By now it is no secret that spending on the open market this winter will be affected by the impacts of COVID-19 and the associated losses of revenue due to fans not being allowed in the ballpark. There may some exceptions to that belief, but I’d be willing to wager that the White Sox — a franchise historically frugal on the open market during normal financial operating times — will not be that exception.
They’re going to hand out a contract to a new manager in the coming weeks, one that will likely be the richest they’ve ever doled out for that position, and then they’ll need to fill out the new skipper’s coaching staff and pay them. Then there’s the gaping holes in right field and the starting rotation that have to be filled, all during a budget crunch period that already has its own built-in excuse.
The trade market would be one avenue that would cost the White Sox prospects instead of dollars, but that department might be the only thing lacking depth more than their spending desires this winter.
Beyond the likes of Andrew Vaughn (who likely slots into the DH/1B plans for much of the 2021 season) and Garrett Crochet (who already made his major league debut in 2020), the farm lacks the type of value that other teams would want to land a long-term solution in right field or the starting rotation.
With financial restrictions a foregone conclusion, and gutting the farm system in one blockbuster trade not really a desirable solution, Rick Hahn and company will have to get creative this winter. One affordable option this winter could be Dodgers’ outfielder, Joc Pederson.
The White Sox have been linked to Joc Pederson in each of the two previous offseasons, and with Pederson a free-agent after the conclusion of the World Series this might be the year that we actually see it come to fruition.
Dollars and Sense
Look, I know that everyone wants to see the White Sox make a slam dunk in free agency this winter and go out and throw money at a guy like George Springer, but you’re more likely to get his Astros’ teammate Michael Brantley than Springer.
Some people love that idea, but I’m not one of them. I don’t hate the idea of Brantley coming to the White Sox, but I don’t love it. I also think that he’s going to be in the $15-20MM AAV range after putting together two fantastic seasons in Houston, and I’m just not excited about the idea of giving an outfielder heading into his age-34 season with checkered injury history a long-term deal in that price range. I’ve seen this story unfold on the South Side too many times.
Pederson, who will turn 29 next season, can provide the Sox with a much more cost-effective solution. One that is smart and still not encroaching on the dumpster diving area that White Sox fans are terrified of Jerry Reinsdorf insisting on this winter.
With Mookie Betts signing a 12-year contract extension worth $365 million in July, the Dodgers aren’t likely going to bring Pederson back. After making $7.75MM ($2.87MM adjusted) in 2020, Pederson will likely fall below the top of the market, and possibly into the $9-12MM AAV range.
With the outfield market shaping up to be pretty top-heavy this season, let’s say that Pederson’s final number ends up somewhere in the middle and go with $10.5MM AAV. With Pederson entering his age-29 season, maybe he gets a four-year deal worth roughly $42MM.
The batting average fanatics are going to scoff at this idea, but the fact is that as long as Pederson doesn’t see any left-handed pitching (more on that shortly), his 28 HR/162 shows that his pop is a potentially dangerous situation for opposing pitching.
Aside from a down season in 2020, Pederson’s biggest knock is his struggles against left-handed pitching. Pederson has a career .191 batting average against southpaws and only nine of his 130 career home runs have come from that side of the plate in 385 plate appearances.
Against right-handers, however, Pederson has hit 121 home runs, 98 doubles, and has driven-in 270 runs.
White Sox outfielder Adam Engel had a career-year in 2020 with most of his damage coming against left-handed pitching, making him a perfect platoon partner for Pederson. Engel slashed .303/.343/.424 against left-handed pitching in 2020 and has a career OPS+ of 122 versus left-handed pitching.
Pederson would assume the majority of the starts in right field being the stronger hitter against right-handers, which would help the White Sox who struggled against righties in 2020 while allowing Engel to start against left-handed pitching, a role that suits him and the Sox offense well.
Signing Pederson this winter will cure two of the White Sox needs moving forward — left-handed power and an everyday right fielder — at a price point that will fit their likely spending ability while leaving room to still address their need for more starting pitching. It will also bring another player with October experience into the fold, something the club lacked this past season.
Playing in Los Angeles his entire career has afforded Pederson the experience of playing in 63 playoff games (prior to the Start of Game 6 of the 2020 World Series that Pederson and the Dodgers are playing on Tuesday night). In those 63 games, Pederson has 41 hits (9 HR, 8 2B), a .849 OPS, and 20 RBI.
While Joc Pederson isn’t the dream headline that White Sox fans will be pining for after witnessing the first playoff run in 12 years, the club has been intrigued with the idea of acquiring him for the past two years, and the third time might be the charm when it comes to the White Sox landing Pederson.
Featured Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS