White Sox looking at internal options for second base

Romy Gonzalez could be team’s top choice to play second base.

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White Sox infielder Romy Gonzalez.

White Sox second baseman Romy Gonzalez batted .238/.257/.352 with two homers in 32 games in 2022.

Brandon Wade/AP

The signing of free-agent left fielder Andrew Benintendi made the White Sox outfield better defensively, and it added a needed left-handed hitter to first-year manager Pedro Grifol’s lineup, probably in the No. 2 spot behind shortstop Tim Anderson.

At $75 million for five years, it also set a franchise record for largest deal in franchise history — more evidence of baseball’s freewheeling spending this offseason than some newfound Sox will to win at all costs. If it drains the $15 million average annual cut from their 2023 budget, indications are the Sox are about done “throwing money” at their offseason needs.

If that feels like buzzkill in the wake of the big Benintendi splash, well, pass the holiday eggnog and deal with it.

Left field and second base were the two unsolved areas in the lineup this offseason and indications are the remaining allotted resources were spent on Benintendi, leaving second base for internal options, barring a trade, rather than spreading the cash over two needs.

Trading a high-salaried player such as closer Liam Hendriks would free up more money and could bring a second baseman in return. Hendriks is owed $14 million in 2023 but the Sox run a risk wishing Hendriks were parked in the bullpen to nail down games in the ninth inning come September, not to mention a hoped-for October.

By going with Romy Gonzalez, a versatile 26-year-old with 142 major-league plate appearances, at second base, the Sox would be going with a lineup that could look like this: Anderson, shortstop; Benintendi, left field; Luis Robert, center field; Eloy Jimenez, left field; Yoan Moncada, third base; Andrew Vaughn, first base; Yasmani Grandal, catcher; Oscar Colas, right field; Gonzalez, second base.

Why Gonzalez? The other options include nine-year veteran Leury Garcia, a Tony La Russa favorite likely penciled in for the utility role he’s best suited for, and Lenyn Sosa, who went 4-for-36 in his 11-game look-see in 2022. Another prospect, Jose Rodriguez, is also on the 40-man roster.

Here’s a look at the possibilities for second base, barring a trade:

Gonzalez

Batted .238/.257/.352 with two homers in 32 games in 2022, a season turned upside down when his tonsils were removed in June after a lengthy, mysterious period of illness while playing at Triple-A Charlotte. The 6-1, 215-pound Gonzalez, who stole 21 bases and hit 20 homers playing in a spacious park for Double-A Birmingham in 2021, regained his health and played 25 games at second base from Aug. 24 to the end of last season. The Sox like his athleticism, defensive versatility and raw power, but Gonzalez struck out 39 times and walked twice in 2022.

Sosa

The Sox’ fourth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline behind shortstop Colson Montgomery, Colas and 2022 first-round left-hander Noah Schultz, Sosa, like Gonzalez, showed power when he batted .315/.369/.511 with 23 homers in 119 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last season. He struggled when called up after Danny Mendick tore his ACL in June, batting .114/.139/.299 with one homer. Like Gonzalez, he’s no better than average defensively.

Garcia

Turning 32 in March, Garcia enters his 10th season with the Sox and second of a three-year, $16.5 million contract that looked anything like money well spent when he batted .210/.233/.267 with three homers in 97 games in 2022. A favorite of La Russa, Garcia’s playing time plummeted when bench coach Miguel Cairo took over as manager on Aug. 31. Garcia can play three outfield and infield spots and is best suited for a utility role.

Others

Jose Rodriguez, the Sox’ No. 7 prospect, was added to the 40-man roster this fall. Third baseman Jake Burger, who hit eight homers in 51 games last season, played five innings at second base in 2022 and continues to work there. Mendick, who ranked 18th on the Sox in 2022 with a 0.5 Baseball Reference WAR in just 30 games (Gonzalez was minus-0.4), could have been a possibility but he was non-tendered and signed by the Mets this week.

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