Giants claim Yermin Mercedes off waivers from White Sox, assign to Triple-A

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Giants claim slugger Mercedes off waivers from White Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- For a brief moment at the start of the 2021 season, Yermin Mercedes was one of the best stories in baseball. The Giants are hoping he can catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

A week after he was designated by the Chicago White Sox, Mercedes was claimed by the Giants, per league sources. Catcher Michael Papierski was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Mercedes, 29, had just one big league plate appearance before last season, but he batted .415 and five homers last April. He became the first player in MLB history to record five hits in his first big league start, and followed that up with seven over his next three games, a stretch that included his first career homer off current Giant Alex Cobb.

Mercedes was named the American League's Rookie of the Month in his first month in the big leagues, but his White Sox career tailed off from there.

In May, Mercedes became a national story when he swung 3-0 against a position player and hit a homer. It might not be a huge deal for a team like the Giants, but White Sox manager Tony La Russa publicly criticized his rookie. Mercedes hit just .196 in May and June and was optioned to the minors. He stunned the White Sox a few weeks later by announcing on Instagram that he planned to step away from the game, but he quickly reconsidered and spent the rest of the season in Triple-A.

Since being optioned, Mercedes has spent all of his time in Triple-A for the White Sox. He had hand surgery in March but has returned to play in 25 minor league games, posting a .230/.376/.425 slash line with four homers.

On the surface, Mercedes is an odd fit for the Giants. He is primarily a designated hitter and bats from the right side, a profile they already have on their big league roster. But they never pass up an opportunity to acquire depth for their Triple-A roster and this season has shown that they'll often acquire players -- like Mike Ford -- who can be temporary fill-ins. The Giants have used both of their right-handed-hitting catchers against lefty starters multiple times this season, including Saturday, so it's possible they find a cameo for a right-handed bat at some point soon.

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It would be a very, very 2022 Giants move for them to call up Mercedes on Monday to start against left-handed Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried, and then give that roster spot to Anthony DeSclafani if he comes off the IL to start Tuesday's game.