Baseball

There was once a time when acquiring Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers would have been a move that inspired excitement and a great deal of hope in White Sox fans. Back in the winter of 2016, Mazara was the rumored headliner of the Rangers’ offered package for Chris Sale. What the Sox did get for Sale ended up being much better than anything the Rangers had to offer, both at the time and in overall MLB results since then as Yoan Moncada has turned into a star and Mazara has been well….. not good.

So you will be more than forgiven if the Sox acquiring Mazara Tuesday Night, in exchange for Steele Walker, is no longer an exciting move for you. Despite being a former top-25 prospect with huge power that many thought would blossom into a middle-of-the-lineup force, Mazara has struggled in the major leagues, never really improving much from his rookie numbers that were considered promising at the time, but when you post the same numbers for four seasons in a row you go from promising to frustrating very quickly. And that is what happened to Mazara and the Rangers, as it appears Texas was just done with waiting for the potential to deliver.

As you can tell by my headline, I don’t think much of this move – meaning I do not love it or hate it. It’s basically, as our friend and fellow FFUD Sox writer AJ put it, a giant shrug emoji of a trade.

It’s somewhat cliche to say that former top prospects who have disappointed early in their careers “still have potential,” but that cliche feels very applicable and appropriate in Mazara’s case. Like I said, his rookie year was promising with a .266/.320/.419 slash line and a 91 wRC+, but he has not improved significantly since. The last two years he has posted wRC+ of 95 and 94 respectfully, though 2019 did see home post a career high SLG% of .469.

Pretty much all of his offensive value comes against RHP, where for his career he’s barely inched above average (103 wRC+) but 2019 was one of the best of his career in that regard with an .844 OPS and 110 wRC+ against righties. Please don’t ask me about his numbers against LHP, and save yourself the trouble/stress and just don’t look them up. Just trust me when I tell you they are bad, and Mazara will be best used in a platoon.

Which is where the major question mark from this move comes in – is this all the White Sox plan to do to address right field? If it is, this could end up being something of a bad move – it’s the kind of flier they should’ve been taking on players the last three years rather than going into a 2020 campaign where they are supposedly trying to compete. However, if they don’t dust their hands and call it a day, and try to go out and find a genuine platoon partner for him, Mazara could prove to be something of a savvy addition. You can do a lot worse than a guy who produces like he does against RHP (which the Sox struggled with in 2019) as a platoon OF and bench piece. Asking him to do more than that could be a fool’s errand.

The cost is very reasonable, as while Walker was the #6 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list for the Sox system, they’re the only publication with him that high. His ceiling has always been limited, and while Mazara has struggled to hit in MLB, Walker is just 14 months younger and struggled in high-A last year. While I am a fan of Walker and think he could be an MLB regular some day, his age and ceiling compared to Mazara’s make this is a very worthwhile move.

So while this is hardly an exciting move, it doesn’t strike me as one to be upset about in any way.  The Sox appear to believe they see something in Mazara, both in the analytics and in his tools, that leads them to believe they can fix him. New hitting coach Frank Menechino is a preacher of a more patient approach and an analytics advocate, which is what made his hiring a good one and may provide a sliver of hope that the Sox can indeed help Mazara reach his ceiling. It’s not like a change of scenery for a mid-20’s former top prospect with a lot of power being a launching point has not happened before (hello, J.D. Martinez). I am hoping this won’t be the only move they make to address RF, because there are some good platoon options out there in free agency (I will take Domingo Santana, please) but until we know for sure what the Sox’ overall plans are for Mazara, this move strikes me as nothing more than an upside play that makes sense for the Sox to try.

Baseball

Started at the bottom:

And now we’re here:

Clearly, this is something that’s buzzing inside the industry, though of those names only Rosenthal is someone I’d attach any weight to. Because Alex Rodriguez can’t spell anything without looking in a mirror and Steve Phillips puts white-out in his coffee. Still, this is something that’s clearly going to pop up more as the offseason hits.

Now most Sox fans I know or watch would tell you this is just a great way to be disappointed again, as the Pale Hose either lowball Martinez, hoping to get a deal on one of the league’s best hitters, or are just used as leverage to squeeze more money and years out of the Carmines. And Martinez opting out could simply be the latter, though in this free agency environment, that can be a very risky play. How Dave Dombrowski’s firing plays into this is a question, as well as perhaps Fenway Sports Group’s desire to get away from the luxury tax (and as a Liverpool supporter, even this frightens me).

Still, it’s obvious the Sox are going to need a consistent, heavy bat in the lineup. While Eloy and Robert promise a lot, you don’t really know what you’ll get through a full season yet. Tim Anderson might win a batting title, but he doesn’t help the OBP problem the Sox have. Zack Collins could help, but what his status and position on this team is remains up in the air.

And Martinez rakes. He hasn’t quite matched the heights of last season, though that can almost all be attributed to a lowering BABIP from a simply bonkers .375 of last year. He’s still hitting the ball as hard, and he’s striking out even less. He would immediately be the best hitter on the White Sox, and by some distance, no matter what you think Robert becomes or Eloy develops.

Still, it’s not perfectly smooth of a fit. Martinez has to DH, because playing him in right any more than once a month is a public hazard. And if you have him in right and Eloy in left, you’re going to put Robert in a Rascal by July.

That seems simple enough. The Sox haven’t really had a DH all season, or this decade, so bang boom there you go. Except that shoves Jose Abreu out to first every day, and though he might like that, it’s not necessarily beneficial. Abreu has really turned it up of late, and if there’s one spot to have a defensive blind spot it’s first base. Still, he feels like a DH, and if the James McCann love is real for another season, Collins’s greater OBP skills would be welcomed at first. Letting Abreu walk wouldn’t be a very popular move among fans and players, but an upgrade of Martinez helps with that. Also, Martinez and Abreu are the same age. Supposedly.

Second, Martinez has four years left on his deal with Boston, and he would probably want to improve upon that by opting out. But are you really going to hand Martinez more than the $21M he’s due per year past his 36th birthday? That seems a risk. And if you’re not going to give him more years than he’s already got, you’re going to have to give him significantly more dollars than he’s already got. That sound like a Reinsdorf move? Please put up a camera of him signing off on a $30M a year salary. I want to see that face.

As for Martinez, as Rosenthal points out, he might be better off waiting when there are 15 more DH spots available in the NL in the coming years. Right now, where would be landing spots for him? You can throw out a handful of teams due to rebuilding phases/cheapness, like Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit. Cleveland isn’t spending that cash, though they have the need. Would Toronto expedite their rebuild with this? Unlikely. The Twins have Nelson Cruz. The Angels have Shohei Ohtani, pitching or no. He’d be a perfect Athletic, but that’s not happening. The Yankees are out…maybe. Houston doesn’t have a need.

The Sox would be bidding against a very limited field, though that could be yet another reason he decides to just stay put.

Still, the mind reels at a lineup with an established Moncada and Anderson, a Jimenez after taking a step, Abreu, a rookie Robert, and Martinez. He would even out the volatility of depending on merely young hitters. Lessens the pressure on everyone. It makes total sense.

Which is probably why it won’t happen.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Red Sox 14-17   White Sox 13-15

GAMETIMES: Thursday and Friday at 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: WGN Thursday, NBCSN Friday-Sunday

FRUSTRATED WOMEN: Over The Monster

PROBABLE PITCHERS

David Price vs. Lucas Giolito

Chris Sale vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Manny Banuelos

Rick Porcello vs. TBD (most likely Dylan Covey, or Dylan Arrieta to Fifth Feather)

PROBABLE RED SOX LINEUP

Andrew Benintendi – LF

Mookie Betts – RF

J.D. Martinez – DH

Xander Bogaerts – SS

Rafael Devers – 3B

Michael Chavis – 2B

Mitch Moreland – 1B

Christian Vasquez – C

Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – DH

James McCann – C

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Rodon – 2B

Yonder Alonso – 1B

Ryan Cordell – RF

Adam Engel – CF

 

After digging through the muck of the Tigers and Orioles for a couple weeks, the White Sox get to…dive back into the much that the Red Sox have been for the season’s first month.

The Beantown Nine have pulled this act before. They won the World Series in ’13, and then were so bad the following season they ended up punting Jon Lester among others midseason. Apparently the party never stops in Boston when they win…except for the Patriots who aren’t allowed to party by Bill Belichek. It actually took the Red Sox two years to round back into form after the last championship, making the playoffs the last three years, and BoSox fans can only hope they’ll come around a touch quicker this time.

Maybe they already are. They come to the Southside after sweeping the equally struggling A’s at home the past three days. They put up 21 runs over those three games, so the hope would be that the offense is finally clicking into gear. Because really, there’s no way this lineup should be struggling to put together innings. And yet here the Carmines sit at 10th in runs in the AL, 9th in OBP, and 10th in wOBA.

Where the blame goes is probably the supporting cast. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are hitting, and Betts being a perennial MVP candidate you’d figure that. So’s J.D. Martinez. But Devers has shown very little power this year, as it’s never a good sign when your on-base is higher than your slugging. Second base has been something of a sinkhole, though Michael Chavis is putting in a strong claim at the moment. Benintendi isn’t really hitting yet and Moreland has only been ok.

The problems just don’t end there. The rotation has been a quasi-zoo. Chris Sale can’t decide if he wants to throw not hard enough or too hard to compensate, and has been getting paddled either way to the tune of a 6.30 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. Natha Eovaldi is hurt, because guys throwing max effort 97 MPH fastballs pretty much every pitch aren’t all that stable. Who knew? Rick Porcello himself has been gasoline, and one day may end up the weirdest goddamn Cy winner in history. The dude won it and hasn’t managed a sub-4.00 ERA since. How did that happen? Only David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez are holding this rotation together.

The pen has been middling, though hasn’t really missed being shorn of Craig Kimbrel or Joe Kelly (who sucks anyway). The Red Sox are big proponents of finding just any dude lingering around to fill out the pen. So far, Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman have been excellent out of there, and the only people who recognize them are their mothers and even they’re not totally sure. Ryan Braser is the closer here, and he’s got six saves, but he allows more contact than most closers, only striking out a touch over seven hitters per nine. Heath Hembree and Tyler Thornburg are where you’d like to break through.

For the pale version of footwear, Lucas Giolito comes off the DL to start the opener, and hoping to be a touch better than his last three starts had him. Reynaldo Lopez looks to keep his momentum going, and everyone else just exhales in not having to watch Ervin Santana again. Weather could play a role again as tonight’s forecast is iffy, but the rest of the weekend looks better than it’s been. The Red Sox probably think this is their chance to really springboard into the rest of the season. The White Sox are probably just happy to not be super depressed by looking into the other dugout.