Avisail Garcia could return before end of season

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Hahn says injured outfielder is ahead of schedule, and also downplays the the White Sox' need to deal

Throughout the ongoing rehabilitation process for his surgically repaired left shoulder, Avisail Garcia's self-assessments have outpaced the sentiments from the White Sox front office. Garcia said he thought he could return before the end of the season, but that could have merely been frustration and impatience talking, based on Rick Hahn's cool response.

The Sox probably want to ensure that Garcia is ahead of schedule, not merely ahead of himself. But there Garcia was on Monday at Fenway Park, taking batting practice for the first time since his ill-fated dive. That sight prompted an update, and Hahn conceded that Garcia has reason for optimism:

"Is it possible he returns to major league play this year? Yes, it is possible. However, we are still many steps in the rehabilitation away from that," Hahn said Monday at Fenway Park. "Ultimately, the decision about whether Avi plays at the big league level this year will be dictated primarily by his health and secondarily by what's best for his development. [...]

"He has obviously done a tremendous job in his rehabilitation," Hahn said. "Our doctors feel very good 12 weeks post-op that physiologically the fracture and the repair have healed, so now it's just a matter of slowly progressing him back into baseball activities and see what timeline that leads to in terms of a potential return."

This is good news, because seeing Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton exceed expectations makes Garcia's absence even more unfortunate. He only played in eight games, but he took a few walks and pulled a couple pitches for homers in that small sample, which were the two most pressing improvements he needed to make.

Had Garcia been able to log a full season of encouraging play, it would've had present and future ramifications. Perhaps one sturdy corner spot would provide the extra offense needed to cover for some of the leaks in the pitching staff, and they wouldn't be in an obvious selling position at this moment.

More practically, Hahn could've headed into the trade deadline and the offseason knowing (as well as anybody could know) that he assembled a young core in one fell swoop after so many failed attempts to integrate rookie position players. There's still a decent chance he's got a third of the lineup taken care of, but Garcia's injury makes it harder to bank on it.

That's why some September action would be welcome for Garcia. It might not be pretty, because depending on the timing, he could find it difficult to get a real rehab stint in, which might make for a pretty jarring transition back into major league play. You couldn't make too much of any struggles, because that's a difficult way to play catch-up, but then he heads into winter ball with some of the rust knocked off.

However, if Garcia were somehow able to get back into a groove before the end of the season and flash the same improvements he showed in April ... that's material to take into offseason dreaming. Basically, a healthy Garcia in September is a win-win regardless of results, so that's why Hahn's willingness to entertain the possibility is a welcome development.

And if Garcia returns with a better outfield technique painfully learned, even better:

"We are going to have to take that head-first dive from the outfield out of his game somehow," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "We’re going to have to teach him to slide similar to Magglio [Ordonez] used to years ago, that sliding catch as opposed to the head-first dive, which again is part of the rehabilitation process, the development process."

Star-divide

Hahn also held court about the trade deadline, and he said what you'd expect him to say:

"There’s certainly no urgency to do anything," Hahn said. "I think most of the players I’ve read about online that are rumored to be out there are all under control beyond this season. There’s no urgency to cash in an asset, so to speak, before it expires."

This is true to a certain extent, although that was the case with both Jake Peavy and Alex Rios last season. As the deadline drew closer and the rumors started flying, Hahn floated the possibility that Peavy could have equal value to the Sox next season, but that was pretty easy to see through.

Using the same smell test, I find it difficult to believe that Gordon Beckham could outlive the combination of trade value and opportunity cost in trading him -- although a 2-for-24 start to his July isn't helping his curb appeal. It seems that the same teams that would want him as a rental could use him now, and the Sox could make good use of that lead time to evaluate the middle infield cluster at the major league level.

The team control argument works better when it comes to Dayan Viciedo, who still has three years of arbitration remaining, and John Danks, who is doing his damndest to make the last half of his contract palatable. As long as there are no obvious candidates to take the vacated roles, the Sox don't have to talk themselves into accepting a return that doesn't grab them.

Then again, Viciedo doesn't really have a position, and the lack of defensive utility makes it easier to part ways sooner rather than later. But if the Sox could find a taker for Adam Dunn, that would go a long way to free up some at-bats for Viciedo's Last Stand while auditioning potential outfielders. Dunn isn't covered by Hahn's "under control" exemption, so there's a case where Hahn might just hope that the cash makes sense.

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