The White Sox will have a lot of holes to fill this offseason, and Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the they're expected to push hard for free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson. The connection makes sense not only based on team needs but because Granderson is an Illinois native who played college ball at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Granderson recently donated a new baseball facility to UIC, and that facility is roughly three miles from U.S. Cellular Field, writes Van Schouwen.
Granderson, who turns 33 next March, played in just 61 games this season due to a pair of fluke injuries. He suffered a fractured forearm when he was hit by a pitch in his first Spring Training plate appearance, and another HBP broke his pinkie finger in just his eighth game of the regular season. That fracture wound up requiring surgery that would sideline Granderson until Aug. 2.
When on the field, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 -- a noticeable decline the robust .247/.342/.522 he slashed from 2011-12. However, hand and forearm injuries have been known to diminish offensive output upon initial return, and it's not as if U.S. Cellular Field is a pitcher-friendly stadium that would cause Granderson's power to greatly decline. White Sox GM Rick Hahn would have good reason to believe that Granderson could return to form were he to sign with the South-Siders this winter.
A serious pursuit of Granderson would likely mean that the Sox view Alejandro De Aza as a fourth outfielder or as trade bait, notes Van Schouwen. I would imagine that coming off a .264/.323/.405 season with 17 homers and 20 steals, Hahn would be able to find some interest, even if advanced defensive metrics didn't care for De Aza's glove work.
Granderson will be one of the main beneficiaries of Hunter Pence's lofty five-year, $90MM extension this offseason. Not only did Pence's deal set a high precedent for corner outfielders, it also removed one of Granderson's main competitors from the free agent market before the season even ended. Granderson and agent Matt Brown will still have to contend with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and perhaps Nelson Cruz, who is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Rangers. I profiled Granderson's free agent case last month and estimated that he could fetch three years and $45MM based on his track record, though that was before Pence's contract was signed. Granderson said recently that his preference is to stay with the Yankees, but it remains to be seen if they will make a serious push to retain him as they attempt to lower payroll.
Also within Van Schouwen's piece, he reminds us that the Sox are keeping tabs on Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu. Former GM and current VP Kenny Williams was on-hand for the 26-year-old first baseman's two-day showcase in the Dominican Republic. Abreu would fit Hahn's desire for "long-term, sustainable success," but he's being pursued by numerous clubs and is expected to command a hefty price tag.
The price tag will be key in the pursuit of both free agents, as Van Schouwen's source admitted: "[Granderson's] a Chicago kid with a name on the back of the jersey to create a buzz. Are they going to come up with the cash? I don’t see that happening."
One thing the White Sox do have going in their favor is their protected pick in the 2014 draft. The Sox, who select third overall in 2014, would only have to forfeit their second-round selection to sign Granderson. That could make them more willing to spend than teams who would be forced to surrender their top pick.