The defense doesn’t rest: an ode to Yolmer

Lady Justice is blindfolded: Too few Sox defenders play like they’re not.

He would have earned odes from Shakespeare and Holmer,

But there’s not a damned thing that rhymes with Yolmer.

Friends, Sox fans and roster planners, I come not to bury Yolmer, but to praise him …
noted baseball analyst Mark Antony, after others stuck knives in the back of the person in question

There is something rotten in dem marks made by fans crafting offseason plans for the White Sox. Well, maybe a lot rotten, and a lot more idle wishing, but one thing has stood out to me this time around — almost no one wants to tender Yolmer Sánchez.

I never embarrass myself by making one of those projections, because almost everyone who participates in Sox blogs is more knowledgeable than I, and because my list of critical non-tenders would start with Jerry Reinsdorf, then work its way through KennyRick, Don Cooper, and the entire scouting and player development departments. It wouldn’t even make it to players until page four.

Oh, a few want to non-tender Yolmer and then sign him for $15.95 and a couple of Kit Kat bars, but mostly it’s “let him go, Nick Madrigal will be Rogers Hornsby and Jackie Robinson all in one package.” Now, if the Sox can make a deal ahead of time with Sr. Sánchez and avoid the whole tendering thing, great, but taking a chance on losing him over a few bucks is, well, very White Soxy. That’s losing him with no gain. The smart move is to keep Yolmer until you find out Madrigal is all he’s advertised to be, and some contender will give up a nice prospect or two for a 27-year-old defensive wiz next summer. And even with Madrigal around, Yolmer could make a nice late-inning defensive replacement at short if the D there stays as it has been.

The Sánchez tender is at $6 million. That’s a whole bunch of money in real life, but the very lowest estimates have a point of WAR worth about $4 million, and Yolmer hasn’t been under 2.0 WAR since he was a part-timer in 2016. That’s serious value-added. If the Sox got that from everyone, we’d all be talking about how the World Series went.

As for Madrigal, there’s every reason to believe he’ll eventually be really good. But he’s not there yet, and he’s unlikely to even be on the roster when the 2020 season starts. In the meantime, do you really want to watch even worse schlock defense than the Sox already provide, or would you rather watch this?

Let’s face it — the White Sox are hard to watch when they’re at bat, but are truly unwatchable on defense. They have two players who are any good in the field — Golden Glover Yolmer and one-time Golden Glove finalist Adam Engel. Well, OK, James McCann came in at 1.4 dWAR, but catchers are like umpires: They squat, wear lots of padding, and when doing a really good job, you don’t even notice they’re there. So the watchable defenders are Sánchez and Engel.

(One thing it’s hard to blame KennyRick for is that the only two solid fielders who should come to the majors next year — Madrigal and Luis Robert — will replace the only two good fielders they already have. It may be the only thing it’s hard to blame them for.)

Yolmer is even more amazing when you consider he has a terrible fielder to his left, a very shaky one to his right, and apparently a fan picked at random before the game behind him. Without Yolmer, Tim Anderson would have run away with the Most Errors in MLB championship. Oh, wait — he did, anyway. Well, TA would have won it by a lot more.

(As for the inaction to his left, almost every offseason plan says the Sox are desperate for a DH. Fascinating, because the Sox already have two excellent DHs. They don’t need another — they need a first baseman and/or left fielder.)

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Yolmer ruled as his demesne;
Hall-of-Famer John Keats, “On Looking into Chapman’s Yolmer.” (Demesne is apparently an old English word for “Gatorader.”)

The Sox have plenty of money to spend — if the CMO (Cheapskate Miser Overlord) will part with it. If not, well, it won’t matter whether Yolmer can hit or not. And if they use it to put Nicholas Castellanos or some other stone-hand in right field, they’ll become even more unwatchable than now.

Besides his fielding prowess, Yolmer is the one guy on the Sox who looks like he actually enjoys the game.

Eloy Jiménez shows the spirit most of the time, and will probably eventually be the spirit leader. But on defense, we’re all just as amazed as he is when he actually catches a ball, so he has some way to go.

Yes, Yolmer is a weak hitter, even though his K-to-BB ratio of 2.66-to-1 is a little better than the MLB average, instead of the horrific worst-in-baseball White Sox level of 4.1-to-1. Lots of teams fare very well while carrying a good-field-not-much-hit middle infielder. Of course, those teams find solid hitters at other positions, which means either drafting well or developing well or coaching well or trading well or spending money or … well, something. But that’s not Yolmer’s fault.

Admittedly, I usually sit in the cheap seats, but did have the occasion to sit right next to the on-deck circle once, and can assuredly say that Yolmer is everything he’s cracked up to be in providing fun and spirit and boosting morale for both teammates and fans. And you all want to non-tender him when the cost is far below what his WAR is worth, not even considering the entertainment value? Shame on you.

“…as we advance in life these things fall off one by one, and I suspect we are left with Yolmer and Virgil, perhaps with only Yolmer alone.”
Former GM Thomas Jefferson, who picked up the free agent Louisiana Purchase for just $15 million