Hot Stove: Can White Sox Sign Any Solid Free Agents?

White Sox have chance to retool roster with key additions through free agency. Will franchise make solid signings, or will they choose to rebuild roster to contend in the future?

The Chicago White Sox should be aggressively targeting free agents on Tuesday as free agency has officially begun. Players with expired contracts can officially negotiate with new teams. If the Sox are serious about contenting next season, they should target players who will fill voids on the team.

With the Sox missing the playoffs the last eight seasons, there’s no better time than now for the franchise to sign solid free agents. One area of need for the Sox is catcher, and there will be two players on the market that could help the team next season.

In a surprising move, the Baltimore Orioles neglected to offer Matt Wieters a qualifying offer on Monday. The Orioles didn’t offer Wieters a $17.2 million qualifying offer which makes him a free agent without draft pick compensation attached to him. This has to be good news for the Sox as they have an unprotected first round pick (12th overall) for next year’s MLB Draft.

The Sox need a starting catcher and Wieters could fill this void for the team. However, Wieters is coming off a pedestrian 2016 season and isn’t the same player he was in his younger playing days. The 30-year old catcher hit .243 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs. Although this was adequate production for Wieters, this was a far cry from the solid numbers he put up at the beginning of this decade.

Wieters’ began his career with the Orioles in 2010 and was an All-Star in 2011. After having a solid All-Star season in 2012 hitting 23 home runs, things went south for Wieters. In 2013, his production slipped as he owned a slash line of .235/.287/.417. This was a decrease from his slash line in 2012 of .249/.329/.435. In 2014, injuries began to mount for Wieters as he failed to play in more than 100 games in a season until 2016.

Although Wieters was an All-Star this past season, the Orioles didn’t feel confident in offering him another qualifying offer. Wieters accepted a qualifying offer from the Orioles last season. This is the perfect opportunity for the Sox to aggressively pursue the catcher. Wieters could be seeking a longer term contract, but if the Sox are smart they shouldn’t offer more than three years for his services.

Another catcher the Sox could target is Jason Castro. Castro has worst offensive numbers than Wieters, but he’s a better pitch framer. According to StatCorner, Castro’s oSTR (percentage of called strikes outside of the strike zone) is 8.3. Wieters oSTR is 6.7. This might not seem like much of a difference, but when strikes are needed late in the season, this becomes very important.

While the Sox will need to fill a vacancy at catcher, they also need outfield depth. The Sox could explore signing outfielders Carlos Gomez or Josh Reddick. Gomez, who is coming off a poor season with the Astros and Rangers, is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal. It will be very surprising to see any team sign Gomez for more than two years. After faltering with the Astros through 85 games hitting .210, Gomez had a mini-revival with the Rangers. In 33 games, Gomez hit .284 with eight home runs.

If the Sox were to target Gomez, I wouldn’t expect the team to offer more than a one-year contract for the outfielder. A player the Sox could sign to a longer deal is Reddick. However, signing Reddick could mean moving Adam Eaton back to center field. Reddick would provide the Sox with the ability to get on base frequently. Through 115 games with the Athletics and Dodgers this past season, Reddick’s on-base percentage was 345. This was his best OBP in any season in his career.

Reddick hit .281 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. Signing Reddick won’t add much power with home runs, but he can still provide much needed offense for the Sox. By targeting Reddick, the Sox can also add a left-handed bat to its lineup. This would certainly help balance the offense for the Sox.

This is a very important offseason for Sox fans. It would be great for most Sox fans if the team signed some of the aforementioned players. If the Sox are truly ready to contend, they must have a very aggressive but smart offseason. This franchise can’t make the same mistakes it has made in the past, most notably two years ago.

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