Yolmer Sanchez’s tenure on the South Side is officially over.
After it was reported last week that the White Sox put the Gold Glove second baseman on outright waivers and that he was slated to become a free agent, the team announced they decided not to tender Sanchez a contract for the 2020 season. They announced the same decision for relievers Ryan Burr and Caleb Frare, while saying they tendered contracts to all other unsigned players, including arbitration-eligible guys Alex Colome, Evan Marshall, Leury Garcia and Carlos Rodon.
Certainly the White Sox moving on from Sanchez wasn’t difficult to foresee. Nick Madrigal, the team’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft, is on the doorstep of the major leagues and is expected to be the starting second baseman on the South Side for the bulk of the 2020 campaign. While Sanchez plays some exceptional defense, he can’t match what Madrigal — a top-40 prospect in baseball who has also been touted as an elite defender — can do with the bat. Sanchez slashed just .252/.318/.321 in 2019, while Madrigal tore up the minors to the tune of .311/.377/.414 and struck out only 16 times in 120 games. In the end, Sanchez would have been an expensive reserve infielder, projected to make $6.2 million in arbitration.
Despite some potential red flags given the first- and second-half splits, the White Sox made the expected decision to stick with Colome in 2020. Though opposing hitters slashed .265/.347/.422 against him after the All-Star break in 2019 — and he’s projected to received $10.3 million through the arbitration process — Colome has been one of the more productive ninth-inning men in baseball in recent seasons, with a 2.78 ERA and 126 saves since the start of the 2016 campaign. His remaining at the back end of the bullpen gives the White Sox stability and prevents another potentially expensive item from being added to Rick Hahn’s offseason to-do list.
Marshall was also a key member of the White Sox late-inning corps in 2019, with a 2.49 ERA in 50.2 relief innings. Hahn is always reminding us about the volatility of relief pitching, so it’s difficult to say we should expect a repeat performance from Marshall. But he’s slated to hold a key bullpen position in 2020, as well.
Garcia is likely destined for the role of utility man on the 2020 roster after playing in 140 games in 2019 and starting in 135 of them. He can play all three outfield positions in addition to three positions on the infield Sanchez can play, providing versatility off the bench — once Madrigal and Luis Robert arrive from the minors — for Renteria and the White Sox.
The White Sox are still hoping that even after a long layoff while recovering from Tommy John surgery that Rodon can become the pitcher they envisioned he’d be when they took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. That has been a bit of a challenge for Rodon, who’s shown flashes of strikeout-heavy brilliance, as well as frustrating bouts of ineffectiveness. Prior to having the surgery this year, he had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts. But the White Sox figure to crave all the starting pitching they can muster in 2020. On the hunt for a couple offseason additions, they also have plans to limit Michael Kopech — who’s returning from his own Tommy John surgery — and can’t be 100-percent certain what they’ll get out of still-promising youngsters Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez. The contributions of pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert remain mysteries, too, as they return from Tommy John in the middle of the season, making Rodon a valuable piece of depth, if nothing else.
Burr and Frare were, at a time, part of a group of young relief pitchers who might’ve made some impact in the White Sox bullpen. Burr had a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 innings before his 2019 season ended in Tommy John surgery. Frare was knocked around in limited big league action in 2019, tagged for a 10.13 ERA in just 2.2 innings over five different appearances. In 27 appearance at three different minor league levels, he had a 6.35 ERA in 28.1 innings.
The White Sox also announced they released relief pitcher Thyago Vieira in order for him to pursue an opportunity in Japan. Earlier Monday, they announced a one-year, $5.4 million deal for All-Star catcher James McCann.
Got all that?
The White Sox 40-man roster now stands at 36, allowing the White Sox to continue their aggressive pursuits this offseason without further trimming. Two starting pitchers and a right fielder — and possibly a DH and more relief help — remain on Hahn’s to-do list, and he has four open spots to work with a week out from the Winter Meetings.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that any of the three players non-tendered Monday could return to the White Sox organization in one form or another. But they are free agents now.
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