The failed pursuit of game-changing free agents last off-season left White Sox fans and observers with an empty feeling in their stomachs. The organization’s free market misses have been well documented and believing in these decision makers to win a bidding war for a big fish seems like the errand of a fool.
The White Sox do have money to spend though and they’ve proclaimed vociferously that it will in fact be spent. In 2020, the White Sox have just $23 million (Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Kelvin Herrera) in payroll commitments prior to arbitration.
Pitching is expected to be a focus of the winter but lineup upgrades should be expected as well. Nick Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna are the guys generally talked about as potential fits on the open market. They could all play right field or occupy space at the designated hitter position on an American League club.
They also fall in line with Jerry Reinsdorf’s typical spending habits. Jose Abreu is in the final season of a $68 million contract that still stands as the largest expenditure in team history. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number eclipsed this winter. The fanbase should and will be skeptical but the money actually does have to be spent somewhere.
An Upgrade in Right Field?
In 2019, Chicago White Sox right fielders have combined for a wRC+ of 54. League average is 100 and that is the worst total of all time. It’s not hard to figure out where the resources will go this off-season. While the outfield corner has been a big problem, filling the lineup with adequate production at designated hitter has been a tall task as well. When being penciled in as the DH in Renteria’s lineup, Sox hitters have slashed .193/.273/.322 in 2019.
Yoan Moncada (3B), Tim Anderson (SS), Eloy Jimenez (LF) and James McCann (C) should be roster locks for 2020 with Luis Robert (CF) and Nick Madrigal (2B) joining the fray at some point in early April. Jose Abreu could return to the team as well but first base, designated hitter and right field seem like the easiest ways to add to the lineup as presently constructed.
— James Fox (@JamesFox917) September 7, 2019
Veteran White Sox scribe Scot Gregor of The Daily Herald accidentally tweeted out some pertinent free agent information shared by Ken Williams in what was supposed to be an “off-the-record” conversation. From the news, it can be gleaned that the organization is interested in adding left-handed power to what has the potential to be a very righty influenced lineup.
It was also stated that free agency would likely be the modus operandi used in acquiring said slugger. One glance at the list of potential free agents leaves much to be desired in that regard. 31-year-old Kole Calhoun of the Angels (106 wRC+) and 30-year-old Corey Dickerson of the Phillies (121 wRC+) are the names that fit the description. Others like Joc Pederson (125 wRC+) of the Dodgers, David Peralta (106 wRC+) of the Diamondbacks and even Shin-Soo Choo (111 wRC+) of the Rangers could be fits on the trade market.
The White Sox are in no position to ignore production and availability when trying to fill out a roster to win baseball games in 2020 and beyond though. There could be a monster addition added to the free agent class this winter. He’s not an ideal fit when hyper-focused on handedness but every other box has a check in it as it pertains to the club’s potential pursuits.
Slugger Switches to Pale Hose?
On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic did his weekly hit on Fox and discussed the possibility of Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez opting out of his current contract and joining the 2020 free agent class.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 7, 2019
J.D. Martinez has three years and $62 million remaining on his contract in Boston and can opt-out to participate in any of the next few free agent periods. Rosenthal speculates that he could wait a bit longer in the hopes that the National League adopts the DH and his market increases because of it. The White Sox were mentioned by name as a team that could be interested in his services if he becomes free however.
According to Rosenthal, the industry sees Martinez as a DH going forward and that should limit his market somewhat. On yesterday’s broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball, Alex Rodriguez dropped the White Sox as a potential destination for Martinez if he does in fact depart Boston as well. It’s possible that A-Rod was just piggybacking off of the original report from Rosenthal but it’s still worth mentioning. Adding more smoke to the fire was former General Manager Steve Phillips. He mentioned the Pale Hose as a potential destination on MLB Radio with Jim Bowden this morning.
Does It Make Sense For The White Sox?
J.D. Martinez is currently hitting .308/.384/.577 with a .393 wOBA, 143 wRC+ and is 4th in the AL in OPS. The slugger has 35 homers after hitting 43 homers for the World Champs last year. In 2018, the 32-year-old hit .330/.402/.629 with a .427 wOBA and a 170 wRC+. He’s known to be an excellent teammate and anyone who has perused The MVP Machine knows of the impact that his presence has had on some of the younger hitters in Boston.
The 6’3″ 220 pounder originally signed a 5 year deal with the Red Sox for a total of $110 million. He’s on the wrong side of 30 but his production is elite and not showing signs of immediate regression. The Scott Boras client should be able to improve on the 3 years and $62 million coming his way in Boston.
If he’s open to Chicago, the White Sox should absolutely disperse the financial outlay necessary to land Martinez. He’s a middle-of-the-order force and would be a huge asset for the younger hitters on the team. He’s also Cuban born and would likely fit in admirable in that regard as well.
J.D.’s presence could have an effect on the deal Jose Abreu would receive to return if he ended up returning at all. Having too many good hitters is a problem that no team has ever had though. Martinez could play in the outfield some and just bring a bat to the ballpark on the days when a glove isn’t necessary.
He’s 32-years-old and the White Sox could see the back end of a deal as a hindrance. Aging in the same manner as Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz isn’t beyond the realm of possibilities for Martinez though. The White Sox need great hitters and this could be an ideal opportunity to add one. The club would likely have to forfeit their 2nd rounder in the 2020 draft to make the signing official.
Punting on a draft selection in the 50’s to land a middle-of-the-order enforcer should be a no brainer at this juncture though. J.D. Martinez doesn’t solve the left-handed thumper problem on the south side but he’d be a great start toward curing some of the other afflictions that have ailed this group over time.
Follow James on twitter.