By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia had a career year in 2017, making his first All-Star appearance and hitting a career-best .330 that ranked second in the American League.
The 26-year-old Garcia’s commitment to conditioning and a positive attitude were the roots to his breakthrough. From spring training on, Garcia’s passion for his craft was more visible than it’d ever been, and it helped that first-year manager Rick Renteria struck the right notes when it came to pushing and supporting the emotional Garcia, who also set career-best marks with 18 homers, 80 RBIs and an .885 OPS.
Now, general manager Rick Hahn and the front office must decide whether Garcia means more for the team’s future by staying with the White Sox or as a trade chip. Chicago has contract control of Garcia for two more years. He made $3 million in 2017, a figure that will at least double for 2018 in the arbitration process this offseason. The White Sox could also extend Garcia with a multi-year deal.
“He obviously had a marvelous year,” Hahn said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday. “You hit the nail on the head saying he is only controllable for two more seasons. That would only take us through 2019. That does not take us through the bulk of the time we project being competitive for championships .So, at some point, we do have to make a decision. Is Avi or any player that is only controllable for two more seasons a part of this group that we project to win with? Therefore must we extend the control. Or, are we better served in the long run making a deal and continue to accumulate more pieces that are controllable in that time frame?”
Your guess may be as good as Hahn’s on the future process of Garcia, whose effort on defense and the basepaths was also markedly better last season. Garcia led the AL in outfield assists with 13, though on the flip side, his nine errors were the by an outfielder.
Factoring into the Garcia decision is that the White Sox have an exciting 20-year-old outfielder Eloy Jimenez on the fast track for the big leagues. Hahn didn’t reveal much yet as to how Jimenez could play into the team’s equation. But it’s worth noting that Garcia is reaching an age in which many players are what they’ve previously shown they are.
“If you look at Garcia, he will play next year at 27,” Hahn said. “He is obviously fulfilling the promise he had. It is wonderful to see him blossom. This is a time when a lot of players hit their peak. I think it is reasonable to project good things for Avi going forward. It is certainly reasonable to project a player like that on a championship club. At some point, the decision will have to be made. Is he part of what we are doing here in 2020 and beyond or is it in the best interest of the club to sort of reshuffle and get more pieces that are controllable then?”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.