In light of the contracts Tyler Flowers (one year, $950,000) and Paul Konerko (one year, $2.5 million) signed this week, it’s fair to wonder what Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is up to as the winter meetings approach.
Let’s back up for just a second.
Michael Silverman from the Boston Herald noted that with Ellsbury’s departure the “Red Sox must find a replacement for him, particularly as a leadoff hitter.” Silverman went on to say that the team was looking at bringing in free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo since top prospect Jackie Bradley is not yet up to the task of hitting first in the batting order.
Something doesn’t quite jive, though.
Why would the Red Sox drop dollars comparable to what the Yankees gave Ellsbury for a player who is older, has his own injury history and would have to play right field? Sure, Choo has a higher career on-base percentage and more power, but he is nowhere near as dynamic as Ellsbury is. And don’t forget, Ells just had a ridiculous postseason.
Queue De Aza, who would be a perfect fit in Fenway.
Consider that all 17 of his home runs in 2013 were to right field, and that is just the tip of his directional-spilt dominance. He also has a career .997 OPS, 287 IsoP and 167 wRC+ (runs created versus the rest of the MLB adjusted for both league and park) pulling the ball, according to FanGraphs.com. Those numbers are absolutely incredible.
Now there are a few options for players the White Sox could get in return. One of them is catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has his path in the Red Sox system blocked at the major league level. And while Alex Speier from WEEI.com noted that Lavarnway’s stock has fallen a bit because of various factors, he's not scheduled to hit free agency until 2019 and would be an instant upgrade over both Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley.
Is acquiring a catcher or third baseman more important?
Another option is third baseman Garin Cecchini, who had a .322/.443/.471 slash line with seven home runs, 61 RBI and 33 doubles across two levels this past season. Bleacher Report’s MLB lead prospects writer Mike Rosenbaum opined that he may be a year away from being an everyday player, but it is no secret that the White Sox need to address the position.
Make no mistake, Cecchini is available because, as Rosenbaum continued, he doesn’t have “a path to consistent playing time in the major leagues.” If he isn’t going to be in the big leagues anytime soon, then trading for De Aza, who isn’t a free agent until after the 2015 season, would benefit both teams.
With the current center fielder gone, Hahn would likely be forced to find another outfielder, but there are options for that, too. He could dip into some of his pitching depth, for example, or trade Alexei Ramirez to a team like the Cincinnati Reds who need a shortstop who can hit. Gordon Beckham could then move over to Ramirez’s old position and either Jeff Keppinger or Marcus Semien would take over at the keystone position.
Then again, Jordan Danks could play every day while the outfielders in the White Sox farm system develop for another year. Not an ideal situation, but then again, 2014 wasn’t going to be their year anyway.
De Aza is not a young man. He is also injury-prone, forgets how to run the bases far too often and is about as bad a defensive center fielder as there is in baseball. What he does have, though, is speed and the ability to provide some power at the top of the Red Sox lineup.
The time to move him is now. The addition of Jose Abreu was fantastic, but more moves need to be made with 2015 in mind.
Bringing Konerko back, for example, does nothing for the team’s future. Yes, he will serve as a mentor for Abreu’s transition to first base as Hahn said in a conference call, via CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes. And yes, he is a clubhouse leader, but signing him to a one-year contract will cost someone a roster spot next spring.
And the team’s overall production is not going to magically improve. Adam Dunn is who he is, and nothing new hitting coach Todd Steverson does will change that. The same can be said for Conor Gillaspie, Jeff Keppinger, Beckham and Konerko.
Without an aggressive approach at the winter meetings—and in the remainder of the offseason—the White Sox are doomed to repeat their mistakes.
The shakeup starts with trading De Aza to the Red Sox.
Unless otherwise specified, all statistics and contract information are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com