By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN _ Brett Lawrie’s time with the Chicago White Sox has appeared to have come to an end as the native of Langley, BC was placed on release waivers on Friday.
Lawrie, 27, appeared in 94 games with the Sox in 2016, slashing .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI across 384 plate appearances. Pushed from his preferred position after the free-agent signing of Todd Frazier last winter, all but two of Lawrie’s assignments came at second base for the 78-84 south siders.
Owed $3.5 million US in 2017, the decision to cut ties with the Canadian-born infielder may have little to do with his on-field performance as, backed by both defensive and offensive metrics, a compelling argument can be made for his overall value.
Instead, the release can be easily be viewed as a cash dump considering the fact that Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild and are now on the hook to pay only a 30-day termination fee. That fee works out to be 1/6th of what he’s owed this season, a figure that will come somewhere in the neighborhood of $574,000 when all is said and done.
In addition to the cash, there’s also the fact that Chicago acquired Yoan Moncada in the blockbuster deal that sent veteran left-hander Chris Sale to Boston last December.
Like Lawrie, Moncada is a power plant infielder capable of playing both second and third base. Only 21, he was ranked the No. 2 prospect by MLB.com this winter. If the White Sox aren’t planning on contending in 2016, why not give their newly acquired prospect some development at-bats in the big leagues?
In the wake of his release, the former first-round draft pick (2008, by the Milwaukee Brewers) could be picked up by another MLB organization but it’s likely that other clubs will wait until the waiver period expires before they attempt to sign the six-year veteran to a new deal.
Possible landing spots include Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland Indians or the Toronto Blue Jays. Although even with a pair of infielders in Josh Donaldson and Devon Travis recovering from injuries early on this spring, a reunion with his former club could be a long shot given his occasionally turbulent history with the organization.
Similar hurler Eric Gagne, 41, Lawrie could look to help rebuild his stock with a strong showing for Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. That said, the Canadian squad already has a full dance card and landing a spot on the roster this close to tournament play may prove to be difficult, even for Lawrie who previously turned down an invitation to join the team earlier this year.
Once traded for an incoming American League Most Valuable Player, the infielder owns a career line of .261/.315/.419 with 196 extra-base hits since breaking in with the Blue Jays in 2011.
Although the timing of his surprising release from Chicago seems suspect, it still affords Lawrie the opportunity to catch on with another organization prior to opening day. This could serve as a silver lining for the once can’t miss prospect.
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