Veteran dependability has been the name of the game for Rick Hahn with his last two acquisitions to try to plug the White Sox hole at designated hitter.
Two offseasons ago, he made a trade for Yonder Alonso, who hit .178 and was off the team by July.
Last winter, Hahn made what at the time was a celebrated signing, bringing in established thumper Edwin Encarnación. But despite a positive impact on the clubhouse during the shortened 2020 season, Encarnación hit just .157.
So it's back to the drawing board. Where does Hahn go from here to avoid a third strike? There are a few enticing names on the free-agent market, and perhaps none seem like a better fit than Michael Brantley.
Brantley is well known to White Sox fans. He spent years tormenting the South Siders as a member of the division-rival Cleveland Indians, with whom he made a trio of American League All-Star teams.
He spent the past two seasons with the Houston Astros, healthy and incredibly productive, with a .309/.370/.497 slash line in 194 regular-season games. In back-to-back trips to the ALCS — and coming a game shy of winning the World Series in 2019 — Brantley proved himself a terrific postseason performer, as well, batting .311/.391/.426 in 31 playoff games.
Sticking that kind of reliably productive bat in the lineup is exactly what the White Sox are looking to do as they set their sights on winning the World Series in 2021 and beyond. They showed with their managerial swap that they're seeking those who know what it takes to get to the top of baseball's heap. Playing with the dominant Astros the past two seasons, Brantley definitely falls into that category. It's no wonder Houston wants to keep him around.
Brantley, of course, is an outfielder by trade, a left fielder, for the most part, though he logged 26 games at DH for the Astros during the 2020 season. Where would he fit with the White Sox?
It would sure be tempting to slide him over to right field, where the team doesn't have an internal option like it seems to at designated hitter with top rated prospect Andrew Vaughn. Signing Brantley and sticking him in right would allow Vaughn to start at DH and add two potentially impact bats to a lineup that already proved itself plenty dangerous in 2020.
But Brantley's played just nine games in right field in his 12-year major league career, which could possibly make DH the most logical fit from the White Sox perspective. That might "block" Vaughn — though as exciting as the 2019 first-round pick's bat is, he hasn't played a game above Class A — and leave a hole in right field. But it could mean getting the most out of one of the most consistent and dependable bats in baseball.
Solving the DH spot has been on the White Sox to-do list for years. With winning a championship No. 1 on that list heading into 2021, Brantley would be as good a solve as they come.