White Sox in the Market for a Centerfielder

May 3, 2016; Chicago, IL,With uncertainty about when Austin Jackson will return, the White Sox could be in the market for an outfielder according to a report by Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal.Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2016; Chicago, IL,With uncertainty about when Austin Jackson will return, the White Sox could be in the market for an outfielder according to a report by Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal.Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today that the “White Sox unsure of Austin Jackson’s diagnosis, are checking into possible trades for Cfer”. Jackson had knee surgery on June 10th. He was expected to be out for five to six weeks. At 44 days we are two days past the conservative end of the time table.

WGN-TV which broadcasts a portion of the White Sox schedule initially reported on June 17 that Jackson would be on crutches for two weeks and then be re-examined in about a month. That timetable will be Saturday. The trading deadline is 18 days away. The White Sox might not be able to wait to see how Jackson is progressing.

The rumors are flying about which direction the White Sox will head if they decide to make a trade. MLBTradeRumors reports that the list of center fielders that could be moved is limited. J.B.Shuck got his first start in center post Jackson injury on June 15. He has started in center field in all but three games since. Adam Eaton started the other three.

Shuck has been solid in center, but Jackson’s absence has had an effect on the depth of the White Sox offense. Shuck has just a .277 on-base percentage in 120 plate experiences this season. It has given Avasail Garcia and his -0.6 WAR the majority of the playing time at Designated Hitter. Getting Justin Morneau healthy and figuring out center field would help the White Sox offensive significantly.

Jason Martinez of MLBTradeRumors speculated about what moves each of the American League Playoff contenders might make. Martinez mentions Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce as a possible trade target. While he says Bruce could be the move that “jump starts this team”, its unlikely that the White Sox have the prospects to pull off a trade for Bruce.

Bruce’s defensive metrics aren’t great and he is primarily a right fielder. Adam Eaton has been the best right fielder in baseball by the metrics. Moving him back to center could impact the White Sox defense negatively.

Martinez suggested if they cannot trade for Bruce that they could target a top of the order hitter like Coco Crisp or Jon Jay. Crisp is hitting with a bit more pop this year than usual. He has seven home runs, 37 RBIs and a .411 slugging percentage.

Crisp is on pace for 67 RBI’s this season if he plays in 132 games. He missed 16 games in the first half of the season. He only has a .305 on base percentage. Crisp would be a step down from Jackson defensively and offensively.

Jay has solid slash lines of ..296/.345/.407/.752. He is in his first season with San Diego and has been on the disabled list since June 19. That’s almost as long as Jackson. Without knowing his health that could be a difficult move for the White Sox to make.

Martinez’s MLBTradeRumors colleague Jeff Todd suggested that the White Sox could go after Peter Bourjos, Melvin Upton or Charlie Blackmon for center field. He also mentions that corner outfielders like Bruce are the strength of this year’s trade market. All three are in Todd’s Top 25 trade candidates.

Todd considers Blackmon the premier available center fielder. His slashlines have been consistent and improving since becoming a starter in 2014. He’s hit 12 home runs with 43 RBIs and ten stolen bases this season. with a slashline of .310/.374/.493/.868. The Rockies are not likely to ask as much for Blackmon as the Reds will for Bruce, but he will still be costly.

Upton is having his best season since 2012 with Tampa. Moving from Petco Park to U.S. Cellular field, Upton would have a chance to eclipse career highs. Upton could be the perfect fit.

He has primarily played left field this season, but has also played nine in center. He could provide games off for both Melky Cabrera and Jackson. If Jackson doesn’t come back Cabrera, Upton or Jackson could play either of the corner out field positions and Eaton or Upton could play center.

Bourjos would be a huge upgrade over Shuck defensively, but not Jackson. He was known for his speed early in his career, but has just four stolen bases in 81 games this season.

His slash line is .274/.312/.422/.734. That’s way above his career slashline of .246/.303/.386/.689.

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"The White Sox are in the bottom third of the American League is almost every major offensive category."

Trading for Bourjos will not solve much. It’s clear they need another run producer. Depending on how Morneau produces when he returns, the White Sox primarily need a run producer and bullpen help. If they can’t get Bruce, Upton is the next best option.