Major League Baseball is currently in its first lockout since 1990, after the league was unable to reach a new labor agreement with the Players’ Association. The previous collective bargaining agreement expired after 11:59 p.m. ET on December 1, halting any communication between teams and players until a new CBA is reached. Because free agency and trades of players on 40-man rosters are frozen, White Sox fans are left wondering what the team’s plan is for the 2022 season — particularly regarding who will be the starting second baseman.
Before the 2021 trade deadline, second base was handled by Nick Madrigal, but three serious injuries over four seasons ultimately contributed to him and pitcher Codi Heuer being traded to the Chicago Cubs for Craig Kimbrel on July 30. César Hernández was then acquired from Cleveland in exchange for pitcher Konnor Pilkington, and he immediately became the team’s new everyday second baseman. Hernández came in to high expectations, but his numbers did not amount to anywhere near what he had produced in Cleveland. It was no surprise when the White Sox didn’t pick up his team option for 2022, but that once again leaves the position of second base open and with a big question mark hovering over it.
On December 1, the White Sox confirmed an agreement to re-sign utility player Leury García to a three-year, $16.5 million contract. García was listed as an infielder/outfielder, confirming to many that he will continue the role that originally was intended for him in the 2021 season — an all-rounder that fills any position on the field as needed. As much as this is a solid option for the team overall, García is not and will not be a strong enough second baseman to fill the gaping hole that still exists on the diamond. Even with him coming back for three years, the team still needs to sign at least one high-caliber free agent (and that’s before we even talk about the disaster of right field, which I simply can’t take on in this single article).
By the time the lockout took effect, free agent options were already dwindling. Marcus Semien has agreed to terms with the Texas Rangers on an impressive seven-year, $175 million contract, and Eduardo Escobar is off to the New York Mets for two years and $20 million. Carlos Correa is still on the shortstop market, but loud rumors report that he was in huge-money talks with several teams before the CBA expiration.
So who’s left?
It certainly appears that the only option left on free agency is Trevor Story. Story played shortstop for the Colorado Rockies from his MLB debut in 2016 until last month, November 17, when he declined an $18.4 million qualifying offer to become a free agent.
In the 2021 season, Story played in 142 games and slashed .251/.329/.471 with 24 home runs, dropping his solid career batting average to .272. The White Sox were rumored to be interested in acquiring Story for second base prior to last year’s trade deadline, so there are suspicions that he has always been their top target this offseason.
The White Sox will also have the option of trading for a solid starter at second base. They recently took the $16 million option on pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who they will almost certainly be looking to trade during the offseason. After his performance in 2021, his trade value is unfortunately a long way from where it used to be, which raises questions about who the White Sox would be able to get in exchange for him.
Rumor has it that the Philadelphia Phillies are interested in Kimbrel as a closer, though that ship may have sailed now that they have agreed with right-handed reliever Corey Knebel on a one-year, $10 million contract. If a trade is still on the table for Kimbrel, the Phillies are likely to scrape together a package that includes Jean Segura coming to Chicago, which could fit the bill for second base. Over the last three seasons, the 32-year-old Segura has hit .282/.337/.427 with 33 home runs and 143 RBIs. On defense, he leads the league in 2021 with 85 double plays turned at second base, but despite these strong numbers, he hasn’t been the change-maker the Phillies wanted, so is likely to be available to trade.
Arguably one of the best options for a second baseman trade is Tony Kemp from the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are currently shedding payroll as they begin an apparent rebuild, so they are expected to trade away a lot of star players post-lockout and possibly put Kemp on the table. This admittedly may also be a pipe dream — Kemp recently reached a 2022 deal for $2,225,000, which is not really expensive enough to make much of a dent in the A’s payroll. Regardless, Kemp is definitely still worth considering, especially since he just came off of the best season of his career so far, slashing .279/.382/.418 with 8 home runs, 8 steals and 37 RBIs in 131 games.
Another potentially decent trade could be Cavan Biggio from the Toronto Blue Jays. The 26-year-old son of Hall of Fame player Craig Biggio has had some ongoing injury issues, with a cervical spine ligament sprain that took him out of multiple games last season. In 2021 with the Blue Jays, Biggio slashed .224/.322/.356 with 7 home runs and 27 RBIs in 79 games, which sits slightly lower than his career batting average at .235. He is still young and only debuted in the majors in May 2019, so if he works out any lingering injuries, he could be an ideal buy-low candidate and turn out to work as a second baseman for the White Sox.
I would personally like to see Gleyber Torres come to the South Side, but despite his underwhelming 2021 performance in shortstop, I still worry it’s a bit optimistic to think the New York Yankees will want to ship him out. Torres has admittedly declined since he debuted in 2018 — he had back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2018 and 2019, slugging .480 and .535, but his slugging percentage has plummeted to the .360s in both of the past two seasons. Torres is still young, so despite falling to earth over the last two years, there’s still promise of becoming a strong second baseman as his career progresses.
Regardless of whether the White Sox target Story, Segura, Kemp, Biggio, Torres, or someone entirely different to deal with second base, nothing can happen until the lockout ends, and your guess is as good as mine as to when that will be. The White Sox will need to move fast when that time comes — some key options are already gone, and with such an obvious gap at second base, the South Sides can’t afford more strong players to vanish to other teams.
Who would you prefer the White Sox start at second base in 2022?
This poll is closed