Why Yoán Moncada is unlikely to be the Sox’s second baseline fix that originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When it comes to their search for a second baseman, the Chicago White Sox are on hold, with baseball’s ongoing lockdown ending major league trading.

Meanwhile, those of us who don’t actually make the moves have looked up and down to flirt with possibilities for the position, a critical need on the South Side following Nick Madrigal’s trade last summer and the unsuccessful acquisition of César Hernández, whose $ 6 million option for the 2022 season was turned down last month.

Free agent options dwindled considerably when Marcus Semien, Javy Báez, Eduardo Escobar and Chris Taylor all signed deals before the lockdown began. Trading options are more plentiful, although transactions are always mysterious and difficult to predict.

RELATED: Sox Trading Partners: A Look At 29 Second Base Situations

Is the best option to close the second base hole already to play on the White Sox infield?

Yoán Moncada started his tenure on the south side as the team’s second baseman before advancing to third base ahead of the 2019 season, the year he erupted with stellar offensive production and formidable defense in the corner. hot. Even with the ups and downs that followed – you’ll remember his COVID-impacted 2020 season – the third base defense remained excellent, and he was honored for that as a Gold Glove finalist in 2020.

While the business possibilities can give rise to some exciting names at second base, a return of Moncada to second could theoretically allow the White Sox front office to pivot into an even more attractive third base market whenever they’re in. able to resume their work offseason. Kris Bryant is among the star free agents who did not sign in the dying days of November. Kyle Seager hit 35 home runs for the Seattle Mariners in 2021 and is also a free agent. Matt Chapman could be the best third baseman in the game and plays for an Oakland Athletics team on the verge of teardown.

So, would the White Sox have pulled the trigger on another position switch for Moncada?

General manager Rick Hahn actually answered this question during last month’s GM meetings in Southern California.

“Never say never,” Hahn said. “But look, he’s a damn good third baseman. He’s comfortable there. He’s a really good player. I don’t know if you want to upset the apple basket with something that works. . Never say never. “

As usual, Hahn refused to take anything off the table, and you have to imagine that there was at least some speculative talk based on the caliber of any third baseman who might be available. It’s the job of any big league front office, weighing all the options.

But the GM is also right that Moncada is pretty good at third base. Based on his big-league career at this point, it’s pretty clear that the move into the hot corner has been positive for Moncada, who has mastered that position after a few hundred shaky games per second that have seen him. make 29 mistakes.

In fact, if you recall the initial change, then manager Rick Renteria spoke a lot about the benefits of the change on Moncada’s blow as well.

“I think everyone’s biggest concern when we first moved him to third was that the nuances of playing third base would confuse his offensive team. It was actually the opposite,” Renteria said. in August 2019. “I think that allowed him to focus on a bit more of both sides of baseball. … Some of the things we talked about, in regards to when he played second, were that he could get a little lazy at times because it seemed pretty easy. He stays a little more focused in third. “

Moncada’s offense did indeed manifest itself, and his 2019 supported all the hype he brought to the White Sox organization during that 2016 trade with the Boston Red Sox, the hype that came up with his unique rank as baseball’s No.1 prospect. He’s gone from a dismal first full season in the majors that saw him hit 217 times to a .915 OPS, 140 OPS +, and 25 home runs in 132 games. All of this goes hand in hand with moving from an error-prone defender in second to a Golden Glove type in third.

“Maybe it was repetition and maturity,” Hahn said last month, “but he was definitely more comfortable defensively and his athleticism and instincts were more assessable at (third base) than at at the second.”

This great 2019 season has earned Moncada a contract extension before the start of the 2020 season, an extension that will keep him on the south side throughout the 2025 campaign. The idea when it was signed? That he would occupy third base for the foreseeable future.

Now “never say never” is always good advice, in this case not only because the right opportunity might present itself that could convince the White Sox to go in that direction, but also because Moncada is a player in the game. athletic team who would probably be willing to do anything asked of them. Renteria revealed two years ago that Moncada said he was even capable of playing center.

“I think third base will be my place for a long, long time,” Moncada said in 2019. “At the same time, I’m ready to help the team in any position they need me to play. It’s up to them. I’m open to that. But I feel very comfortable playing third base right now. “

But while all of this could send fans’ imaginations into high gear during Hot Stove season, Moncada’s change of stance remains unlikely. Remember he is one of the centerpieces of the White Sox’s immediate and long-term future, a guy who has been touted as a future MVP contender, a guy who looks like someone at times. one that can wear training.

Even if you wonder where the power has gone – he hit 25 home runs with a .548 slugging percentage in 2019 against 14 homers and a .412 slugging percentage in a dozen more games in 2021 – he was very. good last season, posting a career-best 0.375 based percentage and having walked 84 times, more than doubling the number of free passes he’s won in this two-year breakout campaign earlier.

“I hate to make fun of quality players who have had productive years on a team that won a division,” Hahn said last month. “He’s had a really good year. Maybe we’re a little bit spoiled by what we’ve seen he’s capable of, so we want to see it all in one season: the power, the ability to ride. the base, hitting for the average, playing good defense, running the bases well.

“In a season where all of that isn’t consistently flaunted, he’s still good enough to be a hard-hitting guy, as we saw last year, although there are some elements that lag behind what we think he can be, (in particular) the Power. “

So while there are some better-known names in the third base market than the ones in the second base market, the White Sox think they have a top third base player working for them, someone. which flourished in part thanks to moving from second to third.

In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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