1. We went over a good chunk of why the signing of Austin Jackson is important in Sunday’s post, but it’s worth talking about in more detail.
While Jackson has plenty of faults as a ballplayer (mostly as a hitter), the biggest key is the depth he affords to an area where it was severely lacking.
If the White Sox are at full strength, one can assume we’ll see an outfield of Jackson, Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton. Avisail Garcia would share at-bats with Adam LaRoche at designated hitter, and could occasionally spell one of the outfielders when necessary.
But while Jackson is no longer a good hitter, depending on what you thought of Eaton’s defense in center field (the metrics were not enthralled), the White Sox go from having a potential negative defender at all three outfield positions to being adequately covered in two-thirds of the field, assuming Eaton holds his own in a corner (most expect he can).
Or, as Dan Szymborski put it:
Is Austin Jackson the player he was earlier in his career now? No. But Avisail Garcia also isn't the player Austin Jackson is now.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) March 6, 2016
2. LaRoche left Saturday’s exhibition game with back spasms. Dan Hayes reported on Sunday that there was no nerve damage and no need for an MRI, a positive sign, but one has to wonder if LaRoche’s uncertainty — both physically and a pure production standpoint — escalated the signing.
Eaton is also returning from offseason shoulder surgery that has the team being cautious enough to prevent him playing in the field in the early going of Spring Training. And while Robin Ventura said the team isn’t necessarily concerned with his progress, the health issues — as minor as they seem to be — of both Eaton and LaRoche makes Jackson that much more necessary.
Then again, both of those concerns have been apparent for several months now, so who the hell knows?
3. The casualty from the Jackson signing was Mike Olt, who was designated for assignment on Sunday. The 27-year-old former top prospect wasn’t expected to be much of a factor in 2016, and with Garcia being pushed into the backup DH role (if there even is such a thing), Olt is forced even further down the depth chart.
Considering the shine Olt once showed has long since worn off, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him remain with the organization. I can’t imagine there’s much of a demand out there for a player of Olt’s ilk, but the White Sox did claim him off of waivers just six months ago, so I guess it’s possible another team kicks the tires.
4. Old friend Alexei Ramirez made the trip to Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday for the Padres’ exhibition game against the White Sox, and BOY is it weird to see him in a San Diego uniform.
Ramirez apparently requested to make the trip so he could see and play against his old friends in the White Sox organization, and had some really nice quotes about how emotional it was to see the White Sox from across the field, even in an exhibition game.
The sequence of events that followed Ramirez’s departure are worth remembering. When the White Sox announced they weren’t picking up his option at the beginning of the offseason, it was widely believed they either A) were still planning on working out a new deal with him, or B) had a different shortstop target in mind.
Neither transpired, of course, which made things frustrating until the Sox brought in Jimmy Rollins for even less than Ramirez got from San Diego. For a team that has clearly been pinching pennies all offseason, having the combination of Rollins and Tyler Saladino for approximately the same amount as you would’ve likely paid for Ramirez certainly qualifies as thrifty.
Still, from a purely fan standpoint, it’s sad seeing Ramirez in another uniform. Shortstop is a notoriously difficult position to find any sort of consistent production from, and while the White Sox have struggled to find third basemen and second basemen for a long while, the fact that you basically knew you could count on Ramirez at shortstop for the last eight years is worth recognizing. I hope he kicks ass in San Diego.
5. The White Sox played some exhibition games this weekend, too, and the most noteworthy thing to happen from a performance standpoint is that Carson Fulmer made his spring debut in Saturday’s game against Kansas City. He allowed three runs and five hits in two-plus innings against a Royals lineup that featured a good amount of their regulars.
In the Spring, results never matter. The most important thing for most players is getting reps, and in the case of young players like Fulmer, working on the specific intricacies of their game against live competition.
Carlos Rodon also made his first Spring appearance outside of intrasquad play on Sunday, and it was his first time working with new catcher Alex Avila, as Scott Merkin notes. The White Sox being able to count on Rodon behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana in the rotation is one of the bigger keys to watch entering 2016, and considering his Tyler Flowers/Geovany Soto splits in 2015, Avila's ability to work with Rodon will be an important factor in his success.