Despite a roster full of players worth looking at in the designated hitter spot this year, rumors are floating that the Sox may be in the market for a veteran bat to fill the spot. Many expected the role to fall into the lap of Matt Davidson, who had a decent year last year, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 68 in his first full year in the big leagues. Davidson’s issues were noticeable though. A high strikeout rate of 37.2 percent, and an on base percentage of .260 have labeled Davidson as a boom or bust option. The White Sox have had plenty of those in the past and do not appear keen another year of that sort of up and down production.
With the lack of faith in Davidson, the Sox turn their attention to some veterans available on the free agent market. Due to the snails-pace of the offseason, there are a number of interesting options available for the Sox to take a look at. While none of these players will be part of the core of the team moving forward, there is a strong possibility Sox fans will be seeing one of the following players getting around 500 at bats this year. While the Sox have not been directly linked (publicly) to any of the following players, the Sox long and checkered history of signing veterans makes these players make the most sense.
Jose Bautista: 2017 with Blue Jays: .203/.308/.366 23 HR 65 RBI
Perhaps the most well known name on the list, Bautista is far from the same player that hit 227 home runs from 2010 to 2015. Bautista’s numbers from the past two years suggest a steady decline, which would make sense given that he is 37-years old. Last year was particularly ugly for him, despite hitting 23 home runs he was a -1.7 WAR player and he was widely regarded as one of the worst everyday players in baseball.
Bautista is no longer capable of playing a competent outfield position and his numbers will likely only further decline this year. Not to mention he is infamously hard to get along with. While he is a fun name to think about due to his history of home runs and fantastic bat flips, he is likely a player the Sox would only be wasting their time on. That’s not to say the White Sox aren’t guilty of trying to squeeze every last bit of production out of players well past their prime, but hopefully they are leaving that habit in the past, where Jose Bautista’s role as an everyday player resides as well.
Lucas Duda: 2017 with Rays and Mets: .217/.322/.496 30 HR 64 RBI
Unlike Bautista, Lucas Duda is a player that would be an interesting signing for the Sox. Coming off a year in which he hit 30 home runs while splitting time between the Rays and Mets, Duda is a viable option for the Sox. He could provide a consistent presence in the lineup and also spell Jose Abreu at first base at times. While Duda’s average is low for a middle of the lineup bat, his on base percentage is still respectable at .322. Duda would likely come cheap for the White Sox too.
Outside of back problems that limited him to 47 games in 2016, Duda has been an under the radar consistent performer, hitting 25 home runs or more every year since 2014. At 31 years old a drastic decline from him is unlikely at this point, and he may be worth a two or three year contract. Duda is the number one name on this list that the Sox should seriously consider if they do not view Matt Davidson as capable of handling designated hitter responsibilities this year.
Carlos Gonzalez: 2017 with Rockies: .262/.339/.423 14 HR 57 RBI
It was not long ago that Carlos Gonzalez was an MVP candidate in the National League. A two-time Silver Slugger winner, he hit 40 home runs for the Rockies in 2015 and made his third All-Star team in 2016. 2017 was not as kind to the 31-year old outfielder, hitting only 14 home runs and slugging .423 while dealing with injuries that limited him to 136 games. It is also worth noting that his drop in power production occurred while hitting in Coors Field.
The decline from his normal numbers and the injury history make Gonzalez a less than desirable option at this point. Though his past production may be too much to ignore for the Sox. His value is hard to estimate at this point, but there are interested teams out there and the White Sox may very well be one. The uncertainty surrounding his production from a year ago and the drastic decrease in his slugging percentage make Gonzalez a risky option for the Sox this year, and a player likely best left for another team.
Logan Morrison: 2017 with Rays: .246/.353/.516 38 HR 85 RB
Logan Morrison’s colorful personality, which shines on his social media, particularly Twitter, has made him a fan favorite since he came into the league with the then Florida Marlins in 2010. In 2017 it was Morrison’s production rather than his personality that drew attention league-wide. Blasting a career high 38 home runs, while slugging .516 for Tampa Bay, thrust Morrison into the spot light for an otherwise boring and non-competitive Rays team.
As the youngest player on the list at 30, Morrison appears to be a very viable option for the White Sox in their search for a veteran presence in the lineup. The danger with Morrison is the size of his contract likely will not match the production he actually provides. Last year was a breakout year for Morrison no question, but at 30-years old his unimpressive production prior to 2015 should not be ignored. Morrison has a long history of injuries and has played in 100 games only four times in his eight year career. His previous career high for home runs was 23, back in 2011, and after that his next highest total was 17. Morrison will likely be looking to cash in on his career year, and with the uncertainty surrounding him due to his past production and injury history, he is a risk probably not worth taking for the Sox.
While many of the names on this list have had immense success in the past, and would provide the club house with some veteran leadership, the questions surrounding most of them are impossible to ignore. With Matt Davidson in the fold, it is probably in the best interest of the Sox to give him another year to try and establish himself, rather than signing an older player to take away his at bats. If the Sox are insistent on signing a veteran to fill the designated hitter role, then Lucas Duda appears to be the best bet for the Sox in terms of sure production.