White Sox

Makes sense White Sox would chase Nicholas Castellanos' bat, but what about his glove?

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USA TODAY

Makes sense White Sox would chase Nicholas Castellanos' bat, but what about his glove?

Nicholas Castellanos makes plenty of sense for the White Sox. There’s just one thing.

The top free-agent right fielder on this winter's market, Castellanos was excellent in 2019, with a .289/.337/.525 slash line to go along with 27 home runs and a major league leading 58 doubles. He cranked things up after a midseason trade to the Cubs, hitting .321/.356/.646 in 51 games on the North Side.

The White Sox are certainly familiar after Castellanos tormented them for more than half a decade with the division-rival Detroit Tigers. In recent seasons, he wore South Side pitching out, with a 1.039 OPS, five homers and 20 RBIs in 19 games during the 2018 season and an even better 1.132 OPS, two homers and eight RBIs in just eight games in 2019.

He’s also particularly feasted at Guaranteed Rate Field, where he hit .316/.381/.579 in 2018 and an even better .417/.462/.792 in 2019.

Castellanos’ bat is not a question. It would be just the kind of thing the White Sox would like to add to the middle of their lineup. Word from sports betting expert Sam Panayotovich that they’re “strongly pursuing” Castellanos shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, either. Rick Hahn included right field on his offseason to-do list and has long stated that adding an impact player from outside the organization is one of the goals of his rebuilding effort.

But what about the glove?

The knock on Castellanos has long been his defense, and at least one of the metrics used to measure defense backs those concerns up. His minus-nine Defensive Runs Saved in 2019 were better than only three other right fielders in the majors.

To many, that might not strike as a big deal. You might be thinking: “So the glove isn’t as good as the bat. Have you seen how good the bat is?”

That’s not at all a ridiculous opinion to have. But the White Sox need to take the rest of their outfield into account. Eloy Jimenez very much looked like a work in progress in left field during his rookie season. Luis Robert has received positive reviews for his defensive ability as a minor league center fielder, but he’ll be getting just his first taste of the majors in 2020. Saddling him with both Jimenez and Castellanos on either side could potentially have some negative impact on his development. It’s unknown what the White Sox think about that.

The reputation is enough that former big league general manager Jim Bowden wrote in regard to Castellanos just the other day at The Athletic that “he’ll need to sign with a team that has plus defenders at the other two spots.” The White Sox will not fit into that category unless Jimenez makes a big leap from his rookie to sophomore seasons.

None of that is to suggest, however, that the White Sox should stay away from Castellanos. The bat is just the kind of thing they’re looking for, and the fact that he’s only 27 lines up nicely with Hahn’s plans for long-term contention. He’s also got a reputation as a great clubhouse guy, with the term “leader” being thrown around during his half season with the Cubs.

But the defensive ability, coupled with his agent being Scott Boras, could provide some hurdles. Would Castellanos be interested in DH-ing? Not many under-30 players looking to score huge multi-year contracts are. But that’s a hole the White Sox need to fill, as well.

Considering Hahn’s ongoing efforts to bring in a big name and help vault his rebuilding project into overdrive, we should expect to hear plenty about the White Sox being in pursuit of some of the biggest names on the free-agent market. Castellanos included.

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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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