South Side Morning 5: Final roster spot battles

One of the most pernicious and frustrating elements of Spring Training coverage is how everything being meaningless for major league regulars turns the focus to the roster drama for players who likely will have no significant impact on the fate of the 2016 White Sox.

Well, there’s no respite from that today.

1. Well, here’s a brief one. Jose Abreu hitting a ball to Mars Monday afternoon prompted me to check in on how normal things are progressing for him:

.404/.436/.750 with four home runs in 52 at-bats.

Seems pretty normal for him.

In fact, it’s incredibly normal for him. Abreu has a career .401/.420/.584 line in Spring ball. He’s been successful enough to laugh off the reports of having a slider-speed bat, but lazy Spring sequencing and below average fastballs sure do agree with him.

2. But the White Sox back of the roster situation is seriously very open. They had a limited reason for competition before Adam LaRoche vanished and pushed everyone up a slot. Now Avisail Garcia is steaming toward more full-time at-bats, Austin Jackson is likely a starting center fielder rather than a swingman, and whether or not Abreu is going to be able to DH with regularity is a real question.

J.B. Shuck, who was revered for his pinch-hitting last year, wisely or not, and gives the Sox a viable three-position defender off the bench as well as a pinch-runner option, would seem safe.

From there, Carlos Sanchez is probably the best player competing for a job, but has the least use if the Sox are committed to carrying Tyler Saladino for his ability to cover shortstop. Travis Ishikawa is a left-handed first baseman who most immediately replaces all of what LaRoche was supposed to give to the roster, but doesn’t really have any career history of being any good for for any reasonable stretch of time. Keeping someone on board just so they can hit .258/.326/.401 vs. righties seems pretty underwhelming.

Jerry Sands has an even more limited scope (lefty-mashing), but can at least give a more legitimate claim to be a specialist at it (.292/.339/.506) for his career. It’s not much, but he could protect the Sox if Melky Cabrera has another awful year hitting right-handed. On the other hand, if Melky is fine, then it gets really hard to see what Sands does that isn’t duplicated elsewhere. He could probably be better in a lefty masher OF/DH role than Garcia, but good luck arguing that point at 35th & Shields.

3. Really, the situation screams for a major league quality left-handed hitter, but the Sox really had tremendous fortune in waiting for every viable option going off the board before they had the cause to act.

David Murphy just got his release from the Red Sox, and has been a platoon option throughout his career, but hasn’t really killed righties beyond Ishikawa levels since 2012. In a similar boat is old friend Carlos Quentin, who just got granted his release from the Minnesota Twins, and also appears set to retire if he can’t find a major league deal.

Quentin’s numbers look pristine from a career standpoint — he always hit against pitchers from either side when he was healthy — and he hit an encouraging .250/.333/.500 in 42 PAs in Spring, suggesting he wasn’t completely overcome by injury, but the specter that he’s just done physically and is not a good option to help out for a major league season hangs over the sentimental notion of a reunion.

However, the alternative of “do nothing and pick between various bad internal options” is not enough to distract from those naive dreams.

4. Still also in the same boat is Nick Swisher, who seems like he’s on his way out after the Braves were willing to eat his $15 million deal to release him and clear out playing time for young players who will be a part of their rebuild. Swisher, 35, has been in negative WARP territory the last two seasons, and after posting an incredible nine straight seasons with 20 or more home runs from 2005 through 2014, has had a .122 ISO since. Worse yet, he was transitioning to first base when all this offensive collapse started and went through surgery on both knees. He’s getting an awfully late start on finding a fit with another organization, and will probably need to be willing to go to the minors to keep playing.

Swisher is inextricably linked with White Sox clubhouse discord and a truly disastrously shortsighted trade to run him out of town, which in turn made the cost of the first trade sting, but if he can be removed of his history as a mismanaged talent and rambunctious demeanor, this man was one of the most consistent and multi-talented corner outfielder of the past decade.

5. Chance the Rapper was in the United Center Monday night for another Bulls disaster piece, but also as part of a Bulls-Sox Night promotion. Chance donned his typical Sox hat, played stadium hype man, and looked really thrilled to meet Scott Podsednik; who hit a walk-off home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series when Chance was 12.

Baseball crowds are shading older, and the sport is struggling to connect with African-Americans. It’s a problem almost entirely of MLB’s own doing and at some levels, possibly by choice, but it’s a problem nonetheless. The list of MLB teams that have a young and popular black rapper who is willing and enthusiastic about identifying with their franchise and the region, who is deeply invested in community improvement and outreach, and who has the ability to be family friendly (Dude has a single about going to church with his grandmother) while maintaining creative credibility, is probably just the White Sox. Whatever level they are currently using Chance at, they should look into doubling it.

Lead Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri // USA Today Sports Images

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2 comments on “South Side Morning 5: Final roster spot battles”


Whatever good will in the African American community the White Sox build, they immediately give back in their radio deal. Seriously, who’s idea was it to leave sports radio for conservative talk radio? Do they think they are attracting African Americans when their broadcast follows the Rush Limbaugh show?

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