Here we are again. Just over a month ago, we were talking about Eloy Jimenez’s torn pectoral muscle, and many White Sox fans thought it couldn’t get much worse. That thought quickly came to an end on Sunday when Luis Robert was running to first base trying to beat out an infield single.
The White Sox initially said that it was a strained right hip flexor and that the x-rays were negative. This seemed like a best-case scenario until Rick Hahn addressed the media earlier today.
In his sophomore season, Luis Robert seemed to be putting it all together. An elite player on defense, Robert has showed a better approach at the plate, resulting in a slash line of .316/.359/.463 and an OPS of .822. Losing a player of Robert’s talent and potential seems to be nearly catastrophic for this team, which lacked outfield depth prior to losing Eloy Jimenez for 5-6 months, is now losing Robert for close to 3-4 months. After general manager Rick Hahn decided that the team would stick to internal options following the Jimenez injury, the team used rookie Andrew Vaughn the most in LF with 17 games played, followed by Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia, Jake Lamb, and Nick Williams. Andrew Vaughn is the only name that pops off that list, as Leury Garcia has had a brutal start, Billy Hamilton spent some time on the IL with a hamstring injury, Jake Lamb is Jake Lamb, and Nick Williams got DFA’d and out-righted to the Alternate Site after clearing waivers. Left fielders are hitting a brutal .213/.333/.270 with a .603 OPS without Jimenez, so it’s obvious that there needs to be an addition as there’s now another hole in the outfield. I would imagine that Vaughn gets the majority of starts in LF (although I won’t put it past La Russa to give bench players strange at-bats over their top prospect) and Eaton to get the majority of at-bats in RF.
Like I said, the internal options are not great, which likely prompted Hahn to say that they are going to look at potential trades to be made to help fill the void left by Robert. The internal options are Leury Garcia, Nick Williams, Billy Hamilton, and Luis Gonzalez (who is likely to be called up to replace Robert’s spot on the active roster in the short term). Adam Engel suffered another setback in his recovery, and likely won’t be able to start a rehab assignment for at least 3 weeks, so he isn’t in the immediate plans for CF. When healthy, Engel would help fill that defensive void with his Gold Glove-caliber defense, but wouldn’t be close to helping fill the offensive hole left by Robert.
Free agent options sit about right where they were when the Jimenez injury occurred. Yasiel Puig is playing in Mexico after sexual assault allegations have compounded teams’ hesitancy to sign him, and Yoenis Cespedes seems to only want a multi-year deal, which no team has been willing to give the injury-ridden outfielder. Both of those players are corner outfielders and don’t seem to be a fit at CF.
Trade options for the White Sox seems to be more likely this time around, but here are some names I don’t see as a solution. Charlie Blackman will be a name thrown around, but being due $21 million in 2021, 2022, and $13 million in 2023, that seems to cross the 34 year old off of the checklist, as Jerry Reinsdorf is still the GM and wouldn’t want to cough up that much. Joey Gallo also seems to always be in trade discussions, but the Rangers continue to hold onto him as they currently sit in last place of the AL West in the final year of his contract, continually dropping his trade value.
Now time for the names that intrigue me. Mitch Haniger is probably one of my most desired trade targets (Diamond Digest Editor-in-Chief Jordan Lazowski would agree). Haniger is under contract for 2021 as well as 2022, so he would be an option in right field next year as well. The biggest question for Haniger was his health, and he has shown that he is capable of staying healthy so far this season, playing in 27 of 29 games so far and hitting .269/.311/.546 with an OPS of .857, 7 HR, and 21 RBI. He has spent most of 2021 in RF but has had experience in CF in years prior. Even if the Sox acquire a big name corner outfielder, they can work the lineup around them and use Garcia or even Eaton in center. The price for Haniger could be interesting, considering he is under contract next season and with Seattle currently in second in the AL West, nobody knows how willing Seattle is to deal him.
Another name that intrigues me is Nick Castellanos. Cincinnati is hovering below-.500, and could look to be selling potential assets. Castellanos would be that corner-outfield bat, and is currently hitting .330/.366/.660 with a 1.026 OPS, 9 HR, and 20 RBI. Not a great defender, Castellanos makes up for in his bat, and would do a great job helping fill the offensive void left by Robert.
Some more names to keep an eye on are Kris Bryant, Trey Mancini, Ketel Marte, Starling Marte, and Anthony Santander. Rumors have said that the Sox haven’t made a call to the Cubs, but Bryant would be a great one year rental and is versatile to play all over. Mancini started the season slow after missing 2020 while fighting cancer, but has been playing very well over the last two weeks and shouldn’t cost too much. His teammate Santander is currently injured, so there could be some concern there, but if healthy, he could be a very viable option. The Orioles still working their way out of a rebuild makes those two likely to be dealt. Both Martes have had a good start to 2021, and would be solid bats to add to this lineup.
When all is said and done, I think Rick Hahn will be spending a lot of time making phone calls across the league, and will end up making a deal for an outfielder. Now the tier of player they acquire is in question, but it seems that if the team is serious about contending, they need to fill the void in the outfield while Robert and Jimenez recover, and hopefully return in time for a postseason run.