Joc Pederson, again?
The rumors have returned for a second straight offseason, the ones linking the White Sox to a trade for the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder. This time, it’s USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reporting that the White Sox and Dodgers have “engaged in preliminary trade talks” involving Pederson, the same guy the South Siders were reportedly after last winter but obviously didn’t land.
Nightengale also reported that the White Sox have “inquired” about free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, arguably the top outfielder on the market. Either would splendidly fill the team’s vacancy in right field, a position where a combination of White Sox hitters produced at some of the worst levels in baseball in 2019. The .565 OPS from White Sox right fielders was the worst mark in the game. Both players would fill the need for more power in the White Sox lineup. Pederson, though, would give the White Sox the left-handed power the team would “ideally” like to add, without the same questions about defense that Castellanos has been dogged by in recent seasons.
Pederson launched a career-high 36 home runs in 2019, setting new career bests in RBIs (74), batting average (.249), slugging percentage (.538) and OPS (.876). The 27-year-old has one year of team control remaining, not the perfect situation for a White Sox team looking to add players to its core for a planned long-term window of contention. There’s nothing saying, of course, that the White Sox couldn’t sign Pederson to a longer-term deal if they were to acquire him in a trade.
Figuring out the cost of such a deal is not as easy as simply suggesting that a free-agent contract, like the one that would go to Castellanos, would cost simply a boatload of money. The White Sox aren’t interested in parting with their highest ranked prospects, especially not in a trade that would fetch them a player with just one year of control remaining. Meanwhile, the organization’s mid-tier prospects suffered health- or performance-related setbacks in 2019, potentially making it difficult to find an attractive centerpiece for a deal. But while Pederson would be a quality addition to the White Sox lineup and produced at career-best levels in 2019, he wouldn’t figure to command the same type of return packages that usually go the other way in deals for the best players in the game. Perhaps that would make such an acquisition easier for the White Sox.
Castellanos, meanwhile, would simply cost money – and perhaps quite a bit of it. The White Sox, though, seem intent on paying big dollar figures for an impact talent, with Nightengale writing in the same report that they’re intent on doing so for free-agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, who was forecasted earlier Tuesday to receive a contract worth more than $100 million over five years. Nightengale wrote “it’s a price the White Sox are willing to meet.”
Castellanos is coming off his own career year, one in which he slashed .289/.337/.525 with a major league leading 58 doubles to go along with 27 home runs and 73 RBIs. He was especially fantastic after joining the Cubs in a midseason trade, slashing .321/.356/.646 with 16 home runs and 21 doubles after reaching the North Side. He should be familiar to the White Sox, whose pitchers he battered in recent seasons as a member of the division-rival Detroit Tigers. Castellanos, also 27, has faced questions about his poor defensive statistics in right field, though that would hardly seem to be a deal-breaker for any team that desires his bat in the middle of its lineup. Pederson, for what it’s worth, finished the 2019 campaign with 5 Defensive Runs Saved in right field. Castellanos had minus-9 DRS.
Speaking of Pederson’s defense, he actually played more games in left field in 2019 than he did in right field. But the White Sox have been adamant about keeping Eloy Jimenez in left field as he continues to evolve into the all-around player the South Siders believe he will be.
Again, both players would be big-time upgrades for the White Sox in right field. With the team supposedly intent on landing Wheeler on an expensive free-agent contract, perhaps a trade involving Pederson is the way they’ll go to try to fill that hole in right field.