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White Sox offseason plan roundup: Outfielders

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Between free agency and trades, the possibilities to upgrade left and/or right field are seemingly endless

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Nick Markakis
Nick Markakis
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Our White Sox Offseason Plan project yielded a number of solutions at third base and designated hitter ... but when it came to a corner outfielder (or two), that's when it really opened up.

All the in-house solutions heavily involved Moises Sierra, so now that the Royals claimed him, all the surviving corner outfielders were acquired via free agency or trades. And in a handful of cases, Adam Eaton had new faces flanking him on both sides.

Bigger free agents (12 plans)

  • Nick Markakis (larry, KenWo, forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch, smclean09, Soulign1, Lil Jimmy, DutchySox, Rhubarb
  • Melky Cabrera (Warren Newson for Prez, dhunoway)
  • Nelson Cruz (e-gus, JofpGallagher)

Fun fact: Markakis turns 31 today. He's the most popular outfielder of the bunch because he ticks off boxes -- lefty, on-base skills, playable in a corner -- but ... I dunno. He's slugged under .400 in each of the last two seasons, so the idea of a four-year, $40M+ contract seems like a contract that turn regrettable. However, if there's a lot more money than we realize, maybe a $40M contract is the new $30M contract.

I see more potential in Cabrera, whose selling points include being younger than Markakis, as well as a switch-hitter who can hit with pop against lefties and righties, and he's performed in years where a tumor wasn't found on his spine. Most people aren't fans of Cabrera for his PED suspension (and weak cover-up attempt).

Cruz is coming off a 40-homer season, but he's 34 years old, right-handed and has no defensive value. The latter two loomed large, as most of you used the corner outfield vacancy to balance the lineup and/or improve the defense.

Smaller free agents (10 plans)

  • Colby Rasmus (Otter7, smittywhitesox05, gnix, perkison7, ms22)
  • Nori Aoki (Mad Manx, Mike Seaver and Boner, AJP)
  • Mike Morse (GreekSox23)
  • Ichiro Suzuki (Chet Lemonhead)

Defense, left-handedness and a lower price tag is why Rasmus was the second-most popular outfielder of all the names listed. He's got a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, and needs platoon help.

Aoki is also a lefty, and that's where the similarities end. Aoki is an adventuresome outfielder who doesn't hit for power but covers the plate well -- and he's better against lefties.

Morse and Suzuki were considered platoon/time-share options, but it seems like the Sox can aim higher with this particular upgrade.

Huge trades (15 plans)

  • Carlos Gonzalez (MATT DAVID, smclean09, Soulign1, Lil Jimmy)
  • Jason Heyward (Fornelli, slydernelson)
  • Jay Bruce (chisoxfan83)
  • Matt Kemp (WhiteSoxNews, Baseballnut23)
  • Jayson Werth (Mogster)
  • Brett Gardner (GoGoSoxFan)
  • B.J. Upton (Kevin Chambers)
  • Christian Yelich (blackoutsox)
  • Starling Marte (ChiSox1023)
  • Ben Zobrist (Chet Lemonhead)

Gonzalez is a popular name, because he's hugely talented with a contract to match (three years, $53 million), but he's only played in 140 games once, and that number has gone in the wrong direction the last two years. He poses a dilemma for the Rockies, who can contend if he and Troy Tulowitzki are healthy ... but they're never healthy.

Kemp is in the same boat as Gonzalez, except he's more expensive, and the Dodgers have an even bigger outfield glut. He's owed $107M over the next five years, the Dodgers are under more pressure to pare payroll and he doesn't like playing left field, so dealing for him seems less straightforward.

Upton has been a disaster for the Braves. Sure, he was mentioned in a trade for John Danks, but Danks isn't nearly as depressing.

Werth is another guy with a hefty remainder of a heft contract (three years, $63 million), and the Nationals have a deep roster. However, there haven't been any such issues with his performance, and the Nationals have a more immediate outfield issue with Denard Span's walk year.

Heyward's case is very straightforward -- he's a high-impact player and a free agent after the season, so he'd need to be involved in a win-now strategy. The same goes for Zobrist.

Jay Bruce is coming off a down year, but he's on an affordable early extension and a knee injury seems like the biggest culprit, so the Reds seem to be set on him in right field, with an eye on a free-agent left fielder. Likewise, the Yankees seem to recognize Gardner's value.

Yelich and Marte are just about untouchable.

Mid-grade trades (9 plans)

  • Michael Saunders (Normanje13, CoreyElDiablo, SoxDolphin, gibby32)
  • Matt Joyce (Daggins, JofpGallagher)
  • Dexter Fowler (Trooper Galactus)
  • Khris Davis (pnoles, DutchySox)
  • Gerardo Parra (illinifey)
  • Domonic Brown (AJP)

I've said it on the podcast, but Saunders is my preferred target, mainly because he checks off those Markakis boxes with better defense, and the Mariners seem intent on dealing him after some bad blood. Of course, the blood is bad because Saunders has battled a number of maladies. That means the Sox (or any team) could be buying low for a reason, but there's also a significant chance that his best baseball is still ahead of him. He has two years before he hits free agency.

Joyce, Fowler and Parra are free agents after the year, so they don't seem to fit the time frame that well. Joyce needs to be platooned, and isn't much of an outfielder. Fowler can play every day ... when he can play every day. He's been banged-up the last couple of years. Parra's defense is well-regarded, but he doesn't offer much offensively.

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 for the Brewers last season, and the 32 walks and 122 strikeouts seems Dayan Viciedo-ish. But he delivered 61 extra-base hits during his sophomore season (37 doubles, two triples and 22 homers), he grades out respectably in left field, so there's some upside beyond the .299 OBP.  If the Brewers think he can regress upwards, the asking price may be steep, as he's under team control through 2019.

Brown is pretty much a left-handed Viciedo, and both have some change-of-scenery potential.

Small trades (5 plans)

  • Jose Tabata (mjarney89)
  • Andrew Lambo (Rhubarb)
  • Travis Snider (striker)
  • Kyle Parker (pdfitz12)
  • Joey Terdoslavich (karkoVICE SQUAD)

The Pirates have a glut of outfielders, and Tabata, Lambo and Snider are the less talented of the bunch. Lambo has mystery on his side, as he's 26 and has been thoroughly blocked. Snider never met his potential, but he gave the Pirates some value in a part-time role as a left-handed bat with some strike-zone judgment. Tabata is righty, and doesn't really seem to have a strength.

Parker is a former college quarterback who became a first-round pick of the Rockies in 2010, but his progress has stalled in the upper levels of the minors. He seems to be expendable, but possibly because he's Joe Borchard.

Terdoslavich is a familiar name in International League box scores, because the Braves' 25-man roster has corner outfielders and a first baseman. He's a switch-hitter who improved plate discipline at the expense of his power, and seems like he needs to prove he could be a bench guy before given a starting job.