White Sox decisions to non-tender veteran third baseman, trade catcher could come back to haunt a team that is still in a rebuilding stage.
Matt Davidson‘s 2018 season with the White Sox began as great as it could have for him, as he hit three home runs in Kansas City, and had nine home runs by the end of April. Unfortunately, it ended about as bad as it could have, with him being non-tendered this offseason. In between, he was a serviceable backup first basemen to Jose Abreu, and a solid designated hitter platoon with Daniel Palka.
The White Sox may end up regretting the decision to non-tender him. Davidson is definitely good enough to be on a major league roster, so if the Sox don’t bring him back he could very well end up on another team. Davidson also improved a lot as a hitter last year, bringing his on-base percentage up from an ugly .260 in 2017 to a league average .319 in 2018. His ops+ went from 88 to 103.
Given that he will turn 28 in March, it’s possible we have not seen the best of him yet as he continues his improvements. A similar player to high-strikeout high-power Davidson is Oakland’s Khris Davis who was traded to Oakland at age 28 after a few solid but mediocre years with Milwaukee where he hit 22 and 27 home runs, respectively. In 2018 Davis led all of baseball in home runs with 48 and finished eighth in American League MVP voting.
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I’m not saying Davidson will end up that way, but it’s the worst case scenario for the Sox is he goes to another team. In any case, he’s a solid bet for 20 home runs a season with league average offensive production. There are plenty of teams like Kansas City that could use that.
The White Sox also got rid of Omar Narvaez and Avisail Garcia, who have more likely already hit their peaks. Narvaez is a legitimate solid starting catcher, and the White Sox may miss him if they can’t find a good replacement in free agency or within their farm system.
Currently, the White Sox 2019 opening day lineup looks something like this
2B Yoan Moncada
SS Tim Anderson
CF Adam Engel
RF Leury Garcia
Only Abreu and Palka were league-average or better last year offensively, so Rick Hahn has a lot of work to do. Once Eloy Jimenez joins the team that will give them ten offensive players, with space for three more players. To help Hahn out, I’ll suggest that space is filled with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Yasmani Grandal. Realistically, if the White Sox are less successful in free agency, it wouldn’t hurt to bring back Davidson, who is a better hitter than many of the above.