White Sox

If White Sox end up looking for a lefty right fielder, a trade with the Rangers might get the job done

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USA TODAY

If White Sox end up looking for a lefty right fielder, a trade with the Rangers might get the job done

The White Sox are on the hunt for a new right fielder this winter. Ideally, they'd find some left-handed hitting, too. So the thought of accomplishing both tasks with one player has obviously come to mind.

With the much discussed notion that it might be difficult for the White Sox to construct a package of mid-tier prospects that could pry an impact player away via trade, the focus has been on free agency. And free agency offers only a couple left-handed corner outfielders of note. The best options on the market seem to be Kole Calhoun, who hit 33 home runs in 2019, and Corey Dickerson, who had a .906 OPS in limited 2019 action but has only played six career games in right field. Either could be a useful piece for the South Siders.

But could the trade market offer an alternative?

The folks down in Texas seem to think an option will be out there for some team to snap up in a trade. Nomar Mazara might be the odd man out as the Rangers look at a surplus of corner outfielders moving into 2020, and multiple pieces this week from The Athletic have suggested trading him, one hypothetically sending him to the White Sox.

Mazara's name has been mentioned alongside the White Sox before. Ahead of the trade deadline in July, there was a report that the White Sox were one of a couple teams "watching" the outfielder.

Now, Mazara might be in same range of jazziness as Calhoun and Dickerson, not exactly a huge splash that would single-handedly vault the White Sox into contention mode the way that a right-handed free-agent corner outfielder like Nicholas Castellanos might. But Mazara would perhaps be worth a look depending on how the rest of the White Sox offseason shapes up.

He's just 24 years old, with two more years of affordable club control remaining. He's a left-handed right fielder, which would fill a couple holes. Unfortunately, much of his value would be in his potential rather than what he's already showed. He's failed to live up to the expectations that accompanied his major league arrival back in 2016, one of the reasons the Rangers would potentially want to move on from him.

Mazara's hit 79 homers in four seasons, including 19 of them in just 116 games last season. His career .261/.320/.435 slash line leaves plenty to be desired when searching for a "wow" kind of upgrade.

Of course, anything would be an upgrade in right field for the White Sox after they posted the worst production at the position last season: a .220/.277/.288 output that makes Mazara's .268/.318/.469 line look otherworldly. Should they add a big bat at designated hitter, perhaps they could afford to roll the dice on someone like Mazara in right field in the name of balancing the lineup.

And they could do it at a potentially low prospect cost. Levi Weaver, who proposed the imaginary trade sending Mazara to the South Side, had the White Sox giving two low-level prospects — Codi Heuer and Luis Mieses, the Nos. 24 and 29 prospects in the White Sox system, respectively — to the Rangers in return. That seems like an affordable deal for an everyday right fielder.

Now, it should be noted that the White Sox seem to consider adding left-handed hitting to the lineup a good outcome but not necessarily a priority. Rick Hahn has no Thanos-esque craving for balance. Here's what the general manager had to say during his end-of-season press conference in September.

"Ideally, that would be nice," he said, asked if he'd be searching for a lefty bat this winter. "Ideally, you'd like to balance that out, and that would require adding some left-handed power. We don't want to get too hung up strictly on handedness in the end and sign an inferior, say, left-handed hitter when a better right-handed hitter is available and fits. But it's a consideration, and in an ideal world we would balance it out."

So don't walk away from this thinking the White Sox are only going to target left-handed hitters at the expense of better, splashier upgrades.

But should that kind of an upgrade come elsewhere on the diamond — maybe they want to take a look at free agents like Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson or Yasmani Grandal or explore a trade for J.D. Martinez — then an opportunity could exist to target left-handed hitting with a vacant right-field spot.

And Mazara could fit the bill.

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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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