With the White Sox looking for a couple of outfielders to help finish off their roster for 2023, would they be interested in Jesse Winker, and what would it cost to complete a trade like this?
According to a report from MLB insider Jon Morosi, the Seattle Mariners are open to the possibility of moving outfielder Jesse Winker, along with starters Chris Flezen and Marcos Gonzalez. Morosi did mention that they will NOT include starters and Winker in the same trade.
Winker, who will be entering his age-30 season, is set to make $8 million in 2023 before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024. If the Sox were to trade for the outfielder, it would be a one-year rental type player.
Last year, Winker hit .219/.344/.344 with 14 home runs and a 108 wRC+. This production was considerably down from his 2021 campaign where he hit .305/.394/.556 before being traded from Cincinnati to Seattle. While he did struggle offensively for much of the season, he would bring a left-handed bat with great discipline to the South Side. Last year, he ranked in the top 2% of players with a 15.4% walk rate, and in addition, he struck out just 18.8% of the time.
However, one of the biggest downsides for Winker is that by joining a roster with aspirations of improving defensively, he would not really move the needle toward that goal. In 2022, Winker posted -10 Outs Above Average (OAA) in LF, which puts him right in line with the production both Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jimenez have put out in left field. Winker has posted a career -31 OAA in the outfield, so it doesn’t appear that his bad 2022 was any sort of anomaly either.
Beyond the defense, there have also been rumors surrounding Winker’s clubhouse presence, as according to reports, he “fell out of favor” in the Mariners’ clubhouse. In an October appearance on 710 AM Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk Show, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times laid out, in detail, the manner in which Winker fell out of favor over the course of the season:
“I think he was home (during the postseason). I was curious because he didn’t make the trip when we went to Toronto and then Houston, and I asked. And they said, ‘Well, he wanted to get a second opinion on his neck.’ … I think they probably just told him to go home. I mean, it speaks to that. I think by the end of the season, it’s what scouts call a tired act. I just think some of his teammates were done with him, were just tired of putting up with him. I think the team is frustrated with him. Everything that Mitch Haniger does to prepare for a game to get ready, Jesse Winker’s kind of the opposite. I mean — I can say it, he may not like it — I think he’s not very physically strong. I don’t think he puts in the time to be better defensively or to have a better arm or any of the work that should be done. And really it is counter to what has made this team great. The last few years, this team prepares more than any team I’ve ever seen on a daily basis to be ready to play that day, and he doesn’t. He doesn’t always. It’s just not there. And it’s noticeable. Players notice it. I think part of it is, too, when he didn’t post for that doubleheader (on Oct. 4) and guys were having to play 18 straight innings, I think that bothered some players. And once you lose your teammates, why be there? So there’s gonna be some hard conversations either with Jesse from this front office, or they’re just gonna move on. And (manager) Scott Servais has said that a lot of times like, ‘We have a plan. We have a way we play. We have a way to prepare. If you don’t like it, we’ll find somebody else that does.’ If you can, do it. And I mean Scott’s preached it, all the time. But it takes all these guys to embrace it … They do it, they believe that’s why they’re good. And Jesse Winker just hasn’t followed through on that a lot.”
So, while he may be a solid bat that is cheap enough to bet on a bounce back, he may not be the sort of clubhouse presence teams really want on their roster.
In total, the White Sox would definitely be taking a risk with Winker, and he is going to be cheap to acquire because of poor performance in 2022. Could players such as Jared Kelley, Matthew Thompson, or Davis Martin be enough to acquire the one-year outfielder? It is unclear what exactly the Mariners would be looking for in return, but those arms are at various points in their development process and could be used to either bolster the back end of the Mariners’ rotation (Davis) or deepen their farm system a bit (Kelley, Thompson).
Other names could include Wes Kath, Kohl Simas, or Jake Burger – again, depending on the level of development the Mariners would like in return. Regardless, Winker will not command much in return alone, but should the Mariners change their mind and include Winker in the same trade as either Flexen or Gonzalez, they might be able to garner more in return.
Even if he is easy to acquire, the White Sox might be better off spending their $8.5M elsewhere. With Jose Abreu likely departing from this team, they’re going to need a new clubhouse leader to help them out.
As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates.
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