Rumors today broke that the Chicago White Sox are looking to deal Avisail Garcia. They should leap at whatever they get.
The Chicago White Sox are certainly doing everything they can to stay in the headlines this winter. You can understand why. All someone in the front office on the Northside has to do to get Twitter setting itself on fire is store the toilet paper in an underhand fashion. You can see how hard it is to compete for attention.
On the surface, it might seem a touch strange. We’re only one season removed from Garcia being the White Sox most productive hitter in 2017. He’s only 27, has two years of team control remaining, and if they don’t land Harper, someone is going to have to man right field opposite Eloy Jimenez in left.
But the thing the Sox are going to find is that most teams are going to know that Avisail’s breakout season was a likely a fluke.
That 2017 season was basically due to luck. While Garcia did manage to slash .330 average/.380 on-base/.506 slugging, almost all of that is attributable to his .392 BABIP. For those who need a quick primer, BABIP is Batting Average of Balls In Play, meaning your batting average with anything that isn’t a homer, walk, or strikeout.
It almost always levels out to .300 or thereabouts for a career and most seasons. After all, a hitter can’t really control where the fielders are and where exactly his batted balls go to avoid those fielders. You get one season spikes, and that’s what 2017 was for Garcia.
Nothing in his profile suggests there was some great change in his approach that season, either. His line-drive rate, something that can boost BABIP because you’re consistently hitting the ball really hard, was actually lower in 2017 than it was in 2016, or even the year before that. His hard-contact rate, which includes fly-balls and ground-balls that were hit really hard, was higher last year than it was in 2017.
If teams are looking for any kind of indicator that last year was the aberration, not 2017, his hard-contact rate has increased the last three years. So has the amount of fly-balls he’s hit, which is what people want these days.
Garcia was extremely unlucky last year, in that his BABIP was .270 when for his career it’s been about .330. But that .392 mark is not coming back. So a leveling out would see him improve on his dreadful 2018 without any other changes but not enough to be a dynamic force as he was two seasons ago. In fact, his career-average BABIP would have only seen him hit .244 in 2018.
And that’s with a career-best 21.4% home-run-to-fly-ball rate, at a notorious home run friendly park in The G-Rate. You can’t replicate that environment, and how much Avisail can improve upon that is a real doubt.
And most teams are going to know this. You can’t fool people these days. Not only does everyone have the data, everyone reads it as well. Combine that with the knowledge that the White Sox will simply non-tender him if they can’t find a trade and anyone could have him for free, and it’s unlikely the Sox will find a partner.
Must be clearing out right field for something, huh?