GLENDALE, Ariz. — Brett Lawrie’s exit from the White Sox was a quiet one, an uncharacteristic -departure for the energetic infielder known for bouncing around and playing resident deejay in the Sox’ clubhouse.
It also was somewhat surprising, considering the Sox tendered the 27-year-old veteran a contract and signed him to a $3.5 million deal in December. When he was put on waivers Friday, you had to wonder why he was brought back to a rebuilding team in the first place.
Lawrie, who missed the last two-plus months of the 2016 season, got bit by the injury bug again this spring. As the Sox completed their first week of Cactus League games without him taking drills because of issues with his lower half, they decided to cut ties now without the risk of losing too much money in the deal.
If Lawrie clears waivers, which seems likely, he can become a free agent. Because arbitration contracts such as his aren’t guaranteed until Opening Day, the Sox would be on the hook for about $570,000 of his salary.
When Lawrie was tendered a contract, third baseman Todd Frazier was viewed as a likely trade chip, with Lawrie providing protection at third. The market for third basemen has cooled, and Frazier also has been hurt. He’s all but certain to be with the Sox for the first half of the season.
“We can’t really control the pace or timing of these transactions that are part of this process,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “When we committed to bringing Brett back, it was early in the offseason, and we envisioned various transactions that would have opened up more play time for him, whether it was at second or at third.
“None of those deals came to fruition, and as a result there really just wasn’t the opportunity to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish with our young players and get him reasonable play time here in Chicago.”
Hahn said the move was “difficult,” but it was made for the sake of the rebuild. It means more time at second base for Tyler Saladino, whose numbers are comparable, and for Yolmer Sanchez and possibly Leury Garcia. Yoan Moncada, the Sox’ prized prospect, likely will start the season at Class AAA Charlotte, but he’ll get called up at some point this year.
“We are committed to giving an opportunity to several of our young players, players who are going to be here for an extended period of time,” Hahn said.
Lawrie, 27, batted .248 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 94 games last season, his first with the Sox after being acquired from the Athletics on Dec. 9, 2015.
After arriving at camp saying he was close to being ready, Lawrie participated in drills and then was sidelined with muscle discomfort in his lower body. He attributed his problems last season, which started with his left hamstring and extended to various other issues in his lower half, to the use of orthotics that messed with his balance.
Hahn said he wished Lawrie well and fully expects him to catch on elsewhere.
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