A stir was caused during Friday night’s game between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

In what was shaping up to be an intriguing pitchers’ duel of a game, the contest was deadlocked with no score in the bottom of the 5th when the White Sox placed runners on second and third with one out and light-hitting infielder Nicky Lopez at the plate. The Guards brought the infield around starter Carlos Carrasco and Lopez hit a bouncing ball at Gabriel Arias playing second base. Arias, playing in replacement of Platinum Glove winner Andres Gimenez, misplayed the ball, taking his eye off it in order to focus on the runners before catching the high bounce. The ball would get passed Arias and both runners would score.

The play would be worth more Win Probability Added than any other play in the game. The White Sox would extend their newfound 2-0 lead to 3-0 before the inning was over and ultimately win the game by a final of 6-3.

What ensued after the play was a significant amount of commentary from the Guardians’ television broadcast about the impact of Arias’ misplay. Factually, the misplay was the most important play of the game. The data shows that. I give Matt Underwood, Rick Manning and Andre Knott credit for recognizing that in real time and emphasizing the impact of this sole play in what had been an incredibly tight game to that point with both teams struggling to score.

But man, did they ever emphasize it. Arias botched the play, and it was impactful. That much is clearly true, but the commentary also did not stop there.

Matt Underwood: “You know who I feel for right now is Rouglas Odor, the infield coach who, every single day, works with the infielders, before today’s game, specifically with Arias, working on the short hop drill prior to going out to take infield practice.”

Andre: “There was a comment made. I’m being careful in how I say this. You know, they talk about how you practice is how you play. Some guys take those drills and they kind of go through the motions and some guys take them very seriously. Sometimes, it shows up when the games starts, how you practice.”

Translation: Arias wasn’t taking his preparation very seriously pre-game. And its come back to bite him and maybe cost the Guardians the game.

I was struck by how bold of a statement was made by our booth/dugout reporter. Particularly from Knott, who seems to pride himself on spending a lot of time in the clubhouse, building relationships with the players and telling their stories, I did not expect him to call out a player’s effort with so many eyeballs and ears open.

That’s just the thing though. Knott is a lot of things. I’ve read online from fans that think he is annoying or has a heightened sense of self. I personally disagree and think he does an excellent job both accomplishing his goal of representing the team’s stories as well as having fun during the broadcast. I also think he does a good job of conveying sentiments from the clubhouse. I fear that is what he did here.

That would mean there is a growing feeling, even frustration, from either the players, coaching staff or both that Arias doesn’t put the work in to be great. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played well enough to get away with a lack of prep either.

Arias made the team out of Spring Training in a utility role, losing out on the starting shortstop job to Brayan Rocchio despite having more Major League experience and having better power potential on a team that came into the season devoid of power. Neither player separated themselves with their play in the spring. Given the circumstances, it was somewhat unexpected that Rocchio would win the job. If effort is a concern with Arias, Rocchio winning the starting job makes a lot more sense.

‘Arias is hitting .240 with just a .260 On Base Percentage and .360 Slugging Percentage in 24 games/77 plate appearances. His season has already been an odd one offensively in that between April 9th and April 21st the Guardians didn’t have a hotter hitter (not named Josh Naylor at least). He hit .353 with one homer, three doubles and was playing all over the field. Manager Stephen Vogt would even slot Arias into center-field even though he had never played the position in a MLB game before, just to get his bat in the lineup.

Arias has slashed .156/.182/.188 with one double and no walks since that hot streak ended. He’s struck out in 36.4% of his at bats. He went from being so hot that the team needed to find ways to get him into the lineup to becoming unplayable over night. His butcher job on Friday night might just be a new low.

He could still turn this around, but Arias may be running out of time. Gifted with great physical tools, Arias is athletic, he moves well, he can be versatile in the field, he has natural power to the opposite field and a rocket for a throwing arm. None of this has translated to sustained MLB success. Arias did not impress in a September call-up in 2022, being outplayed (in my opinion) by Tyler Freeman. Last season he played in 122 games for the Guards, but rode a .352 slugging percentage to a paltry 74 OPS+ (100 is average, higher is better). He struck out in nearly 1/3 of his plate appearances.

He missed out on the starting shortstop job to start the year and isn’t doing much to win it back. Between poor performance and poor attitude, there is some chance Arias isn’t long for the Guardians 26-man roster. At minimum, this a new tumultuous test for Vogt as a first time manager.

Arias’s biggest saving grace is that no one that plays 2B/SS/3B in the minors and is on the Guardians’ 40-man roster is putting a lot of pressure on the front office to be promoted. Neither Juan Brito (.192/.346/.328) nor Jose Tena (.256/.309/.341) are currently hitting at AAA Columbus. Angel Martinez was making a great case to make the team out of Spring Training until getting injured and then breaking his hamate bone while rehabbing. The team won’t sniff the opportunity for his return until the end of this month at the very earliest. If the team really wanted to make a statement, they could promote Tena. A more likely scenario is that they may see how Martinez comes back from rehab and then have a decision on their hands.

Corners of the internet are vying for Daniel Schneemann to be promoted, but Schneemann is not on the 40-man roster and would require someone to be waived in order be promoted. The Guardians would be making an incredibly bold statement in waiving Arias in order to promote a 27-year old career minor leaguer with no prospect pedigree. Schneemann had a rock solid 2023 at Columbus hitting .267 with 13 homers and 30 doubles and is off to a great start in 2024, hitting .293 with seven home runs in just 35 games. He’s having good enough success in the minors to get consideration, but the team would be going out on a limb to promote a player when the perception seems to be his bat won’t translate to the highest level. Granted, similar sentiments were suggested about David Fry.

Arias getting demoted is likely a stretch for right now, but it seems he isn’t doing much to ingratiate himself to his teammates, coaching staff or organization. Poor play is one thing. But if the effort isn’t being put in behind the scenes either, that makes for a situation that can’t last, especially on a team that has max effort and not taking anything for granted as its ethos.

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