Marcell Ozuna

Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna: Who's the better fit for White Sox?

Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna: Who's the better fit for White Sox?

SAN DIEGO — The White Sox are searching for a new right fielder, but it might end up as more of an excuse to add a big bat to the middle of their lineup.

They’re reportedly interested in both Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, the top two names on the free-agent outfield market, neither of which comes with a stellar defensive reputation. But they can both swing it, and that’s what the White Sox could be making a priority.

“I think the key thing right now for the Sox is the one more bat they want to get,” MLB.com’s Jon Morosi said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “They’ve already got (Yasmani) Grandal in house, but they’re very much involved on Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, as well.

“I think, at this point in time, they’ve got a pretty good chance to land one or the other. It’s hard to say, percentage wise, at this point in time, but they’re very much involved in both those conversations and I think assessing a pretty high priority there.”

A rumor out of the Dominican Republic that Ozuna signing with the White Sox was imminent got a good debunking over the weekend, and the White Sox surprise at the report was still lingering as the Winter Meetings started Monday.


But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Still, he might not be the best fit of the two.

“I would think that Castellanos, between the two, has a better chance to be a fit with the White Sox,” Morosi said. “He knows the ballpark, knows the division. I think he loved playing in Chicago for the Cubs.

“Castellanos has really found something, I believe, in his approach. … He came up to the major leagues at such a young age on a veteran-laden team with (Miguel) Cabrera and (Prince) Fielder and so many big names there at the time with the Tigers, Victor Martinez. And it took him some time to find his way. He has done that. And I think with the Cubs, his approach was really good.”

The White Sox are rather familiar with what Castellanos can do. He shredded South Side pitching in recent seasons with the division-rival Tigers. In 2017, he slashed .303/.387/.561 with four homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs in 17 games against the White Sox. In 2018, he slashed .363/.414/.625 with five homers, six doubles and 20 RBIs in 19 games. In 2019, he slashed .389/.410/.722 with two homers, six doubles and eight RBIs in only eight games.

As Morosi mentioned, Castellanos obviously had something working after a midseason trade to the Cubs, slashing .321/.356/.646 with 16 home runs and 21 doubles in 51 games for the North Siders. He ended up leading the majors with 58 doubles.

Of course, Castellanos’ defensive reputation is not good, something backed up by the numbers: He had minus-nine Defensive Runs Saved in 2019. Observers say he’s not quite as bad as those statistics would make it seem. But to combine him with a work-in-progress Eloy Jimenez in left ahead of Luis Robert’s rookie season in center field would be a less-than-ideal situation from a defensive standpoint.

Ozuna had two DRS in 2019, though he got them as a left fielder, where he exclusively played in his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. His reputation as a defender there was not super strong, either, particularly when it comes to his throwing arm, affected by an injured shoulder during his stint with the Redbirds.

So neither, potentially, would provide as much defensive value as someone, for example, like Joc Pederson, who the White Sox have been linked to in trade rumors for the second straight winter. But with interest in both Castellanos and Ozuna, the White Sox are potentially throwing defensive preference out the window in favor of the offensive upgrades they could provide.

Ozuna is not long removed from a sensational 2017 campaign with the Miami Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Those numbers fell to Earth a little bit after the trade to St. Louis, where he hit .263/.327/.452 with 52 homers and 177 RBIs over the last two seasons. Of note, new White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino was Ozuna’s hitting coach in Miami.

The longer the White Sox are tied to these two, the longer it will appear that offense is the priority, and there’s nothing wrong with that after the team ranked near the bottom of the game in plenty of different categories in 2019. Robert and Nick Madrigal should provide offensive boosts when they arrive at the big league level, as should the new guy Grandal. But a good way to boost things right away would be to add another sizable bat from outside the organization, and the only positions to do that are right field and DH — and we still don’t know, after the Grandal signing, whether the White Sox even consider DH a need anymore.

Sacrificing defense? It might have to happen for the White Sox to build a fearsome lineup. We’ll see.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

white_sox_usa_today.png
USA Today

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.