AJ Pollock and 20 Right Field Innings
Friday was April 1st aka April Fool’s Day, so it was tough to take much that was on the timeline as real news. Some idiot even faked me out on a birth announcement (don’t do that). Obviously, it took much confirming and reviewing to realize that the day had come in which Rick Hahn had actually traded Craig Kimbrel.
I’ll be honest, I wrote about the prospect of trading Kimbrel HERE back in October and I thought it was grim. Nice to see Hahn shooting for the Sudan, and a hook shot, and getting it done! My guy Chorizy has been pounding the table about this whole situation for the entire off-season, including wildin’ on the CHGO Podcast very recently. He was so impressed, it required a mea culpa from him.
About that trade…
AJ Pollock is a 34 year old, right handed hitting outfielder who most recently plied his trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll make $10 million in 2022, with a $5 million buyout in 2023 or a player option for $10 million for that season. In 2021, he slashed .297 / .355 / .536 over 422 Plate Appearances in 117 games.
This is a very good return for Kimbrel, who may be toast. Even if he isn’t Tapioca, he’s got limited utility for a team that is desperate for another living breathing outfielder, which most certainly is Pollock. The White Sox also spent significant resources in the off-season to add redundant pieces to Kimbrel, without doing the same for the outfield, so this deal fits like a glove.
Now, as universally excited as myself and most White Sox fans were about this trade, given the long winter we endured becoming more and more skeptical about it’s likelihood, I’m still not sure it’s the best usage of the initial resources. I think there is still a very strong argument that the best use of the initial Kimbrel transaction was to decline the option, pay him $1 million and then have the flexibility to use the money in the market place.
Having taken the path you did though, like a Hardy Boys novel, this would seem to be an 80 grade result.
AJ Pollock and 20 Right Field Innings
I tweeted this fairly benign fact about AJ Pollock as part of my internal processing of what he’ll look like on the White Sox and it got a fuck ton of attention. It did a median #108Tourney poll’s worth of impressions which was kinda funny as I didn’t give an opinion on this at all, just a fact about his deployment on the field. People were out there defending him like he was their alcoholic cousin that’s really a nice guy, but occasionally has too much and acts like an asshole. I love it. He’s here 5 mins and gets defended like Mark Buehrle. LOL.
The move is a really interesting one for the actual need the White Sox have. The team is desperate for real life outfielders. They basically have 2, Luis Robert who is a superstar in the making and Adam Engel who is basically a 4th outfielder (unless you believe in his two partial seasons of good hitting). Eloy Jimenez is fine in Left Field, he has the speed, but poor instincts, so he’s basically a Designated Hitter. Leury Garcia can fake it, but we all watched him botch a play in Right Field in the playoffs and would like better. Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets are both First Basemen.
The White Sox biggest need is an everyday Right Fielder and Pollock really isn’t that. As the aforementioned tweet denotes, he’s never really played Right Field, like at all. It’s pretty weird. Now given that he spent many years in Center Field, I don’t think this is a hindrance to grabbing a glove and taking on those innings. As many fans pointed out (and the previous paragraph does as well), he’s much better than the incumbents. Still the “thirst” to create an excellent roster for the playoffs has this group moving and sliding around a bit. I could see lots of Eloy or Vaughn in LF and Pollock in RF to start the game. Concluding with tons and tons of Engel in RF and Pollock back in LF to close it out.
It’s not perfect, but it’s fine. Helpful. However, we need to clear the air on something. It’s going to be tough for most of yous (this is Bridgeport) to deal with.
This is a Kenny Williams MOVE!!
Laying on my couch last night, during my tax returns refractory period and it smacked me in the face. I have seen as similar move. This is a Kenny Williams move!! Way back in the year of 2010, the White Sox were coming off of having a division winner in 2008 and enough of a core that it felt like each year just needed a little Kenny magic to get them back in the playoffs.
That year Williams found himself a former outstanding Center Fielder to fill in the outfield positions as needed and provide some thump to the squad. That 33 year old former stud was Andruw Jones. He played all 3 outfield positions over 328 Plate Appearances and smacked 19 home runs for an .827 OPS. Perfectly suitable performance that I only vaguely remember, even though I was attending 40 plus games per year. This is THAT MOVE!!!
So What about Pollock?
Despite looking like he could work for Pierce and Pierce, Pollock still hits! Like really hits. He’s posted OPS of .881 and .892 the last two seasons. Even moreso, he’s still smashing fastballs, which is a good sign that the bat speed ain’t slowing down (see below).
Pollock also helps with two on-going White Sox offensive issues that hadn’t yet been relieved in the 2022 off-season.
ONE – Pollock hits Right Handed Pitching nearly as well as he hits Left Handed Pitching, even though he’s a Right handed hitter. The focus on being too Right Handed in the lineup is remedied here as there isn’t a significant platoon split. Pollock for a career has an .802 OPS vs RHP and an .859 OPS vs LHP. BOOM!
TWO – Pollock has had a sub 40% Ground Ball rate the last two seasons, well better than league average. It is bludgeoned into White Sox fans heads that some of our key hitters just hit too many groundballs for their own good. I’d say there is a WST fight every month or so about Jose Abreu‘s GIDPness. Pollock is a remedy for this, he’ll push up the line drive and fly ball rates of a team that should be terrific on offense, but has a few flaws (like all of us).
What’s NOT to LIKE?
Other than some apprehension about picking up a glove in Right Field, his Achilles heel is that he has a lot of problems staying on the field. Pollock hasn’t played 150 games since 2015, he’s only had 400 plus plate appearances 3 times from 2016 on (snap shot below). It’s quite likely that as he continues to slow down and age, that this will be his modus operandi. Despite being an actual outfielder, it wouldn’t surprise me if 15-20% of his plate appearances comes out of the Designated Hitter spot.
Do you like the deal Beef?
All in all, I really like this trade. I always loved Kenny Williams deals back in the day and I like adding this piece. It is another thing TLR can maneuver throughout the season. I also like the short term ness of this deal. The White Sox have some young outfielders potentially coming to help reinforce the roster in Colas and Cespedes. Those players aren’t ready yet and the 2023 option (should Pollock take it) really allows them to take their time and figure out it. Rick Hahn took lemons (that he bought) and made them into lemonade.