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Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

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Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Several thresholds must be crossed but Brent Morel appears to have another chance with the White Sox in his future -- if hes healthy.

Morel was limited to 76 games last season --- 35 in the majors --- because of a troublesome back. His injury not only limited Morels appearances but also wiped out what the White Sox hoped would be a breakout season for the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product.

After a September 2011 surge, Morel was limited to a .177.225.195 slash line and no home runs in 113 at-bats last season. But Morel is on the mend and the White Sox consider him among their best internal options at the hot corner next season should they not sign a free agent or acquire a replacement for Kevin Youkilis.

Thats the No. 1 thing for us, to get him in there and see him again, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. Hes not out of the equation for me at all. Him being healthy and getting back in, hes a good third baseman when hes healthy.

The White Sox believed they had a star in the making in Morel. Not only did he post a .224.340.553 slash line with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 103 appearances in the final month of the 2011 regular season, but he also is considered a solid defender.

We thought he was an everyday guy, general manager Rick Hahn said.

He might once again be, but only if he gets his back on track, Hahn said.

Thus far, reports on Morels health have been good, though Hahn knows how tricky the situation can be. Last season, Morel thought he made progress in rehabbing the injury over summer only to have a setback.

They feel with his diligence on the program that this thing is hopefully behind him, Hahn said. Its tough with backs. Its tricky. Well have to see through his ramping up, training regimen, baseball activity and spring training games and regular season games and react accordingly to how he feels.

With few viable internal options -- the White Sox prefer to keep Gordon Beckham at second base, Dayan Viciedo in left field and Carlos Sanchez at Triple-A -- Morel could be the answer should the White Sox not sign Youkilis or another free agent or make a deal.

But Hahn wants proof of health before he makes a commitment.

Its conceivable, but with Brent, lets see him healthy, Hahn said. Lets get him 100 percent. He feels good now, lets have him go through the offseason do the work to prepare, then get to Glendale and get through spring healthy. Then well set our expectations for him going forward.

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Depending on which report you choose to believe, the White Sox could be on the verge of filling the void in their outfield with one of the bigger names on this winter’s free-agent market.

Dominican reporter Frank Castillo tweeted Saturday that the White Sox will sign Marcell Ozuna, planning to announce the free-agent deal Monday.

Well, that was followed up by a report from The Score’s Bruce Levine, who said the White Sox are not about to sign Ozuna.

So there’s that.

The White Sox were connected to Ozuna earlier this offseason, as well as more recently, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writing last week that the team had interest in Japanese import Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but were waiting to hear on the decisions of Ozuna and fellow free agent Nicholas Castellanos first.

Ozuna turned heads with his fantastic 2017 season for the Miami Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Since being dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, Ozuna hit .263/.327/.452 with 52 homers and 177 RBIs in two seasons.

The White Sox have a pressing need in right field, making it little surprise that they’ve been tied to numerous options, including Ozuna, Castellanos and Joc Pederson. Ozuna, though, exclusively played left field in St. Louis. Were the White Sox to add him, would they insist he play right field? They’ve expressed little to no interest in moving Eloy Jimenez out of left field.

It’s rumor season, and there should be plenty more of them with the Winter Meetings starting Monday in San Diego. The White Sox are expected to continue the aggressive approach they’ve displayed already this winter with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and their reported high bid to Zack Wheeler, who took less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

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