On Friday, MLB teams had to decide whether they wanted to tender or non-tender a contract to some of their players for the upcoming season. While some of the decisions were obvious, there were still a few surprises as more names have now hit the free agent market. The White Sox non-tendered Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson, allowing both of them to become free agents. After unsuccessfully finding a trade partner for Garcia, the White Sox thought it was best to let him go, which was expected. The Davidson news was somewhat of a surprise as he seemed set to be a platoon DH for the team during the 2019 season.
Now that all final decisions have been made, let’s take a look at some of the newest names to hit the free agent market that could be a good fit for the White Sox:
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
2018 was a rough year for Schoop. He struggled in Baltimore to start the year and he continued to struggle in Milwaukee after he was traded there. The Brewers hoped he could figure things out and provide plenty of value as they went on a playoff run, but that was not the case. Between both teams, Schoop hit .233 with 21 home runs and 61 RBI’s in 2018 and he failed to record a hit in four postseason games. However, in 2017, Jonathan Schoop had an All-Star season for the Orioles where he reached a career-high in batting average (.293), home runs (32), and RBI’s (105). The White Sox would be taking a gamble by signing Schoop, but I think it’s one they should be willing to take. He provides plenty of flexibility defensively, having played second-base, shortstop, and third-base throughout his career. If the White Sox are serious (and it seems like they are) about testing out Yoan Moncada at third-base, Jonathan Schoop would be more than capable of taking over for Moncada as the primary second baseman next season. Schoop is just 27-years-old, but it’s looking like he has to prove himself again after his recent struggles. The South Side of Chicago would be the perfect place for him to try and revive his career.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Speed and defense are the two best things Hamilton brings to the table. Hamilton just wrapped up his sixth season in the MLB and has 50 or more stolen bases in four of those seasons. He’s struggled at the plate throughout his career and his batting average has continued to drop during the last two seasons. However, the reason I list him as a good fit is because he would be able to compete with Adam Engel for the center field spot. Engel has manned the center field spot for a few years and really hasn’t had anyone compete with him for it. Also, Hamilton could be used in pinch running or late inning situations when the White Sox need to move a man into scoring position. Plus, Billy Hamilton is someone that consistently hustles on every play, which is exactly the type of guy that Ricky Renteria would love to have on his ball club. In 2018, Hamilton hit .236 with 16 2B, 9 3B, 4 HR, and 29 RBI’s. He also swiped 34 bags and was caught stealing 10 times. While Billy Hamilton might not be much of an upgrade in comparison to Engel, Hamilton at the least can compete with him and the White Sox could use his speed to their advantage.
Blake Parker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Blake Parker is becoming a journeyman, having played for the Cubs, Mariners, Yankees, and most recently the Angels throughout his six seasons in the MLB. He’s had a bit of a roller coaster of a career so far, however, he put together two very solid seasons for the Angels. In 2018, Parker posted a 3.26 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 19 walks in 66.1 IP. He appeared in 67 games and registered 14 saves. In the last two seasons, Parker has had a K/9 of 11.5 and 9.5, and a BB/9 of 2.1 and 2.6. At 33-years-old, Parker would not only be an affordable arm to add to the bullpen if they happen to miss out on some of the other free agents that are available, but he can also serve as a veteran presence in what is becoming a fairly young bullpen on the South Side.
Mike Fiers, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Currently, one obvious hole on the White Sox roster is in the starting rotation. After the team declined James Shields‘ option and with Michael Kopech missing all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, the White Sox need to fill two spots in the rotation. While the White Sox are not likely to fill a spot through a recently non-tendered starter, Mike Fiers would be a decent option if they decide to go that route. Similarly to Blake Parker, Fiers would fill the veteran role in the starting rotation while waiting for the arrival of Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and the other White Sox pitching prospects who will be making their way to the MLB in the near future. Mike Fiers spent his 2018 season with the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics where he posted a combined 3.56 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 37 walks in 172.0 IP. Fiers has not reached 200 IP in a season so far, however, he’s come close to that mark a few times throughout his career. The White Sox have a ton of money to spend this off-season, so it’s likely they wouldn’t settle for a starting pitcher unless they had no choice. There will be guys like Jordan Stephens who could have the opportunity to fight for a rotation spot during Spring Training, and Mike Fiers would be a good fit as a guy to not only compete with them, but to also help get them prepared for the next stage of their career.
Hunter Strickland, RHP, San Francisco Giants
In terms of recently non-tendered bullpen pitchers, Hunter Strickland is up there as one of the most interesting names available. Strickland was one of the more consistent bullpen pitchers during his five seasons in San Francisco, however, he hit a rough patch in 2018. Last season, Strickland had a 3.97 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 21 walks in 45.1 IP. Strickland missed extended time last season due to a fractured pinkie on his throwing hand after punching a door out of frustration. He ended his season on a positive note though, tossing a scoreless inning in five out of his final six appearances. With Farhan Zaidi now running the show in San Francisco, perhaps he felt like it was best to let Strickland go after what was his second sign of showing he has trouble handling his emotions. The first occurrence being when he was suspended for drilling Bryce Harper with a fastball. Hunter Strickland is a very talented pitcher and he’s shown that plenty of times in the past. Not only would he be a boost to the White Sox bullpen, but if he were able to get back to his old self, he could potentially be another arm that Rick Hahn can deal at the trade deadline.
With the White Sox having plenty of money to spend this off-season, they might look to sign one or two of these new free agents. There are plenty of other options out there, however, these are some names that would be a good fit if the White Sox end up missing out on their priority targets. The White Sox have had a fairly quiet off-season so far, but that should change soon with the Winter Meetings being less than a week away.
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