baseball

What’s the plan for infield in offseason?

José Abreu, the Chicago White Sox first baseman since 2014, is a free agent.

Second baseman Josh Harrison is also a free agent after the Sox declined a team option for 2023.

Third baseman Yoán Moncada had a down 2022 season affected by injuries. And a finger injury prematurely ended shortstop Tim Anderson’s season.

What’s ahead for the Sox infield? Here are three questions to monitor this offseason.

Andrew Vaughn spent most of his first two seasons in the outfield. His future is at first base.

Whether the future means 2023 remains to be seen.

Vaughn is a first baseman; That’s how he was drafted,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said this month at the GM meetings in Las Vegas when asked where he ideally envisions Vaughn. Doesn’t mean he’s going to be our first baseman next year, not necessarily.

“But in the end, his best defensive position is first base and … whenever the time comes when he settles into that position, you’re asking a lot less of him and perhaps that even increases his offensive production as a result.”

Vaughn slashed .271/.321/.429 in 2022, leading the Sox with 17 homers and 76 RBIs in 134 games. He played 45 games in right field, 44 in left, 29 at designated hitter, 23 at first base and two at second base.

After hitting .301 in the first half, Vaughn batted .234 after the All-Star break.

“I think he was worn down,” Hahn said. Obviously greater physical tool on you playing the outfield. He was a guy over the course of the year who played through some leg issues, probably somewhat exacerbated by having him out there in the outfield. But nothing that should linger into 2023.

And we’ll see come March or April what the roster looks like at the end. But we’ve asked a lot of that kid in the last couple years and he’s performed quite well all things considered — his lack of experience, his age (24) and the fact we were playing him out of position.”

As far as what it means for Abreu, Hahn said: “It’s nice to have a guy you believe in as an alternative (in Vaughn), but it doesn’t take away from what José has accomplished for us over the years and his importance in the clubhouse. And if he’s not with us next year, he’ll be missed.

“It’s good that we’re insulated from a production standpoint against that departure. But certainly never would disrespect the importance he’s meant to this organization, and even if he winds up elsewhere, the fondness that we should look back on his time with us by saying, ‘Oh, it’s good we got this guy in his place.’ ”

White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada homers against the Guardians on Sept.  21, 2022, at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Moncada suffered a right oblique strain on the last day of spring training and began the season on the injured list.

It was the start of a challenging season for the third baseman, who slashed .212/.273/.353 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 104 games.

Moncada also missed time in late June with a right hamstring strain and in late August because of a left hamstring strain. He never got into a rhythm offensively.

“I think Yoán would describe (2022) as disappointing,” Hahn said. “He didn’t quite achieve, at least offensively, at the level that we’ve grown accustomed to with him.

Defensively, he was pretty much a stalwart over there and continues to show himself to be one of the better defensive third basemen in the league. But it’s a matter of getting back on track offensively.”

After setting a career high with 84 walks in 2021, Moncada had just 32 in 2022.

“(Manager) Pedro (Grifol) made reference of getting him back to being an 80-walk guy would certainly serve him well,” Hahn said. “There’s certain things within his swing and setup, etc., that we have identified and hopefully be able to implement some changes to unlock that or get him back to who he was.”

Tim Anderson sits in the dugout during a game against the Astros on Aug.  15, 2022, at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Anderson had the production, hitting . 301 and being named an All-Star starter. But his 79 games were the fewest in his career — except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — since arriving in the big leagues in 2016.

He suffered a sagittal band tear in his left middle finger in early August and missed the remainder of the season.

“It’s unfortunate we missed him for as long as we did,” Hahn said. “Certainly the finger thing was a freak occurrence which, knock on wood, something like that we don’t have to worry about going forward.

He’s such an integral part to what we do offensively. You see it when he’s not around. You notice the lower level of energy and activity on the bases.”

The Sox signed Elvis Andrus soon after Anderson’s injury, and the veteran hit . 271 in 43 games while filling in.

“Elvis came in and was an absolute pro, traditionally described as a ‘baseball player,’” Hahn said. “It was fun to have that element around and it’s one that would serve us well to have more guys replicating that.

But Tim’s an integral part when we’re winning. He sets the tone at the top of the lineup, and when he’s not there, he’s missed.”

Lenyn Sosa bats against the Orioles on June 23, 2022, at Guaranteed Rate Field.

After a slow start, Harrison finished with a . 256 average. Hahn said the team’s decision to decline the club option on the veteran “comes down to resource allocation, and we do have some internal options (at second base) and perhaps there’s a way to balance the lineup a little better at that spot. We’ll see.”

Internally, the Sox have Romy Gonzalez, Leury García and Lenyn Sosa. Gonzalez, 26, slashed .238/.257/.352 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 32 games. Sosa, 22, was 4-for-35 (. 114) with three runs in 11 games. García slashed .210/.233/.267 in 97 games.

“Leury’s best role was in that super-utility role, where he moves around and fills in from time to time as needed,” Hahn said. Obviously over time last year, the hip, back issue became a little too much and he was compromised offensively.

Having him in the right role has value. Obviously he needs to be healthy in order to do it. But it’s a matter of getting him back to where he was a few years back when he was known as a super-utility, fill-in guy.”

Speaking generally, not tied to a certain position or potential need, Hahn said the Sox are likely to be more active via trade than free agency this offseason. In any case, utilizing FanGraphs WAR across 2021-22, MLB.com listed Jean Segura (5.1) and Adam Frazier (4.7) as the top two free-agent second basemen.

“(Second base) is an area we feel we’ll spend some time this offseason if there is a way to get better,” Hahn said.

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