The Chicago White Sox aren’t expected to make a splash in free agency similar to what the franchise accomplished during the 2014 offseason, but general manager Rick Hahn could make trades to fill some of glaring holes on the team.
With the team looking to add players to a core that includes Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, Hahn will have to get creative over the offseason in order to build a contending team for 2016.
Hahn was recently quoted as wanting to acquire younger talent who are under team control for a number of years. The White Sox have done a good job of locking up their young players with affordable contracts in the past as they signed Sale, Quintana, and Eaton to extensions before they could test the market in free agency.
The White Sox currently need to sign a catcher, shortstop, third baseman, right fielder and perhaps a starting second baseman.
Although fans would like to see the team sign a top-tier free agent such as Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes or even Alex Gordon, the White Sox most likely won’t add any of these players as their salaries will command more than $20 million per year on what could be a mid-market payroll for 2016. The White Sox were 15th in payroll before opening day at $117.1 million and aren’t expected to go over that amount for 2016.
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There are other possibilities for the White Sox to acquire talent but it could be at the price of their pitching depth. The White Sox could trade Quintana, Erik Johnson or even Frankie Montas in order to bring back a position player, but is it worth disrupting their strong starting pitching?
Hahn doesn’t seem to think so as he mentioned he didn’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul by trading pitching for offense and perhaps defense. But if this team isn’t going to increase payroll, they might have no other choice. While the team could certainly get better through free agency, there are some interesting trade candidates that could improve the White Sox and are under contract for a number of years.
The Miami Marlins have two players that fit needs for the White Sox in third baseman Martin Prado and outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Prado isn’t young but the 32-year old veteran is a former all-star and has a career OPS of .764.
Neither Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Saladino, nor Mike Olt, had an OPS above .610 during the 2015 season for the White Sox. Prado won’t be a defensive liability either as he committed just seven errors in 124 games at third base for the Marlins last season. Prado ranked 1st in MLB in terms of defensive wins above replacement with a 1.3 dWAR. The ranking was compiled by Baseball-Reference.
Ozuna, cousin of former White Sox utility man Pablo Ozuna, looks to perhaps be traded by the Marlins this offseason. The Marlins have been rumored to be shopping the young outfielder who posted a career high in batting average (.269), home runs (23), RBI (85) and OPS (.772) during the 2014 season in 153 games.
However, Ozuna was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans for 33 games last season. Ozuna compared his playing time at Triple-A to a jail sentence and his agent Scott Boras wasn’t pleased with not only his demotion but how it will prevent Ozuna from being eligible for arbitration.
The 25-year-old outfielder won’t become a free agent until 2020 and would certainly fit the mold of what Hahn is looking for in a young player with a lot of team control left. The White Sox could help the Marlins with their pitching woes by trading Johnson and maybe Montas.
In order to get Prado, they might need to add another position player or maybe another pitching prospect such as Tyler Danish or Spencer Adams. The price shouldn’t be too high given that Prado will be a free agent after the end of the 2016 season.
Oct 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) can
The Reds are rumored to be looking to trade some of their more valuable players as they are working at rebuilding the team. With the White Sox needing a third baseman, they could perhaps try to trade for all-star third baseman Todd Frazier.
The likelihood of this trade is relatively low given that Frazier is a fan favorite in Cincinnati and is under team control for the next two seasons. Although Frazier isn’t relatively young at 29-years old, the Reds are rumored to be looking for MLB talent in exchange for the third baseman and the White Sox will be among a handful of teams looking for an upgrade at this premium position.
The free agent market is scarce in terms of talented third baseman as the only name that stands out is David Freese. The White Sox would likely have to include either Carlos Rodon or Tim Anderson in a trade for Frazier. At that cost, it might be wise for the White Sox to look elsewhere.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers could match up well as trading partners if the White Sox were willing to deal Quintana for outfielder Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers might request more than just Quintana but a trade for the young all-star could provide an immediate boost to the team’s outfield defense.
The White Sox had one of the worst ranked outfield defenses in the MLB last season, adding Puig would certainly prevent this team from repeating their putrid defensive effort in 2016. Avisail Garcia finished with a -1.8 dWar for the 2015 season through 130 games in right field. Puig has a -0.1 career dWAR through three seasons.
Puig only appeared in 79 games for the Dodgers in 2015 but still managed to provide an OPS of .758, something the White Sox will sorely need in their lineup. Trading away Quintana isn’t going to be easy but if there’s a return that could entice Hahn to do so, it might include Puig. The White Sox will need to make trades during the offseason and Quintana might be their biggest bargaining chip.
The White Sox have a number of holes to fill and they have two star players in Sale and Abreu they need to continue building around. This will be an interesting offseason as there isn’t a clear direction of where this team wants to go at this point.
If the White Sox go down the path of trading from their pitching depth, the return will have to exceed the risk or this team could be selling some of their best players at the trading deadline in 2016. However, signing expensive free agents could be a much riskier proposition.