Although it’s unclear how many boxes Eloy Jimenez still needs to check before Rick Hahn and co. call up the outstanding White Sox prospect, it’s likely that he will be called up before the end of the 2018 campaign. Chris Getz even referred to an Eloy call-up as “getting very close” several days ago.
However, his infusion into the South Siders’ starting lineup complicates Chicago’s already-crowded roster situation. While the solution to this problem will be inevitably frustrating, it’s worth looking into.
The obvious choice for demotion, after a Jimenez promotion, would be Adam Engel, at first glance. With an OPS well below .600, Engel is clearly the worst offensive threat on the roster, and even his great defense doesn’t make up for that. However, the Sox would be stretched to their absolute limit without Engel. Leury Garcia (Ryan LaMarre until Garcia returns from injury) would be the only viable center fielder and middle infield backup. In the event of an in-game injury to Garcia, Yoan Moncada, or Tim Anderson, Ricky Renteria would have to turn to someone completely inexperienced at those positions for some innings.
Another option is demoting Matt Davidson, Daniel Palka, or Nicky Delmonico. Yet, they are all hitting the ball well lately; Sox management would not enjoy sending any of that trio down. Thus I present to you the best option: The White Sox turning to a seven-man bullpen.
There’s only a few teams in the majors who utilize this setup, but the benefits outweigh the harms in my opinion. First, one of Jeanmar Gomez and Juan Minaya would be sent down, blessing Sox fans with the ability to not see both pitch frequently. Second, it would free up more innings for the intriguing arms in the White Sox pen, namely Jace Fry and Thyago Vieira. It would also force Ricky Renteria to curtail his annoying tendency to remove pitchers from games too quickly. Lastly, with the ascent of pitcher Matt Davidson, there’s little need to worry about tired arms, because Davidson can eat up innings in lost games.
Most importantly though, it would preserve depth for Chicago’s position players by keeping both Engel and Garcia/LaMarre on the major league squad. Wait, no, the most important thing is it would allow Eloy Jimenez to begin his major league career.
Now that we’ve sorted out the 25-man roster issue, the next conundrum is where to arrange the jam-packed outfielders. First off, Eloy becomes the everyday left-fielder. This is non-negotiable. Future perennial all-stars don’t acquiesce to others’ preferences.
Now, Delmonico needs to go somewhere, and it shouldn’t be the bench. Here’s my proposal: Delmonico plays two to three games a week at third base and provides any needed rest to Avi Garcia and Jose Abreu. In accordance, Yolmer Sanchez plays the other three/four days at third while infrequently providing rest to Moncada or Anderson.
Essentially this sets up a position battle at third base between Delmonico and Sanchez, while also letting them utilize their versatility at other positions occasionally. It may seem silly to contrast these two players directly, but both are 26 years old, can play elsewhere, and have demonstrated promise at the plate. I also believe that Delmonico’s superior bat (115 wRC+ to Yolmer’s 92 wRC+ in 2017/18) matters little considering his small sample size and Yolmer’s experience combined with defensive prowess. Let’s not forget that Jake Burger is miles away from the majors, meaning the winner of Delmonico/Sanchez could easily be Chicago’s main third baseman on the next Sox playoff team should the club decide not to sign a free agent.
Eloy’s placement in left field also probably ends Palka’s string of rare appearances in the outfield, whether as a starter or pinch hitter. This solidifies the DH battle between him and Davidson, though it’s more properly labeled a platoon than a battle. Looking at their numbers, Davidson should bat against lefties and Palka should toe the batter’s box versus right-handers.
In the grand scheme of things, roster shuffles to accommodate Eloy should hardly annoy Sox fans. Jimenez looks to be the franchise’s biggest star since Jose Abreu, and has legitimate potential to eclipse Abreu’s status and garner comparisons to Frank Thomas. Am I saying he will be Frank Thomas? Absolutely not! But with his complete domination of the minor leagues, it’s not out of the picture.
Thus, save any complaints about roster changes and focus your energy on watching Eloy Jimenez.