SAN DIEGO – The White Sox came to the Winter Meetings needing a right fielder and will not go home empty handed after acquiring outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for Class A outfield prospect Steele Walker.
Mazara, 24, is far from a glossy acquisition — Nicholas Castellanos, Joc Pederson or Starling Marte were viewed as potential targets but the Sox like Mazara’s upside and value at a more modest commitment.
Mazara, who owns a .261/.320/.435 career hitting line, hit 19 homers in 469 plate appearances last season including the longest one in the majors, a 505-footer against Sox righty Reynaldo Lopez.He has hit 20, 20, 20 and 19 homers in his four seasons (with 101 RBI in 2017) but hasn’t met the expectations when signed as a $5 million international free agent in 2011 and was getting squeezed out of playing time in Texas by Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun and Shin-Soo Choo. Mazara’s defense has been suspect, with minus-4 defensive runs saved in right in 2019.
“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,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Nomar adds yet another young, exciting bat with upside to our lineup.”
“He’s obviously a powerful man,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s 6-4 but he looks like he’s seven foot every time I see him in the box. Runs extremely well for a big guy. Can defend. Good arm. Brings a lot of qualities to the plate. Can pop one in the seats as quickly as anybody.”
Mazara, who has two years of contract control and is projected to make $5.7 million in arbitration, cost the Sox their No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Walker played at two levels of Class A in 2019, batting .269/.346/.426 with 10 homers in 100 games at advanced Class A Winston-Salem. The Sox have a fair amount of outfield depth in their farm system with Blake Rutherford, Luis Basabe, Micker Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez, not to mention minor league player of the year Luis Robert.
It didn’t seem like the Sox, who came here in need of one or two starting pitchers and a right fielder, were close to signing a free agent. Agents and other club executives are saying the Sox have been aggressive, but there have been few links to the Sox and the best free agent pitchers out there – left-handers Madison Bumgarner,Hyun-Jin Ryn and Dallas Keuchel.
The Sox’ top pitching target was right-hander Zack Wheeler, but the former Met declined the Sox’ $120 million plus offer for five years in favor of a $118 million deal with the Phillies. Looking beyond 2020, the Sox viewed Wheeler as a better fit for long range production than the group of lefties.
The Sox do have starting pitching on their radar, however.
“If I had to say what’s more likely to be announced by the White Sox while we are here, it would be a trade more likely than a free agent signing,” Hahn said. “But again, neither may happen. We’ll have to wait to see.”