Look around the diamond, and the White Sox don’t have many holes.
There are long-term fixtures just about everywhere. Except right field.
Fortunately, this winter’s free-agent market provides Rick Hahn’s front office with a prime opportunity to plug that hole: George Springer.
Last winter’s trade for Nomar Mazara resulted in disappointment, the power-hitting left-handed swinger finishing the shortened 2020 campaign with just one home run. In past years of the White Sox rebuilding project, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the team to utilize its remaining year of club control on the 25-year-old Mazara, give him another shot and see if the “untapped potential” that was such a talking point could be uncovered.
But these are win-now times for the White Sox. As they showed by swapping managers earlier this offseason, the South Siders are in the market for dependability. Rick Renteria is no longer the manager because there was an opportunity to bring in someone who had experience taking teams to the championship level. And while the managerial search might not have ended the way Hahn thought it would, no one can argue that Tony La Russa hasn’t been there and done that when it comes to winning the World Series.
The same is true of Springer, the 31-year-old outfielder who spent the past seven seasons at the heart of the Houston Astros’ rise from rebuilders to one of baseball’s best teams. Few players were more integral in the past four years of Astros dominance, which featured four straight trips to the ALCS, a pair of pennants and a World Series win in 2017.
Springer was a three-time All Star during that span, twice a Silver Slugger, with three top-15 finishes in the last four AL MVP votes. He’s proven himself a tremendous postseason performer, the 2017 World Series MVP and tied for fourth on baseball’s all-time postseason home run list, with 19.
Quite simply, Springer is one of the game’s great players. The White Sox, as they showed last winter with their deals for Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel — Springer’s former teammate in Houston — are at the point in their project where they are expected to add those kinds of proven stars to the mix. Hahn & Co. have gone a long way toward building a contender with homegrown talent, but they can push things to championship levels with an addition like Springer.
Springer ought to know. It’s the same playbook his Astros used to become champions when they added Justin Verlander in 2017.
This offseason will be an unpredictable one, no one quite sure how teams will act and how players will fare after a season without paying customers in the stands. But the White Sox have financial flexibility thanks to affordable long-term deals for their young stars. They have a win-now mindset after getting a taste of the postseason and bringing in a Hall-of-Fame manager.
Hahn’s carefully laid rebuilding plans likely didn’t include how to spend during a pandemic, but they did include moves like Springer: the “finishing piece” the general manager so often mentioned that would get the White Sox to the World Series.