The White Sox are actively pursuing outfield upgrades, with Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes “among [the] possibilities” for the team, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Chicago has been linked to outfield upgrades ever since adding Todd Frazier in a three-team trade with the Reds and Dodgers, and Rosenthal himself reported that the South Siders were interested in Gordon just last week.
Either Gordon or Cespedes would provide a major upgrade for the Sox, who currently project to have an outfield of Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia (left to right). While Eaton is among the game’s more underrated players and quietly enjoyed an excellent 2015 after a slow start, the club’s corner options are less exciting. Cabrera is only one season removed from a strong performance in Toronto and recovered from a slow start of his own to bat .288/.330/.449 with 11 homers from June 1 through season’s end. Considering that finish and the remaining $29MM on his contract over the next two seasons, Cabrera seems likely to stay put.
Garcia, on the other hand, has been a more disappointing case. He’ll earn a projected $2.3MM next season (per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) but is coming off a season in which he batted just .257/.309/.365 with sub-par defense in right field and poor baserunning metrics. The White Sox looked at Garcia as a potential star when they acquired him from the Tigers in 2013’s three-team Jake Peavy/Jose Iglesias trade, but he’s yet to realize his potential, having delivered below-average offense with the Sox in addition to his poor glovework. Both Baseball-Reference and Fangrapgs peg his collective body of work at sub-replacement level over his time in Chicago.
The 32-year-old Gordon would considerably improve Chicago’s outfield defense even if he were to shift to right field, as he rates eighth in Defensive Runs Saved and fifth in Ultimate Zone Rating among Major Leaguers at any position over the past three seasons. (Alternatively, Cabrera could move to right field in the event of a Gordon signing.) Gordon’s bat has been about 16 percent better than the league average over the past four seasons, as he’s produced at a .275/.354/.436 clip despite a decidedly pitcher-friendly home environment, so he’d add value on both sides of the ball. He’ll probably command a five-year committment when all is said and done, and he’d require the Sox to part with their top unprotected draft pick — the No. 27 selection the team received as compensation for the loss of Jeff Samardzija in free agency.
Cespedes, unlike Gordon, wouldn’t cost the Sox a draft pick, and he’s also two years younger. Those elements, however, lead to a higher expected asking price for the slugger, who is coming off the best season of his four-year Major League career. Cespedes, slashed a combined .291/.328/.542 with 36 homers between the Tigers and Mets, would be a more impactful offensive upgrade for the Sox, pairing with countryman Jose Abreu in the middle of the order. His glovework hasn’t generated as much fanfare as Gordon’s, but he’s an above-average defender in the corner outfield and could handle center on a short-term basis in the event that Eaton misses some time due to minor injuries.
Garcia is still just 24 years of age, so he could potentially improve and lessen the need for a player such as Gordon or Cespedes. But, the Sox are very much in win-now mode as they seek to maximize the prime years of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Abreu as well as the limited two-year window for which they control Frazier before he can become a free agent.