White Sox set to explore life beyond Leury García

Leury García
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Leury García was an unorthodox candidate to become the longest-tenured White Sox, which was extended by a most unusual three-year contract, partially driven by the fact that he’s the unexpected owner of the team’s most significant postseason highlight since 2005.

That career seems to have come to an untimely end, although the specifics are still unsettled at this point. As Josh relayed on Sunday, Daryl Van Schouwen said García is not on the Opening Day roster, and James Fegan said García’s locker was cleared out. Further news probably won’t arrive until the White Sox officially settle their Opening Day roster, and that might wait until the next report on Yoán Moncada’s back, which is expected on Wednesday.

It’s a somber end to a winding journey that started way back in 2013, when García came to the Sox in an August waiver-wire deal for Alex Rios. Rios is a name from four managers ago, and such post-deadline trades are now prohibited.

When García first tried establishing himself after that ancient trade, I feel comfortable saying that he had the worst bat control I’d ever seen for somebody who got as many chances as he did. He hit .166/.192/.207 with 48 strikeouts to just five walks over 155 plate appearances in 2014. It was the product of terrible plate discipline and an unreliable swing path that often put the barrel nowhere close to the ball even on pitches in the zone.

That 2014 season was the only time in White Sox history a player received 150 plate appearances while posting an OPS below .400. If you use adjusted OPS to account for the era, he has two peers for that kind of playing time, but both occurred before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term:

PlayerYearPAAVG/OBP/SLGOPS+
Merv Shea1934202.159/.260/.17613
LEURY GARCÍA2014155.166/.192/.20715
Hervey McClellan1921215.179/.237/.22419

So the fact that he survived that season to be a trusted backup at a half-dozen positions a half-dozen years later speaks well of him, albeit in a zero-sum way. It took hard work, perseverance and personality on his part. It also took a lack of initiative and ability from the front office, because most other teams probably would’ve cycled him out in the process of looking for more promising options.

Not the White Sox. No, they’re apparently cutting him while still owing him $11.5 million.

As a person and teammate, García didn’t seem deserving of The Jeff Keppinger Treatment, but his career collapsed under the weight of Tony La Russa’s love and the club’s financial overextension. La Russa traveled strange lengths to defend his decisions to play García, to not pinch-hit García, to bat García third, by saying he watched García’s at-bats. Yet he was exceptionally slow to notice that García’s legs buckled in the batter’s box due to back problems, so when it came to his favorite role player, he saw only what he wanted to see.

Most everybody else saw impending doom when the White Sox signed García to that three-year contract. That deal was done the day after my son arrived, so I had bigger things to think about, but I circled back to it when the Sox signed Josh Harrison after the lockout.

Look at this way: García is a decent choice to start a week’s worth of games, especially when he elevates his play to emulate the player he’s replacing. He’s just not an ideal choice to start a week’s worth of the season’s most important games, especially lower on the defensive spectrum. That’s exactly where the White Sox have found themselves. He’s a security blanket, but sometimes of the false-sense variety. [….]

García has speed on his side and the Sox would lose his outfield abilities, but his absence might indicate the desire to improve the outfield in such a way that rendered those skills unnecessary. Should the Sox stand pat in right, they’ll have two guys who are great for situations where Tony La Russa needs somebody, and less so for situations where La Russa needs something. Doubling down on guys who don’t offer a something means you could be one wrong turn from getting nothing times two.

And that tension nagged at me well before then, too. I floated the idea of non-tendering him in 2018. I didn’t like that he ended up starting in a corner outfield spot with a busted thumb in the three-game series against Oakland in 2020. Another warning flag went up when he played every game of the 2021 ALDS, because while he was the hero of Game 3, he was as woeful as the rest of the offense the other three games.

It was nothing against García personally. He just fed into the White Sox’s tendency toward complacency. Because he could cover second, short, third, left, center and right, they never seemed to try that hard to upgrade the depth. Sometimes he carried the bench by himself, like when he filled in for Tim Anderson and pre-Jr. Luis Robert without skipping a beat. But because he struggled to clear 1 WAR, he also endured extended stretches of mediocrity. And when the Sox found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to replace two starters, well, that’s how García ended up playing in six of the White Sox’s seven postseason games and going 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts.

I was always OK with the Sox moving past García just because it might nudge them to find more helpful skill sets from more players, rather than counting on one rather ordinary talent to fill in damn near all the gaps.

After five years of wondering about what life looks like on the other side, we’ll get a chance to see it play out. I’m not confident that Hanser Alberto and Romy González will offer meaningfully different production, but González has offered six spring homers as a compelling argument for opening the season in Chicago, and he can be freely swapped out if he’s not working. As for Alberto, if he flops in a similar fashion, at least we’ll learn whether Pedro Grifol is as susceptible to getting attached to players who just aren’t getting it done.

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LamarHoyt_oncrack

I did not know that there was life after Leury. I hope that just like Frosty the Snowman, he’ll be back again some day.

Is Alberto okay? I was listening to yesterday’s game on the radio when he got hit in the hand with a pitch and left the game. I didn’t hear any updates after that.

Yolmer

Leury had to be a TLR reach around Hahn deal. I just can’t see MBA/defense attorney Hahn giving Leury that much guaranteed money.

StockroomSnail

Hahn has given out many bad contracts without the mummified and boozy hand of LaRussa up his backside.

Last edited 1 year ago by StockroomSnail
Trooper Galactus

Yeah, could I see Tony pressuring Rick into signing Leury? Sure. Could I see Rick being forced to sign him to three times more years and four times more money than he’d likely command on the open market? Nope, that’s squarely on Hahn.

itaita

Not to give Rick too much credit but i could see that being a TLR to Jerry contract while completely skipping over him. Jerry had just done that to him a year prior by hiring Tony when Hinch was set to be the guy so i could see him doing that for somebody Tony wanted that perhaps Rick was looking to get out from.

OldMMJ87

This is where the lack of chain-of-command, which Jim has mentioned several times, really comes into play. I could see Tony telling either Hahn or Jerry (maybe both) “We need to have Leury back,” and then Hahn offers Leury waaay too much money. But, I could see a scenario where Tony and/or Jerry effectively negotiate on their own with Leury and then tell Hahn “We resigned Leury.”

roke1960

I really believe Hahn had nothing to do with the signing. I think Tony went straight to Jerry and told him we need Leury. As bad as Hahn is, no GM, not even Hahn, would give a very marginal utility guy 3 years and $16M.

That is why Leury had to go. He’s been a good soldier for the Sox all these years and seems to be a very likeable guy. But every time he took the field, you would have been reminded of the stench of the LaRussa regime. He had to go.

upnorthsox

Makes sense, what else could it be. I now await Pedro Grifol’s manipulation of the FO to get Hanser Alberto his 3 yr contract.

Yolmer

That’s my read. TLR told JR Leury was his guy, and JR made Hahn sign Leury at whatever Leury’s people’s first offer was (or something similar). It was a bad contract. If I was Leury’s agent, 3 years, $16 million would be my first offer. It is colorable given that he was coming off a 2 WAR season in 2021. But, obviously, it is more a position to negotiate down from than a real deal.

What if Leury accepts his assignment? I would kind of see that happening.

As Cirensica

I really believe Hahn had nothing to do with the signing

I do believe Hahn is capable of such things and worse, I mean, and more.

dwjm3

Yeah, this makes sense to me. Tony wanted him and Hahn botched the contract.

Patrick Nolan

I don’t agree with the decision but as Garcia was not going to be critical to a strong season from the team, I am looking to just move past it. I see the symbolic value of letting him go.

Garcia and Abreu have been here for almost the entire Rick Hahn era. If Abreu represents what good we had to enjoy, Garcia is something of a representation of everything that has gone wrong these last ten years, and that’s mostly not Garcia’s fault. The White Sox gave him 2,345 plate appearances over the last decade. That’s a lot of exposure for someone with a career .644 OPS, even if his production was distributed in such a way that he was actually pretty useful for five of those years.

In the end, he leaves the team at the same time as another long-standing depth piece in Adam Engel, who’s almost the same age and was at a similar point in his career where he couldn’t afford a misstep. Both collapsed in 2022, and whether that’s ultimately due to injury or being cooked, these aren’t the types of players that survive when their downside rears its ugly head.

I admire Garcia’s persistence in becoming a useful role player after four years of looking like anything but. He doesn’t deserve the negative reputation he has now, but arguably he didn’t deserve the chance for his 2017 breakout, so maybe it all evens out. At least he got paid.

DocGreedo

The Legend is a sacrifice to the fans for the previous couple year’s boneheaded decisions; but I still find the sacrifice lacking.

FishSox

I don’t get the same sense of Garcia hate that you portray here. I think there was a lot of frustration at his contract value and term and that folks believed that was going to hem the sox in to keeping him. Then there’s the frustration that Leury’s contract took away from needed expenditures elsewhere.

I do believe JR has checked out on the team and that opened the door for Grifol to make some independent decisions, which is a good thing. If JR hadn’t checked out, I believe TLR would have some consultants role and that would have screwed this team into the ground.

I hated TLR for playing him, but I never hated him.

Last edited 1 year ago by FishSox
Patrick Nolan

The fact that he was cut with 2 years and 11 million remaining on his deal without anyone being particularly pissed about it says something about his reputation.

FishSox

I don’t think you can use the lack of evidence as evidence. It could just as easily show ambiguity or disinterest.

People don’t necessarily move from like to hate when a players talent recedes. They can hate the contract but not the player. Those are what I believe to be the truth here. If we are to use the metric, you are who the scoreboard says you are, not were, the release of Leury seems like a fair outcome to most folks, so it wouldn’t generate any blowback.

Last edited 1 year ago by FishSox
Nellie Fox

Garcia , like the rest, came to spring training to gain a spot. A new manager comes to spring training with the purpose of choosing the best, to win. He knows what happened last year to this team, congrats to him for not going down the easy road.

Wayne

Leury Garcia was a decent to good utility player from 2017-2021 (when healthy). Even so, he was not Ben Zobrist or Chris Taylor like. So when he became a free agent, most teams would have cycled past him. Most teams have a replacement in their system (Danny Mendick, Zach Remillard) and will bring in guys to compete (Hanser Alberto, Erik Gonzalez) in spring training. Giving guaranteed multi-year money to an above replacement level, but not “star” utility player does not make sense.

steelydan52

Life beyond Garcia is funny since there wasn’t much life with him. I wish him well and all that and has been mentioned, it’s not all his fault. If Hahn or TLR offered me a 3 year contract and said that I didn’t have to be good, I’d sign too.
And a lot of what some of us feel about him is a direct result of the failures of the Sox upper management and the frustrations that go with it.
Now we just have to hope that we don’t see Jimenez too much in the OF. Or that Moncada doesn’t trip over the chalk line and hurt himself.
Let’s get this show going!

GrinnellSteve

By way of eulogy, I’ll say Leury was always a happy warrior, and I appreciate that. And sometimes he had wonderful battling at-bats where he’d fight off pitch after pitch. Even when those at-bats end in an out, there’s value in extending a pitcher, showing his stuff to the rest of the team.

Terrible contract, but that’s not Leury’s fault. I’m glad we’ve moved on, but I wish the man well.

GrinnellSteve

I just read this unsubstantial report about the Sox being in the hunt for a veteran utility guy. Someone here will be happy if this comes to pass!

steelydan52

For a minute there I thought you were hinting at Garcia returning but the article says Tony Kemp and I’d be alright with that.

DocGreedo

This make zero sense in a post Elvis world.

a-t

Sure it does… have we not been kvetching about lack of depth constantly? That would be a very solid depth option. Kemp is clearly better than Alberto, and with Andrus being the backup SS, Kemp gets playing time at 2B for both Andrus and TA’s days off, and as a bonus he can handle LF too in a pinch. If either of TA or Andrus goes down, or if Andrus’ bat noodlifies, then Kemp is our starting 2B, and that’s totally acceptable for a second option.

Last edited 1 year ago by a-t
DocGreedo

You are 100% correct in everything you said but I do not think it moves a needle in win total verses what we currently have. I also have zero faith that they know what is in the farm system and could give up on someone too soon.

upnorthsox

I was thinking more like Kemp for Romy and then Romy is available to come up if there’s an injury. Would still prefer someone who can play CF to Sheets but he would need to have some power.

As Cirensica

+1 for using the verb to kvetch

Bonus Baby

OK, that is legit hilarious. If they do, he’ll be less of an upgrade than he would have been before Elvis — but IMO he’d still likely be a substantial upgrade at 2B.

He’ll also be way less of an upgrade than Ramon Laureano would be right now. I can only hope that somehow this means Hahn is reviving my brilliant Kemp and Laureano combined trade plan for the win!

Joliet Orange Sox

I don’t recall you mentioning Kemp or Laureano before now. 😉

Ron

I have been a lurker here for a long time. As this is my first comment, I can’t leave without paying homage to what keeps me coming back:  Jim‘s uncommon mastery of the language. I know a little bit about writing, and not a week goes by that I am not rewarded by Jim’s ability to paint word pictures, turn phrases that amuse and bemuse, and use his wit to evoke emotions and inspire thought. 

More on topic, I have been a diehard CWS fan for over 65 years and, until recently, season ticket holder for over 40 years…through many, mostly bad, front office regimes, woefully horrible teams, laughably amateurish teams, and a few good teams. Every single year, without fail, excitement for Opening Day would build early and, even if optimism came hard, enthusiasm and anticipation came easy. Early on, my fan excitement was derivative from my father and brother, giving me family memories at the park. Later, my wife and daughter became fans and continued what became a shared family event – excitement at the start of a new season.

This year something is uncomfortably very different. I have tried to avoid falling prey to all the anger, disgust and disillusionment with the team expressed so well, and so often, here, and I have mostly succeeded. But whatever it was that made me a fan for 65 years is gone…destroyed…broken…there’s a void where the excitement should be. I seem to have moved past all the angst and ended up somewhere entirely unexpected: apathy. I just don’t care about the team anymore.  By the way, all the angst I’ve read here is actually a reliable and telltale sign that (try as you might to fight it) you are all still FANS…because only true FANS would care enough to feel so much.  I’ve tried to rekindle that feeling of being a FAN, even if it only surfaces as anger …but it’s just not there. And that’s sad.

King Joffrey

I’m of a similar age and fan history, but happily the Sox have maintained their ability to really piss me off.

peanutsNcrackerjack

I, like you, have been a fan for 65 years. Just think, we witnessed a world series after just one year of being a fan. We must have felt like getting to the WS was going to be a regular event back then. It is so sad to hear you’ve misplaced (not lost) your passion. I sincerely hope it will be rekindled, even though this franchise doesn’t do much to earn it. The pace of the game is improved, and who knows, with some exceptional performances and some Baseball-God luck, it may make them watchable again, and it would be a shame to not have you be a part of it.
And I wholeheartedly concur with your comments about Jim’s writing skill.

steelydan52

Find a way Ron, find a way! We are very similar in age and length of time as Sox fans and regardless of our age we’ve all suffered for a pretty long time. I don’t know if being fired up is the right terminology for me but I still look forward to the start of the season and I know things could go into the shitter fast but I don’t think so.
I was a stalker in here for quite a long time but found it helps to vent along with everyone else instead of just reading all that goes on. You gotta release!!

As Cirensica

Welcome to commenting. Good comment. I hope to read more of your thoughts in the future.

HouseOfTheRisingSox

I’ve always told people that Merv Shea really sucked that year. So I’m glad you illustrated it in this column.

bobsquad

I’ll fondly remember Leury as an unconventional but effective leadoff man in 2019 for the last White Sox team that was both bad and fun.

Advanced metrics be damned in this case, anyone who crosses the plate 93 times in a season is doing a lot of things right. And for a player of Leury’s profile to do that, that means delivering the sort of on-field product that fans want to see from their team: showing up almost every day to give his all at bat, in the field, and on the basepaths.