Earlier this week, I did a deep dive into the free-agent options to fill the White Sox hole in RF. There are a number of intriguing options, all with significant strengths and weaknesses. In this team’s effort to build a consistent winner, this position, however, must be addressed. If the free-agent market isn’t how the team will fill this hole, who could they reasonably target on the trade block?
The ideal scenario for the White Sox would be working out a deal with the New York Mets for either Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo. Either option would drastically improve the White Sox and provide great balance to an already lethal lineup. Both players excelled in 2020 for an underachieving Mets team, and both have been solid contributors throughout their careers, as evidenced below:
Conforto and Nimmo check several boxes of need for the White Sox: they both hit left-handed, they both get on base at an above-average clip, both give you, at worst, average defense, and are playable against LHP. Adding either player to this squad would be a significant boost.
So what are the drawbacks? Well, Conforto is a Scott Boras client that is entering his final season of contractual control before reaching free agency. As for Nimmo, he will become a free agent after the 2022 season. The limited contract control for both players is less than ideal for a team that constantly likes to cry poor.
The big elephant in the room is the potential sale of the Mets to billionaire hedge fund manager, Steve Cohen. Should the sale be finalized, Cohen would become the richest owner in the sport immediately, being worth an estimated $14B. If you know anything about east coast hedge fund managers, they tend to be very arrogant and want to make it known how rich and powerful they are. Cohen is no exception to this stereotype; just research his fine art collection. I personally find it hard to believe that a billionaire, lifelong Mets fan will immediately start moving quality players upon taking control of the team.
Calhoun represents one of the most realistic targets this winter, in my opinion. He’s been a solid yet unspectacular player throughout the course of his career with the Angels and Diamondbacks. Calhoun owns a career .248/.323/.429 slash line good for a 106 wRC+, while smacking 156 homers since reaching the bigs in 2012. He had his best power year in 2020, slugging a career-best .526 with 16 homers while playing in the warehouse that is Chase Field in Phoenix. Has getting out of southern California with the heavy marine layer allowed Calhoun to tap into more power potential?
Calhoun is a true right fielder that has consistently rated above average defensively according to metrics like Defensive Runs Saved, despite being neutral in 2020. Kole is a roughly league-average hitter against LHP, sporting a career 98 wRC+ against southpaws, so he wouldn’t be a liability against them. He does, however, tout a career 21.7% K rate. Adding another potential high strikeout bat to the White sox lineup could prove to be problematic. Calhoun has been able to balance that out with a career BB% of 9.4%, and he has sat above that career number in each of the last two seasons.
The Diamondbacks are in a state of flux after finishing last in the NL West in 2020. Calhoun has an affordable contract for 2021 at $8M, with a 2022 club option. I would think the D-backs will look to retool as they are not close to competing with the Dodgers or Padres. I’m not sure the cost would be prohibitive for the Sox, thus making Calhoun a reasonable target.
Gallo represents a classic buy-low, change-of-scenery candidate. After looking like an MVP candidate in 2019, a year in which he slashed .253/.389/.598 in 70 games, the soon-to-be 27-year-old came crashing down in 2020. The Rangers’ slugger hit a rough .181/.301/.381 with ten homers for a disappointing Texas team that is in need of a serious retooling.
Gallo is a classic three true outcomes player, as he sports BB (14.0%) and K (37.6%) rates well above league average. The power is prolific, however. He posted back-to-back 40-homer seasons in 2017 and 2018 and looked well on his way to doing it again in 2019 before injuries cut his campaign short. What followed in 2020 can only be described as an unmitigated disaster. Gallo saw his wRC+ plummet to a career-worst 77 thanks to a paltry .378 SLG%.
Since moving to the outfield on a regular basis during the 2018 season, Gallo has impressed, to say the least. He was the Rangers’ primary right fielder in 2020 as they opened spacious Globe Life Park, and he recorded an astounding 12 DRS in 56 games.
Gallo’s power profile and spectacular corner outfield defense are sure to be appealing to teams this winter. With two years of contractual control remaining, I would think the Rangers would be tempted to shop him as they are stuck in neutral in the competitive AL West. I’m just not sold that a player with his swing-and-miss profile is the right fit for a Sox team that has plenty of this already.
Admittedly, I had not considered “Yaz” when I started thinking up potential names, but a very astute follower of mine brought him to my attention and got me thinking:
I have to say, I did a double-take and immediately went to Fangraphs to verify that Yaz was, indeed 30 years old. It turns out Pete was right on the money with this. The grandson of the Red Sox legend and Hawk Harrelson-favorite was a late bloomer after arriving in San Francisco during the 2019 season. Since his call up, all he has done is hit an insane .281/.357/.535 with 31 homers in 161 games for the Giants. In fact, according to Fangraphs, Yaz was a top-ten player in all the Major Leagues during the 2020 season.
Yaz is a complicated player to evaluate, however. As mentioned above, he is 30 years old already, so how much, if any, upside is still remaining with the player? Additionally, he comes with five more years of contractual control, making him extremely valuable given his production. For a Giants team that isn’t ready to contend with the Dodgers or upstart Padres, does he really fit their contention window? If not, how will the analytically minded Giants’ front office assess his value given his age and limited experience?
The production to this point cannot be questioned, particularly playing in a home ballpark that has been death to hitters that aren’t being fed supplements from BALCO. Yaz’s success hasn’t just come at the plate either. He’s been an excellent defender while manning possibly the most challenging right field in all of baseball at Oracle Park. He has been able to accrue eight DRS in right field in his short time with the Giants, which is a spectacular mark given the challenges of his home field.
Adding even more strengths to his profile is the fact that he is the rare reverse split hitter. Since reaching the bigs, he has a 155 wRC+ against LHP compared to a 127 mark against RHP. This means that there isn’t a platoon advantage against him.
All things considered, Yaz really represents another ideal candidate for the White Sox to pursue. But the willingness of the Giants’ front office to move a player that has performed so admirably and is still making the league minimum salary to this point is hard to gauge. Furthermore, I’m not sure the White Sox have the ammunition to be able to acquire a player of this value. I know I would love it, and I think the ole Hawkaroo would be in heaven if the Sox could somehow make this happen.
So there you have it, a total of nine different options to fill a vacancy in right field for the Sox between trade and free-agent possibilities. Which of these players, if any, will they end up acquiring? I hope it’s at least someone I have mentioned because I don’t think I can handle this team going cheap and bringing back the trainwreck we saw in 2020.