The White Sox have traded outfielder Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a Player To Be Named Later. As reported by multiple usually-reliable sources, the PTBNL is infielder Leury Garcia – but that is not official yet. The Sox also sent $1M in cash to the Rangers, who acquired Rios following a waiver wire claim on him. Rios has now been claimed off waivers in August twice in his career.
Going on the assumption that the PTBNL is in fact who we think he is, let’s take a detailed look at what the Sox are going to be getting at a later date.
Leury Garcia is a 22 year old infielder who has played all three skill positions (SS, 2B, 3B) since being signed from the Dominican Republic at age 17, though he played shortstop exclusively until 2012 at AA Frisco. He was the Rangers’ #20 prospect this past offseason, and had peaked as high as #11 the year before, according to Baseball America. Scouts give him top-of-scale 80-grade speed, which he has brought to bear with three straight seasons of 30+ stolen bases going into 2013. He’s also got a 70-grade arm, and has the glove to handle all positions on the infield.
Offensively, Garcia has never put up spectacular numbers for any length of time with the bat. He doesn’t have any power to speak of (.347 minors SLG), and doesn’t draw a ton of walks (14 BB in 208 PA thus far at AAA). He’s hit for decent but unspectacular averages in his minor league stops (ranging from .256 to .292 since his first year in full-season ball). Contact rate has been mediocre at best (25.5% K/PA in 2013, 19% last season). There are questions about his ability to hit for enough average in the majors, and he posted a .192/.236/.231 line with Texas this year in 57 plate appearances while drawing two walks and striking out 16 times.
There are some similarities between Leury Garcia and current Sox prospect Carlos Sanchez. Neither possess much power or walk much, both can play across the infield competently or better, both have been playing young-for-level, and both will have to rely on batting average to add offensive value. But whereas Sanchez has put up much higher averages on his way up and at younger ages per stop (.283 AVG in minors for Sanchez, .261 for Garcia), Garcia has much greater speed and better defensive skills.
Where does Garcia rank among current White Sox prospects? It is hard to justify a super-high ranking for him at this point, despite the improving but still poor depth in the system. See our mid-season Top 25 list here, which was made before the Thornton/Jacobs, Peavy/Garcia and Rios/Garcia deals. He probably falls somewhere in the 10-15 range in the organization at this point.
How does Garcia fit into the White Sox plan for 2014 and beyond? There are a number of possibilities. His lack of offensive prowess and strong defensive profile across the infield would suggest he may be an ideal utility man, especially given he hits from both sides of the plate and has such huge speed. His profile screams flexibility, and he’s even played a few games in center field. If the Sox feel, after looking at him over the winter and spring, that he can hit major league pitching right away, there is even an outside chance he could start for the Sox to open next season. But another year in AAA may also be in store, given he’ll only turn 23 in March of next year. The super-utility role seems his most likely outcome at this point.
Just to be clear, the value in the Rios trade is probably less about this prospect, and more about gaining $20M in payroll flexibility. As it stands today, the team has around $45M in obligations for 2014, a dramatic drop from the $113M they had on payroll this past Opening Day. But getting a prospect who could provide some value, even if just as a bench player, makes the deal sweeter.
If, that is, he’s even the PTBNL in question. We’ll find out before the offseason scramble begins.