Edwin Encarnacion

No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — What exactly will the White Sox do this offseason? If you have access to some truth serum, you’ve got a decent shot at finding out.

Despite the seemingly public nature of the White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, Rick Hahn doesn’t really talk about specific targets. So there was no word from the general manager Tuesday on whether there actually exist attempts to lure Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or your heretofore unnamed favorite free agent to the South Side.

But there was one big takeaway from Hahn’s roughly 45-minute session with reporters at the GM meetings: No move is off the table for the White Sox this winter.

We’ve long analyzed whether Player X fits better than Player Y, whether the White Sox are looking for a long-term piece or should be targeting short-term pieces, whether it makes any sense to pursue a player who plays a position the White Sox already have spoken for, et cetera, et cetera.

Well forget about all those disclaimers. There seems to be no door Hahn’s front office is going to close in the name of improving this team.

Just go down the list of potential additions the White Sox could make this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.

Short-term additions are on the table

Are the White Sox, who have long touted the importance of long-term fits, still shying away from shorter-term additions? No. Long-term additions are better, but … 

“We're getting closer to the point where it makes more sense to have one- or two-year fixes in place. Ideally, we want to find a way to add to the core, guys that are going to be here for a long time and continue to grow with what we've already accumulated. In reality, that's a little easier said than done, so some of the improvements may come on a shorter-term basis.

“Yeah, we've gotten to that point where it does make some sense to add a couple of those types.”

Older veterans who haven’t always seemed like the best fit for a young, rebuilding team? Now that the White Sox are nearing their transition from rebuilding to contending, those guys become realistic options. On the table.

A trade for a player with one year of control (like Mookie Betts) is on the table

Would the White Sox trade for a player with just one season of club control remaining on his contract? Yes. Guys with more control are better, but … 

“You want guys who are going to fit for the long-term,” Hahn said. “We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control, where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short-term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

Interesting, considering the Boston Red Sox might be dealing away Mookie Betts in their quest to get under the luxury tax. Betts seems set on heading to free agency after next season, meaning whichever team acquires him would only be doing so for one year. But the White Sox could use a player of that caliber in their lineup and a player of that caliber in right field. Sounds like they wouldn’t exactly lack confidence in their ability to make his stay last more than just one year, either. On the table.

A right fielder who plays suboptimal defense (like Nicholas Castellanos) is on the table

Speaking of right field, just how important the White Sox add a right fielder who can play some defense? Very. But … 

“It’s a legitimate consideration. We don't want to send somebody out there and it's going to, you know, tax our center fielder too much or tax the pitchers too much by not making plays,” Hahn said. “So it's a legitimate consideration.

“I pause half a step because we have discussed some pretty good offensive contributors who might not quite be up to snuff to what you want defensively that conceivably at some point in the offseason we wind up saying, ‘They're the best option, so let's move on it.’ So I don't want to just say it's the end all be all.”

Interesting, considering that the top outfielder on the free-agent market fits the description of someone who swings a difference-making bat but might not be “up to snuff” defensively. Castellanos’ offense is not a question, and while his defense is probably not as bad as his reputation would lead you to believe, the reputation exists for a reason. Putting him in the same outfield with work-in-progress Eloy Jimenez would be less than ideal. But putting their bats in the same lineup might be too much to pass up. On the table.

A professional DH (like Edwin Encarnacion) is on the table

When adding a designated hitter, do the White Sox want someone who has plenty of DH-ing experience and could DH on an everyday basis? No. But … 

“We're not eager to get locked in with someone positionally who can only DH,” Hahn said. “I think having a guy who can fill that role but also go out and play a defensive position would be a net greater benefit. We're talking about generic, hypothetical players.

“If you're talking about a guy Nelson Cruz, yeah, you're OK with that guy just being a DH. If you're talking about lower caliber guy than that, then maybe you want them to add some defensive value, as well, to move them around the diamond and get other guys off their feet from time to time.”

Ideally, the White Sox would like some versatility. It’d be nice to have a Cruz-esque thumper at DH, too. One of those exists on the free-agent market in Edwin Encarnacion. On the table.

A player who plays position the White Sox already have (like Anthony Rendon) is on the table

And what about Rendon? He’s the top position player on the free-agent market. He also plays third base, the same position Yoan Moncada does. Moncada had himself a terrific year playing third for the White Sox. Would they change his position for a second straight season? They don’t want to. But … 

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.”

Interesting. Rendon seems like the type of player you rearrange your defense for. He’s one of the best hitters in the game and would accomplish the White Sox goal of adding a premium talent to their rebuilding project. Moncada’s versatility could play a big role in that. On the table.

Top-of-the-rotation pitchers (like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg) are on the table

What kind of starting pitchers are the White Sox looking for this winter? Top-of-the-rotation guys or middle-of-the-rotation guys?

“We have room for improvement in both spots,” Hahn said. “We'll continue the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on.”

That’s extraordinarily all-encompassing, but instead of viewing it as the White Sox not saying much, view it as there being many different possibilities. Cole and Strasburg fit the mold of top-of-the-rotation arms, as do fellow free agents Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi might be more of the middle-of-the-rotation types. All of them and more are on the table.


That’s a breakneck assessment of the situations, but the takeaway remains: No move appears to be off the table for the White Sox in this stage of the offseason, and that ought to have folks looking for big splashes at every turn pretty excited.

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White Sox linked to Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion, but where the heck would he play?


White Sox linked to Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion, but where the heck would he play?

The looming decisions of mega free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado might be the only thing on the minds of White Sox fans as the new year approaches, but there are other players out there — and other offseason rumors involving the South Siders.

The latest, however, is a bit of head-scratcher.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi mentioned the White Sox as one of the teams turning attention to a potential acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion. This after a player the White Sox were linked to earlier this offseason, Nelson Cruz, signed with the division-rival Minnesota Twins.

Encarnacion has launched no fewer than 32 and as many as 42 home runs in each of the last seven seasons. He terrorized the White Sox as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2017 and 2018. But now he's a Seattle Mariner, and if you've been paying attention to the offseason they've been having in the Pacific Northwest, they want to trade just about everybody.

If you're a team looking for a stopgap at designated hitter for the next one or two seasons, then you could do a lot worse than Encarnacion, who has an option for 2020. But the White Sox aren't that kind of team.

First off, bringing in a soon-to-be 36-year-old designated hitter doesn't exactly mesh with the rebuilding team's long-term plans. But perhaps more importantly, they don't have anywhere for him to play as the roster is currently constructed. The trade with the aforementioned Indians for Yonder Alonso created a two-man, tag-team situation at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu. Those two are expected to fill those two spots, in one combination or the other, in most games during the 2019 season. Adding a third wheel to that mix makes no sense, especially considering none of those guys can play any other positions, unless a move sending Alonso or Abreu out of town would accompany a trade for Encarnacion.

And there's another bit of info that makes this a tough one to understand from a White Sox perspective. While Rick Hahn has already made a trio of trades this winter — with the Indians for Alonso, with the Mariners for Alex Colome and with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ivan Nova — dealing away prospects to a rebuilding team like the Mariners in exchange for a player who's about to turn 36 doesn't make a lick of sense with where the White Sox are in their own rebuilding project. The players dealt away in the Alonso, Colome and Nova deals weren't expected to be big parts of the future, with major league catcher Omar Narvaez the biggest name sent out of town. But someone like Encarnacion could cost a little more as the Mariners look to further stockpile their farm system.

The same confusion seemed to arise from the reported interest in Cruz, though at least he was a free agent, where the only cost would be in dollars.

Morosi also mentioned Jose Martinez of the St. Louis Cardinals as an option for teams looking for a DH, as he just got squeezed out of first base by the Redbirds' acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. Martinez would make far more sense than Encarnacion, only 28 and not a free agent until 2023. But the same questions apply in that the White Sox would need to spend prospect capital to acquire him and that they have no place for him to play. That being said, in 270 career games with the Cardinals, he's batting .309 with a .372 on-base percentage. His power numbers, however, leave a little to be desired, with just 31 career home runs, a smaller career total than any single-season total Encarnacion has posted since 2011.

The White Sox have already added a designated hitter to the mix this winter in Alonso, and when you throw in Daniel Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last season, that makes a crowded group of DHs on the South Side. And so adding another doesn't seem to be very logical. But the Hot Stove rumor mill doesn't stop this time of year.

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