Different corner outfield strategies on display in AL Central

When the White Sox struck quickly to resolve their corner outfield spot by signing Adam Eaton, some of the dissatisfaction stemmed from the idea that they could have waited to let the market shake out. Joc Pederson signing with the Cubs for $3 million less than the White Sox offered and two months after they offered it failed to flatter either side of those negotiations. Now that we’re fully aware of the Sox’s cost-consciousness this winter, rushing to get the Eaton deal done doesn’t make more sense than it did.

Now, how White Sox fans would have handled a slow play for a critical position will never be known, and you’d be justified in harboring doubts. It also can’t be assumed that Eaton could’ve been landed for less. The market isn’t perfect, as evidenced by the Nationals signing Kyle Schwarber for more than his arbitration projection, and Brad Hand for more than his declined option. If they wanted Eaton above all else, they probably signed him when they had to.

As always, if Eaton discovers some of his past mojo, the White Sox will come off as canny, because he meets a lot of their needs on paper. If Eaton ages as poorly as his banged-up profile suggests is possible, it’ll look like the White Sox just wanted to get the winter over with. I’d find it more fascinating if the stakes weren’t so high.

Anyway, I’m rehashing the Eaton timeline because three other AL Central teams waited until February to make left-handed corner outfield additions, and two of them are compelling ideas. The White Sox already tried the other one.

There’s Eddie Rosario, whose one-year, $8 million contract with Cleveland became official on Feb. 4. The Royals traded for Andrew Benintendi and cash on Wednesday, sending Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later to the Red Sox, and outfield prospect Khalil Lee to the Mets in a three-player deal. A day later, the Tigers signed Nomar Mazara for one year and $1.75 million, as the price to buy into his breakout keeps dropping.

All of these are small bets, but illuminating to a degree. Cleveland is a fine direct comparison for the White Sox, because they’re both in need of immediate production from a left-handed bat, and he might play in either corner for the Cleveland Nine.

The solutions for KC and Detroit (Robbie Grossman signed before Mazara) aren’t nearly as solid. Benintendi’s production has flattened out over the last two years, and his defense took a step back as well. Nobody here needs a briefing on Mazara, but reviewing what I wrote when the White Sox traded for him two winters ago bolsters the notion that your snap judgments about their sore spots are usually correct.

Hahn’s only going out on a limb if Mazara is Plan A for the yawning chasm in right field, because Mazara wasn’t good enough to hold that job for a team that’s trying to contend. […]

Nobody should trust that the White Sox can cut corners successfully. Even Hahn shouldn’t. This whole rebuild and the resetting of the payroll was supposed to allow the Sox to point a money cannon at their problems, instead of being compelled to thinly spread money around to a bunch of players who are as likely to be as cuttable as they are valuable. Mazara, set to earn a projected $5.7 million in his second arbitration year while still searching for his first 1 WAR season, fits that mold like he ordered it himself.

And in the post addressing the first rumblings of Mazara at the rumor stage, I said that it would’ve been a better move for the 2019 White Sox than the 2020 White Sox.

The Royals and Tigers are adding on what resembles a more sensible timeline. Both are trying to get feistier without spending too much for a marginal shift in the odds, so they’re betting on disappointing players who are both just 26, because maybe they can reap the benefits within the next couple of years. When the White Sox were at that stage of trying to compete without overcomitting, they signed a 34-year-old Jon Jay. Then, when they determined that the time had arrived to push, they traded for a 25-year-old underachiever.

Didn’t the White Sox do it backward? The signing Eaton seems to say so, because while he’s a modest financial obligation, he’s a heavy bet on the value of certainty when the White Sox can get the most use out of adequacy. Right field is his best position, he hits from the preferred side of the plate, and he’s produced in their uniform and park for multiple years. The White Sox left nothing to the imagination in that corner. Let’s just hope it’s not because they’re incapable of imagining better.

(Photo by KeithAllisonPhoto.com)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I said going into this winter that the Sox needed to add 2 left-handed outfield bats, one to play right field and the other to platoon with Eloy at LF/DH. If he’s healthy, Eaton is a good signing. Of course, that is a big if. As the offseason wore on, it became so obvious that the Sox could get the 2nd bat for rather cheap, looking at what Rosario and Pederson signed for.
I know there’s been considerable discussion on here about whether Vaughn can handle DH. There are several problems with that. First, Eloy is now the everyday left fielder, since Vaughn and Abreu will handle 1B/DH. That means even more chances for him to get hurt trying to play out there every day. Second, part of the argument for Vaughn has been, “Well, if he doesn’t hit, we can just upgrade at the deadline.” Teams with championship aspirations don’t force untested rookies into the lineup, they make them force their way in. Experimenting with Vaughn for 3 months is absolutely unneccessary. If he mashes in spring training and forces his way onto the roster, that’s a great problem to have. Are the Dodgers or Padres concerned that Dustin May or Mackenzie Gore might force their way into their respective rotations? Absolutely not, and neither should the Sox be concerned about Vaughn raking and taking at bats away from someone like Rosario. The lack of depth on this team is stunning for a team whose window is wide open. If Eaton and Eloy are both hurt at the same time (and that has a very good chance of happening), the outfield become Robert, Engel and Leury or Nick Williams. That’s unacceptable.


Exactly, right. There’s a lot of talent on this team right now but the dearth of organizational depth is astonishing and the Sox don’t seem to care.

Maybe, next year is the year that they plan to go all in?


Yes, the talent on this team is greater than at any time since 2006. But the depth of organizational talent is stunningly low for a team that spent at least 3 years rebuilding. There are so many depth pieces that have signed by teams over the last few weeks, while Rick and Jerry sit on their hands. A championship-caliber team should not have to hope everything goes right to win. But unfortunately, that is the position the Sox are in.

Just John

I’m wondering how much free agent destination preference could be affecting the White Sox depth. In no particular order, I’d guess the driving forces behind signing a player are (1) money, (2) location, (3) path to playing time, (4) social fit, and (5) the team’s intent/ability to win.
The Dodgers have become the obvious comparison to the way our team (or anyone else’s) runs their business. Well, the Dodgers have the market clearly cornered on number’s 1, 2, 5, and one could make a case for 4.
The greater point here is that the White Sox don’t lead in ANY of these categories. Arguments could be made for number 5, but if players have feelings at all similar to folks that frequent this site, 5 is out as well.
In the case for Joc and the Sox vs Cubs destination, 2 (location) is a wash, 4 (fit) is difficult to say (tip towards Cubs with TLR influence?), 5 (winner) probably leans Sox, but 4–playing time–heavily favors Cubs, especially when the Sox’s love of Vaughn’s stick has been made so clear by team and media.
I guess my point is, it’s hard to have depth here when nobody wants to BE depth here unless you overpay, and even then, perhaps playing time is higher on some FA’s lists if having a full slate to show your skills can lead to more $ down the road. I also imagine the brass aren’t into paying the “poor destination” fee (admittedly, I might think twice here too).
I feel fine comparing the Sox to the Dodgers, and even hope they can be more like them at times, as long as I remember Sox will never match them in many ways. And so I keep my hope on a leash.

Last edited 2 years ago by Just John

I guess I kind of agree, except Chicago in the summer is downright delightful, making #2 a highlight relative to places like AZ, TX, FL, etc. I think there are very few MLB cities where someone wouldn’t want to live really. It’s not like they’re being forced to live in Gary (no offense to Gary-ans). #3 for the positions the Sox are advertising should be appealing for any SP, RF, or DH given the uncertainty at those positions, at least initially. #4 I would think the Sox excel at given TA, Robert, Moncada, Abreu, etc. #5 they are at least better than the average team.

So, that leaves #1. We know they can’t compete there. We know that’s the 1 or 1a component that drives someone to sign with a given team. So, they need to offer valuable players valuable contracts in order to get valuable free agents to play for them. They don’t seem to have a strong interest in that.

They also seem to be operating on a roster checklist for one game. RF:done, moving on. DH: sure we have that, moving on. LF: I’ve seen him do it, moving on. C: this guy can still move. And then they look around and say “OK, I’ve got a name for each position, let’s start”. As Jim says, it’s not particularly imaginative or innovative.


Huh? The Sox literally favor or were the made as the Cubs in every segment you listed when it came to the Pederson situation. Most extreme is they offered more money and are actually trying to compete, unlike the suddenly fiscally limited Cubs.
I think Joc and his agent misread the market as much as the Sox FO has. Sometimes the best offer is the one in front of you, especially in a down market. Now the guy is stuck on a team that is showing signs of a rebuild and is $3m poorer.

Just John

You have a clear and valid point about the market misread, and I agree. That said, Joc appears to have an easy path to playing every day in the field, while the talk speculating around his role on the WS often centered around a platoon, no? That still could have been a reason for his refusal back when the market wasn’t yet settled.

I’ll admit, it’s difficult to compare Sox positional needs to those of any other teams, as I’m not spending time learning their rosters.


I’d say money 1, playing time 2, location 3, with the other two lagging behind. Essentially, Pedersen made playing time #1 for the short term to bolster his prospects for money in the longer term. I imagine that Rosario made a similar assessment, deciding that play 140+ games on a slightly above average team is better than platooning on a contending team.

Eagle Bones

Ok, so I get this line of thinking for the top FAs like Springer, Bauer, etc. who obviously would have had multiple offers / options, but when you get down to the kinds of players we’re talking about here (the Brad Millers of the world), this doesn’t pass the smell test. These guys aren’t going to have multiple lucrative offers on the table, hell most of them are just trying to get a major league deal and not have to settle for an MiLB deal. If they don’t sign anyone in this range, it absolutely has to be by choice. There is plenty of PT to be had, they’re a contending team, the clubhouse seems like one guys would want to be a part of (with the exception of LaRussa maybe, though many of today’s players probably don’t even know who the hell he is).


That is absolutely right, EB. They are choosing not to sign anyone over the last few weeks. To pass on Rosario, Miller and so many others who would have given them some quality depth is just inexcusable. The White Sox have to be one of the most attractive destinations right now- big city, contender, young talent, good clubhouse. Rick and Jerry are just choosing to sit this out, no two ways about it.


The FO has misread the market and made moves early. Playing the waiting game would have been the smart move. There are still a lot of bargains to be had, especially those in need of SP depth


I was strong for Rosario but I can accept that the Sox brain trust didn’t see him as an every day right-fielder and Eddie preferred to sign where he’d play the field regularly rather than be limited to DH/5th outfielder. Given the lack of success the Sox have had when they sign 2nd or lower tier free agents, I’m not going to criticize the choice to see what they have in Vaughn, Mercedes, Collins, BRuth, Adplfo, Burger? and other aging prospects. I presume that this choice was informed by objective evaluations of alternate site performances.


I’m not sure where to put this comment but it’s something I think is super interesting to see how it plays out:

Given that MLB has indicated they are changing the ball “back”, how will it effect projections for this year? I think the Sox could maybe absorb it better than the Twins given the slightly higher OBP. But this definitely changes the evaluation for a lot of players. Is there extra benefit to Exit velo + launch angle now compared to just launch angle? Does Robert’s profile still play up? Does his defense take some of the pressure off the reduced power projections? Is Madrigal’s profile now way more useful than previously imagined or is he going to go from Slappy McSlapperson to Can’t Leave the Infield?


I think it benefits the Sox over the Twins. The Twins identity is delivering the long ball, and though the Sox out homered them last year, they don’t seem to be as dependent on the longball, with Eaton, Madrigal, Timmy, Yoan, Abreu back to back in the lineup.


This is one area where I give Hahn a ton of credit. He has assembled an offense that can beat you in a variety of ways.