With Tim Anderson out for the next six weeks after tearing a ligament in his left hand, the White Sox will have to make a playoff push without their longtime shortstop and all-star. Though Anderson had been struggling since his return from a groin injury (.249/.287/.290 in 39 games), it’s never easy to replace someone who can help carry a lineup once he’s right.
However, Rick Hahn, Tony La Russa, and the rest of the powers that be now have a decision to make – who is going to be filling in at shortstop in Anderson’s absence? Given that the trade deadline has passed, the club has limited out-of-house solutions to this situation. Luckily, they do have a few in-house solutions – but which one is the right one?
Here is a review of the pros and cons of the in-house – and one out-of-house – options for the White Sox to fill Anderson’s absence.
Option #1: Leury Garcia main SS, Lenyn Sosa backup
This is the first option listed because it’s the immediate option Tony La Russa went to on Tuesday. Leury Garcia has been La Russa’s favorite utility player since the beginning of his second tenure with the White Sox, and throughout a long major league career, Garcia is no stranger to some extended periods of receiving the lion’s share of starts for a club. His versatility would allow him to handle SS – which, technically, is his natural position despite how little he’s played it. He is at his best as a utility/bench bat but has been getting enough regular opportunities this season to keep himself fresh for a longer stretch of starts.
Pros: Garcia has shown that he can be productive before when given the opportunity. Garcia hit .285/.358/.422 in 81 games last season from June 3 to October 3, which was comprised of 312 plate appearances – not an insignificant number. With a combined -1 OAA at shortstop between 2020-2022, Garcia’s not a liability at the position, even if he won’t win the Sox games. The team would be banking on a strong stretch similar to his 2021 production if they chose to make Garcia the new starting shortstop.
Cons: The cons are pretty clear here – Garcia’s been one of the worst offensive players in baseball this season. He is hitting just .211/.257/.274 this season, and his -0.9 fWAR would be tied with Miguel Cabrera for the third-worst in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. The Sox can’t afford to replace Anderson – who was struggling with his own right – with the current version of Leury Garcia as the team struggles to score runs. For as much as Anderson has struggled for the better part of two months, Garcia has been even less productive.
Option #2: Lenyn Sosa main SS, Leury Garcia backup
While not the incumbent at the position, this is likely the preferred option by most White Sox fans. Lenyn Sosa has sprung onto the scene this season, and at just 22 years old, he dominated AA (.331/.384/.549) and was starting to heat up in AAA as well (.271/.313/.424 over his last 15 AAA games). If the White Sox are serious about making Sosa a part of the future – perhaps as early as next season with a projected opening at 2B – it would make sense for the club to find a way to give Sosa an extended tryout at the major league level.
Pros: Sosa provides a fresh breath of air for the White Sox, and a new face as the replacement for TA short-term could be the sort of spark this struggling White Sox offense needs down the stretch. Sosa hit his first major league homer in his first start since being recalled in game two on Tuesday night, so it’s clear that the power has the ability to translate from the minors. He’s also known to be a good defender, so the team wouldn’t lose anything defensively by playing him consistently.
Cons: Sosa will likely hit a “rookie wall” of some sorts with more playing time. At every level in his career, he’s taken some time to adjust to the new level of pitching he’s facing before eventually really starting to mash. The majors will likely be no different – can the White Sox afford for Sosa to work through some rookie struggles in the middle of a playoff chase? Likely not – but, in his defense, he would just have to put up better numbers than Leury Garcia’s .511 OPS.
Option #3: Sign Didi Gregorius
Here’s an option that recently came on the block. Didi Gregorius was recently designated for assignment and released by the Philadelphia Phillies. After posting a .795 OPS from 2017-2020 – a span of over 400 games – the majority of Gregorius’ tenure with the Phillies has been less than stellar. From 2021-2022, Gregorius has slashed just .210/.267/.345, walking 5.9% of the time and striking out 16.1% of the time. So, he doesn’t walk but also doesn’t strike out. He does have some power in his bat, with a career-high 27 homers hit with the Yankees in 2018. In fact, he did post three straight 20 home runs seasons from 2016-2018, and even through his struggles in 2021, he hit 13 homers.
Pros: Gregorius could experience a “dead cat bounce” of sorts and can serve as another left-handed bat in a lineup desperately looking for one to provide some offense. In addition, a veteran presence at such a key position might be more welcomed in the clubhouse than a rookie during the playoff push (this is not a knock on Sosa or the White Sox clubhouse). Gregorius might be a sort of liability at SS, but if his bat is good enough to overcome it, it’s something the White Sox could overlook.
Cons: Gregorius is very likely on the downswing of his career, and he’s never been a particularly good defender either. With a team like the White Sox that already struggles defensively, some more poor performances at SS are not what the team needs. If he doesn’t hit well and doesn’t field well, the White Sox will have wasted an opportunity to get Lenyn Sosa more at-bats without getting better results than could’ve been expected from Sosa.
Option #4: Lenyn Sosa at SS, Romy Gonzalez/Josh Harrison at 2B
This option has arisen recently, as Leury Garcia looked like he was struggling pretty badly at the plate last night to hit. There was some sort of weakness in his legs that made it painful to watch him try and swing, and even Jason Benetti and Steve Stone mentioned this on the broadcast. Josh Harrison did not appear in the game at all, likely due to the fact that he was hit on the elbow in game one of the doubleheader. While Harrison did not leave in game one, given that he did not come in as a replacement at any point for Garica in game two, it raises questions as to just how badly Harrison’s elbow may have been hurting.
Regardless of whether or not Harrison is healthy, it looks as if Leury Garcia could use a stint on the injured list. Enter Romy Gonzalez, who is on the White Sox 40-man roster and is just returning from injuries/illnesses of his own that have plagued his season. After an impressive .283/.264/.532 campaign in 2021 that earned him a promotion to the big leagues, the 25-year-old Gonzalez has followed it up with a solid .256/.346/.496 slash line in 2022. The only problem: he has only played in 33 games due to injury. He did post a .616 OPS in 33 plate appearances with the Sox in September last season, so he would be a familiar-ish face. Could a combination of Sosa and Gonzalez up the middle be the solution for the White Sox?
Pros: Two new faces up the middle for the White Sox may be daunting, especially in the middle of a playoff race. However, both players are solid defenders with some speed and pop – and who knows, maybe six weeks of production could come before six weeks of rookie struggles? It’s a risk the White Sox may have to consider taking if either Harrison or Garcia – or even both – have to miss any amount of time.
Cons: Much like in Option #2, rookie walls are a real thing. One rookie infielder facings struggles is one thing, but having two potentially in a lineup that doesn’t score many runs as it is could be a problem – especially if both struggle at the same time.
Option #5: Think Outside the Box…
How about a wild scenario to close this out? Jake Burger has looked excellent at both the major league (.761 OPS) and minor league (.770 OPS) levels this season. At 26 years old, he’s done more than enough to show that he belongs at the major league level. The biggest problem: there’s no spot on the team for him as currently constructed. What if we created one for him?
The alignment: Jake Burger at third, Lenyn Sosa at shortstop, and Yoan Moncada at second. The lineup would look something like this: Pollock RF, Moncada 2B, Jimenez LF, Abreu 1B, Vaughn DH, Robert CF, Grandal C, Burger 3B, Sosa SS.
Pros: In this scenario, the White Sox are doing everything they can to maximize the offensive output they can get from this current roster. Gavin Sheets would likely see some time intermittently in here at well, as would Josh Harrison when healthy. This lineup could mash enough to overcome the incredible amount of defensive shortcomings.
Cons: Besides the fact that this will never happen? Well, Jake Burger isn’t the strongest defensive third baseman and Yoan Moncada hasn’t played 2B since 2018 – where he wasn’t strong defensively. A play for the power department could end up being a net neutral – or negative – in the long run due to defensive shortcomings, especially considering that the White Sox haven’t been able to score all season no matter what lineup they put out.
Given that the trade deadline has already passed, Rick Hahn doesn’t have too many options available to his disposal from outside of the organization – and the option he does have doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. With the options being pretty heavily in-house, it will be up to the organization to make the right choice as to who sees the most plate appearances over the next six weeks. Make the right call, and the team might make it into October.
Which option do you prefer? Let us know below in the comments!
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