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By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be well on my way to Chicago, but here’s a thought I wanted to throw out there while on the road:
Back during spring training, I wrote a post looking at the last few years of Tony La Russa’s tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, which closed with a World Series win in 2011. The game had changed plenty between then and now, but I figured it was worth poking at his record to see if there might be anything we can expect in terms of strategies, tendencies and roster construction.
One of them involved fluctuating lineups, and the way he employed all options when his roster was healthy enough to afford plenty of mixing, matching and flipping. With the Cardinals, he leaned on a couple of players who expanded the kinds of permutations he could throw out there, and the White Sox had one at the ready.
When he has a full array of players, it seems like he enjoys tinkering, even if he can’t bat the pitcher eighth anymore. He’ll use platoons, he’ll exercise the utility of utility men, and he’ll change the batting order just to see how it looks.
We’re already seeing those wheels turning with La Russa’s regard for Yoán Moncada. […] This could also manifest itself in lots of action for Leury García. Guys like Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles received plenty of playing time on previous Cardinals teams, and García can cover more positions better than either.
Sure enough, Tony La Russa played García plenty despite massive first-half struggles, and García’s getting regular run now thanks to Tim Anderson’s injury coinciding with his best ball of the season, including a walk-off homer against Boston on Sunday.
After the game, made a point to stress García’s contributions, and to the point that he issued a preemptive strike against haters.
“I’ll say this very respectfully: I could dislike you the rest of the time I’m here if you refer to García as a utility player. He’s a regular player who plays all around,” La Russa said. “If he stays healthy, this guy will get as many at-bats as a regular. It’s just he’s gonna play all over. He’s not a utility player. He’s just a really good everyday versatile player.”
García is a free agent at the end of the year, as he’s wrapping up a unique two-year deal that successfully helped him skirt an arbitration trajectory that may have priced him into a non-tendering. He’s appeared in each of the last nine seasons for the White Sox because of that combination of versatility and randomly distributed hot streaks.
The question here is: Should we assume he’ll be around for a 10th and 11th? I’d say to pencil García into your offseason plans, but that’s only if the White Sox strike an agreement before the Offseason Plan Project template takes shape. I’m just thinking that he has a path for further fixturedom given La Russa’s effusive praise.
(Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)