White Sox

Charlie Tilson outrighted as White Sox begin to reshape 40-man roster

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USA TODAY

Charlie Tilson outrighted as White Sox begin to reshape 40-man roster

The baseball minutiae that is the 40-man roster might not be of the gravest importance to every fan. But it's going to have a decently sized impact on the White Sox this winter.

In order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft — in which organizations can snap up unprotected players off other teams' rosters — those eligible need to hold a spot on the 40-man roster. And a bunch of notable White Sox prospects will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft this December, meaning the team will have to clear enough room on the 40-man to protect them or risk losing them to other teams.

Those notable prospects? Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, Zack Burdi and suddenly much-discussed catcher Yermin Mercedes. That's as many as six spots the White Sox will need to free up to protect those guys. Also of note, players currently on the 60-day injured list (cough, cough, Michael Kopech, cough, cough — not to mention Ryan Burr and Carlos Rodon, also recovering from Tommy John surgery) have to be activated and take up a spot on the 40-man during the offseason.

Got all that?

In other words, expect a lot more moves like the one that happened Thursday, when the White Sox outrighted outfielder Charlie Tilson, who can either stay in the White Sox minor league system or become a free agent. That brought the 40-man roster to 39, but there's a long way to go before the White Sox can cram everyone they need to cram onto the thing.

Unfortunately for Tilson, his most noteworthy moment of the 2019 season came when Eloy Jimenez crashed into him in the outfield in Kansas City, sending the key piece of the White Sox long-term future to the injured list with an ulnar nerve contusion. That wasn't Tilson's fault, of course, but he was sent to Triple-A after that game and did not return to the majors, not even as a September call up.

Tilson, a Wilmette native, slashed .229/.293/.285 in 54 games, part of the White Sox roulette of outfielders who tried and failed to produce in 2019. Jimenez and Leury Garcia were mainstays, but Tilson, Adam Engel, Jon Jay, Daniel Palka and Ryan Cordell couldn't do much offensively with the opportunities they were given, the big reason finding a right fielder is on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list.

As for what all this has to do with the the Rule 5 draft, it's the first of an expected series of moves to free up enough spots on the 40-man roster to protect all those prospects newly eligible. Regular offseason departures will likely free up many more. Ivan Nova, Jon Jay, Hector Santiago and Ross Detwiler are heading to regularly scheduled free agency, it would be quite surprising if the White Sox picked up Welington Castillo's 2020 option, and Ryan Goins and Yolmer Sanchez are non-tender candidates, even if their fates haven't been decided just yet.

But there are many more decisions to be made with players the White Sox still have under team control, guys whose promise might have dimmed in 2019 but who still could reach high ceilings, guys who could provide much-needed depth on a potentially contending roster in 2020. The White Sox made their decision with Tilson this week. Expect some more to follow.

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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.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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