Multiple sources on both sides of the trade are confirming a Tuesday night swap of Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara for Chicago White Sox outfield farmhand Steele Walker.
While the idea of trading the fastest-rising outfield prospect in the system (Walker) for a player who was a debatable non-tender this fall (Mazara), there’s a bit of solace to be had in that Mazara is barely a year older than Walker — with 1,988 major league at-bats to his name.
The problem is that those 1,988 at-bats have added up to just 1.8 bWAR, which is ... not ideal.
But if the plan is to bring in another RF masher to platoon with Mazara — say, nontendered Mariners power bat Domingo Santana — maybe the move isn’t so odd. Mazara runs a career .799 OPS against right-handed pitchers, with solid enough contact rates and power.
Mazara had the longest home run (505 feet) in the majors last year, on June 21 vs. the White Sox. He in fact had two of the six longest homers hit last season.
“At just 24 years old, Nomar provides us with a left-handed hitting right fielder who fits into our current team’s development arc and who still has untapped potential, said Rick Hahn in a team statement. “Nomar adds yet another young, exciting bat with upside to our lineup.”
Mazara isn’t a cheap flier — he’s ticketed to cost $5.7 million in arbitration for 2020, quite a pricey pickup given his apparent 2.0-WAR ceiling. And the native Dominican doesn’t bring speed (7-of-12 in career steals) or defense (-3.8 dWAR) to the table, either.
The White Sox lose Walker, their second round draft choice in 2018. Walker is at least two years away from the big leagues, projected to start or see significant time at Double-A this season after “slumping” to just a .771 OPS at High-A Winston-Salem in the second half of 2019. In a year that saw every outfielder not named Luis Robert slump in the White Sox season, Walker was a lone light, and could well have vaulted to the top of the club’s OF rankings once Robert graduates to the majors.
It remains unconfirmed whether his new team simply wanted a player they could promote as “Steele Walker, Texas Ranger.” Hawk Harrelson would undoubtedly endorse such a maneuver.
With the trade, Chicago’s 40-man roster is now 38 players strong.