Right Field has plagued the White Sox for the past couple of seasons. Rick Hahn & Co. have tried patching the hole with low cost options and retreads such as Nomar Mazara and Adam Eaton. It did not work. After bowing out in the ALDS it is time for the White Sox to take a long look in the mirror and address the problem.
There are some internal candidates that could be plugged into right field. Andrew Vaughn showed he can hold down an outfield postion after his impressive stint in left field last season. Vaughn also appeared in 18 games in the opposite corner making him the top choice if the White Sox look for an in house solution. Adam Engel is another option but he has stuggled to stay healthy. Then their are minor leaguers such as Micker Adolfo and Yoelqui Cespedes but giving a starting job to a player with no MLB experiance seems like a poor choice.
If the White Sox want to take the next step and compete with the heavy weights in the American League they should try and make a signifcant acquistion. Here are five realistic free agent options for the White Sox in right field.
The White Sox have been linked to Joc Pederson in the past. There were rumors that Rick Hahn inquired about trading for him a couple of years ago, then the front office tried to sign him when he hit agency last offseason. Pederson seemed to like the notion of playing in Chicago, unfortunately for the White Sox, he signed with the Cubs. Pederson is set to hit free agency once again. His white pearl necklace would match the White Sox jersey. Could the third time be the charm?
Pederson had an inconsistent 2021 campaign. He was dealt to the Braves at the trade deadline and finished the season with a .238 average, 18 home runs, 61 RBIs, and a .732 OPS. Pederson has proved himself as a playoff performer. He has a lifetime .256 batting average with 12 home runs, 29 RBIs, and a .814 OPS during postseason baseball. Even before he reached the show he seemed to have a knack for excelling in the postseason. Peterson was named a Post-Season All-Star as a member of the Ogden Raptors in 2011. Nine years later he helped the Dodgers win a World Series Championship, hitting .389 with a .421 OBP in the NLDS. He also had three home runs during the Brave’s recent World Series run.
Pederson would help the White Sox in the power department. He was a member of the Home Run Derby in 2015 and 2019. He ranked 11th in the National League with 36 home runs in 2019. In 2018, he was 19th with 25 home runs and in 2015 he was 14th with 26.
In fact, Pederson has posted double-digit home runs in every full season he has played. The only two seasons he didn’t was in 2014 when he played 18 games with the Dodgers and in the shortened 60-game season in 2020.
The drawback for Pederson is his lackluster defense. He also does not hit for average so he tends to be a home run or bust type player. The Braves were able to use him as one of their sparks to ignite a World Series run. Perhaps the White Sox can do the same.
Chris Taylor raised his level of play at just the right time. With the baseball world watching, Taylor hit one of the biggest home runs of the 2021 postseason. Taylor hit a walk-off home run in the National League Wild Card game to send the Cardinals packing. He followed that act up with three homers in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series.
Like Pederson, Taylor’s playoff experience makes him an attractive option for White Sox brass. He has 62 career postseason games under his belt, including three trips to the World Series and a ring. He knows what it takes to win. In 2017 he was awarded NLCS MVP.
Another benefit of signing Taylor is his versatility. In 2021 he played 61 games in center field, 46 at second base, 30 in left field, 23 at shortstop, 11 at third base, and eight in right field. He made his first All-Star appearance, hitting .254 with 20 home runs 73 RBIs, and 63 walks. Taylor also provides the element of speed. He ranked 6th in the National League with an 80.95 stolen base percentage in 2017. Last season he swiped 13 bags.
With the flexibility to slot in anywhere in the lineup, he could be the White Sox solution in right field.
Nick Castellanos is by far the best hitter on this list. However, he is also probably the most far-fetched option for the White Sox strictly because of the price he demands. Castellanos opted out of his current contract with the Cincinnati Reds with $34 million and two years remaining on his deal. The Reds are still interested in retaining their All-Star outfielder so if the White Sox want him they are going to have to bid with the high rollers.
Castellanos is coming off a phenomenal season with the Reds. The 29-year-old hit and posted a .309 batting average and a .939 OPS en route to his first All-Star appearance. He also had 34 home runs and 100 RBIs.
Chicago baseball fans are very familiar with Nick Castellanos. He tormented the White Sox as a member of the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Chicago Cubs and nearly single-handedly sparking a playoff berth. He hit 16 home runs in 51 games on the Northside while hitting .321.
But if the White Sox are going to shell out close to $20 million a year for a player, they probably want him to competent on the defensive end. Castellanos is a sub par defender. Having Eloy Jimenez in left field and Castellanos in right isn’t exactly a recipe for a sturdy outfield unit. However, his offensive prowess may be enough to overlook these shortcomings.
Castellanos paired next to Jose Abreu in the same lineup would produce one of the most efficient run producers the league has seen. Add in the extra lineup protection of Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, and Yasmani Grandal, and Casrellons would be in line for his best season to date.
Jorge Soler is another battle-tested postseason performer that is available this offseason. Like Pederson, he has played in Chicago. winning the World Series with the Cubs in 2016.
He should be in line for a big payday after taking over the World Series for the Atlanta Braves. Soler was named World Series MVP after hitting three home runs, driving in six RBIs, and batting .300 in the six-game series. He proved to be the most impactful trade deadline acquisition in 2021.
Atlanta’s season was hanging in the balance with Ronald Acuna Jr lost for the season and Marcell Ozuna getting arrested for domestic violence charges. Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos turned to Jorge Soler to patch one of the holes in the outfield. In 55 games with Atlanta, Soler belted 14 home runs, drove in 33, and posted a .524 slugging percentage. He also hit .269 which helped attribute to his .882 OPS.
Not only does Soler have experience playing in the Chicago market and the postseason, but he is also familiar with the AL Central division. Soler played four and a half seasons with the Kansas City Royals, leading the American League with 48 home runs in 2019.
The White Sox did not hit home runs at a very high rate in 2021 despite having a lineup full of power. While injuries to Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grndal played a factor in that, adding Soler couldn’t hurt. Soler is a durable player who led the AL in games played in 2020.
The 29-year has a bad habit of expanding the strike zone. Soler led the league in strikeouts in 2019 with 178. He also ranked 17th in the AL in 2020. The White Sox needs more guys that can hit for average which may be a turn-off for the front office.
Starling Marte is easily the best defender on this list. His primary position is center field but he is talented enough to make the transition to right field if necessary. Marte is a two-time Gold Glove winner and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also made a trip to the All-Star game that season
Over the last four years, only Mike Trout and Geroge Springer have a higher WAR than Marte’s 13.3 mark amongst active MLB center fielders. Marte would provide the White Sox with two qualities they are lacking. Contact and speed.
Last year Marte hit .310 with a Major League-best 47 stolen bases in 52 attempts. He also hit 12 home runs and drove in 55 which is a respectable total for a guy not known for his power. Marte also posted an impressive .841 OPS.
He was slowed down by a rib injury at the start of the season but it didn’t seem to bother him as the 162 game grind wore along. At the age of 33, he is not in line for a huge long-term deal but if the price is right he could help the White Sox in the immediate future.