In another universe, Brett Lawrie challenged Mike Trout last year for the AL MVP. In this one, he’s out of a job.
Have you ever seen Sliding Doors? It’s that Gwyneth Paltrow movie where her life that spins off in two radically different directions based on whether or not she makes a train or not. I keep feeling that there must have been some point, somewhere along the line, where Brett Lawrie could have drastically altered his path, and become the line-drive machine we all expected he would be back in 2010. I wish there was a way for him to go back and do that differently.
Instead, his choices led him to where he is today, which is unemployed. The White Sox placed him on waivers this afternoon, according to CSN’s Dan Hayes, with the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. Lawrie had been slated to earn $3.5 million this year, his final one before hitting free agency next offseason. Instead, the Sox will pay him 20 percent of that total to walk away.
It seems like only yesterday that Lawrie was one of the best prospects in baseball, a former first round pick and easily in the Top 100 of all of the major lists. Scouts touted his power and his athleticism, and predicted massive success. In what seemed like a questionable deal, the Brewers sent him to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum, and Lawrie’s massive debut (.293/.373/.580) in the second half of 2011 suggested that this was a massive mistake.
But Lawrie would never come close to duplicating that level of success. Meanwhile, makeup and injury concerns continued to dog him. Frustrated, the Jays included him as the headlining piece in the package to acquire Josh Donaldson, a move that catapulted Toronto to the top of the AL Central and to their first playoff appearance in 13 years.
Lawrie struggled again in Oakland, posting an OBP below .300, and hitting just 16 homers while bouncing between third base and second. After a year, the A’s sent him to the White Sox for two minor league pitchers of questionable quality. While playing second base, he struggled again on offense, and was sidelined for much of the second half with a series of leg injuries.
There likely won’t be a huge market for Lawrie coming off of these injuries. Indeed, if the White Sox thought they could get anything for him this year, he likely would still be on the roster. But most clubs are well set at second and third base, and despite being only 27, Lawrie seems to have settled into a career of good defense and mediocre offense. He might make a decent utility player if he were willing to also learn to play the outfield corners, but it’s not likely he’ll find another starting gig until he shows some progress at the plate.
As for the White Sox, this may be a sign that they’re inclined to hand the starting second base job off to uber-prospect Yoan Moncada early in 2017. Moncada was acquired by the Sox in the Chris Sale trade, and figures to be a key piece of Chicago’s rebuilding effort. Until he’s deemed ready/past the deadline where 2017 counts as a “full season”, Tyler Saladino will get another crack at proving he can play baseball in the Major Leagues. A quest at which, up to now, he has shown no progress.