This Chicago White Sox player is likely the best trade chip
Gavin Sheets doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the Chicago White Sox.
The 26-year-old outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter can certainly help the Chicago White Sox this season. He's proven that with his 26 home runs and 87 RBI over the last two seasons in a part-time role. It's just that Sheets might have more value to the White Sox on another major league team.
Sheets, as things stand now, is just a White Sox insurance policy.
He's an Oscar Colas insurance policy. If Colas, a 24-year-old rookie, proves he cannot handle major league pitching, Sheets can step right in.
Sheets is an Eloy Jimenez insurance policy. If Jimenez, who has spent huge chunks of the past two seasons on the injured list, gets hurt again this year, Sheets can fill the void. He filled the void the last two years when Jimenez was away.
Sheets is also an Andrew Vaughn insurance policy. If Vaughn misses time or struggles in his transition to first base, Sheets will be ready.
So, yes, Sheets has value to the White Sox right now. He's cheap. he's already on the team and he could fill a need. But what if Colas proves all of his hype is real? What if Jimenez finally stays healthy? What if Vaughn hits the ground running at first base?
Gavin Sheets might be the best trade chip on the Chicago White Sox.
What is Sheets going to do then? Sit and wait for a White Sox disaster? That is a big, 6-foot-5, 230-pound insurance policy simply sitting on the bench and taking up a valuable roster spot that could be more wisely used elsewhere.
Sheets is likely still on the roster because of the White Sox's lack of faith that all three of the above disaster scenarios (Colas, Jimenez, Vaughn) will be avoided. This is an organization, after all, that has endured more than its fair share of disasters (injuries, never-ending slumps) lately.
Sheets, if all goes well, will be a luxury the White Sox simply cannot afford. Where is he going to play when the season starts? If Sheets is playing on a regular basis, it will mean something went horribly wrong.
If Colas, Jimenez, and Vaughn all get off to productive, healthy, and eye-opening springs, don't be surprised if Sheets is dangled in front of other teams as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
The risk of trading Sheets would be low as that would be a move the Sox would be making from a position of strength.
Is he going to take at-bats away from Colas, a young player that needs as many at-bats as he can get?
Is Sheets going to send Vaughn to the bench for more than an occasional start? Vaughn's job is to be a force in the middle of the lineup and replace Jose Abreu at first base. He can't do that playing part-time.
Is Sheets going to cut into Jimenez's role at designated hitter? Jimenez has Most Valuable Player potential. Why would the Sox do their opponents a favor by not playing a potential MVP?
Sheets, to be sure, has value to a major league team. He is a left-handed power bat against right-handed pitching. That is always a valuable commodity. But that is basically all he is. The rest of his skills scream Triple-A.
He is a below-average defender on his good days in the outfield. Sheets is a product of the White Sox's ill-fated recent philosophy of putting as many designated hitters in the lineup each day as possible.
The White Sox, hopefully, have learned that nine designated hitters in the lineup only works in fantasy baseball.
Sheets doesn't seem to be a fit with new manager Pedro Grifol's emphasis on playing solid defense.
Why do you think the Sox went out this off-season and signed veteran outfielders Billy Hamilton and Jake Marisnick?
Hamilton and Marisnick have the reputation and the highlight tapes to prove it of being excellent defensive outfielders.
They would be perfect bench pieces behind Colas, Robert in center, and Andrew Benintendi in left field. Sheets is nobody's late-inning defensive replacement.
Neither Hamilton nor Marisnick are locks to make the Opening Day roster since Sheets is still around but it wouldn't be surprising to see one of them called up to replace Sheets after he is traded.
Sheets' biggest drawback is that he can only hit right-handed pitching. You simply cannot play him every day. If you could, the Sox wouldn't have gone out and spent $75 million on Benintendi, a guy who seems to have morphed into simply a singles-hitting left fielder with a decent glove.
All 26 of Sheets' career home runs and 79 of his 87 RBI have come against a righty. The Sox barely even allow him to sit in the dugout when a lefty is on the mound, let alone walk to the plate.
He is a career .153 hitter against left-handers with just nine hits in 59 at-bats. That's what many pitchers used to hit before the designated hitter.
Sheets, therefore, is an awful replacement for Colas, a left-handed hitter who might be better served every now and then with a day off against a tough lefty.
Why also would you take the left-handed Benintendi out of the lineup when a righty is pitching? You wouldn't, especially when he's costing you $ 75 million.
Sheets, in the White Sox organization since 2017, has never been anything other than what he is now. His lifetime minor league batting average is a solid-but-not-great .282 with a strikeout once every five at-bats.
In the major leagues, he has hit .244 with a strikeout every 4.3 at-bats. And that was achieved by avoiding left-handed pitchers.
Most everything has gone smoothly this spring for the White Sox. There do not seem to be any glaring holes or needs right now. It is perfectly fine for Sheets, a powerful left-handed bat, and an obvious insurance policy, to be on the roster right now.
Colas, after all, has appeared to be the answer in right field, Elvis Andrus has stepped right in at second base. Yoan Moncada is hitting the ball for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic.
Jimenez and center fielder Luis Robert are healthy and also played well in the WBC. Jimenez is back with the White Sox after the Dominican Republic was eliminated while Robert is still there with Cuba.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal is still in one piece and hitting the ball with authority. Starting pitcher Mike Clevinger is on the active roster and working into shape. Lance Lynn seems to be in mid-season form, Michael Kopech is healthy and Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease are progressing nicely.
It's been a nice spring for Grifol, his first as a major league manager.
But a major league organization never knows where or when the next glaring need will arise. It always needs the flexibility to fill those needs. Sheets offers the White Sox its most valuable piece of flexibility.
What happens, for example, if the lack of Liam Hendriks (he is currently receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) in the ninth inning proves to be too taxing for the White Sox bullpen?
What if Kendall Gravemen can't handle the pressure of the ninth inning? The lack of Hendriks, don't forget, in the bullpen affects the entire bullpen and not just Graveman.
Do you trust the likes of Jose Ruiz, Matt Foster, Joe Kelly, Reynaldo Lopez, and Jake Diekman? They might have all been fine with Graveman handling the eighth and Hendriks the ninth. But that's all changed now.
Bullpen problems don't raise their ugly head in spring training. There's no pressure in the spring. There are no set roles in the spring. There isn't as much strategy and nobody gets tired.
The regular season, which starts in just two weeks, is a different animal. That's when holes pop up on a roster as they do in city streets after the snow melts.
If the Sox get a month or two into the season and realize they need a veteran, reliable bullpen arm that can help them win important games, what do they do then? Sheets could be their ticket to a trade that could save the season. The Sox, if all else is going well, wouldn't miss him a bit.