Way-too-early fixes for the White Sox outfield

As Josh and Connor McKnight mentioned on a recent podcast, any fixes to the White Sox injury woes and general outfield/depth malaise will likely come from within. In normal times, teams are already apprehensive enough as it is to trade this early in the season. With no minor league season last year and a delayed start this year, the odds of a regular-for-prospect trade get really small. Still, in the interest of speaking Nick Williams‘ at-bats out of existence, I took a first look at the landscape of potential upgrades.

(Note: I’m using the Steamer600 updated projections to evaluate these players, which continuously adjusts preseason expectations based on actual accrued performance over the course of the season.)

I started by setting the universe of players to consider, which is just every outfielder currently in FanGraphs. This includes players like Ketel Marte, Kris Bryant, and Jeff McNeil, who aren’t really true outfielders but have played there enough in the past to qualify. Given the willingness of the Sox to run Andrew Vaughn out in left, I assume that’s fine for now. First to get chopped from the list are all players with negative expected WAR.

After that, I brought in some team context, as contending teams probably aren’t too interested in dealing solid outfield bats (in this economy?). Not too much to gather from this so far, except that Mike Trout is just so damn good (that’s him all the way on the right), and that I hadn’t previously realized how down FanGraphs is on the Nats (that’s Juan Soto down there on the bottom right).

I dropped players from all teams with >40% chance of making the playoffs, as teams like the Blue Jays or Red Sox are likely to wait and see how the first few months shake out before making any moves. As the season goes on, some players may make their way back into this analysis as some of those 50/50 teams fall behind in the standings. Though I enjoy watching the Sox mash lefty pitching as much as anyone, some balance is needed. I color coded the lefties here, and that’s who I’ll focus on for the rest of this piece (yes, I am aware that reverse-split guys do exist, but I’ll approach those with caution until later in the season).

The 2+ WAR blue dots you see below:

Juan Soto5.3156
Ketel Marte3.1113
Bryce Harper3.0127
Ian Happ2.4107
Joc Pederson2.2113
Joey Gallo2.1104
Dylan Carlson2.199
Jesse Winker2.0118

And the 1-2 WAR Blue dots:

Andrew Benintendi1.6102
Kevin Kiermaier1.680
Eddie Rosario1.5104
Jason Heyward1.497
Yoshi Tsutsugo1.4107
Alex Dickerson1.3110
Bryan Reynolds1.3101
Austin Meadows1.2105
Robbie Grossman1.1102
Josh Naylor1.1101
Tony Kemp1.189
Mike Yastrzemski1.096
Corey Dickerson1.0100

An interesting collection of names to be sure, and a weirdly strong presence by the two Central divisions. There are quite a few names on here that I thought the Sox should have been more in on this past offseason, whether to start or as depth. Especially given the low cost of some of these guys, there were some feasible ways to avoid the current scenario. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and re-do the offseason (though Josh’s twitter poll about Nov. 1 was hilarious), so maybe the Sox can catch some of these guys on the second go-around. Intra-division trades to boost a contender are quite rare, though, so I’m dropping the rest of the AL Central for now. If people feel strongly otherwise, I can add those guys back in for future updates. Also, as much I would love to see Bryce, Soto, or Ketel Marte in a Sox jersey, the outlay required to get those guys doesn’t seem realistic for the Sox. With those guys out, no 3+ WAR players remain.

So who are we left with?

Basically, Rick Hahn should go shopping at the NL Central store. The Sox fans pining for Joc Pederson that didn’t get enough vindication in spring training should get a little booster dose here. Winker is interesting, as he’s 27, has several cost-controlled years remaining (trying to appeal to Uncle Jerry here), and an expected wOBA in the .350’s. The Reds still have an outside chance at making a run though, and might not want to sell regardless as they position to compete in ’22. Alex Dickerson is older than Winker, with less on-base ability and versatility, as well as much worse plate discipline. That combined with him being one year closer to free agency means he’d likely cost the Sox a lot less, though. There might be enough in that bat that’s worth exploring. His teammate, Little Yaz, would be a hilarious move purely to see Hawk’s reaction. Speaking of plate discipline, if the suddenly patient Sox offense has got you intrigued in #FREEPASSOFFENSE (still waiting for it to catch on), here’s the expected walk rate for the guys in the chart.

Joey Gallo10414.67%
Yoshi Tsutsugo10713.17%
Ian Happ10712.67%
Jesse Winker11812.33%
Jason Heyward9711.33%
Kole Calhoun9111.00%
Brett Phillips7411.00%
Joc Pederson11310.00%
Mike Yastrzemski9610.00%
Josh Rojas839.83%
Tony Kemp899.50%
Bryan Reynolds1018.83%
Dylan Carlson998.83%
Austin Meadows1058.83%
Alex Dickerson1108.67%
Charlie Blackmon988.17%
David Peralta937.83%
Kevin Kiermaier807.33%
Adam Haseley837.00%
Corey Dickerson1006.00%

I know we haven’t come to any concrete conclusions just yet, but its only April 12th. Some guys will heat up, some teams will sputter and fall out of the race. I’ll post updates to this analysis every so often (haven’t figured out the timing yet, but it’s pretty automated already), so it will be interesting to monitor the changes in the charts. If any names catch your eye, please leave comments and I can do a deeper dive with some Statcast batted ball data in the next go around. As always, any and all feedback is welcome!

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Greg Nix

Great post! Interesting that Happ projects so well considering he’s never put up a 2 WAR season (though was very good last year).


He may not fit your criteria, but Cooper with Miami might be another

Big Hurt Beer

This is really good stuff! Is there any way you can throw in projections for Nick Williams and Billy Hamilton to really twist the knife in?