Even with the signing of Andrew Benintendi and the assumption that Oscar Colas becomes the White Sox’ starting right fielder on Opening Day next season, the White Sox still find themselves one outfielder short. Minor-league moves such as signing Victor Reyes, Billy Hamilton, and Jake Marisnick have provided “break in case of emergency” levels of depth; however, should one of these players actually break camp with the team, it would lead to the White Sox being short a capable starting outfielder in the case of injury or poor performance from either Benintendi, Luis Robert, or Colas.
With that in mind, however, in viewing the free agent market, there are still plenty of players available that fit a “fourth outfielder” role that should be well within the White Sox’ price range. While Adam Duvall has been the most popular name on social media, should the White Sox not sign him, there are still plenty of options elsewhere.
Below are outlined a total of eight “fourth outfielder” options for the White Sox. These players were chosen as potential fourth outfielders for one or more of the following reasons:
- They offer some sort of platoon advantage
- However, with their platoon advantage comes a clear platoon weakness in their profile
- They offer average to above-average defense that would be of use late in games
- They likely won’t command starting time but would be satisfactory if asked to start due to injury/poor performance
2022 Statistics: 129 G, .209/.310/.311, 82 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR
Aside from Adam Duvall, Grossman represents the highest-upside player on this list. After posting a .239/.354/.430 slash line, good for a 118 wRC+, between Oakland and Detroit in 2020 and 2021, Grossman’s numbers cratered well-below career norms with the Tigers in 2022. Part of this had to do with his atrocious season against RHP, which was far from career norms:
- 2022 vs. RHP: .163/.253/.256, 48 wRC+
- Career vs. RHP: .232/.335/.363, 96 wRC+
Interestingly enough, in Grossman’s 2022 season in which he only hit eight home runs, seven came from the left side. This was complemented by a 157 wRC+ against LHP (career 122 wRC+ vs. LHP), but just one home run to show for it from the right side. So, despite the historically down year from Grossman, he still showed power from the left side of the plate in limited spurts.
With a career walk rate of 13.2% and pretty average career numbers in the outfield (+/- 0 OAA combined in LF and RF in 2022), Grossman will likely be looking for a sort of bounce-back year that can help him rebuild his value. His brief stint in Atlanta last season also connects him with current White Sox hitting coach Jose Castro, who can likely provide some input on Grossman’s fit with the team and potential to bounce back.
With A.J. Pollock previously signing for $7M with the Seattle Mariners, Grossman and the rest of the players in this grouping have their market pretty much set. Given his ability to provide from both sides of the plate, Grossman may make the most sense for the White Sox.
2022 Statistics: 144 G, .236/.312/.374, 89 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR
The Red Sox declined Pham’s $6M option earlier this offseason, making him a free agent once again. After hitting .278/.375/.472 during his prime from 2016-2019, over the past three seasons, Pham has struggled to replicate his previous success. He will enter his age-35 season having hit just .231/.324/.372 (94 wRC+) over the past three seasons with San Diego, Cincinnati, and Boston. While his walk rate has remained well above average at 11.4% over that time, the rest of Pham’s game has obviously struggled.
Pham hit fastballs pretty well last year, posting a .351 wOBA against them, but struggled mightily against breaking balls (.222 wOBA) and offspeed pitches (.264 wOBA). The hope would be that Pham can capture some of the upside that has allowed him to post a career 132 wRC+ against LHP and 110 wRC+ against RHP, but entering his age-35 season, the odds appear to be against Pham doing this. In addition, he doesn’t provide any insurance in the outfield, as in just 93 attempts in Boston in LF, he posted -5 Outs Above Average – terribly low given the small number of chances.
In terms of rankings among this list of eight players, Pham falls somewhere in the middle because of his proven ability to hit both LHP and RHP throughout his career. However, since he hasn’t done it much recently, there would be plenty of risk in naming Pham the team’s fourth outfielder should any of the White Sox’ main starters miss any time.
2022 Statistics: 86 G, .213/.276/.401, 87 wRC+, 0.9 wRC+
Duvall has been the most popular name among White Sox fans this offseason for this fourth outfielder role, despite a rough season in Atlanta a year after their World Series run.
What’s the point of signing someone who had an OPS under .700 in 2022? It’s the platoon advantage and defense that Duvall provides. Against LHP in 2022, Duvall slashed .233/.282/.562 (.844 OPS). For his career, Duvall has also been pretty good against RHP as well, with his 73 wRC+ appearing to be a sort of anomaly following seasons of 116 wRC+ (2021) and 110 wRC+ (2020) against RHP. He is also just a year removed from a 38-home-run season with Atlanta in 2021, and even posting 12 homers in just about a half-season worth of plate appearances shows that the power hasn’t necessarily disappeared for Duvall.
However, Duvall’s value goes beyond power – Duvall is actually a really strong defensive outfielder. He ranked in the 87th percentile in OAA in 2022, posting +1 OAA in LF and +3 OAA in CF. In doing so, he serves as a fourth outfielder who has the ability to start, platoon, or serve as a late-game defensive replacement if necessary without breaking the bank.
Also the owner of a Braves/Castro connection, Duvall is the last remaining elite defender with power on the free-agent market, so he will likely be the first player on this list to receive a contract even after struggling in 2022. With the White Sox looking for someone who may not command starting innings but will also provide plenty of production if in the lineup, it would make sense for the club to be in the mix here as perhaps their concluding move of the offseason.
2022 Statistics: 98 G, .222/.311/.346, 90 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
After spending the first six seasons of his career with Miami, the Marlins surprisingly decided to non-tender Anderson following a subpar 2022 season. After posting back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020 with an .810 OPS, Anderson has slowly seen his numbers dip in the opposite direction over the past two seasons. He posted respectable numbers (.715 OPS) in 2021, but his OPS dipped below .700 for the first time in his career in 2022. He’s been bitten by the injury bug over the past few seasons, playing just 67 games in 2021 and 98 games in 2022 due to a variety of injuries that include lower back spasms, left shoulder subluxation, a left oblique strain, and a fractured finger.
When Anderson was at his best, however, he was actually hitting RHP better than he was LHP:
- 2019-2020: .829 OPS vs. RHP / .755 OPS vs. LHP
- 2022: .633 OPS vs. RHP / .746 OPS vs. LHP
2021 was a bit of an odd year for Anderson, where he had an .803 OPS vs. RHP but only a .428 OPS vs. LHP. So, I didn’t really know what to make of that one when I wrote up those stats above.
After being part of an organization that’s undergone a lot of overhaul in the past few seasons, perhaps a change of scenery along with some improved health could benefit Anderson. He does have the ability to play both 3B and LF/RF, though with Yoan Moncada pretty set at 3B, Anderson would likely serve as a utility option at both positions. He’s been passable in the OF when he’s been out there, usually putting up -3 OAA on average over 100+ outfield attempts. Though, to be fair, playing the outfield in Miami is a bit harder than playing the outfield in Chicago. He also has a cannon for an arm, ranking in the 99th percentile last season in arm strength
He may not feel like the most natural fit on this team, but given that the White Sox have question marks both at the backup 3B position and in the corner outfield spots, perhaps Anderson fits better than it may seem at first. He has one of the highest ceilings on this list because his past successes really aren’t that far in the past. He is also just 30 years old, by far the youngest option on this list.
Consider Anderson my third-favorite option here, behind Duvall and Grossman.
2022 Statistics: 134 G, .251/.316/.415, 104 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
Peralta posted a .778 OPS against RHP last season (116 wRC+) between the Diamondbacks and the Rays, and while he did fade down the stretch in Tampa Bay (82 wRC+ in September/October), he does have a power history and posted the second-highest hard hit rate of his career last season. His 8.4% walk rate last season also hovers around league average, which would absolutely be of help to the White Sox. He also is a plus defender, accumulating +5 OAA in each of the past two seasons.
With Peralta, the White Sox would be taking a risk on his age, as he is entering his age-35 season and did struggle down the stretch in 2022. However, he would conceivably be a cheap platoon option while also serving as the one with the highest amount of upside remaining. His defense alone makes it worth at least exploring what his role could look like on this team in some capacity, and he does fit the White Sox well.
2022 Statistics: .229/.282/.423, 93 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
With Peralta and now Naquin, we have firmly entered the left-handed platoon options section of this list. Naquin’s .746 OPS (105 wRC+) makes him at least a bit appealing in terms of production, though with limited upside. His defensive production leaves a bit to be desired, though he did post +1 OAA in 38 chances after being traded to the Mets mid-season last year where he was alongside a plus defender in center field in the form of Brandon Nimmo. To his benefit, he does have one of the strongest arms in baseball (94th percentile arm strength), which serves a corner position in the outfield well.
Naquin presents himself as a very capable fourth outfield option with probably the most limited upside in the case that he becomes more than just a fourth outfielder at any point throughout the year. The White Sox could probably feel good about him against RHP, and his .303 wOBA/.317 xwOBA at least provides some potential for improvement over 2022.
2022 Statistics: 115 G, .232/.324/.369, 97 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR
Gamel was a rumored White Sox target during the 2022 Trade Deadline, so it makes sense that he would appear on this list – albeit as a lower-tier option. Gamel spent his entire 2022 season in Pittsburgh, where he continued his career trend of posting solid walk rates (10.2% for his career, 11.3% in 2022) while hovering around a 95-100 wRC+ on the season.
Gamel would be a true platoon option, as he posted a 56 wRC+ against LHP in 2022 – though his career 88 wRC+ against LHP leaves a little more room for optimism. His 112 wRC+ against RHP puts him right up alongside David Peralta in terms of effectiveness against RHP, though he falls well short defensively compared to both Peralta and Naquin (-3 OAA in both LF and RF in 2022).
Because he is not as strong defensively, Gamel presents himself as the least desirable option of the trio of himself, Peralta, and Naquin. However, should the White Sox strike out on all other options, Gamel’s bat – and Luis Robert’s legs in CF – might be enough to create positive value in an emergency situation. However, if looking for someone who can also serve as a late-inning defensive replacement, the White Sox should likely look elsewhere.
2022 Statistics: 111 G, .235/.263/.385, 86 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR
To conclude this list, we go with an interesting name that will play for a new team for the first time in his career next season. The 32-year-old Pinder has spent his career as a utility player with the Athletics, accumulating time at every position except catcher and pitcher. During his best stretch from 2017-2019, Pinder hit .245/.305/.435 and averaged nearly 14 home runs a season. Since then, however, he has hit just .238/.279/.395, good for a 91 wRC+. He did hit 12 home runs last season and Baseball Savant suggests that, no surprise, Pinder could have benefitted in terms of overall production by playing elsewhere.
Pinder hasn’t been incredibly strong defensively throughout his career, and last season, he was not a strong defensive player in RF (-3 OAA) or LF (-1 OAA); however, playing in Oakland Coliseum likely doesn’t do players any favors when it comes to defense.
Pinder is a strong platoon option against LHP, posting a 108 wRC+ against them in 2022 with a career 114 wRC+. He has some issues against RHP, with a 71 wRC+ against RHP in 2022 and a career 81 wRC+ against them. Pinder has shown the ability to go into stretches in which he can put up really solid production for a utility player, and while he is featured on this list as a fourth outfielder option, he could easily make a case to add to the team’s depth at second base. However, after posting a whiff rate, walk rate, strikeout rate, and xwOBA all within the 15th percentile or lower, Pinder doesn’t exactly provide the sort of peripherals that would inspire a bounce back towards some of his best career numbers.
If you’re walking away from this list feeling uninspired, well, remember you read an article about fourth outfielder options for the club. With Andrew Benintendi, Luis Robert, and Oscar Colas hopefully playing the majority of games in the outfield – along with potential support from Eloy Jimenez – the White Sox aren’t necessarily looking for someone who will start 100+ games for the club. Rather, it makes the most sense to find someone who provides a platoon advantage that the White Sox feel they lack with enough defense and overall production such that the club isn’t relying on Billy Hamilton or Jake Marisnick to play a lot of games as a starter.
If I had to rank these players, in order of preference, I would probably go with the following:
- Adam Duvall
- Robbie Grossman
- Brian Anderson
- David Peralta
- Tyler Naquin
- Tommy Pham
- Ben Gamel
- Chad Pinder
More importantly, what this exercise shows is that it is far from “Duvall or bust” when it comes to outfield options for the White Sox. While Duvall is easily the highest-upside option on this list, players like Grossman, Anderson, Peralta, and even Naquin provide the sort of upside that the White Sox could be looking for at the position.
How they decide to finish off the position remains to be seen. However, it would be preferable that they create some sort of outfield competition – even if it is a fake one – in Spring Training. Currently, that does not exist on the South Side.
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Featured Image: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports