The Chicago White Sox have added an outfielder but there’s no way Nomar Mazara solves their issues in right-field.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was speaking to the media Tuesday night, explaining how he felt it was unlikely his team would leave San Diego with a major signing.
“I don’t foresee a White Sox announcement on a free-agent signing while we are here. That doesn’t mean such a deal wouldn’t leak out in advance and I would have to sidestep questions from you all until the deal is actually done.”
But in a few short hours following those comments, the White Sox had made a deal, though not with one of the top free-agent outfielders on the market, but a trade with the Rangers for outfielder Nomar Mazara.
The White Sox send 2018 2nd round pick outfielder Steele Walker to Texas in the deal. Walker profiles as a player similar to Mazara, while Chicago is getting a player in Mazara who has a high-ceiling but hasn’t performed at the MLB level.
Over the last four seasons, Mazara hasn’t lived up to his top-25 prospect potential where he flashed 25+ home run power. After nearly 2,200 plate appearances and more than 100 strikeouts in each of his four MLB seasons, the Rangers decided to pull the plug on their 24-year-old outfielder. Enter the White Sox, who have been looking for ways to improve their production out of right-field, ending 2019 with a collective .596 OPS from players at the position.
However, Mazara doesn’t quite solve that issue in right field for the White Sox, as his numbers seem to profile better as a platoon player than an everyday outfielder. The left-handed Mazara crushed right-handed pitching in 2019, slashing .288/.344/.500 with 13 home runs and wRC+ of 110, but has been almost unplayable against left-handers with a .646 OPS last season.
If the White Sox are looking for a cheap platoon option with upside, they’ve found it in Mazara, who shouldn’t cost more than $6 million this season according to MLB Trade Rumors. But what’s strange about this deal is that Chicago seemed ready to compete on the South-Side this season, first signing catcher Yasmani Grandal and then immediately being involved in the Zack Wheeler talks.
And with team President Kenny Williams alluding to the clubs’ desire to compete this season, it seemed like the Sox were finally looking to win games:
“This was all planned, going back five years ago when we started this and started thinking about [rebuilding]. We get ourselves in position with our young core and we could augment it with guys like this.
“… Clearly, we’re trying to put ourselves in a window that could very well start next year but extend to the next five to seven years.”
They failed at signing Wheeler despite reportedly offering more money than the Phillies, but fans were hoping the era of penny-pinching was coming to a close with the team’s top prospects nearing their MLB debuts. Mazara is a good player to add if the White Sox were still rebuilding, but if the plan is to compete in 2020, Mazara doesn’t move the needle much.
If the White Sox want to truly compete in 2020, Mazara can’t be their only move to improve the outfield, especially if they plan to play Mazara regularly in right field. And with better options in free agency, Marcel Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos come to mind, it’s easy to see why fans aren’t thrilled with the move. But Mazara is still an upgrade over what the White Sox had last season, and while he’s not fantastic on defense, he’s still only 24-years-old and has shown he’s at least a slightly better fielder than someone like Ozuna or Castellanos.
The trade isn’t a slam dunk on its own, but if the White Sox bring in another outfielder who hits right-handed pitching to offset Mazara’s shortcomings, this move starts to make more sense.