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White Sox offseason plan roundup: Outfield

We take a deep dive into the many, many suggestions from our South Side Sox community as to how the White Sox could change things up in the outfield.

The J-Hey kid was South Side Sox's most popular potential offseason acquisition.
The J-Hey kid was South Side Sox's most popular potential offseason acquisition.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our review of the White Sox Offseason Plan Project with a look at how everyone decided to go about solving the outfield puzzle. The most common strategy for the outfield was to acquire a new starting right fielder while relying on in-house options at the other two positions. However, some plans looked at overhauling the outfield by bringing in two or more new starters, while others kept the in-house options intact. A whopping 25 different players from outside the organization were suggested to fill one of the three outfield slots.  Because I drew the short straw, it is now my distinct pleasure of walking through every one of these options.

We should have another round of applause for mikecws91 for his efforts to organize everyone's submissions. Thanks again, Mike. Jim, Josh, and I certainly appreciate all the time you saved us in recapping the project.

I'll open with a brief comment on how Melky Cabrera was handled. Many plans shifted Cabrera to the designated hitter slot for defensive purposes as a result of the players acquired. That's a reasonable idea, as he's a sub-par left fielder.  However, Cabrera's still a competent left fielder, and moving him out of the field is a tad inefficient because his middling power and generally low walk rate almost guarantees he'll be a below-average DH. But if you've got four guys for three defensive positions and Cabrera's the worst glove of the four, that's the way to go.

In-house options (9 plans)
  • Cabrera/Eaton/Trayce Thompson (AlbertBelleFanClub, asinwreck, Chisoxfan83, Eagle Bones, dhunoway, MadManx, slydernelson)
  • Cabrera/Eaton/Avisail Garcia (DutchySox)
  • Thompson/Eaton/Garcia (Munizzi23)
The in-house options were by and large chosen by those who hoped to tread water in right field while making upgrades elsewhere. Those hoping to start Avisail Garcia either in right field or at designated hitter are betting on a breakthrough from one of the worst players in the major leagues in 2015.  That's a pretty significant gamble, but both plans that included Garcia were conservative with their payroll and still have Thompson and Cabrera in tow in case things become dire.  The Cabrera/Eaton/Thompson outfield was more popular, and there's a decent chance that Thompson either breaks out or plays good enough defense to fight regression with his bat.  A 1.5-WAR season from Thompson, if he can manage it, would do plenty to justify spending valuable resources elsewhere.

High-Priced Free Agents (32 plans)
  • Jason Heyward (ARhyno17, EMod88, Captain_Wookie, Emiliano477, Geoff Blum Junior, GrinnellSteve, Killah_Priest, MikeyBarrett'sSadRightHook, jarney-jarns, ParisSox, PittJr11, PolishPrince34, shanahan, SouthSideShaft, WhiteSoxThoughts)
  • Yoenis Cespedes (BestKosherPolish, chisox100, ChiSoxCharlie, e-gus, IslandSox, Jasmits12, KenWo4Life (duh), Kyle321N, normanje13, rl_boiler, walterfan34)
  • Alex Gordon (baseballnut23, jdubs847, soxsanta)
  • Justin Upton (normanje13, smittywhitesox05, striker, [thehitlesswonder])
The free agent market is replete with premium corner outfielders and any of these guys would be a huge upgrade for the White Sox in the outfield. Most of the plans that went this route opted for Heyward or Cespedes, and it's easy to understand why.  Although Gordon figures to be the cheapest option, he'll still probably command something in the $125-$150 million range.  Furthermore, he's the least exciting (and oldest) of these names, so our community figured that if you're going to go the route of a high-priced free agent, you might as well go as big as possible. Cespedes is comparable in value to Gordon, but his stock is higher right now.

This same line of thinking drove the collective decision-making process regarding the two more expensive players among these four. Upton will be just 28 next year and probably looking for a mega deal with an opt-out clause. Heyward's demands will be similar, but he's younger and better than Upton, making him the more popular target.

The issue with this strategy is that there's good arguments to be made that none of these four guys are realistic targets. They'll have their pick on where to play, and the White Sox will have to outbid teams with deeper pockets. There's a thought that Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn't approve contracts of this magnitude, and even if he did, the annual salary for these players would make it difficult to fit solutions for the infield and starting rotation into a reasonable budget.
Second Tier (and below) Free Agents (17 plans)
  • Franklin Gutierrez (AHerguth)
  • Colby Rasmus (Da bears-bulls-sox, DaBears05, karkovice squad, Muzzkill7, pdfitz12, PolishPrince34, SOXFINFAN)
  • Gerardo Parra (HeyImLouie, JofpGallagher, SouthSideShaft, SOXFINFAN)
  • Austin Jackson (Kevin Chambers)
  • Dexter Fowler (Mr Teeny, ObsidianXIII, Steve_Bidochka, whitesoxmatt)
  • Ben Zobrist (Sox2727)
It's much easier to see the White Sox focusing on a target from this group than one of the big four. In addition to the options shown, back in September, I floated Alejandro De Aza, Denard Span, and Kelly Johnson as other possibilities from this tier to enter in a time-share arrangement with Trayce Thompson, so there's a wide variety of options for the Sox to look to in free agency without breaking the bank.

Gutierrez is a lefty-masher who used to be a monster defender before injuries and age (he'll be 33 next year) sapped his ability.  He also hasn't played in 60 games since 2012 or 100 games since 2010 because his body doesn't let him stay on the field for extended periods of time. While he'd be a sneaky low-cost addition and nice added depth, he can't be counted on as a full-time solution.

Rasmus is the most popular target of the group coming off of a 25-homer campaign for the Astros. He's no longer a good full-time option in center, so he's best deployed in a corner.  That, coupled with a Flowersesque strikeout rate will put a limit on his ceiling. However, Rasmus is a good bet to give the Sox average production and an infusion of power, two things they desperately need. He'd most likely cost the White Sox a draft pick.

Defensive metrics have no idea what to do with Gerardo Parra. In just two years, he's gone from being one of the best-rated outfielders in baseball to a bad one. There's some thought that the lefty Parra would be a good fit for a platoon arrangement with Thompson because of his .289/.335/.432 career line against righties.  However, that's not remarkable for a corner man, and he'd better accompany that with strong defense if he wants to break away from replacement level, which he's been struggling to do since his magical 2013.

Given recent WAR totals, there's a good argument to be made that Fowler is as close to an average regular as you can find. Like I mentioned in the comment for Rasmus, that's not a bad thing at all. Fowler's relative consistency makes him a safer bet than Rasmus, and he's got a good case to out-earn him, too.

Jackson is no longer the star he was with the Tigers, but he still can turn in respectable seasons.  He's probably a shade below average at this point in his career, however, and as a right-handed hitter, Trayce Thompson might make him redundant.

Zobrist is loved for his on-base skills and defensive versatility, but his glovework took a turn for the worse in this, his age-34 season. 2015 was easily Zobrist's worst season since 2008 and he's probably going to command a four-year deal, making him a risky proposition.
Huge Trades (16 plans)
  • Yasiel Puig (gnix, forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch, JoseValentin, the_armchairGM, whitesoxsavant)
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. (gibby32, jdubs847, raBBit-)
  • Mookie Betts (GrinnellSteve)
  • David Peralta (Shoeless_Joe_)
  • Ryan Braun ([thehitlesswonder])
  • Stephen Piscotty (whitesoxsavant)
  • Marcell Ozuna (beautox, Bfow24, mikecws91, Muzzkill7, WhiteSoxThought, WSBill)
Puig is a popular trade candidate because there have been rumors that he's falling out of favor with the Dodgers. While he's coming off a down season full of injury trouble, everyone's aware of how special he can be at his best. The trouble is, even the most fair trade proposals involved sending Jose Quintana to the Dodgers and if that's the price, it's unclear whether this even upgrades the White Sox. Packages that didn't include Quintana shipped Chris Sale to the Dodgers instead for a return that also included Corey Seager. That isn't happening.

Bradley is a young, cost-controlled outfielder who's good with the glove and looked to figure things out at the plate in a partial season this year.  Because he has all-star potential, the asking price will surely be steep. Two of the three plans acquired him as part of a larger deal that again involved shipping out Quintana.

Betts is controlled through 2020 for cheap and just put up a 6.0 WAR season at age 22. He's staying where he is.

Kudos to Shoeless_Joe_ for suggesting David Peralta, as I don't think that he was a name on anyone's radar. This sort of thing is exactly why we run the Offseason Plan Project. Peralta played primarily left field for the Diamondbacks this year and put up all-star caliber numbers. The Diamondbacks have a crowded outfield, but it'd still take a ton to pry the 28-year-old Peralta loose as he'll be under team control through 2020.

Braun has $95 million left on his deal over the next five seasons (including his 2021 buyout). Although he's declined from his heyday, Braun is still a very threatening bat and would fit nicely into the middle of the White Sox lineup. His value is limited by his sub-par outfield glove, however, and since he'll be 32 next year, the last few years of that deal could get ugly. He's still an intriguing target to help the Sox get over the hump in the short term, however.

Piscotty is a well-regarded prospect that had a promising start to his big league career, but if Jose Abreu is involved in the trade, it's unclear what the White Sox would be trying to accomplish here.

Ozuna has been a popular name in trade targets and has four years of team control left. Despite his up-and-down career to-date, the Marlins are reportedly looking for a front-line starter, so putting a fair package together that the Marlins would find attractive would be tricky given that the types of assets the White Sox might be willing to part with -- Frankie Montas, Erik Johnson, and Spencer Adams -- don't line up well with that description.

Mid-Grade and Small-Grade Trades (15 plans)
  • Carlos Gonzalez (Jasmits12, Lil Jimmy, Mr Teeny, soxsanta)
  • Josh Reddick (Bfow24, gibby32, GreekSox23, pnoles)
  • Gregory Bird (e-gus)
  • Manuel Margot (forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch)
  • Jay Bruce (larry)
  • Hanley Ramirez (raBBit-)
  • Jorge Soler (_sophist)
  • Corey Dickerson (WSBill)
Gonzalez is an idea that's been floated around before. He'll make $37 million over the next two years, so that gives the Rockies some incentive to deal him. Remarkably, all four plans that traded for him structured the package around Frankie Montas. Despite his healthy 2015, Gonzalez is always a significant injury risk. He's also a career .255/.310/.441 hitter on the road, begging the question of whether his star image has been fueled by Coors Field. Still, that's nearly a .200 ISO and it's not exactly tough to hit at U.S. Cellular Field (unless you buy into 2015 park factors). Gonzalez would be a welcome power boost.

Reddick checks many of the same boxes as Jeff Samardzija did last year. He's an Oakland Athletics player who's a fringe all-star in his last year of arbitration. Reddick's lefty power would play well at U.S. Cellular Field, but there's a couple drawbacks with the move. He's only control for one year, so this idea would make the Sox go hunting again for 2017. Second, it's tricky to put a package together for him that might work, as three of the four suggested (mine included) were too light.  GreekSox23's idea of Erik Johnson, Daniel Webb, and Jace Fry was probably the best estimate of fair value.

Bird is a decent prospect who slashed .261/.343/.529 for the Yankees this year and is blocked by a pair of albatrosses in Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The problem is, he's not an outfielder and doesn't have the athleticism to become one. The White Sox would have to use him at DH.

Margot is a Red Sox farmhand that held his own at Double-A Portland at age 20. He's not ready for the major leagues to start this year, but forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch opted for a rebuilding path and indicated that he'd be a part of the 2017 lineup, not necessarily the 2016 one.

Bruce is part of a large trade proposed by larry that involves a bad contract swap.  He's coming off of consecutive bad seasons with a low BABIP and he'd have a chance to prove that it was due to bad luck rather than bad contact. Bruce is 10th in all of baseball in home runs this decade and the power is still there.  He just needs to prove he can get on base enough to make the entire package worth it. If not, Trayce Thompson exists.

Ramirez played the outfield for a good chunk of this past season. He probably shouldn't do that anymore.

In _sophist's plan, Soler comes to the White Sox in a package of interesting players from the Cubs in exchange for Jose Quintana. Soler had a rough go of it this year, as he struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances while posting a respectable, if unexciting .262/.324/.399 line. Other red flags include his sub-par defense in right field and the .361 BABIP that buoyed that line.  Still, he'll be just 24 next year and his minor league lines indicate he has more power in his bat.

Dickerson can hit right-handed pitching very well and it'd be interesting to see what a platoon of him and Thompson could do. He's a rough fielder and plantar fasciitis has limited his playing time, but he's an interesting bat on a rebuilding team that might not be ready to compete until deeper into Dickerson's arbitration years.

Thanks to everyone who submitted plans and helped to make year two of the South Side Sox Offseason Plan Project a rousing success!