While South Side baseball fans are having endless fun projecting and debating the White Sox lineup of the future, here's someone you might not have been thinking about.
Ryan Cordell, the outfielder acquired in last summer's trade that sent Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, is not a frequent part of those projections. Avisail Garcia, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and even guys like Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo are generally the names discussed when trying to map out the outfield in a few years' time.
But general manager Rick Hahn shared an interesting tidbit during a Friday-night SoxFest seminar at the Hilton Chicago when asked about how his team's outfield will shake out this season, saying that three teams have called about Cordell since the White Sox acquired him last summer.
Rick Hahn says that three teams have asked about outfielder Ryan Cordell (acquired from Brew Crew for Anthony Swarzak), who’s yet to play a game for the White Sox.— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) January 27, 2018
Now, that sparks one big question to go along with several smaller ones: Just how good is Cordell?
Again, he's not one of the more talked-about young players in this rebuilding effort, and the trade that brought him to the White Sox was an under-the-radar one, especially considering Cordell was injured when he was acquired last season, recovering from a fractured vertebra. Cordell played 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs before the injury, slashing .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, 18 doubles and 45 RBIs.
The long-term question is whether Cordell is good enough to challenge all those guys mentioned above for a spot in the White Sox crowded outfield of the future. The short-term question, as it seems Hahn raised the possibility, is whether Cordell is good enough to make an impact at the big league level in 2018 — and could he do that right away?
The outfield would figure to look something like this when the season begins: Avisail Garcia in right, Leury Garcia in center and Nicky Delmonico in left. But when asked by a fan what the outfield will look like, Hahn mentioned Cordell as well as Charlie Tilson as guys who could be in the mix. That broad inclusion was likely intentional to show no decisions have been made before spring training begins next month in Arizona, and with the team not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, why not give plenty of guys an opportunity?
But Hahn said that both Cordell and Tilson are without restrictions — Tilson has had more than his fair share of injury woes since joining the White Sox in the 2016 trade that sent Zack Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals — perhaps indicating that they should be considered worthy challengers for those starting spots in left and center field.
And center field is a position of offensive need for the 2018 edition of the White Sox. Adam Engel, who will also surely be in the mix this spring, was terrific defensively but struggled at the plate. Leury Garcia was OK when healthy, though that was only for about half the season — not to mention that his versatility could be used to spell infielders, as well. All in all, White Sox center fielders were offensively the worst in the American League, slashing .221/.284/.351 on the 2017 season. They ranked last in batting average and on-base percentage and second to last in slugging percentage.
The note on Cordell drawing trade interest certainly raised eyebrows, both in the room and on social media, with fans and observers perhaps sensing a dark horse candidate to provide some offense to that center-field position.
So just how good is this guy? Will he be in the starting outfield in 2018? Will he be in the starting outfield after the likes of Jimenez and Robert crack the big leagues?
That all remains to be seen, though answers will start to come when spring training gets going.