Despite a clear opening in their outfield, the White Sox are “extraordinarily unlikely” to sign George Springer this winter, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The longtime Astros slugger has plenty of interest elsewhere, and Passan suggests that the ChiSox aren’t keen on paying “center-field prices for a corner outfielder.”
That’s perhaps an overly simplistic means of describing the situation, given that there are plenty of highly paid corner outfielders — some whose current contracts top whatever Springer will eventually command in free agency (e.g. Bryce Harper). However, it’s also fair to say that a considerable portion of Springer’s value is tied to the fact that he is not only a vastly above-average hitter but an above-average defender at a premium position. By all indications he’d be a strong defender in right field as well, but it seems his asking price and the Sox’ valuation of a corner outfielder — even an extremely well-rounded one — don’t align.
Right field is still a glaring need for a White Sox club that predictably non-tendered Nomar Mazara after a miserable debut season on the South Side. Fleet-footed Adam Engel gives them an option, although his track record prior to the 2020 season was that of a replacement-level player. At the very least, a left-handed bat to pair with Engel in a platoon setting would be sensible for the Sox to pursue.
To that end, it’s worth adding that The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal lists the White Sox as one of the teams with “at least some” interest in free-agent slugger Joc Pederson. Passan suggests that perhaps Michael Brantley could be a fit as well, although Brantley has just 58 career innings in right field. He’s spent the bulk of his career in left field with some frequent work in center field as well during his younger days. (NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien makes a pitch for the Sox to bring Adam Eaton back into the fold, although that’s purely an opinion piece and not an indication that the two sides have actually spoken about a reunion.)
Pederson isn’t a new name to be connected to the White Sox. There’s been little to solidly connect the two sides up to now in the current offseason, but this is now the third consecutive offseason that has seen the White Sox reported to have interest in Pederson. The Sox and Dodgers talked about a potential Pederson swap in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 offseasons, although they obviously weren’t able to come to an agreement.
For the Sox, Pederson would likely be a pure platoon partner for Engel, as his career .191/.266/.310 slash against lefties is difficult for any club to stomach. He doesn’t hit for a high average against righties, either, but Pederson walks at a near-13 percent clip and boasts top-of-the-scale power when he’s holding the platoon advantage, as evidenced by a .238/.349/.501 batting line (128 wRC+). Brantley would be more of an everyday option, as he generally hits for average and gets on base regardless of opponent, although the bulk of his power comes against righties only. Again, though, it’s not an ideal defensive fit for Brantley, who’d probably require some time at DH as well.
Adding a lefty bat is in many ways a sensible approach for the White Sox, whose lineup is rife with right-handed bats. Outside of switch-hitters Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal, the Sox’ starting lineup is entirely right-handed; Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert all bat from the right side, as does top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who could factor into the team’s DH mix at some point in 2021.