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Willy Garcia adds unpredictable element to White Sox’ 40-man roster

Jason Coats DFA foreshadows a spin cycle that will churn through younger, toolsier talent

Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

By measure of baseball importance, adding Willy Garcia to the 40-man roster at the expense of Jason Coats is a move that will likely be quickly forgotten during what figures to be a pretty turbulent time for the White Sox transactions page.

It is one of the moves that disorients my sense of the 40-man roster, though. When you read the thumbnail description of Garcia provided by Bucs Dugout ...

The Rangers Blue Jays White Sox have claimed outfielder Willy Garcia off waivers from the Pirates, according to the transactions pages at The Pirates had designated Garcia for assignment in order to free space for Ivan Nova. As discussed here earlier, Garcia had always been intriguing as a player with classic right fielder skills: good power and an extremely powerful arm. He had, however, always lacked any semblance of patience at the plate. In 2016, he took a big step backward when the power dried up as well.

... Garcia seems very much like a player the White Sox, or any other team, would designate for assignment to make room for future additions. Instead, the White Sox added him to a capacity-crowd 40-man roster, which necessitated the removal of Coats.

It’s a neat twist that Coats and Garcia have played the same amount of games in the same league. It’s not so neat that Coats handily outproduced Garcia over said International League sample:

  • Coats: 200 G, 862 PA, .293/.344/.468, 27 HR, 6.3% BB, 18.8% K
  • Garcia: 200 G, 790 PA, .245/.290/.388, 16 HR, 5.4% BB, 26.2% K

Coats was one of the White Sox’ own, a 29th-round draft pick that actually made it to the big leagues. He only hit .200 over 58 plate appearances, but five of those 10 hits went for extra bases. His body of work was substantial enough over the last full season for him to project better than Avisail Garcia, which is one benchmark to clear.

But thinking ahead to 2017, I had a sense that the White Sox weren’t enamored with Coats. After all, despite the newness that Coats offered -- and the development time they invested in him -- he only started one game over the final two weeks of the season. By comparison, here’s the count for the games started by the outfielders/designated hitters during that stretch.

  • Melky Cabrera: 14 starts
  • Leury Garcia: 12 starts
  • Adam Eaton: 10 starts
  • Justin Morneau: 9 starts
  • Avisail Garcia: 8 starts

The White Sox went 8-6 when Coats started, so it wasn’t like he had the “losing lineup” stink to him. And supposedly Robin Ventura had decided weeks before that he wasn’t going to return, so he wasn’t managing for his job. And even if he were, it’s not like the other two Garcias, Leury and Avisail, are outfielders who give a team its best shot to win that day. So I took this to mean that the Sox weren’t that enamored with Coats’ skill set, even if more qualified players had gotten off to worse MLB starts.

If Coats clears waivers and is outrighted to Charlotte, the situation will be largely the same. Coats will be a little worse off, but he shouldn’t count himself out due to the flux to come. He has a pile of outfielders to crawl over to get back on the 40-man roster, which could happen given the volatility of the talent involved. If he can’t clear the hurdles in the Sox organization, the first rebuilding season is likely to bring tons of trades.

But with the 24-year-old Willy Garcia on the 40-man roster and 26-year-old Coats off it -- and with 25-year-old Rymer Liriano also getting priority as a Triple-A success story who seeks his second exposure to the majors — we have a precedent for the kind of tool-bag talent that gets access to the 40-man roster.

Along with them, the Sox have the guys they protected from the Rule 5 draft (Jacob May, Adam Engel, Brad Goldberg), and a selection made during the draft (Dylan Covey). Covey could very well be returned to Oakland, but assuming the guys who are last in won’t be first out, it applies bubble pressure elsewhere. Some who may be more vulnerable than others:

  • Right-handed relievers: Chris Beck, Juan Minaya. At first I wanted to lump Michael Ynoa into this group, but the league only hit .182/.313/.255 off him despite his erratic swings in control. Beck allowed a .301/.407/.447 line. I’d put Minaya ahead of him, but he’s not particularly distinguishable, and the Sox don’t have much invested in him.
  • Left-handed reliever: Giovanni Soto. Dan Jennings is the only lefty one can pencil into the 2017 bullpen, which should make Soto safer than other similar recent additions. Yet they also have Matt Purke, Will Lamb and Brian Clark lurking just off the roster in case any lefty will do.
  • Catchers: Kevan Smith, Alfredo Gonzalez. If Geovany Soto gets through spring training without his knees exploding, he could find a spot on the 40-man via direct replacement. Smith is closer to the majors than Gonzalez, but he’s also four years older, and Roberto Pena is a good use of Triple-A playing time.
  • Infielders: Carlos Sanchez. I don’t think you’d see him DFA’d, but with Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Matt Davidson around to cover second and third, and with Yoan Moncada ticketed for second base after a month or two in the minors, I imagine the Sox would want to trade him instead of blocking him.
  • Outfielders: Willy Garcia, Rymer Liriano, Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia. Even though the Sox just added the first two, their track records are ragged enough that any team can fall out of love quickly. I’m guessing the other two Garcias are safe from the random transaction — Avisail because they tendered him, Leury because he’s center-field depth while Charlie Tilson reestablishes himself — but they could be gone in a greater overhaul.