Rumors are flying that the White Sox are going to pursue free agent OF Curtis Granderson this winter. Granderson grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and went to college a stones throw from US Cellular Field. Granderson is primarily a CF, but has played some LF and RF in his career as well. Avisail Garcia seems like the only sure thing to return to the OF in 2014 (Both De Aza and Viciedo are under team control but not guaranteed contracts).
Internally, the White Sox have four outfielders whom often find themselves on organizational top prospect lists. 2009 1st round pick Jared Mitchell, 2012 1st round picks Courtney Hawkins and Keenyn Walker, plus Trayce Thompson are the names you hear the most. None of these guys are ready, and unless the White Sox are full on committed to rebuilding it doesn’t make sense to just hand the keys over to one of them and hope for the best. Barring any trades, the Sox figure to have SS (Ramirez), 1B/DH (Dunn) and one OF position (Garcia) locked up. Viciedo, De Aza and Beckham are arbitration eligible, so it stands to reason that at least two of them will be back. Jeff Keppinger has two years left on his deal, so he will be around, and could start if there are no other options. Paul Konerko is the wildcard deepening on whether he wants to retire or give it one more go. There are plenty of openings on this team, so it makes sense for the White Sox to go after some free agents.
Granderson figures to be one of the top names available, but outfield might be a deep position for free agents. Jacoby Ellsbury figures to the the #1 guy, but Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran figure to draw a lot of interest as well. Hunter Pence is off the market after having just got a 5-year deal worth $90MM, and that might be about what Granderson is looking for. Pence is two full years younger though. More importantly, how does Granderson fit with the White Sox?
Many might be surprised to find out he will be 33 on Opening Day next year. Adam Dunn will be 34 to put it all in perspective. So Granderson isn’t a young player, and a 5 year deal puts him at 38 before it’s over. His injuries this year were petty fluky, and he has been durable during his career prior to this season. He just had a career year in 2011, but despite 43 home runs in 2012, he didn’t have a statistically great season. His Adjusted OPS+ in 2012 was 29th, two spots behind AJ Pierzynski. He also finished 8th in strikeout % (Sox fans can guess who #1 is). His 10.2% career walk rate is actually pretty solid though.
His defensive stats are all over the place. He last couple of seasons in NY were lousy, but those were proceeded by two solid years. He was 17th in defensive runs saved in 2012 amongst the 20 qualified CFs. The Sox current crop of outfielders (Garcia, De Aza and Viciedo) are already below average fielders.
(Brace yourself Sox fans…)
When you add up Granderson’s stats, they are actually very comparable to Adam Dunn’s. Dunn walks a little more, strikes out a little more, and has more power. Granderson, for now, has more speed. The key to Granderson adding value to the Sox would likely hinge on whether he can add value as a fielder or not.
Add the end of the day though, the White Sox are stuck with Adam Dunn for one more season. They also don’t have any sure things in their lineup next year. Garcia has lots of upside, but he has just 307 career plate appearances. It might not make sense to lock up another HR-BB-K guy who will be close to 40 when the deal is over. Especially when that guy plays CF and gets at least some of his value from speed.
In theory, the best plan is probably to bring Konerko back for a one season farewell tour, wait out the last year of Dunn’s contract, hope that Danks bounces back, Garcia becomes a superstar and Quintana/Santiago get better. And then of course cross their fingers that they make a good draft pick next June and some of their current prospects come along. The downside to not striking now is that next year’s free agent crop is particularly thin. Just glancing at the list, it seems like three 3B (Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval) could be the lone prizes amongst position players. So maybe it’s not over never?