The White Sox surprised everybody in the week before Thanksgiving by landing Yasmani Grandal, and without much in the way of smoke and rumors. They handed out their largest-ever free agent commitment to a catcher who would help solve the team’s framing, on-base percentage and lineup balance, making a large-enough splash that inherently promised more to come.
With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, the White Sox have been similarly quiet. The hope is that some similarly large transactions are in the works, and not that the White Sox are hoping that they can use the market forces to bend players into contracts that didn’t come within the same area code of their expectations. We could be waiting a while if that’s the case.
The only rumors right now involve low-level George Springer buzz. Outside of Springer’s right-handedness, he’s a great fit. His contract demands would be double the size of Grandal’s, which makes it harder to picture. If Rick Hahn wants to add “nine-figure contract” to his the-haters-say-we’d-never speech, go for it.
In the meantime, the Offseason Plan Project produced 33 other ideas for right field.
- Nomar Mazara (eight plans)
As mentioned in the post about the arb-eligible players, Mazara was actually tendered in nine plans, but only starting in eight of them. It’s a prospect nobody is thrilled about, but most defended the move by saying Mazara is a sorely needed left-hander, his season was thrown off by poorly timed strep, and there aren’t more compelling options for the price.
Here’s where I’ll give a nod to HallofFrank, who had the idea of extending him for two years and $8 million, hoping he’d take additional security in this economy, while finding a right-handed outfielder who is more compelling.
Here’s Springer, who would probably be at the top of the list if our GMs were convinced that the Sox would willingly meet the demands (the average AAV was $25 million). Pederson and Bradley are decent consolation prizes, in that they would help the White Sox in the outfield and from the left side, with the sturdy-against-lefties Adam Engel there to pick up the slack. Eaton would be in the same boat were he not coming off a .226/.285/.384 season that led to the Nationals declining his option. Also, the Drake LaRoche thing. I’d like to think the White Sox validated my long-running theory on Puíg by ignoring him all last winter (nobody wants to put José Abreu in the position of having to answer for a guy who isn’t his favorite).
Brantley would fit the White Sox lineup perfectly as a DH, but he’s less than ideal as anything more than a part-time left fielder. Likewise, a National League team who hadn’t planned on Ozuna as a DH was afforded the chance to do so, and it kept him out of the field in two-thirds of the game. Na was regarded a decent right fielder before injuring his knee in a slide in 2019. Given that he’s 31 and a little bit on the thicker side, he’ll have a lot to prove.
Grossman is an unexciting but underrated option against right-handed pitching, at least every other year. He hit .260/.357/.521 against righties for Oakland in 2020, but just .250/.344/.356 the year before. Reddick has been below-average the last three seasons, partially because he’s hit righties worse than lefties. Pass.
- Mark Canha (2)
Canha and his $6.2 million arbitration projection weren’t on the Eric Longenhagen’s potential non-tender board. Considering he’s hit .265/.393/.483 over the last two seasons around a sore shoulder, I’d jump at the chance to add him if the A’s were somehow to cut him loose. He’s in line to reach free agency after the season, so if this winter doesn’t work, maybe 2022 will make more sense.
Taking on money
The partial season was good to Heyward, who posted his highest slugging percentage since 2012 by hitting .265/.392/.465 over 50 games. That’s a 3-WAR pace after four seasons of averaging 1.8. He just reached 10-and-5 rights with the Cubs while buying a Gold Coast mansion for $5.9 million, but he’s got three years and $65 million left of his contract, which is its own kind of no-trade clause. Blackmon has a similar amount left on his deal, although the value of his 2023 player option will be determined partially by his performances in the previous two seasons. He was hitting .500 on Aug. 11, then sank to .216/.283/.327 the rest of the way.
In both cases, they’d make sense for the White Sox if they spent like a $160M team, and thus could afford to take on a big deal for a declining player as a way to acquire a better player. As long as that guy’s contract represents a sizable chunk of the team’s payroll, I don’t see the risk being worth the reward.
- Mitch Haniger (3)
- Andrew Benintendi (3)
- Sam Hillard (2)
- Austin Meadows (1)
- Clint Frazier (1)
- Bryan Reynolds (1)
Haniger posted a 6-WAR season for the Mariners in 2018, and it’s been hell since.
Unfortunately for Haniger, he struggled early in 2019 and his season ended after just 63 games when he suffered a ruptured testicle on a foul ball at the plate, requiring surgery.
The health troubles were just beginning for Hainger, as he had two offseason surgeries on a torn muscle in his groin area, which happened as he rehabbed from the initial surgery, and a herniated disc in his back, which was caused by the torn groin muscle. The two surgeries put a big dent into his 2020 aspirations even before the season was shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19.
His strikeout rate had spiked even before the testicle incident, so it’s hard to know what kind of player he’ll be when he returns the field, if he can. Benintendi also saw his progress stall after 2018, following up a muted 2019 with a rib injury that limited him to 52 plate appearances and a .103/.314/.128 line in 2020. He hasn’t played right field for the Red Sox, although mostly because Mookie Betts was there.
Meadows is on similarly shaky ground, hitting .205/.296/.371 for the Rays after a breakout season that made the Pirates look foolish in 2019. They’ve traded more productive players before, but it seems like they want to make dealing Kevin Kiermaier the way out of their outfield logjam. (We’ll see how Randy Arozarena’s domestic violence allegations unfold.)
Hilliard is a big power-hitting lefty with some impressive initial power numbers with the Rockies, but his 6-foot-5-inch strike zone leads to similarly large strikeout numbers (37 percent in the majors). Frazier finally got a clean shot with the Yankees and hit .267/.394/.511, making it harder for Brian Cashman to trade him given the frequent absences of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Reynolds followed up a fourth-place ROY finish in 2019 by hitting .189/.275/.357 for the woeful Pirates. His BABIP dropped 150 points year over year, but he also fared terribly against breaking pitches.
Calhoun has played as a few different versions of himself over the years. He’s settled into a high-ISO, low-average right fielder the last couple years, hitting .226/.338/.526 last year. That can be a style that ages poorly, but his defense is decent for the time being. Peralta has been far more consistent, as his career line (.291/.356/.475) is largely reflective of most of his seasons. He gains value by being above-average in left field. Both are lefties, both are Diamondbacks, both have similar salaries, although Peralta has an additional year of control at $7.5 million over the next two seasons, while Calhoun will make $8 million on the back half of a two-year deal in 2021, with a $9 million club option for 2022 ($2 million buyout).
Hernandez would be buying high based on last year, when he hit .289/.340/.579 and finished 11th in MVP voting. The power isn’t new, but the hit tool is, and it depends how you feel about that holding up for a guy who strikes out four times for every walk. He’d hit in the .230s over the prior two seasons. The same can be said for Santander, a switch-hitter who batted .261/.315/.575 over 37 games.
Conforto has been a terrific fit for the White Sox, and looked especially appealing while the Mets found different guys to play over him, or started him in center when he’s better suited to a corner. He’s harder to move now, what with a .322/.412/.515 line at the plate, and ownership that has the capital to keep him before he hits free agency next year. Most of the same points can be made for Nimmo, who bounced back nicely from a bunch of missed time in 2019. His case more depends on how much faith Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson have in their ability to improve their training system.
Yastrzemski has another five years of team control, but it’s not irrational to think he’s available because he’s a late bloomer who will turn 30 next year. He’s coming off a .297/.400/.568 season with San Francisco, which was good enough for an eighth-place MVP finish.
Gallo added to his incredibly bizarre profile with a Gold Glove, which you don’t often see for a right fielder who hit .181. He generates value around his strikeouts, but I wouldn’t look forward to having to defend his merits.
I’d missed Merrifield because my brain didn’t automatically register him as a right fielder. He’s on a nice little contract extension that covers up to four years for a maximum of $23 million, and the last of those is a club option. We’re all familiar with what he brings to the table — excellent hit tool, speed, some pop, speed and versatility — but entering his age-32 season, there’s reason to think the Royals don’t see his prime and their next wave overlapping.
Going for broke
ditkaditkaditka had the White Sox acquiring Soto in a swap of positive COVID tests, but while Yoán Moncada struggled with the aftereffects of his illness, Soto wasn’t sure he had it to begin with. His performance backed up that assessment. He hit .351/.490/.595, leading the National League in all of the triple-slash categories. He was just limited to 47 games.
soxLIFER put together the biggest, boldest trade of the project:
- White Sox receive: Christian Yelich, Brandon Woodruff, Josh Hader
- Brewers receive: Eloy Jiménez, Andrew Vaughn, Dylan Cease, Zack Collins, Micker Adolfo, Jonathan Stiever, Jace Fry
The White Sox package feels a bit too much of “… and the rest!” after Vaughn to think it’s able to get that much major-league value in return, but the Brewers do seem to be in cost-cutting mode, and Yelich hit .205 this summer after an MVP in 2018 and a runner-up in 2019. If he doesn’t straighten it out, Milwaukee is staring at seven years of a $26 million salary on their books. If the Brewers had reason to fear decline, this deal makes more sense.
Ohtani only hit .190/.291.366 over 44 games, and elbow issues have limited him to 210 games over his first two seasons. The new Angels front office still sees him as a potential two-way player, and I’m guessing Arte Moreno wouldn’t give up on such a marketing opportunity until every avenue of production is exhausted. Brian Godish had this one as a straight swap for Michael Kopech, and while I think it’s a little light in terms of what the White Sox are giving up, Kopech strikes me as an adequate headliner.
While the Diamondbacks have a couple of full-time outfielders who might be available, freeryan_10 looked at their infield and found Marte, who has played some center alongside work at second base and shortstop. The package he proposed (Vaughn, Stiever, Matthew Thompson, Bryce Bush) is heavy if Marte’s 2019 season .329/.389/.592 is the outlier is appears to be. If he’s got more where that came from, the four years and $33 million remaining on his extension is plus cost certainty.
ThunderSuck was so proud of moving Anderson to right field that he put it in the headline of his plan (The Tim Anderson Plan), and the first two paragraphs.
I should address this before I get into the rest of the plan: TIM ANDERSON SHOULD BE THE BIG RIGHT FIELD ACQUISITION.
It really isn’t far-fetched. Yes, he has developed into a fine SS, just like Mookie Betts was a fine 2B, but his skills are better served in RF. For so long the question was IF Anderson could stick at SS. But something strange happened along the way. His offense exploded. And now he has an offensive profile that can carry a right-field position, where his speed, arm, and leaping can be put to even better use. Not only that, but between La Pantera and TA, you should have an exceptional two-thirds of outfield defense for the next half-decade.
TA is solid but not great at short, but he could be great in right.
This idea might only be far-fetched because the White Sox have been loath to play guys out of position over the last decade. Before Anderson’s offense burst out of its middle-infield limitations, Yoán Moncada had the athleticism and production to play anywhere. Rick Renteria limited him to second base only in 2018, followed by third base only in 2019 and 2020. Perhaps there’s something to their approach, but I also think it takes leadership to create an environment where positional experiments don’t automatically add pressure.
(Photo by KeithAllisonPhoto.com)