Story juxtaposition is one of those things we like to discuss so much, we have developed a built-in reflex for qualifying that it’s completely meaningless, so that we can smoothly transition back to discussing it. The White Sox making a waiver claim for Brewers outfielder Rymer Liriano isn’t something we should compare to the Cubs being busy with the World Series, but they’re happening at the same time, and they are both on Chicago sports sections as the biggest story for each respective team.
And, uh, it’s a bit of mismatch.
Liriano is the type of toolsy, post-hype Quad-A guy that winds up on waivers when he is 25 years-old, and might not be news that leads the website unless he’s acquired in late-October. That a Spring Training beanball led to him missing all of 2016 with facial fractures and concussion symptoms means he’s had less failure at the major league level than other players with his profile (he turns 26 next June), it does mean that he just missed an entire season with facial fractures and concussion symptoms.
There are probably way too many Avisail Garcia parallels here for anyone to get very comfortable. To list them out, we have:
–Big right-handed raw power that has yet to show consistently in game situations
–Once lauded for plus-speed that has little chance of sticking, given his six-feet, 230-pound frame
–Technically “toolsy” but is still relegated to an outfield corner and is unlikely to be good enough defensively to be worth it if he’s not a plus hitter
–An injury robbed of him of an opportunity to show his worth during a rebuilding year, and now it’s a guess as to whether he could contribute to a winning major league team
In this case, Liriano has lost out on two years, as he spent 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm.
The plus side of the ledger for Liriano is less yellowed and dog-eared than Avisail’s, however. While he will not be making any return to a top-100 prospect list anytime soon, and is out of minor league options–which mutes hope of him providing minor league depth–Liriano has just over 120 bad major league plate appearances to his name, rather than the thousands Garcia and Dayan Viciedo racked up. The last time he played in games where people cared about the statistics, he hit .292/.383/.460 in 549 plate appearances for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in 2015, drew a 11.7 walk rate, and stole 18 bases in 26 tries.
The odds are stacked against Liriano, who was always a raw talent that has now missed two years of crucial development time, but he’s the type of guy major league teams would still give a chance to at this point in his career. The question is what kind of chance is he getting?
The 2016 Brewers, openly in a strip-down rebuilding mode, were an ideal environment for Liriano to get hundreds of major league plate appearances before tragedy–or more literally, a baseball–struck. If the 2017 White Sox are the same sort of team, then they will be a fine home for Rymer, but likely a grim outfit to watch overall.
But if the 2017 White Sox are trying to contend for a playoff spot, then they will be a team that should be fairly hard for Liriano to make, unless he is so undeniably brilliant in Spring that the Sox must break camp with him.
Consider a Sox team like the one envisioned in our offseason plan, where they have acquired an everyday centerfielder, and signed proven veteran bats to contribute at DH. Liriano would need to prove himself more important than having an extra up-the-middle defender or pinch-runner on the roster, or somehow make Melky Cabrera look expendable, which would be an uphill battle. The Sox would likely need to try to make some minor Conor Gillaspie-for-Jeff Soptic type deal at the end of camp to get something back for Liriano, or just option him and likely lose him, which would be unfulfilling but also not cost them anything.
But another Sox team that seeks to compete, but breaks camp with a skeleton roster akin to the last two seasons, could potentially be taking a chance on Liriano in a significant role, which is the only scenario in which this acquisition becomes regrettable.
Adding more talent to the organization is never bad, and Liriano is that, but how he’s used will probably be the big determining factor in how his Sox tenure is remembered.
Lead Image Credit: Rick Scuteri // USA Today Sports Images