be a greedy, dangerous position for the organization to hold. The big, muscular slugger with a growing history of muscle and ligament injuries and a checkered history of productivity could easily turn into the sort of bad contract that the White Sox have been trying to avoid since launching the rebuild.
That’s why the safest bet is to hope this offensive display continues and to find a trade partner quickly. Two weeks ago, Garcia wouldn’t have been worth anything of true substance on the trade market and now he has value again. That’s a pretty great example of how volatile baseball futures might be.
Sure, you run the risk of Garcia recognizing his potential as a perennial All-Star and whoever you get in return busting out. But a rebuild like this is about acquiring prospects and hoping you have a success rate high enough to eventually fill out a roster. It’s the cost-effective way of doing things, and the White Sox’s realization that they’re a mid-to-small market in big market’s clothing (Chicago) is the best thing that’s happened to this franchise in over a decade.
It’s been incredibly fun watching Garcia turn his fortunes around over the last 18 months. It stinks to think another franchise might reap the rewards of that. But the reality is, he’s still got so much projection in his profile that the White Sox can’t afford to risk the self-indulgence.