Left field biggest remaining need for White Sox

“We’re going to wait for the right deals to present themselves and then act accordingly,” GM Rick Hahn said.

SHARE Left field biggest remaining need for White Sox
White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez. (AP)

White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez fields a single by Rangers’ Nathaniel Lowe on Sept. 18, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. (AP)

AP Photos

The White Sox left the winter meetings in San Diego without a left fielder in tow, but not to worry. Two months remain until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The angst and concern among those who follow the White Sox is palpable, if social media is any indication. They are worried.

“I 100 percent empathize with it, but there’s no added benefit to acquiring a player, doing a bad deal on December 6 that is a lot worse than doing a good deal on January 6,” general manager Rick Hahn said.

Big names at bigger than ever prices found new teams during the meetings. The Sox, meanwhile, made a pick in the Rule 5 Draft.

“There’s excitement. We feel it,” Hahn said on the last day Wednesday. “We all come out here. Your staff is out here. You’re talking, there’s a bit of a fever pitch, an energy, a focus on the game.”

But the Sox, who made splashes in recent winter meetings, made nary a sprinkle in this one.

“In the end, we’re not going to force it,” Hahn said. “We’re going to wait for the right deals to present themselves and then act accordingly.”

The Sox also need a second baseman, but they don’t plan to exceed their record 2022 payroll and have about $15 million left to spend. Don’t be surprised if they go with minimum salaried Romy Gonzalez at second base and devote their resources to left field. Gonzalez batted .238/.257/.352 with two homers in 32 games in his first season.

“In the end, it’s going to depend upon what’s accessible at [second base and left field],” Hahn said. “If you pool all your resources, does that significantly upgrade your ability at one spot and [make] you feel like the potential difference between the upgrade at the other spot is worth that sacrifice? Or are there equally accessible upgrades so you wind up addressing both?”

With Andrew Vaughn getting moved from the outfield to first base where he’s best suited, and left fielder Eloy Jimenez is pegged at designated hitter, the most significant acquisition for the Sox either by trade or free agency could be left field.

Jimenez excelled at DH on a regular basis during the second half of 2022. Moving him there makes the Sox better defensively and puts Jimenez, perhaps manager Pedro Grifol’s No. 4 hitter, at less risk of getting injured.

Grifol already has bonded with Jimenez having managed him in winter ball, and he knows the DH conversation could be delicate. Jimenez wants to be an outfielder, and could get time there assuming the new left fielder doesn’t play 162 games.

“He’s a huge part of this ball club,” Grifol said. “There are very few guys in this game that just want to be a DH. I don’t expect my conversations with him to be, ‘hey, you’re going to be a DH,’ and it’s like, ‘oh, yeah, great.’ Players want to play, and I’m assuming he’s going to want to do the same thing.”

Grifol said Jimenez will work in left field in spring training and could get some time in left. The same can be said for left-handed hitting Gavin Sheets, who could also back up Vaughn at first.

As for right field, the Sox are hanging their hat on Cuban prospect Oscar Colas, 24, a roll of the dice considering Colas has never played a major league game. How Colas would handle major league pitching and how he mentally handles his first inevitable slump will be unknowns until he encounters those things. On the plus side, Colas will be a faster upgrade defensively to those who patrolled right field last season, and he provides a left-handed bat needed to balance the Sox lineup.

“He’s ready,” said Sox international scouting guru Marco Paddy, a special assistant to Hahn. “He’s prepared to handle that challenge. He’s mature enough and had experience in Japan.

“Oscar is a special kid. A lot of desire. A lot of hunger. He wants to play. He wants to be good.”

The Latest
While he played, it seemed that happiness was the only thing that eluding him. He is a different person now. He has been through the fire — with his health, as a manager who resigned from a failing Phillies team in 2015 — and now has learnedd how much he is loved by many, by Cubs fans overwhelmingly.
One game shy of season’s halfway mark, Sox fall to 21-59.
MLB announced Monday that it was suspending Mets pitcher Edwin Díaz after a sticky stuff check in the game Sunday against the Cubs.
Two teens and a male were shot about 3:56 p.m. Monday in the 5300 block of South Pulaski Road. The teens are hospitalized. The male died at a hospital. No one is in custody.
Dodgers were leading Sox 2-0 in seventh inning.