Previewing the Free Agent Names the White Sox Should Be Chasing This Offseason
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Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has a busy offseason ahead of him. He must make decisions on several arbitration-eligible players, identify which rookies he thinks will contribute next year and choose which free agents he believes can help the White Sox recover from a disastrous 2013 campaign.
The choices Hahn makes after the season ends will go a long way towards setting the franchise up for sustatined success. Let's take a look at some of the free agents the White Sox should be chasing this offseason.
It is wise to stay within the realm of reason here, so players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Robinson Cano will not be included.
Sure, any of those players would improve the White Sox by quite a bit, and each would address a specific area of need. Unfortunately, Hahn does not have the resources—or the desire, probably—to sign a player to a contract worth upwards of $80 million or more. The front office has surprised the fanbase in the past, but maxing out a contract this winter is more than likely not in the plans.
Here are five free agents—two outfielders, two infielders and a relief pitcher—who would be great fits with the White Sox and will demand reasonable salaries for their abilities.
Projected contract figures are courtesy of Bleacher Report MLB Featured Columnist Joel Reuter. All statistics—advanced, or otherwise—are courtesy of baseball-reference.com and are accurate as of Tuesday, Sept. 24.
5. Corey Hart, 1B/OF
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Corey Hart is one of the less talked about free agents, and that belies his production. A lifetime .276 hitter, Hart has hit 87 home runs, driven in 248 runs and has a .514 slugging percentage over the past three seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers. Those are outstanding numbers worthy of a much larger contract than is being projected.
Hart can play first base and in right field, possibly creating the ultimate platoon system next year. He would also give the White Sox an infusion of power and add some legitimacy to the middle of the batting order.
Even though Hart could cash in as a free agent, he may not even get there. To that point, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt reported late last week that he “would take a much-reduced deal to stay with the Brewers for next season and perhaps beyond.”
If he does hit the open market, it will likely take more than a one-year commitment to get him in a White Sox uniform. He would be a fantastic signing, though.
2013 Statistics: .270/.334/.507, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 91 R, 35 2B, 44 BB, 151 K, 2.3 oWAR
Projected Contract: one-year, $4 million (plus $6 million in incentives)
4. James Loney, 1B
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It may be wishful thinking to believe that the Tampa Bay Rays will part with James Loney. He is after all, having a career season for the Rays, but at the very least, an overture can be made. What makes Loney attractive—from a production perspective—is that he is steady and does not go on extended streaks at the plate where he hurts his team more than he helps.
Now if Loney is signed, it will complicate the situations at both first base and designated hitter for the White Sox. There was chatter before the season that Dayan Viciedo could see some playing time at first base in the future, and since that is Loney's position, adding him to the 25-man roster may alter the direction that general manager Rick Hahn takes this offseason.
Make no mistake, Loney is a better all-around hitter than Viciedo, but if the White Sox are intent on bringing back the Cuban slugger, Loney’s place on the roster is uncertain. If, however, they part ways with Viciedo, then the 29-year-old, left-handed hitter is an ideal fit.
2013 Statistics: .295/.344/.424, 13 HR, 73 RBI, 50 R, 29 2B, 41 BB. 1.8 oWAR
Projected Contract: two-year, $15 million
3. Jesse Crain, RP
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Seeing as how the White Sox are going to need some help in the bullpen next season, why not bring Jesse Crain back for one more go around? Barring any trades, they will have Nate Jones, Addison Reed, Jake Petricka and Matt Lindstrom back for 2014.
And although he has been on the disabled list for a large portion of the 2013 season, he is an excellent reliever who set a White Sox record with 29 consecutive scoreless appearances.
It remains to be seen just how much the injury (right shoulder strain) will affect his delivery long term, but if he is anywhere near as effective as he was before the Sox traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays, then he would add value to the bullpen. It must noted here that a lefty reliever is probably a bigger priority, but Crain is quite effective against left-handed hitters.
Matt Snyder from CBSSports.com reported Monday that Crain has finally been activated and joined the active roster for the Rays.
2013 Statistics: 2-3, 0.74 ERA, 38 G, 36.2 IP, 46 K, 11 BB, 1.145 WHIP
Projected Contract: one-year/$2 million (plus incentives)
2. Marlon Byrd, OF
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Marlon Byrd seems to be getting better with age. One year after compiling a .210/.243/.245 slash line for the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, the outfielder is having his best season since 2008 with the Texas Rangers.
To be sure, Byrd is not a huge upgrade over Alejandro De Aza at the plate. Matter of fact, they have surprisingly similar numbers, but Byrd is much better on the bases and is more fundamentally sound in the outfield.
From watching tape, for example, he seems to take better angles and will not throw to the wrong base like De Aza is prone to do. That is a sentiment shared by Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, via MLB.com’s George Von Benko. With defense sure to be at a premium with any signing this offseason, Byrd is a fit from all sides.
Byrd’s experience would also be a benefit a team that is getting younger each passing season. With Reuters only projecting a two-year contract for Byrd’s services, the reward could be much greater than the risk.
2013 Statistics: .285/.330/.501, 23 HR, 84 RBI, 72 R, 34 2B, 31 BB, 3.3 oWAR
Projected Contract: two-year/$12 million
1. Shin-Soo Choo, OF
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Shin-Soo Choo will be difficult to acquire, but would be an incredible addition to the 25-man roster. He can bat leadoff, is a left-handed hitter and knows a thing or two about working a count in his favor.
While he does have some power, Choo’s specialty is getting on base, which is an area the White Sox have struggled in for the past few years. So far this season, the outfielder has a .424 on-base percentage and has already drawn 109 walks. To be sure, that mark is a career high, but his lifetime .389 OBP indicates that the success he is having this season is nothing new.
Not only does Choo excel on offense, but he is significantly better than current White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza in the field. Choo’s fielding percentage this season is .989, while De Aza is sitting at .978 and has committed eight errors. De Aza’s liabilities in the field can no longer be overlooked as the White Sox look to improve defensively.
SI.com’s David Miniel posited that the New York Mets may pursue Choo, while the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales thinks the Chicago Cubs would be wise to add the outfielder this offseason. In other words, signing him will not be easy. If Hahn can clear out some more salary, however, Choo could be a long-term solution in a few different areas.
2013 Stats: .287/.424/.468, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 106 R, 34 2B, 109 BB, 6.2 oWAR
Projected Contract: four-year/$60 million