White Sox: Addressing Gap in Center Field During Offseason
By Brian Draus
White Sox will need to address center field depth in the offseason. If team intends on contending in 2017, what upcoming free agents would be good options for the front office?
With the Chicago White Sox having both Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton in the corners of the outfield, they are set in two of the three positions. Now, the question becomes what they should do in center field.
The Sox are going to have a problem if they want to fill this role internally, considering Austin Jackson is likely gone. J.B. Shuck is a career backup. There aren’t any options at the upper levels of the minor leagues for next season. Therefore, they will need to look outside of the organization. Here are some buy-low free agents for the Sox to look at in the offseason if they intend to contend:
While he may not be the MVP candidate he once was, the Sox could easily get him on a short-term deal. He still brings speed to the ballpark (16 stolen bases so far in ’16), even though he is not as fast as he once was. Gomez’s arm is not nearly what it used to be, however he would still provide range in center field. I think he would be a better defender than Jackson was in 2016, just on talent alone. My big concern with him is he gets a bit out of control on the diamond. Anger issues, not to mention no real clue what a strike is. Swinging out of his shoes isn’t good either.
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Jay came up through the Cardinals system, and is a fundamentally sound player. The Sox need bats such as Jay in their lineup, not to mention in the field. There is a serious problem with Jay over the last two years: injuries. He played 79 games last season and he’s on pace to play less than 100 games this season. This will scare off potential bidders.
Jay should be able to be had on a bargain. He has experience as a number two hitter which would make sense for the Sox. To top it off, Jay can play all three outfield spots, and well. He needs to stay on the field, and any GM that signs him is going to have to think long and hard about his health. This is assuming they do in fact bring him into their organization.
Since he broke into the majors in 2006, Davis has been with six teams. Mostly a role player, Davis would provide great speed but little power (359 career steals, only 55 home runs in 1,188 career games). Another concern for Davis is while he has plus range, he doesn’t have a very strong arm. That means opposing base runners would run against him more often than not, and his outfield play would end up being a duel-edged sword. Davis likely has the lowest ceiling of all three, as he really is not a full-time center fielder. Davis is a fourth outfielder, and shouldn’t be used to fill a starter role if the Sox want to contend in 2017.
All in all, none of these players are going to take the Sox to the pennant next year. The only one with that kind of ability is Gomez, and considering the fact he will be 31 in 2017 he will decline as he ages, not improve. My pick would be Jay, just due to the fact he plays a style of baseball the Sox need. I realize they don’t have the power they once did, but they could find that in a designated hitter also. Jay is a huge risk due to his health, but the others don’t make much sense.
I also wonder if a Davis/Jay platoon is a reasonable plan, but then do you get rid of Shuck? Trades are an option as well, but unless the Sox want to fork over $200 million to Yoenis Cespedes they are not going to get a big time free agent center fielder without some serious flaws. Fowler, Desmond, etc. are options but money will be an issue with them as well.
Next: White Sox Can't Waste Talent of Next Core
The Sox need to be smart, not make splashes this offseason. They need many pieces, and the only way to do so is to spread out their resources. With a core in place, it is time to surround it with solid parts. Make the parts fit, White Sox.