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Will the White Sox surprise us again at today's non-tender deadline?

A recent history of odd choices makes it challenging to pinpoint what the White Sox will do.

If this is the end, it's been real, Canadian Dracula.
If this is the end, it's been real, Canadian Dracula.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Today is the deadline for the White Sox to elect to non-tender their arbitration eligible players. After the release of Daniel Webboutrighting J.B. Shuck to Charlotte, and Jose Abreu's decision to opt for arbitration, the White Sox have eight such decisions to make. In case you don't remember from our offseason plan project, here's what the list looks like, along with projected arbitration salaries from MLB Trade Rumors:

  • Todd Frazier: $13.5M
  • Brett Lawrie: $5.1M
  • Dan Jennings: $1.2M
  • Avisail Garcia: $3.4M
  • Miguel Gonzalez: $2.6M
  • Zach Putnam: $975K
  • Jake Petricka: $900K
  • Jose Abreu: $12.0M
MLB Trade Rumors also recently published their list of non-tender candidates and unsurprisingly, the two White Sox included are Lawrie and Garcia. Of the 109 entries in the offseason plan project, everyone chose to tender Frazier and Gonzalez, just one non-tendered Petricka and Putnam, and only two people gave Jennings the heave-ho. It wasn't known whether Abreu would opt out of his contract at the time, but it's safe to assume the decision to tender the slugging first baseman would have been fairly unanimous.

By contrast, our community wasn't quite as unified on Lawrie, with 17 of 109 electing to non-tender the passionate second baseman. Many plans attempted to compete, and keeping Lawrie would make a good deal of sense if the team were headed in that direction. However, in the likely event of a rebuild, I've come around to the idea that a non-tender for Lawrie is pretty justifiable. The White Sox are looking for a haul of young players in trade and one such player might be a middle infielder to pair with Tim Anderson. In that scenario, Lawrie's presence would only serve to block more interesting longer-term options. Even if they don't acquire someone to man the keystone, Tyler Saladino outplayed Lawrie in 2016 and it'd be a more productive use of a rebuilding year to see if he could lock down the position.

The White Sox could trade Lawrie instead, but he hasn't played a baseball game since July, breaks easily, might still be hurt, and had concerning contact quality and strikeout tendencies last season. Even if a team decides that the high-risk modest-reward package is worth a $5 million price tag, they probably wouldn't be willing to part with anything interesting to acquire Lawrie.

In any event, all the signs have been pointing towards Lawrie having played his last inning with the White Sox. He's removed all references to the team from his Twitter profile and around the time he did that, we had this blurb from Dave at Barstool:
While most of us chose to keep Lawrie, Garcia didn't receive very favorable treatment from those that filled out an offseason plan. Just eight of 109 plans chose to tender him a contract. In Garcia's limited time in right field, defensive metrics oddly smiled upon his work, making it look like 2016 was an improvement from prior years by WAR. Don't be fooled; he was just as all-around terrible as he always has been.

Still, there's reasons to believe the White Sox might keep Garcia around, at least for now. He has three years of team control left and there's no one currently in the organization who's made a strong case for DH or backup corner outfield at-bats, other than maybe Matt Davidson. If they happen to acquire someone more interesting (not difficult) between now and spring training, they can always give Garcia the Viciedo treatment and designate him for assignment at least two weeks before Opening Day. That would leave the White Sox on the hook for just one-sixth of that estimated $3.4 million, plus whatever additional the union could get for Garcia by filing a grievance.

It'd be cleaner to just cut ties with Garcia now and ultimately I think the White Sox will choose to do that. However, since there's some precedent, we can't rule out the White Sox hanging on to him for the time being. As crazy as it sounds, there's a real chance Garcia gets a contract and Lawrie doesn't. If there's anything the last two years have taught us, we should be prepared for the unexpected at the non-tender deadline. The Sox made a puzzling decision each of the last two years at this time (covering opposite extremes of the harm spectrum). Will they make it three in a row? Stay tuned.