While most of the White Sox fan base has gathered up their pom-poms to tell you why the White Sox are undoubtedly making the best choice possible here OR gritting their teeth in angst about the potential risks of throwing an unproven rookie straight into the southwest most corner of the ballpark, yours truly has moved on to thinking about who the White Sox will employ as their 4th outfielder.
Back when I joined the SoxMachine crew for an emergency live stream about Andrew Benintendi, we talked about, WHAT’S NEXT!?!?! At that time, I was fully on the sign Michael Conforto train, now that you had the stability of Benintendi, you could gamble on Conforto’s upside, with Colas in tow to protect the downside risk. Other than that though, I was really thinking the White Sox needed their 4th outfielder to be a speedy center fielder type, like Brett Phillips, that could spell Luis Robert when he inevitably gets sent to the infirmary.
The White Sox however, were one step ahead of ole BeefLoaf and signed Billy Hamilton to a minor league deal shortly afterwards, ensuring they have a defense only substitute for our most expensive Cuban import should he endure any hardships. My guy Brew Hand Luke highlighted that signing HERE.
4th Outfielder Qualifications??
My initial thinking on this topic was flawed. Now I think the White Sox need a right handed hitting outfielder that can cover both corners. Choosing right handed is merely an off-set to what is in house. Benintendi and Colas are both left handed hitters. Looking into the additional 40 man depth, the other “potential” solution is Gavin Sheets, who is also left handed. They need a right handed hitter.
Also, I think out of Colas and Benintendi, both can handle centerfield if Luis Robert is banged up and needs a day or two. If Robert is out for a longer stint, the White Sox have Billy Hamilton glass they can break. Let’s look at what, approximately, this assignment will look like.
I took a guestimate on the median amount of plate appearances each MLB team takes. Then I cut it up by 9 batting positions and re-cast it over the 3 outfield positions. This is hardly a perfect science, but close enough for our exercise. Then I took Steamer’s estimate for each of the White Sox expected three primary outfielders. YMMV on the Steamer projections, but let’s just say that we are looking 350-400 Plate Appearances for whomever the White Sox end up choosing. Another example of why having depth is pretty damn important.
I’m choosing to use MLB Trade Rumors handy list of available free agents. If you have a better spot to pull this info, knock yourself out. But for me, this is consistently the easiest to quickly scan and decide how much I fucking hate the leftover choices. Speaking of….
White Sox twitter seems pretty enamored with Duvall at this point. He does check the boxes of good defender in the corners (and can even still handle centerfield) and he’s definitely right handed. Duvall has power as well, although if his age 33 season is any indication he seems very solidly on the downside of his career. Duvall has only a career .289 OBP and last year was .276.
Giving 350-400 PA to a guy who gets on base like Leury Garcia (.293 OBP career) is a rough way to live. Not saying it couldn’t work and as noted he has other attributes, but I could see a high level of frustration accumulating in record time. Especially if he ended up starting for like a month. That being said, he’s solidly in the mix here.
I love Cutch, you love Cutch. He still hit in 2022, even with the sawdust ball, even at age 35. Cutch had an above average OBP and 17 dingers last year. In posting a 99 OPS+ he was basically a league average hitter all in. Andrew is clearly on the downside, but as history should tell us, all-time greats tend to age a little more gracefully than the rest of the pack.
The downsides with McCutchen are his age, he’ll play 2023 at age 36 and at this point, he’s a pretty brutal outfielder. He’s at -11 Outs Above Average picking up a glove since the start of 2020. It’s possible you could employ a player like this effectively without the declining defense hurting you, but it might not be in the cards depending on how the roster shakes out with health.
Jurickson Profar mainly held down left field for the 2022 San Diego Padres, while also leading off for a good chunk of the season. He switch hits, but was slightly better hitting right handed in 2022. His trademark on-base game is still very much on point as he leaves his age 29 season where he got on at a .331 clip, which is well above league average in a tough offensive environment. He’s very versatile, but below average defensively in any post where he’s picking up a glove.
On the flip side, Robbie Grossman had a pretty rough 2022 as an age 32 player, at least by his standards. Everything was down offensively. Despite switch hitting and have a ton of on-base skills from both sides, he’s always been a better right handed hitter. That disparity increased in 2022, where he absolutely crushed LHP (as a RHB) and stunk hitting as a lefty. He’s night and day different from Profar as a defender (at least by Outs Above Average) as he is basically league average as a corner outfielder over the last three seasons. So despite a brutal 2022, Grossman will only be 33 in 2023 and he still hits as a Right Handed Hitter very well.
Great minds think alike or some shit like that. Chorizy-E actually sketched out a Ramon Laureano trade with the White Sox in our annual “TRADE WITH EVERY TEAM” set of blogs. You can read the full blog HERE, but the deal is below.
Laureano is volatile in performance, but can cover all 3 outfield positions. He has pop and I would think that pop would play much better on the southside than it currently does in the bay area. For me, out of this entire group, he’s probably the one that I would feel most comfortable with starting for a longer stretch of time as he’s materially been a starter for awhile. At age 28, he should be in his prime or at least his quasi-prime.
This is More Important than it Looks
4th outfielder…whatever?!!? Not really though, as this team is taking on significant risk with its everyday line up in both Right Field and at Second Base. It is vital that they weigh this decision carefully and get it right. A team like the White Sox making the correct decision here gives them a chance to out-depth their fellow classmates in the AL Central. I’m interested to see their choice and I hope it won’t be impeded by choosing the one that costs the least amount of resources.
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Low information White Sox Fan.
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