In a surprising move, the White Sox announced on Friday that they’ve requested release waivers on infielder Brett Lawrie. Assuming Lawrie clears waivers — a fair bet, given his $3.5MM salary for the 2017 season — he’ll become a free agent upon clearing in 48 hours. The Sox, it should be noted, won’t be on the hook for the entirety of that salary. Arbitration contracts aren’t fully guaranteed until Opening Day, so the Sox will only be on the hook for about one-sixth of that salary (30 days’ termination pay) — or about $574K.
The 27-year-old Lawrie made MLBTR’s list of non-tender candidates back in early December on the heels of a poor first year with the South Siders. The ChiSox, though, elected to tender him a contract and Lawrie agreed to take an extremely rare arbitration pay cut (he earned $4.125MM in 2016) in order to avoid being cut loose. Acquired from Oakland last winter, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with a dozen homers. Park-adjusted metrics like OPS+ (99) and wRC+ (92) thought his offense ranged anywhere from about league average to eight percent below the output of an average hitter.
Though Lawrie is a more experienced third baseman than second baseman, Chicago played him at second last season due to the acquisition of Todd Frazier. Defensive metrics weren’t kind to Lawrie in the largest single-season sample of work he’s received at second base, with Defensive Runs Saved pegging him at -4 and Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him at -5.5 runs.
A former first-round pick (16th overall by the Brewers in 2008), Lawrie once rated as one of baseball’s very best prospects and appeared poised to deliver on that hype upon debuting as a 21-year-old rookie in 2011. In that debut campaign with the Blue Jays — Milwaukee traded him to Toronto in exchange for Shaun Marcum in 2010 — Lawrie tallied 171 plate appearances and turned in a robust .293/.373/.580 batting line with nine homers and seven steals. His sophomore campaign wasn’t nearly that impressive, but he showed promise by hitting .273/.324/.405 as a 22-year-old. Since that time, though, his offensive output has never really taken off. And, in recent years, Lawrie has gone from a very low 15.4 percent strikeout rate to a lofty 28.4 percent mark in 2016.