As it has been since the departure of Gordon Beckham (“I just wanna use your love, toniiiiiiiiiiight…”), second base was a revolving door for the White Sox in 2022. Leury Garcia and Josh Harrison garnered the lion’s share of the work, starting 130 games between them at the position. Harrison turned things up down the stretch to muster a 98 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR campaign, while Leury was notoriously awful with a shocking 39 wRC+ and -1.1 fWAR.
Danny Mendick also looked decent across a few positions for a month before suffering a season-ending injury, and the call-ups of Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa yielded poor results. Case in point, the South Siders had minimal production and zero consistency at second base in 2022.
Yet, while the holes in the outfield have largely been addressed with the signing of Andrew Benintendi and the likely early call-up of Oscar Colas, second base has only gotten thinner. Harrison is a free agent, and Mendick has signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has zero second base experience anyways, walked in free agency too. So, the obvious question presents itself—who is going to man second base in 2023 for the Sox?
Many fans seem content to roll with the young tandem of Gonzalez and Sosa, who have both flashed talent in the minors. Gonzalez, 26, boasted an .895 OPS in 93 games across Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2021, while Sosa, 22, broke out in 2022 with an .881 OPS in 117 games between the same two clubs. Notably, Sosa is younger and higher-regarded as a prospect. Steamer, though, projects similar numbers for the pair in 2023 with fWARs of 0.7 (Romy) and 1.1 (Lenyn) in 66-68 games played.
Young players can be hard to accurately project, especially when neither are blue-chip prospects and both produced mixed results in the minors. Specifically, both players enjoyed exactly one good campaign at the two upper tiers of minor league baseball, with little to show in the majors or prior seasons. That variability is a problem.
Unfortunately, viable free agent options are basically non-existent at this point. Adam Frazier and Jean Segura were the only notable names available, and with Segura’s reported signing on December 28, both are off the board. Shucks. Josh Harrison is the next best thing out there, but his age and batted ball profile are uninspiring. Another one-year flyer as a depth move wouldn’t be the worst thing, considering his floor is higher than Sosa’s and Gonzalez’s. But Harrison’s floor/ceiling combination is still weak enough to leave many fans apathetic.
Regardless, a reunion with Harrison seems improbable at this point. In that case, no free agent signing leaves Hahn, Grifol and Co. with two options: exploring several trade candidates or utilizing some mix of Sosa and Gonzalez. Though it’s easier to advocate primarily for a trade, there is also a proper recipe for how to handle the young duo otherwise.
Option No. 1: Trade for Jazz Chisholm Jr.
“Ya like jazz?” – Barry B. Benson (Bee Movie, 2007).
Jazz Chisholm Jr. made waves in the beginning half of the 2022 season with a 14-homer, 2.6-fWAR showing in just 60 games, which earned him All-Star honors. He missed the entirety of July through October with two related back injuries. At just 24 years old, his powerful lefty bat would fit in perfectly with the White Sox.
Kim Ng and the Marlins may not be listening on Chisholm, but it’s possible with the Marlins’ futility and reports of clubhouse issues with Chisholm in 2022. If it exists, the price for Chisholm is high, as our Nik Gaur detailed in his June article. Colson Montgomery seems like a necessary headliner. On top of that, Chicago would likely have to send a secondary notable prospect like Sosa and a young major league player like Garrett Crochet.
Draining premier young talent from an already-thin farm system would hurt, but it could prove to be a worthy endeavor. Even with positive regression from guys like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito in 2023, the South Siders are probably still a tier below the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. Making a trade for a cornerstone player like Chisholm could help rectify that difference.
Option No. 2: Trade for Gleyber Torres
Trading for Torres would represent a lower-risk, lower-reward alternative to acquiring Chisholm. Gleyber was solid for the Yankees in 2022, amassing 2.7 fWAR in 140 games through a .761 OPS and average defense. Importantly, his power returned, and he slugged 24 bombs after hitting just nine in 2021.
With D.J. LeMahieu, the re-signing of Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, and the solid play of rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, it’s possible the Yankees have what they need for their middle infield without Torres. Of course, New York would ask for MLB compensation in return, but it’s reasonable to believe the Sox could oblige. Hahn could likely get close to a deal by packaging Reynaldo Lopez with a mid-to-high-tier prospect like Jose Rodriguez, trading from a strength on the MLB roster.
Torres hasn’t been the superstar he was billed to be, but he would still represent a major upgrade over the ceiling of a Harrison signing and the floor of Sosa/Gonzalez.
Option No. 3: Prioritize Sosa over Gonzalez
If the status quo remains, Grifol will have to choose between Sosa and Gonzalez for the starting second baseman spot. Obviously, if one of the two lights it up in spring training while the other struggles massively, the decision would likely be an easy one. Anything else and the issue centers mostly on the information we already know today.
Gonzalez earned 109 plate appearances in 2022, which is a small but not tiny sample size. As mentioned above, he was pretty bad in those appearances. Romy did hit the ball hard very often, but suffered mightily from poor launch angle, resulting in ground ball after ground ball. Sosa was even worse but saw only 36 plate appearances last season, a negligible sample size. On the whole, Sosa is less powerful and slightly less patient than Gonzalez but makes up for it with better contact and better fielding. Primarily, though, the reason to favor Sosa here is his age and evaluation.
Sosa is four years younger and was called up for two short stints on the major league roster. He hasn’t had more than a week of time to get comfortable at the major league level like Romy has. In addition, Romy struggled in Triple-A on top of his MLB work in 2022, unable to replicate his 2021 explosion. Sosa, meanwhile, ascended in 2022 without hitting any major setbacks yet—his compass appears to be facing up.
With all that in mind, Sosa should be given a month or so to showcase his abilities when he’s actually allowed to settle in at the major league level. If the Sox are truly opting for the “let’s see what the kid can do” route, it makes much more sense to prioritize the younger, higher-ceiling option. Romy certainly has long-term potential if he can learn to elevate the baseball, and will still get his chance if Sosa demonstrates no progress.
Whichever way Sox management decides to go, it’s crucial that they are deliberate in identifying and addressing second base as a problem. Settling for the status quo simply out of ignorance or lack of desire to spend money would constitute a larger issue in front office decision-making. If Sosa or Gonzalez emerge as the preferred candidate, then the White Sox truly believe they have a second baseman worthy of starting on a championship team.
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