Things have not gone according to plan for Micker Adolfo since signing with the Chicago White Sox in the 2013 international signing period. As a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, he was praised by scouts for his massive raw power and cannon arm that seemed to have him destined to be a future impact corner outfielder. The city of Chicago appeared to have locked up multiple future stars that year, as the Cubs signed number one ranked international prospect, Eloy Jimenez, along with the highly regarded Gleyber Torres, while the White Sox inked a deal with Adolfo, who was 2nd in mlb.com’s international prospect rankings only behind Eloy.
Fast forward 8 years and things have taken some interesting turns for these players’ careers. Eloy was acquired in the Jose Quintana trade (thanks Cubs) and has turned into a beloved regular in the middle of the White Sox lineup, while the Cubs shipped off Torres, who has had a polarizing tenure with the New York Yankees, for the final piece of their 2016 world series team. Micker Adolfo, on the other hand, has battled injuries and consistency issues and has yet to make his MLB debut despite being 25.
During the 2021 minor league season, Micker Adolfo finally began to realize his potential. He managed to stay healthy while slugging 15 home runs and posting a .843 OPS and a 128 wRC+ in 57 games at AA Birmingham and earned himself a promotion to AAA Charlotte where he posted an equally impressive 10 home runs with a .814 OPS and a 112 wRC+ in 44 games. Now, entering the 2022 season, Micker Adolfo is out of minor league options, so the White Sox have a decision to make on how to proceed with him. Simply sending him back down to AAA is no longer allowed, so let’s dive into the options that are available to the White Sox regarding Adolfo’s future.
Option 1: Keep him on the 26-man roster
After the 2021 season that Micker Adolfo had, he may have earned a chance to stick around on a major league team. His ability as a hitter is clear, and, prior to any offseason additions, there could be a spot open for the taking in right field. Is this the best option for a team with world series aspirations, though? While his power is appealing, Adolfo only hit for a .245 batting average and struck out a less than ideal 34% of his plate appearances during the season. This is cause for concern, as the White Sox aren’t rebuilding anymore, so they can’t afford to give a roster spot to a hitter who still needs time to develop his hit tool. If the Sox are trying to put together the best possible 26-man roster for the 2022 season, this might not be the way to go.
Option 2: Trade Him
This is probably the option that makes the most sense for both sides. The White Sox are probably better off using Adolfo to improve their team now, and Adolfo could benefit from going to a team that can afford to be more patient with him. The question really isn’t should they trade him, though. The question is more whether a trade is feasible.
With Adolfo being out of options, the pool of teams that would be interested in his services is limited, as is his trade value. The best bet here is to sell low to a team that doesn’t plan on putting together a competitive team for a few years and can afford to take a flier on an upside play like Adolfo. One possibility: if the Sox want to unload Dallas Keuchel’s contract, the Sox can attempt to offer Adolfo alongside Keuchel to entice the team to eat the unwanted salary. This is a major if, however, as Adolfo’s value may not be enough to warrant eating the $18,000,000 left on his contract.
Option 3: Release him and attempt to resign him to a minor league deal
This would be the most convenient option for the Sox. If they were to cut Adolfo and he clears waivers, then they can sign him back on a minor league deal. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, this is the riskiest play, as it could mean losing him to another team without receiving any form of compensation in return, as rebuilding teams may be more willing to claim him off waivers and offer him a spot on their 26-man roster if they do not have to send anything back in a trade. The Sox went with this approach twice this season in order to open up spots on the 40 man roster. They released minor league relief pitcher Tyler Johnson to make room for Cesar Hernandez, only to agree to a minor league contract a few days later. They attempted the same approach with outfielder Luis Gonzales, however, he was claimed by the Giants before the Sox had the opportunity to attempt to bring him back. Will they be willing to roll the dice on Adolfo the same way?
This is something that could very likely play out through spring training. If the White Sox don’t make any moves to bolster the right-field spot, then maybe they would be willing to let Adolfo battle it out for a spot on the roster? Personally, I doubt that he actually has any shot at making the 26-man roster. What I could see happening, though, is letting Adolfo dictate the level of interest other teams have in him. If he puts on a power clinic during spring training, then maybe he will gain just enough trade value to bring back a bullpen piece. If he struggles during that time, then maybe it will scare teams away and they will be able to DFA him and sneak him back on a minor league deal.
It is an unfortunate position to be in. Adolfo has clearly worked extremely hard to get his career back on track, and he is without a doubt a valuable depth piece for the White Sox to stash in their minor league system to be called upon if injuries derail them (we saw how valuable that next man up strategy worked for them this year). However, good teams eventually have to make tough calls like this one. It will be an interesting storyline to follow going into the 2022 season.
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