As the White Sox quest to find a second baseman continues, one name keeps popping up. A reunion with Nick Madrigal. With the Cub’s addition of Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner is expected to slide over from shortstop to second base. Madrigal suddenly finds himself without a starting job next season. The White Sox have an opening at second base.
However, trading for Madrigal is not only an unrealistic option but also an incredibly bad one. Yet everywhere you go, someone from the White Sox fan base will bring up the undersized second baseman. It’s time to put the Nick Madrigal pipe dream to rest officially.
It’s easy to see some White Sox fan’s infatuation with Madrigal. He was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 2018 Draft out of Oregon State and had all the tools to develop into an elite contact hitter.
During his time at Oregon State, he was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Player of the Year, a Golden Spikes finalist, won an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove, and was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team twice.
Upon being drafted, Baseball America had him pegged as the No. 3 prospect, best hitter for average, and Best Defensive Infielder in the White Sox system. He was also considered the 40th overall prospect in baseball.
Madrigal made his MLB debut in 2020 and found some success during his limited playing time. He started 29 games, all at second base, and recorded a hit in 21 of those games while reaching base safely in 23. His .340 average was the second highest among rookies, behind just Willie Castro. Madrigal only struck out seven times in 109 plate appearances (6.4 percent), earning the nickname Nicky Two Strikes.
However, he landed on the 10-day injury list with a separated left shoulder in August from an awkward slide attempt in Milwaukee. This kept him out of the lineup for 22 days. Once the season ended in he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the shoulder in October.
Despite the injury setback, expectations were high entering the 2021 season. After a slow start to his sophomore season, he began to heat up, hitting .305/.349/.425 with 21 RBIs and his first two MLB home runs. In the month of June, he was hitting .391 before going down with a season-ending injury.
For White Sox fans, their last memory of Madrigal was him on a heater. He was playing with confidence and getting results at the plate. Madrigal was dealt to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline in a package with Cody Heuer in exchange for Craig Kimbrel.
At the time, it was an objectively good move. It bolstered the White Sox bullpen with a Hall of Fame reliever as they prepared to go on a deep playoff run. Things didn’t work out as planned. The White Sox used Kimbrel primarily as a setup man, and he struggled, posting a 5.09 ERA. He also allowed 31 baserunners in 23 innings. When the White Sox did give him save opportunities, he failed to get the job done. He only converted 1 of 4 save opportunities, including back-to-back blown saves against Boston. He also allowed six home runs in 39 appearances after allowing just one on the Northside of town.
Many White Sox fans have buyer’s remorse. Their last recollection of Madrigal in a White Sox uniform was a positive one, and the guy they got back in return stunk. But those who were not paying attention to the Northside of town may have missed Madrigal’s rough year.
In his first season with the Cubs, he slashed .249/.305/.282 with a career-high in strikeouts and a career-low in RBIs. The fact that his batting average was even that high was only because of a hot stretch in August.
Madrigal was also limited due to injury for the third time in as many years. The 25-year-old played just 59 games, which is still the most he has ever played in the majors. Two different groin strains and a back injury robbed him of any opportunity to find his footing.
Madrigal has also never been a great defender at the major league level. He led all second basemen in errors in 2020 and was graded in the bottom 14 percentile in arm strength, according to Baseball Savant.
At this point in the White Sox so-called “contention window,” they need a proven commodity at second base. Giving up assets for an injury-prone retread and hoping that he bounces back after a terrible season is not the way to go.
The White Sox farm system is depleted as it is. If they are going to give up assets, it better be for an upgrade at second base. Madrigal is not that. His .587 OPS was lower than Josh Harrison’s last season. Even if the price to trade for him was low, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. The injury concerns are real.
Madrigal has only been in the league three seasons, yet he has already complied more games on the bench than he has on the field. If the Cubs thought he was good, they wouldn’t have replaced him this off-season. If he isn’t good enough for the rebuilding Cubs, why should he be good enough for the contending White Sox?
The Cubs also have little reason to trade him. He is under contract until 2026 and could serve as a nice depth piece for them. With his bat-to-ball skills, manager David Ross has a nice option off the bench late in games, especially if he needs to move a runner over.
The White Sox have shown no interest in trading for Madrigal. Nor should they. They missed their opportunity to upgrade at second base when they failed to sign Jean Segura. Adding Madrigal would only make the situation at second base worse.