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Yolmer Sanchez waits out third baseman rumors

The White Sox’ third best position player in 2017 is a great use of a rebuilding year

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The slow burn of the Manny Machado market has just about run out of wick. From the Baltimore Sun:

As baseball prepares to close up shop for the holidays, it seems that market has gone completely cold — and the Orioles are moving on.

"The team has some other priorities," executive vice president Dan Duquette said Thursday night. "We need to focus on some of the ways that we can add to the ballclub."

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about third base thanks to the Machado rumor, and it’s carried over to Mike Moustakas (whose market may pick up if Machado’s is null and void).

There’s a reason for the season. Whether you think the White Sox should add wins wherever they can find them without sacrificing future development, the hot corner certainly looks like an area of need for the White Sox in the long run. Matt Davidson finally stuck with the White Sox for a full season, but with an abysmal strikeout rate. Nicky Delmonico moved to left field due to defensive issues, and Trey Michalczewski’s bat has stalled in Birmingham. The White Sox used a first-round pick on Jake Burger last season, but he hit just .271/.335/.409 at Kannapolis in his pro debut, so he shouldn’t be on any fast track.

That multiple-year gap is worth addressing, and is likely to take on a greater urgency once they cycle through Yolmer Sanchez as the primary option.

The question I’ve been rolling around in my head over the past month: Can or will they cycle through him that easily?

I’m wary of discarding Sanchez so easily after a full season in which he was clearly the Sox’ third-best position player.

Per B-Ref:

  1. Jose Abreu, 4.7
  2. Avisail Garcia, 4.5
  3. Yolmer Sanchez, 3.5

Per FanGraphs:

  1. Avisail Garcia, 4.2
  2. Jose Abreu, 4.1
  3. Yolmer Sanchez, 2.1

A Sanchez skeptic here like Ken might say that Tyler Saladino had a defense-boosted one-year blip, and look at him now. That’s true to an extent. Sanchez hit an unremarkable .267/.319/.413, good for a 96 OPS+, and a big chunk of his value came from above-average metrics at second and third. He fared better in an average of WAR valuations than Moustakas (1.8 and 2.2, respectively), but not in a manner that is easily repeatable or detectable.

There are a couple of key differences, though. Sanchez had enough exposure to qualify for the batting title, and Saladino hasn’t. Sanchez also finished his year with a flourish, hitting .315/.356/.540 over his last 135 plate appearances, while Saladino’s back began betraying him over the last two weeks of his otherwise encouraging 2016.

Then there’s the matter of handedness. After watching Leury Garcia suddenly discover how to close up his holes in the strike zone and make contact on all sorts of pitches, I’m intrigued by the possibility of another switch-hitter’s minor-league hit tool showing up in the majors after a delay. If you want another data point, hey, Jose Ramirez was a glove-first utility man through his first 180 games.

In a theoretical world where Machado could be had for Dylan Cease and he’d be willing to play third, Sanchez’s place in the pecking order would be quite clear. Same thing if Moustakas were available for a bargain and somehow pushed the Sox into a mid-80s win forecast.

But as the roster and its projections stand now, Sanchez might be the best specific scenario for a White Sox rebuild’s Year Two. He spent the first year proving some MLB value, and now it’s time to exhaust it, or at least attempt to. Sanchez’s Twitter account shows a guy who wants to put up a fight.