Happy Halloween White Sox fans! After the festivities of the day, we’ll begin transitioning from spooky season to speculation season as the MLB hot stove heats up in November.
As we continue to dive into possible solutions for the White Sox’s most pressing needs this winter we’ll be taking a look at six players available via free agency that could fill the hole in right field for Chicago in 2021.
These six players are all expected to be free agents when free agency opens on November 2, but we’ll explore some trade ideas for the position in the next few days.
George Springer is the clear-cut favorite option here for the White sox in free agency, and recent reports indicate that Springer is looking to play elsewhere in 2021, but the likelihood of the White Sox shelling out the cash it would take to land Springer is unlikely.
According to Spotrac, Springer is looking at a projected AAV of roughly $24.7MM. We’re talking in the ballpark of $98.8MM-$123.5MM for a 4-5 year deal to land the Houston Astros’ star outfielder.
No doubt it would be the best option, Springer has a career slash line of .270/.361/.491, 174 home runs, and a 134 wRC+. But once again, the notion that Jerry Reinsdorf is going to shell out that kind of cash, especially after taking unprecedented financial losses due to COVID-19, is an extreme long-shot.
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.
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.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox, but with the team in a non-competitive state, that run might have come to an end this fall.
JBJ has been a player linked to the White Sox on the trade rumor mill in the past, and he fits the bill for their needs in right field in 2021. A left-handed hitter who can flash the leather and get one base at an efficient clip with a career .321 OBP.
At just 30-years-old, JBJ will be looking for a long-term deal but will still fall below the top-tier pricing point that we’ll see Springer and Ozuna get this winter. For a guy who put up 1.4 fWAR and a 119 wRC+ in 2020, I could get on board with a 3-4 year deal worth somewhere in the ballpark of $40-55MM.
This might in fact be the price point the White Sox consider their ceiling in 2021 and if it can land them JBJ for the foreseeable future, then I’d be all about that move.
Marcell Ozuna was probably my favorite option for this same spot just one year ago, but the White Sox went in another direction and flipped prospect Steele Walker to the Texas Rangers in the hopes that Nomar Mazara could be “fixed” by Frank Menechino and company.
That failed, Ozuna went to Atlanta and crushed 18 home runs for the Braves while posting 2.5 fWAR and a monster 179 wRC+. Ozuna was a freak show in Atlanta in 2020 and has rebuilt his value to roughly $20.1MM AAV according to Spotrac’s projections.
As good as Ozuna is, and as well as he would fit in with this particular White Sox roster, he’s probably going to demand a contract in the ballpark of $100MM over five years, once again probably too rich for the financial outlook of Jerry Reinsdorf and company.
However, if the White Sox were going to make a splash at right field, I’d actually prefer Ozuna over Springer because there is more value in his AAV than Springer in my opinion.
Robbie Grossman is a guy who not many will get excited about and is probably considered clearance rack shopping on this market, but his price point versus potential value intrigues me enough to include him in the list.
In 2020 Grossman slashed .241/.344/.482 and hit eight home runs in 51 games for the Oakland Athletics. He amassed 1.3 fWAR and a 126 wRC+ for the A’s, all while making just $3.7MM. Considering the fact that the White Sox paid Nomar Mazara roughly $6MM for his lackluster efforts in 2020, Grossman might be the perfect fit for them in 2021.
He’s 31-years-old, and he’s likely not in the market for a lengthy deal despite a sneaky good season in 2020, so the White Sox might be able to land him for somewhere in the ballpark of, $12-15MM for 2-3 years.
That would be an extremely budget-friendly deal for a guy who will fill the right field void, hits from both sides of the plate, and has a career SO% of just 20%. Not to mention, he has plenty of postseason experience during his time with Houston, Minnesota, and Oakland.
Another Houston Astros outfielder on the market this winter will be Michael Brantley, a guy that the White Sox are very familiar with from his time with the Cleveland Indians.
Brantley went to Houston to rebuild his value after battling injuries towards the end of his time in Cleveland, and the 33-year-old outfielder slashed .300/.364/.476 with 1.3f WAR and a 134 wRC+ over 46 games with the Astros in 2020. Before that, in 2019 Brantley hit .311 with 22 home runs and 88 RBI while accumulating 4.2 fWAR.
Brantley, a left-handed bat and a notorious contact hitter with pop would fit nicely in right field for the White Sox, but he’s entering his age-34 season and has a checkered past when it comes to staying on the field.
While Brantley will likely fall under the Springer/Ozuna price tier this winter, he’ll still likely demand somewhere in the ballpark of $16-20MM AAV, and again might be someone outside of the White Sox price point.
There’s also the fact that Brantley spent just 19 of his 46 games in the outfield for the Astros in 2020. Brantley might be better suited to DH full-time than be in the outfield given his age and injury history. His price point and limitations make him a risky investment in my book.
Featured Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images