I imagine seeing this coming from our blog probably made you audibly gasp and possibly faint like the Polaner All Fruit lady from the ’80s. But I assure you, we have not been hacked and I am not any more intoxicated than I usually am when I write these.
Seriously though, I don’t see any reason that the White Sox should not bring up Nick Madrigal and start him at second base on Opening Day. So let’s go through why it makes no sense to keep him in the minors a few weeks.
The Extra Year of Control
Pretty much everyone is going to point to the extra year of control the White Sox would get by holding him down. First, we’ll see if that is even something they should consider when the Kris Bryant case is resolved. But let’s assume Bryant loses that case and the extra year is still reasonable. What does that actually gain you? In the case of a player like Luis Robert, it looked like that would be a very expensive year. That’s because Luis Robert plays a premium position and has multiple tools on the offensive side that teams pay top dollar for. Nick Madrigal does not have these things going for him. High on-base, great defensive second basemen do not command top dollar in free agency.
Jose Altuve is a unicorn, hitting for power, getting MVPs, etc. So his salary as well as Cano‘s can be thrown out. I don’t think any of us really believe Madrigal will turn into a power hitter nor do we think he has to in order to contribute. Gordon and Pedroia (Cano too) are regrettable contracts at this point, though we should include them as the high end of what Madrigal can command. I’ll use the current numbers because it is less important what the actual number is as to its difference from current arbitration numbers. So let’s call his free agent contract somewhere between $10-13M if he were a free agent this year. Jonathan Villar is at #9 with $8.2M which was earned in his third time through arbitration. Villar had a career year after 2 fairly average years. The Marlins paid him roughly what they would have had to in free agency. Yolmer was projected to make ~$6M in his third trip through arbitration. He will not get that in free agency. Even if Madrigal is very good and he commanded $15M in free agency, 3 trips through the arb process would likely land him right around that. If Madrigal is important to the team, extend him before the 2025 season. It will cost about the same as his final arb year. And it certainly should not preclude you from signing other players.
This may not seem like it should matter if he’s down in the minors for 2-4 weeks. But I will argue that it does. The White Sox have invested a lot of money and pitching spots to those who can effectively throw ground balls. It’s a seemingly good strategy as those arms seem to be undervalued in the market and the Sox don’t have the easiest time bringing in free agents. The problem with this is that they need to have strong defenders behind them. The struggles of one Tim Anderson put that into question. However, Timmy has turned in good defensive numbers when he does 2 things: 1. gets to a ton of balls other short stops would not and 2. turns a lot of double plays. The second requires a good rhythm with your second basemen. So why fuck around and give him 2 or 3 different guys before May? Not to mention, Madrigal is likely a better fielder that Leury. So you are immediately hurting your pitchers. You could have Mendick there, but he should be playing on the left side of the field every day in Charlotte with the known injury histories of Anderson and Moncada. Not to mention, he’s a half a foot taller than Nick, so again, that double play rhythm.
Some of yous guys out there in Twitter land seem to think Ricky can get his boys to not quit, but can’t form a lineup to save his damn life. If that’s true, I have to question why Rick Hahn would hold down what is possibly Ricky’s highest source of OBP. In doing that, he’s asking Ricky to form sub-par lineups for the first month of the season and then likely completely shake up the lineup when Madrigal arrives. Does that make sense to you? Would you do that to save a few bucks 6 years from now?
Look, unless Madrigal has some condition where he’ll die if he has to play in a sub-40 degree game, I see no reason why he needs to spend any additional time in the minors. He’s not gonna start hitting bombs with a few more weeks of baseball in Charlotte. What does he need to do, lower his strikeout rate? The time to start the competitive window is now. Worrying about something 6 years away is silly, while you have Yoan and Giolito putting up 5+ WAR seasons and Abreu, Grandal, and Keuchel playing their 30+ years right now. The first month is important, especially when you have a division rival on the fence as to whether they will buy or sell. There is no need to play with service time. Win baseball games instead.