Yolmer Sánchez could be entering his penultimate weekend with the White Sox, and while he’s among numerous players to develop extreme loyalty to the club, we don’t often see roots go as deep as his.
Sánchez is really the only international success story the White Sox can boast, as he signed with the Sox as a 16-year-old the year after the club fired Dave Wilder for skimming bonuses. Even with their infrastructure in ruins, Sánchez still managed to climb all the way to the majors and serve as an effective-at-times second baseman in the majors. There’s a reason why his likeness looms like that of an enlightened despot at the White Sox academy in the Dominican Republic.
Luis Robert will soon follow suit as a White Sox prospect whose career with the club started in the DSL, but he started about $25 million richer than Sánchez. When it comes to the classic, no-longer-prohibited type of international signing, Sánchez and Andre Rienzo are the only players who started as nothing and turned themselves into something. Sánchez is the only one casual White Sox fans readily recall.
So here, it’s extremely understandable why Sánchez sounds reluctant about playing anywhere else.
‘‘This has been, like, my only team, my baseball family,’’ he said. ‘‘They [gave] me an opportunity to be a professional baseball player, to make it to the big leagues. I’ve been here when we’re winning games, and I’ve been here when we’re losing 100 games. But I always love the Chicago White Sox.’’ […]
‘‘It makes me sad, man, because I know this team is going to be really good in the future and I love this team. I definitely want to be part of this. I know everybody here; everybody knows me. I don’t want to leave.’’
Sánchez is the most expendable because his arbitration number (which would be something like $6 million) outpaces his offensive numbers (a 73 OPS+, a .282 wOBA). Nick Madrigal’s coming in hot, and the Sox have Leury García and Danny Mendick to hold down the fort.
That said, it wouldn’t be the White Sox if Sánchez weren’t necessary in some regard. Non-tendering Sánchez would risk taking their best defender out of the equation.
The SABR Defensive Index, the composite metric that accounts for a quarter of the Gold Glove selection process, identifies Sánchez as the leader among American League second basemen, at least as of a month ago. He probably still tops that list, because he’s first among AL second basemen in UZR and DRS.
The downgrade from Sánchez to anybody else as a defensive second baseman is readily apparent any time you see Mendick or García or José Rondón turning a double play in his stead. Sánchez’s hands are just so much faster, and they seldom let him down. The good news is that Madrigal should come the closest, as he’s another player used to compensating for middling arm strength with faster releases. It’d just be unfair to saddle him with Gold Glove expectations during his first months in the majors.
Along with his superlative defense, Sánchez also the only regular starter who’s regularly drawing walks for some reason. He’s just about doubled his personal walk rate over the last two months, and he’s leaving everybody else in the dust. Walk totals since Aug. 1:
- Sánchez, 21
- Jose Abreu, 15
- Ryan Goins, 10
- Yoan Moncada, 8
- Eloy Jiménez, 8
- James McCann, 8
Madrigal probably won’t be able to help in this regard in 2020, as he can handle the edges of the strike zone and won’t be challenged outside it until his contact is loud enough for pitchers to fear working over the plate.
Sánchez’s unique skill set could have a place on the White Sox roster if the rest of the roster could absorb his weaknesses. Instead, the combination of a triple-digit strikeout total for 23 extra-base hits contributes to the club’s undesirable absences of power and plate discipline. The Sox would undoubtedly be able to absorb his arbitration number since only Kelvin Herrera’s salary looms on the 2020 payroll, but the Sox also had the room for a massive expenditure last year, and they pointed to the specter of theoretical payroll issues as an excuse. It’d be unfortunate if Sánchez’s $6 million contributed to the Sox bowing out on superior players.
Basically, it seems like a healthy time for the White Sox to move on, and moving on could also benefit Sánchez, whose skill set should be able to help a winning team that won’t have to risk overexposing his shortcomings. He’d leave some shoes to fill as a homegrown international signing, a reliable defender and a massive personality, but if the White Sox want to becoming a healthy contender themselves, they should be able to produce more players like him, even if some parts of him are impossible to duplicate.