Earlier this week, we highlighted areas where the White Sox need to improve if they are going to be serious contenders in 2022. Identifying them is only the beginning, though; there is more work to be done. Tonight, we present our first in a series of articles on just how the White Sox should go about filling these critical positions. In this space, we look at a position that the Pale Hose seemingly had filled for the next decade until Rick Hahn decided to acquire a closer to pitch in the eighth inning. There can be no doubt that second base is a big hole for the Sox, so here are some options that we believe could be huge upgrades.
Second Base: In-House Options
The first and most boring (and least appealing) options are a few players who have taken a turn at second base for the Sox in 2021 and earlier. The foremost of these is Leury Garcia, the Sox super-utility man. He is also the longest-tenured White Sox player on the roster. He is a free agent who figures to re-sign with the South Siders over the offseason. Garcia is a versatile jack-of-all-trades player who does have a certain value to the team. He is a natural shortstop who plays a decent second base, although he will never win a Gold Glove there.
The incumbent starter at second base (until a late slump) was Cesar Hernandez. The White Sox hold a club option for $6,000,000 with no buyout. When he was acquired, many thought Hernandez returning would be a no-brainer. However, he failed to hit as the White Sox expected, while his fielding was mostly solid. Hernandez produced an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .608 in his time with the White Sox, and it would be a real stunner if they brought him back.
Two other names worth noting are Danny Mendick and Romy Gonzalez, both from the Sox farm system. Mendick spent a good deal of time on the MLB roster in 2021 and did provide a few clutch hits. However, he finished the season with a batting average of .220 and just two home runs. He languished on the bench when he was not playing in Charlotte. Gonzalez is an intriguing player, another natural shortstop. Like Garcia, he plays everywhere and could play second base to fit the team’s needs. However, he has only 32 major league at-bats and is not ready for full-time duty with a team that has World Series aspirations. Based on these options, Hahn and the Sox must look outside the organization to fill this critical position.
Second Base: Potential Trade Targets
Suggesting trades is always a tricky proposition, as it takes two to tango. In addition, the question generally comes down to whether the Sox are looking for a long-term or a short-term answer. So, trade proposals are a crapshoot, at best, in this day and age. However, that will not stop us from throwing a couple of trade ideas for your reading entertainment. Who knows, crazier things have happened. Here goes nothing.
For a one-year run, how about trading Jake Burger and Adam Engel to the Dodgers for Trea Turner? Yes, that may seem far-fetched, but it is worth a shot. The Dodgers have a deep roster and a deep farm. Perhaps they would like to unload Turner’s $18.5 million expiring contract while potentially picking up Justin Turner’s future replacement. If the Dodgers balk, maybe the White Sox could offer one pitching prospect not named Vera, Kelley, Dahlquist, or Thompson. That may be a lot to give up for a one-year rental, but the Sox are in win-now mode.
Maybe Trea Turner is a bit of a stretch, so here is a deal that might seem more plausible. Jean Segura of the Phillies is available, and he is a solid player with a career average of .285. In 2021, he produced an OPS of .784, hitting 14 home runs and collecting 58 RBIs in 131 games. He would be a more than adequate second baseman for a contending White Sox team. He is due to earn just under $15 million in 2022, and there is a team option for 2023. Perhaps an offer of Burger straight up would get a deal done if the Phillies decide to clean house. It surely would not hurt for Hahn to pick up the phone and make a call.
There are other trade targets out there if the Sox choose to go that route. These are two that we like, and they reflect out-of-the-box thinking. Sox fans who love Burger would not like these deals, but he seems to be a valuable trade chip who offers value. We also decided to look at short-term solutions, which would allow Hahn more flexibility in future seasons. Neither of these is likely to happen, but stranger things have happened.
Second Base: Free Agents
Here is where things get really interesting. Hahn and the Sox have signed several free agents over the years, with varying degrees of success. However, If the Sox are willing to open up the pocketbook, they could come away with the major upgrade they seek. Signing a top-notch free agent to play second base would signal to all other MLB teams that the South Siders mean business. Here are three players who would elevate the Sox to serious contender status the moment they sign on the dotted line.,
Looking at the list of second basemen, one may come away disappointed. After all, Hernandez and Garcia and second and third in WAR in 2021. However, there is one big name at the top of the list that will be in major demand this offseason: Marcus Semien. The former White Sox farmhand has a monster season with the Bluejays in 2021 and would be a major upgrade for the White Sox. The 31-year-old slugger belted 45 home runs and drove in 102 runs. He also scored 115 runs, for good measure. He also played a solid second base. He is far and away the best player who played second base in 2021.
Now for some really out-of-the-box thinking. While Semien was the best player who played second base in 2021, let us get creative for a moment. In that light, how about Corey Seager of the Dodgers? Yes, he has played shortstop throughout his career, and the Sox have Tim Anderson. However, Seager would look really nice at second base for the White Sox in 2022. Would he be willing to make the switch? Nobody knows until they ask him. However, Seager has a career OPS of .870, including an OPS of .915 in 2021. At age 27, he could be the Sox second baseman for the foreseeable future and would be well worth the money. He is a left-handed hitter who hits in the clutch and would be a major coup for Hahn and his staff.
Finally, there is one more option that we think the Sox should consider. While it is bound to be unpopular for some fans, it also is the most unlikely. The White Sox should consider pursuing Carlos Correa in free agency. Like Seager, he is 27 years old and is an even better clutch hitter. In 2021, Correa had an OPS of .850, with 26 home runs and 92 RBIs. He is also an elite defender, which brings us to a bigger question. Would Tim Anderson agree to move to second base and allow Correa to play shortstop, which would be a major upgrade at both positions? We said that this was unlikely, and may seem like more pie in the sky. Yet, signing Correa would solidify the Sox lineup as well as their defense. Does Hahn have the nerve to even consider such a move? That is highly doubtful.
Readers will surely have their own ideas of how the South Siders should fill the second base position. We have just thrown out some of the many possibilities here. Some are better than others, and some may not appeal to all Sox fans. However, one thing that all can agree on is the need to make a major upgrade here. Hernandez and Garcia are just not going to get it done in 2022. Time will tell how Hahn decides to fill this spot, and Sox fans will be watching.
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