Chicago White Sox: Having Tim Anderson over Fernando Tatis Jr.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Since baseball is in the early stages of a lockout and being able to sign free agents or make trades has grounded to a halt, it might be interesting to take the time to play a game of “What If?”. While much discussion with the Chicago White Sox has centered on finding a second baseman this offseason, “What If?” the team had never traded Fernando Tatis Jr back in 2016.

Tatis Jr. was signed by the White Sox in July of 2015 as an amateur free agent. Later, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for pitcher James Shields. It was a  deal that the Sox thought would help them solidify a pitching rotation in need of help at the time as they pursued a playoff spot.

"General Manager Rick Hahn told in 2019, “No one went into that deal ignorant of what this kid (Tatis Jr.) could possibly turn into. At the same time, the decision to make the trade was motivated by elements within the organization we are trying to avoid as we complete this rebuild, as we get to the other side of the rebuild.”"

Needless to say, the Padres got the much better end of the deal as Shields made 22 starts for the Sox and posted a whopping 6.77 ERA. As for Tatis Jr., all he’s done is win Rookie of the Year, be a two-time first-team All-MLB selection at shortstop, and a two-time Silver Slugger at his position while also leading the National League in homers this past season with 42.

How would the Chicago White Sox be if they had Fernando Tatis Jr. in the mix?

That type of production is what has made Sox fans wonder what the team would look like if Tatis Jr. never was moved. Fans have wondered what the pairing of Tatis Jr. and Tim Anderson would have produced and how successful that would have made the team.

However, the teaming of Tatis Jr. and Anderson may not have worked out, to begin with. While it may be easy to say one or the other would just move over and play second, that might not have been an option.

Anderson was locked in as the team’s shortstop in 2016 and has been a mainstay at the position ever since. Tatis Jr. has only been a shortstop with the Padres except for a 24 game stint in the outfield while dealing with injuries.

If one of the two was to move it would probably have been Tatis. Back when the White Sox were courting free agent Manny Machado, Anderson was excited about the idea of playing with one of the best players in the game but was not willing to give up a position he believed he was exceptional at.

"“I don’t feel like I have to bow down to nobody,” Anderson said at the time. I don’t feel like I just have to give something up what I worked hard for. I would love to play with him, but shortstop is mine. I came too far for these fans to kind of just want me to give it to Machado.”"

So, if he wasn’t going to give it up to a player of Machado’s caliber, chances are he wasn’t going to relinquish it to a rookie either. Tatis led all NL shortstops in errors last year with 21 and his .951 fielding percentage is well behind Anderson’s .962.

But, while Anderson has had the upper hand in fielding, Tatis Jr.’s offensive prowess is one of the best in the majors. As mentioned before, he hit 42 homers last season while driving in 97 RBIs with a .282 batting average.

Over his three years in the league, he has posted a slash line of .292/.369/.596. Anderson has hit over .300 each of the last three years, winning the American League batting title in 2019 and followed that up with a second-place finish the next year.

That would have been an excellent on-two punch in the Sox batting order. Those two, paired with the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, and Yoan Moncada would have produced one of the most feared lineups in baseball.

Chances are that one or the other was going to be moved if both were still a part of the organization. Anderson has been a catalyst for the team and, along with Jose Abreu, has served as the face of the franchise. He has solidified the top spot in the batting order and has improved defensively over the last few seasons. Tatis is a perennial All-Star and has become one of the top players in all of baseball.

The Sox trade of Tatis could be viewed as their equivalent of the Cubs infamous Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade back in 1964. But, the production Anderson has given the Sox has at least taken some of the stings off of losing a guy in Tatis Jr. who is putting together credentials for a possible Hall of Fame career.

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