SAN DIEGO — So much for the do-nothing White Sox at these Winter Meetings.
General manager Rick Hahn spent his first two media sessions in Southern California talking about his team's lack of urgency to get any moves made this week. But things change in a hurry at the Winter Meetings, and after rumors floated Tuesday afternoon that the White Sox were in trade talks with the Texas Rangers about outfielder Nomar Mazara, the teams agreed to a deal Tuesday night.
In exchange for Mazara, the White Sox traded away outfield prospect Steele Walker, the team's second-round draft pick in 2018 and the organization's No. 6 prospect.
Mazara isn't the splashy acquisition many fans had sky-high hopes for, anticipating the White Sox, with their pledged aggressive approach to the offseason and money to spend, would be linked to the biggest names on the free-agent market: Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Those two came with their own sets of questions, but they swing undoubtedly big bats. Mazara's offensive production has been more modest, a .261/.320/.435 slash line, 79 home runs and 308 RBIs in four big league seasons. In 2019, he hit .268/.318/.469 with 19 homers and 66 RBIs in 116 games.
But he does deliver on some of the White Sox hopes. He's a left-handed hitter, something the White Sox could certainly use given their right-handed heavy lineup. He is also potentially less of a defensive liability in right field than either Castellanos or Ozuna, even though he was far from great, with minus-four Defensive Runs Saved as a right fielder in 2019. But he's athletic and earned positive reviews from White Sox manager Rick Renteria shortly after the rumors hit the internet Tuesday.
“He's obviously a powerful man, 6-4, I think, 6-5. He looks like he's seven-foot every time I see him in the box,” Renteria said. “Runs extremely well for a big guy. Can defend. Good arm. Brings a lot of qualities to the plate. Can pop one in the seats as quickly as anybody. I think he's done it against us a number of times, but he can play right field well.”
Mazara might not single-handedly send fans streaming toward the box office to sign up for season tickets, but he's undoubtedly a big upgrade for the team in right field. Mazara had a .786 OPS in 2019. White Sox right fielders had a .565 OPS. The White Sox had a pressing need in right, and this deal seems to solve that problem.
The White Sox are hoping with Mazara that they'll be able to unlock some of the potential he failed to reach in his four-year big league tenure with the Rangers — Hahn describing that potential as "untapped" in the team's announcement. He's only 24 years old, after all, and could be a diamond-in-the-rough find for the White Sox as they look to improve for 2020.
“That's where you really can make your hay,” Hahn said Tuesday afternoon. “That's where, if you can find something that's undervalued and you can get it better and you have tangible reasons for believing you can get this guy better, that's a real opportunity.”
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