On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox placed second baseman Nick Madrigal on the 60-day injured list after he suffered a “proximal tear of his right hamstring.” General manager Rick Hahn told reporters that Madrigal will be shut down for six weeks, and that season-ending surgery is a possibility. In the interim, Leury García seems likely to take over at second.
Madrigal, who hit .305/.349/.425 (118 OPS+) in 215 plate appearances, is the third notable White Sox hitter to be placed on the 60-day injured list this season, joining outfielders Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez. Despite those absences, the White Sox are in first place in the American League Central with a 37-24 record. Chicago also possesses the best run differential in the AL, with a plus-86 mark.
It stands to reason that Hahn will look to maintain Chicago’s good position by exploring the trade market between now and the July 30 deadline — for outfield help and, in light of Madrigal’s injury, some reinforcement at the keystone. What might the latter entail? Below we’ve highlighted six realistic second-base options for the White Sox.
As always, remember that this exercise is more of an art than a science, and that the players are presented in alphabetical order.
Jon Berti is not an exciting starting place; he is, nonetheless, a versatile defender who posted a 102 OPS+ over the 2019-20 seasons. This year hasn’t gone nearly as well so far for him: he entered Thursday hitting .190/.291/.292 (64 OPS+) in 159 plate appearances. He’s still walking thanks to a patient approach, and he’s cut into his strikeout rate. The fly in his offensive ointment has been a .159 batting average on grounders that is lower than his mark on fly balls. That is, of course, not likely to stand. Once Berti’s grounders start leaking through more frequently, he should resume being a decent utility option. The White Sox can almost certainly do better in a starting capacity, but maybe they’d have interest in Berti as a bench option.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have two potential fits for the White Sox, in veterans Eduardo Escobar and Asdrúbal Cabrera. Escobar has had a rebound season (.237/.286/.452) while splitting time between the keystone and the hot corner, while Cabrera has turned back the clock to hit .275/.378/.450 (126 OPS+) in 143 plate appearances. Both are on expiring contracts, meaning the Diamondbacks have little reason to hold onto either past the deadline.
Arguably the most obvious name in the piece, Adam Frazier is in the midst of a career season (.329/.392/.468, or a 139 OPS+) and is another season away from free agency, making him an obvious trade candidate for the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. As with some other names on here, Frazier is a contact-driven hitter with enough defensive versatility to foresee him having a role should Madrigal return before the season ends.
Josh Harrison appeared to be nearing the end of his big-league career as recently as last July, when he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of the season. He joined the Nationals soon thereafter, and he’s hit .264/.340/.382 (103 OPS+) in 288 plate appearances since. Harrison’s game revolves around putting the ball in play (albeit not to Madrigal’s level), and his energetic style of play would seem to fit well on this iteration of the White Sox. Besides, his defensive versatility would come in handy if Madrigal is able to return before October. (The White Sox could also ask about Harrison’s teammate, Starlin Castro.)
While Jonathan Schoop is a natural second baseman, he’s primarily played first for the Tigers this season as a means of giving Detroit a longer look at Willi Castro. Even with the positional change, his offensive profile remains the same. He’s reliant upon hitting for power, as he doesn’t walk or hit for a high average. Schoop has homered nine times in his first 238 plate appearances, putting him on pace for 20-plus over a full season. Schoop is a near-inverse of Madrigal, so if the White Sox are prioritizing contact chops above all, then he wouldn’t appear to be a fit.