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Injury gives Avisail Garcia’s breakout season a familiar feel

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Strained ligament in thumb adds to previous durability concerns

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of statistics, Avisail Garcia’s season peaked on May 2, when a perfect game day at the plate against the Royals elevated his line to .382/.433/.629. In terms of the story, his season reached the top of the arc with an appearance in the All-Star Game.

Salvaging the epilogue is going to take effort.

Garcia is going to hit the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right thumb, he told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’ve just got to give it some time, let it heal and let’s see how I feel in the next couple days,” Garcia said. “No surgery. It’s not too serious. I’ve just got inflammation. It’s bad because I grab my bat like this and the inflammation is right here (Garcia pointed to the inside of his thumb). So that’s why it hurts. It’s nothing serious. I thank God for that.”

That’s on the same hand as his other issue — a sprained middle finger -- but there’s probably no connection to the knee he tweaked sliding into first base on a pickoff attempt.

It’s hard to separate injury from regression, but his July has been an ugly one even by his old standards. He’s hitting .216/.259/.333 over 54 plate appearances with two extra-base hits — both homers, both in the same game. The cold streak also bleeds into the last week of June, so he hasn’t looked like an All-Star for more than a month, with the grounders trending upward.

This will cause his raw power numbers to stop in the same neighborhood for a couple of weeks:

  • 2015: 17 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 59 RBI in 148 games
  • 2016: 18 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 51 RBI in 120 games
  • 2017: 17 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 54 RBI in 88 games

The fact that he reached these numbers in fewer games is good. The fact that he’s only topped 120 games in one of his four full seasons isn’t.

Nobody can call it a silver lining, but the injury will make the discussion around Garcia simpler. Through the first few months, Garcia’s hot start was only tempered by its awkward timing. “Better late than never” worked for his career, but not so much for the White Sox’ chances for contending. The Sox could have been buyers at the deadline had he made an All-Star Game in either of his previous two seasons.

Instead, with the Sox selling, Garcia’s rising stock turned his season into an episode of “Trade or Extend?” Neither answer seemed plausible. An effort to cash in on a late-blooming Garcia with his usually scary walk-to-strikeout ratio probably would have given off a “sell high” smell, while extending him at this juncture would have been buying high.

When asked about this topic on the podcast, my stance was that the Sox would probably have to wait and see what he looked like at the end of the season before they could choose a direction. Whether Garcia carried an above-average season all the way to October or fizzled out, all teams involved would have a better idea of what kind of player they’re dealing with over the last two arbitration years

As of now, that player is probably better, but still injury prone. That player doesn’t have a whole lot of value for a team that won’t start coming together until his last arb year or later, nor is that profile the kind a contender can plan around. A furious finish could change that forecast, but given that Leury Garcia just played his first rehab game on Wednesday, which is a month and a half after he went on the DL with a sprained finger, I can’t say I’m especially optimistic about an expedient return.

If you’re wondering who will replace Avisail Garcia, let’s bring the third Garcia into the conversation, because Willy didn’t play for Charlotte on Wednesday.