12:15am: Both teams have announced the trade.
11:05 pm: The Rangers and White Sox have agreed on a trade that will send outfielder Nomar Mazara to Chicago, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Outfielder Steele Walker is going to Texas in return, per MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter).
This move represents a bet on Mazara’s long-lauded talent for the South Siders, who’ll hope he can finally break out at the plate after languishing just shy of league average to this point of his career. Mazara is just 24 years of age but is already in his second-to-last season of arbitration eligibility. MLBTR projects a $5.7MM salary.
Mazara has received ample opportunity ever since breaking into the bigs in his age-21 campaign. But through more than two thousand plate appearances at the game’s highest level, he’s hitting just .261/.320/.435 with a steady diet of ~20 home run seasons. That’s certainly not what you’d like to see out of a corner outfielder who isn’t a standout in the field. Mazara has yet to reach 2 WAR for his career. If you’re looking for evidence that Mazara is about to hit his stride, his power did jump in 2019, with a .469 SLG and .200 ISO both career highs. As he approaches his age-25 seasons, there’s certainly time for another developmental leap.
The Chicago organization has announced its intentions to press towards contention in 2020, upping the stakes for this move. Mazara will presumably be asked to handle the lion’s share of the time in right field, joining Eloy Jimenez as a corner outfield regular. No doubt the front office has visions of a breakout, youthful trio emerging when Luis Robert is deemed ready to man center field. Leury Garcia could hold down center to open the season and then step back into a reserve role.
As for the 23-year-old Walker, he’s a recent second-round pick who reached the High-A level last year with the Chicago organization. The former Oklahoma University star slashed .269/.346/.426 in 441 plate appearances for Winston-Salem in 2019. Walker is viewed as a high-quality hitting prospect who has a shot at sticking up the middle. He’s generally considered one of the ten best prospects in a strong White Sox farm. Walker will begin the season in Double-A, per John Blake, the Rangers’ Executive VP of Communications.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.