MLB: Chicago White Sox-Workout

Rick Hahn’s Offseason Review: Brett Lawrie

To start things off at BP South Side, we are reviewing the offseason moves of White Sox GM Rick Hahn in a staff-wide series. Here, Matt Adams reviews the acquisition of Brett Lawrie.

In the timeline of Sox acquisitions this winter, Brett Lawrie was an early grab. Acquired for two minor league arms, Lawrie was initially thought to be ticketed for the hot corner, where the White Sox had been in perpetual need. Once Todd Frazier entered the fold, Lawrie was pushed to second base, which had been his secondary position.

Considering the gaps elsewhere on the field, one could argue that second base was not high on the immediate need list entering the offseason. Carlos Sanchez represented a clear defensive improvement over what was seen from Micah Johnson to start the 2015 season and even managed to raise his OPS more than .200 points in the second half (a .285/.314/.419 line from July 1-Aug. 30), suggesting that perhaps he might have the ability to hit after all.

More likely what we saw was a low standard being surpassed. A regular viewer of the White Sox, who would be understandably prone to grasping at straws, could very easily fall victim to this sleight of hand. The better of his two halves still fails to bring his bat up to league average performance and his Fielding Runs Above Average mark of negative-2.2 on the year sheds some serious doubt that his glove is enough to make up the difference in offensive production.

Brett Lawrie now finds himself with the potentially low pressure task of simply raising that low standard a bit more. If he comes in true to his career norms, his bat is roughly average season after season according to his TAv, which constitutes a definite improvement on the offensive side, especially when factoring in position. His offensive upside was once thought to be quite high, but having failed to reach that potential to this point, seeing him elevate to new levels of production would be out of character for his new employer. Regardless, a player entering what should be his prime years and coming off of a 1.9 WARP season definitely looks a lot better than a limited ceiling player like Sanchez, who just surprised his way into a negative-0.8 WARP showing.

Defensively, this is a man lacking outstanding numbers at his main position, moving to one not only less familiar but more difficult could prove problematic. The White Sox were an awful defensive team in 2015, and Brett Lawrie taking ownership of second base full time is not a harbinger of change. A team that lacks plus defenders can’t necessarily afford to punt a traditionally defense-first position in the interests of raising their offensive floor. Brett Lawrie: second baseman is a bit of an experiment.

It also seems worth acknowledging Lawrie’s off-field baggage and subsequent clubhouse influence. Rumors of a poor-chemistry Oakland Athletics clubhouse were accompanied by rumors of him being a large source of that discontent. Whether or not that holds any truth, the White Sox are making a habit of collecting players that carry reputations of being problems to teammates on teams left behind. Adam Eaton was accused of being selfish in Arizona, apparently the owner of an attitude that irked his teammates. From where I stand, his reputation on the South side does not resemble that. More recently, Mat Latos was added to the mix after having torched bridges upon departure from multiple organizations. If Lawrie is looking for a place to get comfortable and realize some of the potential he carried while a top prospect within the Blue Jays organization, perhaps he’s found some kindred spirits to help him along.

Two years of team-controlled arbitration salary for what looks to be an overall positional improvement in exchange for two minor leaguers who were not going to see major league time within the White Sox “window” once again shows Rick Hahn’s ability to work within the financial restraints laid upon him.

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2 comments on “Rick Hahn’s Offseason Review: Brett Lawrie”


Great move. I think the loss on defense is easily surpassed by the gain in offense. Also Carlos Sanchez is still here in case his glove is needed at the later innings. I was surprised to learn Carlos Sanchez glove was not that sharp per Fielding Runs Above Average. He really looked great there and passed the “eye test”.

One thing you didn’t mention about Lawrie, and it’s kinda part of his game, is that Lawrie hurts easily. Not sure if it’s because of his “intensity” or because of his body. I believe that that was one of the main reasons Anthopoulus decided to trade him. During his time with the Bluejays, Lawrie spent an inordinate amount of time in the DL. I remember this time (2014 season) when Lawrie hurt himself running from home to 1st. He was out for the rest of the season, and the funny thing is that Lawrie hurt himself the very same day he was returning from another DL stint for an unrelated injury. Last year was the first time Lawrie played thru a season without DL stints.

Here you can find a list of his injuries:

I am sure Herm will keep him in one piece.

During his time with the Jays, I don’t recall him being a troubled teammate or showing signs of “poor chemistry”. I think the Chicago/Athletics press is overblowing that or misdirecting Lawrie’s intensity into the belief that he is a trouble maker.

It’s a quality point on his injury history. Another thing that moving to second base isn’t likely to help.

I think that part of the talking up his trouble maker status is that he just kind of has that “way” about him. He might be a magnet for accusations even without news pieces pointing at him.

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