Leury García’s plan worked.
Back in February, García and the White Sox agreed to an unusually structured contract extension that would take care of his two remaining arbitration-eligible years, but it didn’t include the usual arb-year pay raise. García’s contract reaffirmed the deal they struck to avoid arbitration in 2019 ($3.25 million), but it also arranged a relatively meager $3.5 million deal for 2020, rather than the $5 million or more he might make in a productive season. A $250,000 buyout gave him a little extra money in case things went south.
A real-world application of arb-year economics inspired the arrangement. The winter before, Yolmer Sánchez’s arbitration trajectory exceeded his production. Sánchez was in line for a projected $6.2 million payday, which would’ve been a rather ordinary raise from the $4.625 million he earned the season before, but it was too steep for what the White Sox wanted to pay a backup second baseman.
Sánchez didn’t get that number from the Sox, nor any other team. He had to settle for a minor-league deal with the Giants after the Sox non-tendered him, and then one with the White Sox after the Giants cut him.
(Sánchez is an Oriole now, as Baltimore claimed him after the White Sox outrighted him from the 40-man roster. The White Sox had previously signed Tim Beckham on a minor-league deal, so you can consider it a swap of utility infielders that saves a roster spot.)
García ran the risk of selling himself short, and he certainly showed some potential for a bigger payday when he homered from both sides of the plate in the second game of the season. Had he hit .271/.317/.441 over the course of a full season, he might’ve been worth a $5 million spin from some team.
But García only posted that line over 16 games, as one of his dives into first base resulted in a severed left thumb ligament that required surgery, and while he returned for the postseason, his swing suggested he should’ve stayed down.
Given such an uncertain future, $3.5 million now looks like a pretty good salary. It’s a substantial enough sum that nearly a third of the plans in the Offseason Plan Project decided to buy him out. That kind of commitment can’t be taken for granted given the austerity measures that led to the Indians waiving Brad Hand with no takers on waivers, and the Cardinals cutting Kolten Wong.
In previous winters, I’ve assumed the role of devil’s advocate to argue against retaining García for lesser sums. My reasoning is based on ambition for the roster spot and García’s lack of reliability than pure dollars, and now that García is no longer needed to prevent an overexposure to Adam Engel, those arguments have a little more in-house baseball reasoning to them.
At the same time, García bolstered the stance for keeping him in the fold despite the limited run in 2020. He offers a fortnight’s worth of starting competence at multiple positions, including a valuable cameo at shortstop in 2020 before the regular season-ending injury. That’s why a majority of plans still had him in the works.
García’s deal ended up working out for both sides, and it can be taken as heartening that the White Sox chose to retain him while other franchises seem willing to cut their depth to the bone, or see a landscape where a $10 million All-Star closer can’t even be dealt for a lottery ticket. The hope is that the White Sox have the finances to keep a decent utility player at $3.5 million, and not just that they take comfort in players they know to avoid making larger investments in players they don’t.
To that end, Joel Sherman of the New York Post included this note in a write-up of Japanese starter Tomoyuki Sugano:
Two MLB scouts who have a history covering Sugano project him as a strong No. 3 type starter in the majors. Even in what is supposed to be a tight-fisted market, most clubs want to add starting pitching and a few such as the Blue Jays, Giants and White Sox are expected to be a little bolder financially than others.
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While the White Sox picked up García’s option, they also made the consensus decisions with respect to the other pending contractual issues, declining Edwin Encarnación’s $12 million option, and buying out Gio González’s $7 mlilion salary for 2021 for $500,000. The Offseason Plan Project featured zero plans retaining either veteran.
With García back, Sánchez, Encarnación and González gone, and Michael Kopech and Jimmy Lambert back from the 45-day injured list, the White Sox 40-man roster stands at 36.
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(Leury García portrait by Carl Skanberg)
I would like to say that it’s nice to see the FO make a rational decision post TLR. But I am afraid that Hahn will announce tomorrow that they tore up the current contract and agreed to 3 year extension of XX dollars with Leury. Such is the life a Sox fan who can never trust the abilities of FO to put together a winning roster.
Guys like Leury don’t grow on trees and $3.5m will look like a bargain should anyone (except Grandal) get injured. A true win-win situation here.
Hell, let him catch and make him the latest player to play every position on the diamond.
Unless the word “ligament” is needed for a more precise description of his injury, making it back at all for the postseason should have made Leury a lock for Comeback Player of the Year.
Didn’t the 2021 option cover what was supposed to be García’s first free agent year?
Also, he could have really benefitted from one of those baserunning oven mitts we’re starting to see.
If he’s going to keep diving into First, Leury will need to be the first player to learn how to put one of those gloves on while sprinting out of the batter’s box.
Unless he’s batting with the mitt on, I don’t think it would have helped him here.
Jim Abbott it
It definitely worked out for Leury. I wonder if he’d wrangled even a raise to $4m whether they’d have still picked up the option.
I still think Yolmer would’ve been the more optimal choice if they’d added a RF whose production wasn’t as…aspirational.
Jim Osborn (L’il Jimmy) passed away on October 22. The obituary was in today’s Chicago Tribune. I am devastated. He was a wonderful guy.
Sorry to hear that …he seemed like a good dude when he posted on here
That is terrible news. He was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever encountered. Thanks for letting us know.
Need some Jerry insulting posts pronto
Oh man. That is awful. I loved his commentary and always looked forward to what he had to say.
Sad to learn this news. We will miss him, especially around draft time.
Sorry to hear this news Gibby. I know you guys were close. Jimmy was a great guy. I enjoyed the times we hung out. My best to you and his family.
My condolences. He was an excellent fan that I always enjoyed reading his posts. He will be missed.
Very sad news. I enjoyed his comments here and in SSS. We’ll miss him dearly.
Very sorry to hear this. We met twice at Camelback and he was very nice.
That’s crushing. I think of Jimmy as a proper Chicago guy. Endless stories. Really enjoyed the time I spent in his company.
On the plus side, the TLR’s love for position flexibility, Leury should see the field a lot. I look forward to his first catching appearance.
*Looks at White Sox 2017 draft class*
Well, at least they don’t have to worry about a 40-man roster crunch this year.