As much as things change for the Chicago White Sox, they still seem to remain the same. Heading into the 2022 season, right field was one of several positions the team needed to address and the same holds true for this year.
AJ Pollock was brought in to shore up right field but it turned into a carousel of players manning the position including Leury Garcia, Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Adam Engel, Romy Gonzalez, Adam Haseley, and Mark Payton.
The free agent prize this year happens to be a right fielder in the form of New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge.
After putting up numbers that should make him the favorite to win the American League Most Valuable Player award (which includes an AL record 62 homers) Judge’s contract demands should be astronomical. Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 contract to stay with the Yankees to pursue free agency.
That is a big number to turn one’s nose up on and while it would be nice to see the White Sox make a serious run at getting Judge but the likelihood of the team ponying up that type of money is a bit of a reach.
According to Spotrac, Judge’s market value is more than $303.6 million over eight years, coming out to over $37.9 million annually.
The Chicago White Sox need to go out and address right field this offseason.
The White Sox were 7th in payroll in 2022 at just above $195.6 million and speculation is the team will look to lower that number heading into the ’23 campaign. As of right now, the team has committed $135.47 million in salary committed to next year.
The potential of losing Jose Abreu to free agency would allow for Vaughn and Sheets to compete for playing time at first base, thus taking them out of regular outfield duties. The duo provided some good offense but defensively were not helping a club that already had issues around the diamond.
The White Sox have a $13 million player option for Pollock which includes a $5 million buyout. The team may be fine with Pollock coming back and being their everyday right fielder but if they decide to look elsewhere there might be some options that could bring value.
Wil Myers has been a staple for the San Diego Padres for the last seven years and has a WAR of 3 since 2021. Myers hit only seven homers last season which broke a streak of six straight years with double-digit long balls. Myers has a club option for $20 million with a $1 million buyout.
Seattle’s Mitch Haniger would bring his WAR of 3.3 and some added pop to the lineup but how much power is the question. After hitting 39 homers and driving in 100 runs in 2021, Haniger hit only 7 bombs to go with 34 RBIs in 2022.
He made only $7.75 million last year but due to his having spent six years with the Mariners, Haniger is eligible for a qualifying offer from the team which is expected to be $19.65 million.
Adam Duvall had a monster 2021 by belting 38 home runs and driving in a National League-leading 113 RBIs between the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. However, he posted 12 homers and just 34 RBI while hitting .213 in 86 games last year.
If one wants to think outside the box, a few names to keep in mind would be Michael Conforto (who missed all of 2022 due to shoulder surgery) and Jorge Soler (13 homers with a .207 BA in 72 games due to lower back injury).
Conforto would not cost any draft pick compensation to the New York Mets if signed while Soler has a $15 million option for 2023 and a $9 million option for 2024.
The wildcard in all of this is prospect Oscar Colas. The 24-year-old was MLB Pipeline’s White Sox Hitting Prospect of the Year after hitting 23 homers and 24 doubles while driving in 79 runs with an on-base percentage of .895.
Yoelqui Cespedes has been on people’s radar for a while and could also be in the mix for making the club sometime after spring training.
Scouts think his arm strength could make him a future corner outfielder. He hit .259 with 17 homers in 89 games at AA Birmingham but also struck out 154 times in 119 games.
The White Sox did not address the outfield issues it faced last season as fans had hoped. Going into this season, the team has its work cut out to find players who can step in and make the contributions necessary to make the club worthy of contending for a title.