White Sox

With Avisail Garcia gone, here are 10 free-agent options to be the White Sox right fielder in 2019

With Avisail Garcia gone, here are 10 free-agent options to be the White Sox right fielder in 2019

The White Sox decided to move on from Avisail Garcia, opting not to tender a contract to their right fielder of the past six seasons.

So there’s now a pretty big hole in the White Sox starting lineup.

Losing Garcia does not mean the South Siders are losing a ton of production. During an injury-ravaged 2018 campaign, Garcia’s numbers plummeted from his All-Star season just a year earlier, and he finished with a .236/.281/.438 slash line in 93 games.

But the internal options to replace him are not too appealing from a statistical standpoint, either. While top-ranked Eloy Jimenez is expected to reach the major leagues early in the 2019 campaign and to provide quite a boost to the lineup, he spent most of his time in left field last season. If that’s where he ends up once he arrives on the South Side, the internal candidates for playing time in right field are Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico and Ryan Cordell. Palka hit 27 home runs as a rookie but had an on-base percentage under .300 and might be better suited as the team’s primary designated hitter in 2019. Delmonico also battled a significant injury and came nowhere close to matching the nice showing he had at the end of the 2017 season. Cordell mustered just four hits in a brief taste of major league action in 2018.

In other words, the White Sox might need to go outside the organization to find an everyday right fielder for next season. The free-agent market has plenty of options, though they vary in how excited they’ll make the fan base. Here’s a look at some options.

Bryce Harper

We’ll start with the biggest name on the free-agent market and a guy the White Sox reportedly have interest in. Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and his coming to the South Side would change the franchise’s present and future. Would it make them a playoff team in 2019? Not sure I’d go that far. But it would make them a playoff contender for years to come once the organization’s fleet of highly touted prospects grew up around him. White Sox fans don’t need to be convinced that signing Harper would be a good idea. Harper needs to be convinced that signing with the White Sox is a good idea. Their financial flexibility could do a good deal of that convincing. But is planned future success enough to defeat a pitch of the ability to win multiple championships starting right now?

Michael Brantley

The hype around a Harper signing would be massive compared to almost any player in baseball, so it’s not surprising that the excitement level drops off significantly, even when you move to just the second-best available outfielder this winter. But respect Brantley’s credentials. He’s a three-time All Star, including in each of the last two seasons. Back in 2014, he finished third — third! — in AL MVP voting. He’s got a career .295 batting average and a career .351 on-base percentage, numbers raised by his .309 and .364 marks in those categories, respectively, last season. But unlike Harper, there’d be questions about Brantley’s long-term fit with the rebuilding White Sox. He’ll be 32 in May and despite a 143-game workload in 2018, he played in just 101 total games in the prior two seasons. Signing Brantley would be an obvious upgrade for 2019, but is he the guy to still be roaming the outfield when this team transitions into contention mode?

Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez makes a bunch of sense for the White Sox, just as he makes a bunch of sense for 29 other teams across the major leagues. Gonzalez can play every position on the diamond besides pitcher and catcher and has plenty of experience with a rebuilding success story, with the Houston Astros for the past seven seasons as they climbed from baseball’s basement to the game’s model franchise. His ability to play seven different positions — including right field — should make him a popular man this winter and overshadow a significant statistical slide from a sensational 2017. During the Astros’ championship season, he slashed .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs, but with more playing time in 2018, those numbers dropped to .247/.324/.409 and 16. Still, the best way to plan for an uncertain future is to get a guy that can plug seven different holes.

Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen is now three seasons removed from the end of an incredible four-year run that saw him finish in the top five in NL MVP voting four times, including a win of the award in 2013. But that doesn’t mean he’s washed up. McCutchen is just a few months older than Brantley (he turned 32 in October) and got on base at a slightly higher clip than the now-former Cleveland Indian in 2018, with an on-base percentage of .368 while playing for both the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. McCutchen didn’t play a lick of center field last season, so those days seem to be behind him. But he still hit 20 homers and 30 doubles and walked 95 times, the second-highest single-season total of his career. That last skill would be very much welcome in the White Sox lineup, but he carries with him the same questions Brantley does about being a long-term solution. Is it worth it to spend on a name like McCutchen if he’s not a part of the long-term plan?

A.J. Pollock

If it was November 2015, people would be lining up for a shot at the then-27-year-old Pollock, who slashed .315/.367/.498, hit 20 homers, banged out 39 doubles, stole 39 bases, went to the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove. But three years and a whole bunch of missed time later, Pollock isn’t looking like a franchise cornerstone anymore. He played in just 12 games in 2016, just 112 games in 2017 and just 113 games last season. His most recent crop of numbers, from 2018, look like this: a .257/.316/.484 slash line with 21 homers, 21 doubles and 13 stolen bases. He’ll be 31 next week, and he’s a center fielder. In fact, he hasn’t played corner outfield since 2014. Not that he couldn’t, of course.

Adam Jones

A five-time All Star and three-time Gold Glover in center field, the 33-year-old Jones was finally moved to the corners in his last season with the Baltimore Orioles. He perhaps isn’t as attractive an offensive upgrade as Brantley or McCutchen, though his .281 batting average in 2018 was significantly higher than McCutchen’s. Still, his power numbers nosedived last season, with only 15 homers (four fewer than Garcia) and a .419 slugging percentage that ranked as his lowest in a decade. Jones would likely not be a part of the long-term planning on the South Side, but — and this very well applies to Brantley and McCutchen, too — he’d figure to be a valuable clubhouse presence in the short term, a veteran player who’s at the very least been to the postseason.

Derek Dietrich

Here’s a name that probably won’t generate much excitement but is an interesting option. The 29-year-old Dietrich cleared waivers just a few days ago, becoming a free agent after spending the first six seasons of his big league career with the Miami Marlins. Like the aforementioned Gonzalez, he’s a jack of many trades, playing five different positions during the 2018 season: first base, second base, third base, left field and right field (he DH’d, too). The offensive numbers don’t scream “sign this man immediately,” but they’re far from bad. Dietrich slashed .265/.330/.421 with 16 homers in 2018. However, he also struck out 140 times last season, a 42-strikeout increase from 2017, when he had just 93 fewer at-bats.

Carlos Gonzalez

Had he been a free agent after the 2016 season, Gonzalez would’ve got a huge contract last winter. Instead, he was a free agent after a bad 2017 season, and he didn’t sign till late and with the same team. He didn’t find much redemption with the Colorado Rockies in 2018, with a modest growth in batting average and a .010 slide in on-base percentage. But he improved on his power numbers enough (two more homers, from 14 to 16, and four more triples, from zero to four) to grow his slugging percentage more than .040 points. Still, the 33-year-old’s best days might be behind him. After mashing a combined 65 homers in 2015 and 2016, he hit just 30 in 2017 and 2018, while still playing his home games at Coors Field.

Curtis Granderson

Bring the Chicago guy home? The Grandy Man might be better suited as a part-time or bench option, given that he only made 70 outfield starts last season. But even in his age-37 season he mustered a .351 on-base percentage and 13 home runs, not to mention he helped the Milwaukee Brewers come within a win of the World Series after he went there in a midseason trade. He played in the postseason for the fourth straight season and would figure to be a great addition to the clubhouse. But is he an everyday right fielder at 38 (the age he’ll be by Opening Day)?

Gerardo Parra​​​​​​​

Parra doesn’t swing too heavy a stick, with just six homers in 2018. But he hit .284, reached base at a .342 clip and has two Gold Gloves on his resume. He’ll turn 32 in May, just like Brantley. He’s perhaps not an exciting offensive addition, but he’d be an upgrade over Garcia.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey speak with Charlotte Knights catcher Zack Collins about

-His hot start to the season at the plate (5:30)

-How James McCann helped him with his catching during spring training (7:20)

-How he's changed his approach at the plate this season (13:10)

-What he orders at Chick-fil-A (15:40)

-Why he's not thinking or worrying about getting called up to the majors (17:50)

-An incredible story about Dylan Cease (20:30)

-His thoughts on Tim Anderson's bat flip (28:20) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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White Sox Talk Podcast

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A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

Hitting has not been the biggest problem for the White Sox. But even after a win to kick off this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles, they're still under .500 and in fourth place in the aggressively weak AL Central.

There's a ton of baseball left, and their spot in the standings on April 22 indicates nothing about where they'll be at the end of September. But the issues that have cropped up in the early going — many of them having to do with what's gone on on the pitcher's mound — have signaled that another losing season in the thick of the ongoing rebuilding process wouldn't come as a great shock.

That point being established, there's still been more to smile about in the early going this season than there was perhaps in the entirety of the 2018 campaign, what Rick Hahn described from the beginning as "the toughest part of the rebuild." That turned out to be prescient, with the White Sox losing 100 games. This year, the early season emergence of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and, to a lesser extent, Eloy Jimenez have made it so there are exciting reasons to pay attention to what's going on on the South Side, all the while making for a lineup that can push across a good deal of runs.

Now imagine if Jose Abreu wasn't hitting below the Mendoza Line.

He's not anymore after a big night Monday, but the guy who's arguably still the team's best hitter when everything's right hasn't been right very often so far in 2019. That could be starting to change, though, and if it does, a lineup that's already a heck of a lot more threatening to opposing pitchers than it was at any point in 2018 could become even more fearsome, even more productive. And that leads to more wins, important not just for fans hoping for a surprise run at relevancy given the weak state of the division, but for a team building a lineup for the future that it hopes is scoring a whole bunch of runs in meaningful games in seasons to come.

Abreu went 3-for-5 in Monday night's 12-2 laugher in Baltimore, the White Sox bats looking even better with an opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching, which entered as the worst staff in the majors with a 6.21 ERA and owned a 6.37 ERA after Monday's blowout. But it's a three-game hitting streak for a guy whose average was down to .174 after Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. Since, he's 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs.

Maybe it's just a nice three-game stretch, boosted by a chance to swing against the big leagues' worst pitching staff. But it allows the White Sox to dream about a lineup made ever more dangerous by the regular production of a two-time All Star and one of the AL's reigning Silver Sluggers.

Again, offense has not been the main reason the White Sox are still underwater, from a win-loss perspective, at this point. They aren't exactly blowing the doors off the league when it comes to their offensive prowess, middle of the pack in baseball with 106 runs scored this season. But they entered Monday's game with a 5.44 team ERA, one of the four worst marks in the bigs. The bullpen's ERAs are still on their way down after short outings from the starting staff in the season's first couple of weeks forced them into unenviable situations. One run allowed in Monday's bullpen day should help with that. The team ERA shot down to 5.27 after Monday's game, still not enough to vault them out of the bottom six teams in the league.

But reliable versions of Anderson (who's still hitting over .400), Moncada and Jimenez are pieces this lineup didn't have last year, and they've been three of the best parts of it so far in 2019. Leury Garcia has been quietly productive if not flashy while doing it. James McCann, who hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in Monday night's rout, has put up good numbers in limited time while splitting catching duties with Welington Castillo. Even Ryan Cordell, only the team's starting right fielder for a few days, has shown promise with a couple homers already. There have been holes, of course, chiefly Yolmer Sanchez — who was still hitting under .100 on April 13 but is now batting .231 after a three-hit night Monday — and the sent-down Daniel Palka. Abreu and Yonder Alonso, in the middle of the White Sox order, have been unproductive, as well, while the younger guys have flourished around them.

But an Abreu turnaround — or, really, an awakening, considering how early it still is — would boost the numbers and make the lineup capable of even more on a regular basis.

It could also be another factor in the ongoing conversation about a potential Abreu contract extension. While Hahn has suggested it's unlikely that such a deal would be struck during the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see it come before Abreu is set to hit free agency once the 2019-20 offseason begins. The White Sox are such big fans of what Abreu does in the clubhouse and as a mentor for younger players that production might not play as big a role as it normally would. But obviously the consistency of that production in Abreu's first five big league seasons certainly helps. To keep that production going with a late-April awakening would be all the more reason to keep Abreu around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

The White Sox lineup has been promising to this point. It could become downright potent if Abreu starts knocking the ball around as we all know he can.

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