After the White Sox landed right-handed starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Texas Rangers on Monday night, addressing in some capacity their biggest need this winter, the question now is: what’s next?
The White Sox still have needs at right field, designated hitter, the back-end of the bullpen, and maybe even one more veteran starter to bolster the back-end of the starting rotation. Bob Nightengale reported on Tuesday morning that the White Sox were turning their attention to right field, and named Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson, and Adam Eaton as targets.
Scott Merkin of MLB.com reported that the White Sox were looking for an addition in right field late Monday night after the Lynn news broke, and Ken Rosenthal named the White Sox as a team connected to Joc Pederson as recently as Monday morning.
Where there’s that much smoke, more often than not, there’s some sort of fire. The one theme that seems universal at this point, is the pursuit of a right fielder, so let’s start there.
Nomar Mazara was downright laughably awful in 2020 and after being non-tendered last week, and the White Sox are left with Adam Engel in that spot. Engel is a severely limited player offensively, who has struggled against right-handed pitching for much of his career. Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter whose weakness is Engel’s strength, makes sense there.
As I touched on in a column from late October, Pederson has long been a player the White Sox front office is at least intrigued by. Is this finally the winter that they pull the trigger on Pederson? Fangraphs’ free-agent tracker has the 27-year-old Pederson pegged at an AAV of $10 million per year, so he’s certainly an affordable option for the White Sox, who according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan are out on George Springer.
Acquiring Pederson would create a platoon situation between Joc and Adam Engel, one that certainly could work out just fine, but probably doesn’t make you feel great right now.
Michael Brantley is a traditional left-fielder who profiles more as a designated hitter moving forward at 34-years-old for much of the 2021 campaign. Brantley played 26 of 45 games as the Astros’ DH in 2020 and has only started eight games in right field during his entire career. At a projected AAV of $15 million per year, unless he’s coming here to be the full-time DH, Brantley seems like a high-risk signing to me despite him putting together a couple solid seasons in Houston most recently.
That brings us to a topic I kind of just hoped went away, Adam Eaton. Eaton played three seasons with the White Sox before they shipped him to Washington in exchange for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Eaton was looked at as a player that had worn out his welcome in Chicago on the way out the door, and his continued beef with former White Sox teammate Todd Frazier over in the NL East has only made Sox fans feel validated in their belief that he is a clubhouse menace of sorts.
However, Howie Kendrick who played with Eaton in Washington said recently that Eaton was a fantastic teammate. “When I was playing against him, he’s that guy that rubs you wrong a little bit,” Kendrick said. “But once you get on a team with him, he’s probably one of the best teammates, if not the best teammate that I’ve ever had.”
Now, 32, maybe both are true of Eaton. Maybe he was a pain in the ass during his time in Chicago but has grown up a bit since then. Regardless, there are lines being drawn between Spanky and the White Sox this winter, making a reunion seem like an increasingly likely possibility.
The Washington Nationals declined their $10 million team option on him, opting instead to give him a $1 million buyout to go somewhere else as teams across the league pivot to a cost-shedding direction in the pandemic. Eaton’s four years in Washington came with a .279/.365/.419 triple slash, 26 home runs, 112 RBI, 204 runs, 109 wRC+, and 4.3 fWAR in 310 games.
Defensively, Eaton was pretty bad in right field according to the metrics posting a -12 DRS in 2,037 innings in right field during his time with the Nationals despite posting a whopping 27 DRS as the everyday right fielder in his final season with the White Sox in 2016.
In the end, this comes down to how the White Sox choose to allocate their available funds this winter. They’ve made it clear they’re not interested in overpaying by bowing out of the George Springer sweepstakes, so would a cheap deal with Eaton allow them to allocate more funds to other areas of concern?
Remember that they need to either re-sign Alex Colome or replace him with another legitimate back-end bullpen arm who can settle into a ninth-inning role. They also have questions at DH, the backup catcher spot, and they might be wise to add a cheaper proven starting pitcher like Jose Quintana to bolster the back of the starting rotation.
It seems at this point, that they have a handful of moves to address with a budget that doesn’t seem to have much splash potential in it. Would bridging the right field void with a Pederson or an Eaton in 2021 be acceptable if the club valued a run at free-agent to be Michael Conforto next winter? Don’t forget that the club has been mentioned as a favorite to land Cuban international prospect Oscar Colas, an outfielder who profiles as nearly major league ready and has been dubbed the “Cuban Ohtani” because of his two-way abilities.
While this is an extremely frustrating concept to swallow right now, maybe kicking the can down the road into a winter that potentially feels more comfortable from a financial standpoint for Jerry Reinsdorf, nets the White Sox a legitimate long-term option in that spot.
Maybe. Or, maybe they’re just content with their old formula of paying multiple mediocre players essentially the same value as one of a superior player. For whatever reason, this always seems to be an operating method of the White Sox.
Hopefully, the rest of the Winter Meetings can provide some sort of clarity for the White Sox, but until then, at least they’ve checked a big box on their to-do list with the acquisition of Lance Lynn.
News, rumors, and commentary on everything involving the White Sox during the virtual Winter Meetings