White Sox

White Sox eyeing newly cleared Cuban free agent Luis Robert

White Sox eyeing newly cleared Cuban free agent Luis Robert

The White Sox potentially could add another significant piece to their farm system next month after Luis Robert was officially cleared for free agency on Thursday.

The Cuban outfielder can be signed as soon as May 20 after Major League Baseball cleared him to become a free agent as part of the 2016-17 international class.

Though the White Sox have made no official comments, its believed the team intends to make a strong push for Robert’s services. While the White Sox selected three position players high in the 2016 draft and added two more in December trades, they need more talent to achieve what general manager Rick Hahn has described as a “critical mass.” Some observers believe that Robert, 19, would be a viable candidate to be the first overall pick in the amateur baseball draft were he eligible.

One rival evaluator recently said the White Sox are strong contenders for Robert. Baseball America also has linked the White Sox to Robert often the past few months.

Robert’s addition to the 2016-17 class means he can be signed under the rules of the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, which should result in a significantly better payday.

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Back in March, BA’s Ben Badler described Robert as having “a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism. A right-handed hitter with excellent bat speed and a sound swing, Robert has plus power with room to continue filling out and increase that in the future.” Because he’s 19, Robert is at an advantage over younger international prospects in that he’s physically easier to project than some of his 15- and 16-year-old counterparts.

That Robert is extremely talented and projectable could result in a shootout between teams bidding for Robert’s services without facing some of the harsher penalties that they would have had he instead been part of the 2017-18 class.

Under the rules of the old CBA, teams only pay a luxury tax for exceeding their allotted bonus pool. Current White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada was signed for $31.5 million under the rules of the old CBA by the Boston Red Sox in March 2015. The Red Sox also paid a $31.5 million tax as part of the signing.  

The White Sox have revamped their farm system over the past 10 months. All but one of their top 10 prospects according to MLB.com have been drafted or acquired in trades. But of those 10, only Moncada, Luis Alexander Basabe and Zack Collins are position players. The team also selected outfielders Alex Call and Jameson Fisher with their third- and fourth-round selections in the draft.

The addition of Robert could have the White Sox well on their way in what Hahn has said will be a long and, at times, painful rebuilding process.

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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