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The World Series hasn't even started yet, but the hot stove is already getting switched on.
Yes, it's that time of year, and the rumors are beginning to fly. So, too, begins the White Sox involvement in such rumors, no surprise considering how aggressive the team plans to be and how many holes it has to fill, most realistically via free agency.
According to a tweet from a Dominican reporter, the White Sox are one of eight teams interested in St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna, one of the top corner outfielders slated to hit the free-agent market this winter. And brace yourselves, because the report also includes a rumored price tag for Ozuna's services, and it ain't cheap.
According to Dominican sports journalist @Adanlesther OF Marcell Ozuna could get a 160M$/7 years contract. Reds, White Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Royals, Athletics and Mariners on pursuit as of now.@z101digital @ZDeportes https://t.co/UtUPe8lcRJ
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) October 21, 2019
White Sox fans will recognize Hector Gomez from his reporting during last offseason's Manny Machado saga. Here he's just passing on some reporting from Adan Lesther, who attached some eye-popping length and cost details in this rumor about potential Ozuna suitors, a price tag that surely wouldn't fly with plenty of teams. It's also a little bizarre to see certain clubs pop up on this list, as it would be somewhat strange for the rebuilding Kansas City Royals or last-place Miami Marlins - who used to employ Ozuna before dealing him to the Cardinals - to hand over the big-time dollars supposedly needed to land Ozuna.
From the White Sox standpoint, yes they need a corner outfielder, and yes Ozuna is that. He's one of a trio headlining that market this offseason, along with Cubs right fielder Nicholas Castellanos and Cleveland Indians right fielder Yasiel Puig. The White Sox specifically need a right fielder, as general manager Rick Hahn laid out in his end-of-season press conference last month. Ozuna hasn't spent an inning in right in each of his two seasons in St. Louis, last appearing there with the Marlins in 2017, when he played just 1.1 innings at the position. In his five seasons as a big leaguer, he's appeared as a right fielder in 65 of the 913 games he's played.
But there's no doubting the offensive upside Ozuna could bring. He's a career .272/.329/.455 hitter just two years removed from a sensational 2017 season with the Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs. This season, he slashed .241/.328/.472, which are obviously significant dips from those 2017 numbers, but it's worth noting his .800 OPS was the second highest of his career. He probably made himself some money during the postseason, though, when he swung a hot bat as the Cardinals reached the NLCS. In nine October games, Ozuna hit .324/.359/.595 with a couple homers, four doubles, five RBIs and six runs scored.
However, right field could also be the opportunity Hahn is looking for to add some balance to his lineup and bring in a left-handed hitter. Ozuna doesn't fit that bill, nor do Castellanos and Puig, for that matter.
Like with any player, there are pros and cons to looking at Ozuna as a potential free-agent option for the White Sox. Certainly there seem to be better fits out there, but Ozuna has definitely produced at the plate and would be an obvious upgrade in right field, offensively, for the South Siders. At the very least, seeing the White Sox included in this list of teams could be an indication they're casting a wide net during what's expected to be a very aggressive offseason.
Make no mistake: The rumor mill is already churning.