Josh Harrison brings his good reputation, and hopefully more, to White Sox’ infield
“He was a real good fit for us, and it worked out,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s what you look for.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. — So Josh Harrison it is.
One of the biggest question marks of the offseason was who would assume the role of White Sox second baseman after Nick Madrigal was dealt for Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline last season and Cesar Hernandez, acquired at the same time, was let go.
Harrison, who turns 35 this season, is 10 years older than Madrigal, with two more All-Star selections on his résumé and the reputation for being a good defender — something this team needed. He also has hit .279/.343/.402 since the Nationals acquired him during the 2020 season.
And character-wise, Harrison should fit right in with a clubhouse full of characters and one with a chemistry general manager Rick Hahn has been intent on maintaining.
“That’s the understatement of the season,” manager Tony La Russa said hours after Harrison’s one-year, $5.5 million deal was made official Tuesday. “You know what’s a real good reputation? Every place you’ve ever been, they all say the same thing about him. That’s Josh.”
A favorite of fans and teammates wherever he hung his spikes — Pirates, Nationals, Tigers or Athletics.
“That’s a guy we talked about [acquiring],” La Russa said. “He was a real good fit for us, and it worked out. He’s what you look for. Competitor, teammate, knows how to win, all that stuff. Will do anything, play anywhere.”
And with a strikeout rate of 13.4% since 2020, he provides competitive at-bats.
“He knows how to handle the bat,” La Russa said.
Under the terms of his deal, Harrison will receive $4 million in 2022 with the Sox holding a $5.5 million option for 2023 with a
$1.5 million buyout. The Sox declined to pick up a $6 million option on Hernandez, who hit .232/.309/.299 after he was acquired from Cleveland for Double-A pitching prospect Konnor Pilkington.
Harrison, who will have a larger presence than Hernandez, emerged from the Sox’ clubhouse shortly after La Russa’s first team speech of the spring — La Russa waited for Jose Abreu’s arrival to camp Tuesday — appropriately flanked by Abreu and shortstop Tim Anderson, who will border him on the infield, as well. Harrison also will spell Yoan Moncada at third base and can play the corner outfield positions, too, with Leury Garcia getting games at second and perhaps Danny Mendick or Romy Gonzalez, depending on how the roster shakes out.
La Russa said third baseman Jake Burger, who has been working at second base to expand his horizons, will get looks at second, as well.
Versatility, for player and manager, “is a good problem to have,” La Russa said.
“I was taught to use the whole roster,” he said.
Being part of it appealed to Harrison during his free-agent process this offseason, which was put on hold during the lockout.
“They are built to win,” he said of a Sox team that, on paper, is considered among the top handful of teams by most forecasts. “It’s no secret to me. I played against them last year when I was traded to Oakland. I knew what they had. When we started talking, it felt like a right place for me. Playing against these guys, I could tell the energy was infectious. They play hard; they have fun.”
As for the reputation of good teammate, team player and all that, Harrison said it’s not something he’s intentional about building.
“But taking a step back,’’ Harrison said, ‘‘it’s something I don’t take lightly. I’ve been around different places, but one thing I’m going to be is me. That’s just somebody that’s going to be on the team having fun, keeping things light, and I want to win games. At the end of the day, everything on the field is going to take care of itself.”
“He competes,” La Russa said. “Every place he plays, they say the same [good] things about him. You can write it in gold.”