Chicago White Sox May Have Found a Bargain in Lastings Milledge
In 2001, Baseball America had Lastings Milledge listed as the best 16-year-old player in the country. Not even a decade later, he's settling for a minor-league deal and should be thankful for an invite to spring training with the Chicago White Sox.
It's amazing how quickly a baseball prospect can disappear.
In the 2003 amateur draft, Milledge was expected to be a top-three pick, but when the draft came, press reports regarding the expulsion of Milledge from Northside Christian High School after his junior year due to allegedly having sex with a minor resurfaced. Milledge fell to the New York Mets as the No. 12 pick.
After the draft, the Mets began contract negotiations with Milledge, but those were also halted due to more sexual misconduct reports surfacing from Milledge's time at Northside.
In May 2006, Milledge made his major-league debut. The honeymoon wouldn't last too long, as issues regarding his demeanor on the field brought on shots from his manager and even a note on his locker from Billy Wagner that read, "Know Your Place, Rook!"
Milledge didn't supply much bite for his bark on the field. In 56 games, he hit just .241 with four home runs and 22 RBI.
In 2007, Milledge made the Mets' opening day roster, but saw limited play and was sent down to the minors. In May, Milledge was linked to a rap song called "Bend Ya Knees" in which the words "bitch", "ho" and "nigga" were used. The Mets organization immediately made a statement that it had nothing to with the song.
The Mets would eventually trade Milledge in November 2007 to the Washington Nationals.
Milledge became the everyday center fielder for the Nationals in 2008, hitting .268 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI, 24 stolen bases and an OBP of .330. Due to a groin injury, however, Milledge played in just 138 games.
In 2009, Milledge started the season getting on base five times in 24 at-bats with 10 strikeouts. The Nationals sent Milledge to the minors and eventually traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates reported that Milledge showed a better work ethic and glove work, while hitting .291 with four home runs, 20 RBI and an OBP of .333 in 58 games in 2009. Milledge then hit .277 with four home runs, 34 RBI and a .332 OBP in 113 games last season for the Pirates.
On December 2, Milledge became a free agent when the Pirates decided not to tender a contract offer to him for 2011. Eleven days later, Milledge got in a fight during a Venezuelan winter league game.
Okay, Milledge has some issues, shown no power (eight home runs in his last 651 at-bats) and no speed (after 24 stolen bases in 138 games in 2009, he has stolen 19, while getting caught 11 times, in 243 games), but he is only 25.
Yes, he's had injuries (2004 fractured metacarpal on his right hand, 2007 foot injury, 2008 groin strain, 2009 injury in Triple-A).
What do you think of the signing?
Yes, he wears the ridiculous No. 85, but that was because he gave No. 44 to Adam Dunn, so he can't be all that bad of a clubhouse guy.
And, more importantly, yes, it's a bad sign when the Pirates don't want you.
But, it isn't as if the White Sox signed him to a long-term deal. GM Kenny Williams said last month the White Sox had $500,000 to sign a fourth outfielder. Why not get a 25-year-old former first-round pick who has shown some kind of talent, even if it is a tiny bit?
Perhaps a change of scenery (in this case, three changes of scenery in six seasons) will do the trick.
It's not as if he has the slightest chance of starting over Juan Pierre, Alex Rios or Carlos Quentin, but he can give them rest and has played everyday outfield in the major leagues before, so why not?
And, hey, if he stinks on the field, he'll at least be entertaining off it.
For $500,000, Sox fans, be happy it isn't the 39-year-old Carl Everett.
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