12 White Sox-adjacent players worth following in 2020

Zack Wheeler
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

When Avisaíl Garcia left Chicago for Tampa Bay after the 2018 season, there was no reason for White Sox fans to feel regret or remorse. His career with the Sox had run its course, because the White Sox never got away from needing 150 starts from him, and García had proven unable to answer that bell for more than one season.

That said, I remained interested in García’s 2019 season, if only because I wanted to know what he looked like playing for a team that only needed him for maybe 80 starts if things didn’t go well, with more playing time if they did. He cleared that lower bar by plenty, hitting .282/.332/.464 over 125 games, and he parlayed it into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

There are a number of players that I follow with specific interest every season for similar reasons. Sometimes, like García, they represent a change of scenery for a player the Sox couldn’t unlock. Others represented possible solutions to a position, but the Sox (or the player) chose otherwise. And others are just players I thought might have fit the Sox’s plans, but never really registered.

I came up with 12 this year, and I’m sure you can add more to the list.

Bryce Harper/Manny Machado

What keeps me from giving Rick Hahn’s offseason a super-enthusiastic endorsement is the idea that he could’ve signed two key players — Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel — a year earlier. Instead, he made his entire offseason about pursuing two superstars even though Jerry Reinsdorf had no intent to close the deal. At least the White Sox got to draft Jared Kelley for their wait. We’ll see if he’s worth it.

Machado’s presence is less necessary now that Yoán Moncada has staked his claim to third, but the White Sox’s indifference toward Harper still confuses because the Sox could still somebody just like him, even if his first with the Phillies was merely good instead of great. Nomar Mazara‘s going to try to be that guy in 2020, although his next good year will be his first one. Still, he has a better shot than Jon Jay.

Josh Donaldson

Despite not being an automatic fit for the White Sox, Donaldson was my top free agent position player outside of Yasmani Grandal. Moncada’s late start revealed how little depth the Sox have at third, and if Moncada were fully operational, they still needed a DH. Most of all, the Twins represented a legit landing spot, and given his ability to singlehandedly torment the Sox when they barely saw him, I really didn’t want to see him in the division.

Welp, he’s in the division, and with those Twins. The Sox instead went with Edwin Encarnacíon for a year. And now we clench.

PERTINENT: White Sox now have to deal with Josh Donaldson directly

Zack Wheeler

The White Sox were willing to spend five years and $125 million to land Wheeler, but when he chose the Phillies for five years and $120 million, the Sox shifted their attention to Keuchel. Wheeler’s status for the season remains uncertain due to his wife’s pregnancy, while Keuchel has looked every bit the veteran rotation ballast the Sox craved, so they might have come out ahead for Year One.

The simple matter of availability might make this particular matchup a binary judgment. If Wheeler does pitch, I’ll be wondering if the Sox picked a worthy target to attempt to smash their contract record, although I’m not sure anybody can hold a lackluster season against him given the circumstances.

PERTINENT: Pandemic puts strange spin on White Sox’s offseason pitching pursuit

Nick Castellanos/Marcell Ozuna/Yasiel Puig

All of these free agents would have improved the White Sox’s corner outfield situation, but each also brought significant flaws that ran the risk of offsetting a lot of value. The first two are poor defenders, and the last brings his own bag of mystery, which now includes a COVID-19 test that blew up his attempt to sign with the Braves.

Ozuna’s defense might be moot if he takes the bulk of Atlanta’s DH plate appearances. Castellanos ended up landing with the Reds, which reminds me…

Shogo Akiyama

For the second straight year, the White Sox and Reds could have had each other’s offseasons. Cincinnati’s included Akiyama, a 32-year-old left-handed, OBP-oriented center fielder who could have filled the White Sox’s outfield vacancy. His skill set intrigued me more than any other NPB player making the jump.

PERTINENT: The White Sox and Reds are paralleling each other again

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo

He was loosely connected to the White Sox early in the offseason as everybody cast a wide net to address their corner woes, but his eft-handed power wasn’t enough to offset my concerns of strikeouts and subpar corner defense. The White Sox went with a more proven type in this mold with Mazara. Tsutsugo ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Rays for two years and $12 million, which made me reconsider my apprehensions given their ability to make a lot out of a little. Then he struck out in 13 of his first 28 spring training plate appearances, so maybe not.

Dylan Covey

Covey was never put in a position to succeed with the White Sox, who always needed him to absorb starts when he proved unable to fill that role time and time and time and time again. The question was whether his power sinker afforded him the possibility of success in shorter outings. I thought the Rays had plans for him in an opener-type setting, but then this news crossed the wire:

When it comes to snap judgment, I was inclined to think the Rays were just that creative. Here, I’m thinking the Red Sox might just be that desperate.

PERTINENT: Dylan Covey and the White Sox are free from each other

Yolmer Sánchez

The clown prince of the White Sox rebuild grew too expensive through arbitration for his abilities, and the long-term infield forecast on the South Side looked too oppressive to rebuild his value. So Sánchez headed to San Francisco in his quest to show that his swing change can yield more pop, and two infield injuries have given him a lane.

The pandemic has not changed him.

Nate Jones

It turns out you can go home again. After a sequence of surgeries ended his time with the only organization he knew, the former White Sox reliever and Northern Kentucky native turned a minor-league deal with the Cincinnati Reds into an Opening Day roster spot.

The White Sox have plenty of right-handed relievers, so they had no choice but to move on. I’m just more curious about whether it’s even physically possible for Jones to remain healthy, given that five of his last six seasons have been thoroughly compromised by injuries. I’ll be rooting for him.

(Photo of Zack Wheeler by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

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dwjm3

Yolmer with a respirator on …hahaha …He is the best.

Patrick Nolan

This is a good list. It’s less White Sox adjacent, but I’m interested in seeing how Hyun-Jin Ryu does. He seemed like an excellent candidate for the White Sox to pursue when the market was down to basically him and Keuchel, but they were never really connected with him. Honestly Keuchel looks so good right now that I’m not having serious regrets, but he was pretty high up on my list of targets.

tommytwonines

The masochist in me will be checking the stats for Tatis and Semien, guys in the organization who got away.

andyfaust

Another guy to watch, albeit for completely a different reason than those previously mentioned is George Springer. Now that Mookie is extending in LA, he’s the only $plash worthy guy out there to man RF.

Oddvark

I pay attention to how the big rebuid trade pieces (Sale, Quintana, Eaton) are performing.

I was also interested to see if Matt Davidson’s attempts at becoming a two-way player ever developed. It looks like he is in the Reds’ 60-man player pool, so maybe there is life left in him yet.

Oddvark

Matt Davidson makes the Reds’ Opening Day 30-man roster!

gusguyman

Good list. Jim, are you planning follow-up articles on this group at mid-season or after the season ends? I hope so, I’d be looking forward to the analysis!