When looked at with even the most rose-colored lenses one could possibly ever hope to find, tendering Avisail Garcia a contract last winter didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The then-24 year old had finished his first complete season in majors and it was a bad one. Below replacement level bad (negative-0.3 bWAR). In the 1,098 plate appearances that had comprised his career to that point, he’d been a below league average hitter (93 OPS+) who managed to get worse every year. But the White Sox did that White Sox thing and half-committed to a half-measure, so Garcia was brought back to be the half of DH platoon that faces southpaws.
But then Adam LaRoche retired, the bag of crap the White Sox were left holding tore open at the bottom, covering their nice shoes with excrement most foul. And just like that, the team was starting a subpar hitter at a position created for men with the complete opposite skill set. It didn’t go well.
Garcia played in 120 games in 2016 and actually managed to be worth positive bWAR (0.8) for the first time since 2013! That looks fantastic until you realize that the only reason he pulled that off is because he played about 700 fewer innings of horrific outfield defense, preventing his value from completely cratering like usual. He hit .245/.307/.385, which translates to an OPS+ of 91. He hit 12 home runs and 18 doubles, which aren’t the kind of power numbers you’d hope for from someone striking out 3.4 times for every walk they draw. And therein lies the problem.
Avisail Garcia is the exact kind of player that doesn’t belong on the roster of a team attempting to compete. I’m not just saying that he shouldn’t be a starter, which has been pretty damn obvious for at least two years now. I’m saying he doesn’t even belong on the bench. The only positions he can play are the outfield corners and despite his ability to rob a home run or two per season, he is terrible at them. When the Sox first traded for him, he was constantly describe as “very fast for a big guy” which has translated to average speed at best and no knowledge on how to use it (18 career SB to 17 career CS). Despite being the size of Brian Urlacher, he has middling power. The only real positive skill he’s ever had is being OK at hitting left-handed pitching (career tOPS+ 114), but even that abandoned him this year (tOPS+ 96).
If all of this sounds like I’m mad at Garcia for not being a good baseball player, I’d like to clarify that I’m not. To me, at least, that would feel like getting mad at the dead skunk that’s been lying on the side of the road for two weeks for smelling terrible: you’re placing your anger in the wrong place. It’s not the roadkill’s fault that it smells. It’s roadkill. That’s what it does. You should be mad at the city for not having had someone come clean the corpse off the shoulder.
It took the White Sox 1,798 plate appearances to realize Dayan Viciedo was not going to figure it out and finally cut bait on their failed but once promising corner outfielder of the future. Garcia reached 1,551 plate appearances this year. Let’s see if history repeats itself.
Lead Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports