White Sox don't feel urgency to replace Eloy Jiménez with free-agent fix

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Vinnie Duber
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Sox don't feel urgency to replace Eloy with free-agent fix originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In fantasy baseball, in a video game, if one of your players gets hurt, the solution is simple to save your season: pick up a free agent.

In reality baseball, things can work differently.

That doesn't mean that's not the best solution for the White Sox under their current circumstances, Eloy Jiménez slated to miss months as he recovers from a torn pectoral tendon. Their alternatives are dipping into their reserve unit, which has its own injury problems at the moment, or plugging Andrew Vaughn into a brand new position.

RELATED: Vaughn and other Sox options for replacing Eloy

But the White Sox don't seem intent on racing to the free-agent market to find a patch for the sudden, gaping hole in the middle of their batting order.

"We will continue to have conversations and explore different opportunities for players outside the organization currently, but I don't think there's necessarily an urgency to get somebody in here," general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday. "It's not July 29 and we have two days (before the trade deadline) to figure this thing out if we're trying to add.

"If something lines up that makes sense, we won't hesitate to move on it now. But if we decide it's just not that right move and we're better off sticking with what we have, then conceivably that addition comes in a month, or three, or at the deadline.

"We'll just have to wait to see what the opportunities are. Something could conceivably happen in the shorter term, but if it doesn't, it doesn't mean it's going to take all the way to the deadline."

That might not sit well with certain White Sox fans, who see major league outfield experience and big offensive potential in certain corners of the free agent market where they don't see it in the team's internal options. And that's certainly a valid point.

Vaughn has done well this spring to answer questions about how ready his bat is for the major league level. But even with Tony La Russa announcing he'll start Vaughn in left field Friday, there's a pretty tiny window in which Vaughn can convince anyone that he's ready to take over a new position in his first taste of the big leagues.

Adam Engel's return to health, expected to come at some point in the first few weeks of the regular season, should help. Until then, Leury García will perhaps get more use out of his outfielder's glove than his infielder's glove.

But what are the alternatives, however unlikely they might be, considering Hahn's comments? Who's still out there to be snapped up with a week until Opening Day?

A certain segment of White Sox Twitter seems to have a preference for the 35-year-old Yoenis Céspedes, whose younger half-brother the South Siders inked to an international free agent deal over the winter. While the younger Céspedes has already been taken off the list of potential replacements for Jiménez, the older one remains unsigned. He played in only eight games for the New York Mets last season before opting out and missed the entirety of the 2019 campaign, too. In fact, he's only played in 127 games since the start of the 2017 season, though the last time he played a large number of games — 132 of them in 2016 — he finished in the top 10 in the National League MVP vote.

A second Cuban of note is available, too, in 30-year-old Yasiel Puig. He saw no big league action last season after spending 2019 splitting his time between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. Puig is known for his fiery style, and that's worked both to his benefit and detriment throughout his seven seasons in the majors. He's electrified his teams with incredible plays and jeopardized them by getting into on-field altercations.

Considering the drama that's followed the both of them throughout their careers, the White Sox — or any team as proud of a positive clubhouse culture — might think twice.

"Makeup matters, it matters," Hahn said. "In any addition, it's something that we consider. But as we know, over the last six weeks, being able to be around this group and feel what they're made of, it's going to continue to be a consideration.

"I will say that it's a strong enough, professional enough, mature enough group, veteran enough group, that I don't think one guy is capable of necessarily derailing that. That said, anyone who walks through that door, we need to make sure is committed to achieving the goals that that group has for itself."

The rest of the list of free agent outfielders might not produce any fan favorites. How do you feel about Josh Reddick? Or Melky Cabrera? Or Sean Rodriguez? Or Matt Kemp?

So while the White Sox are indeed in a pickle with Jiménez sidelined — turning to an option in Vaughn, if that's who ends up getting playing time out there, might be cause for concern — perhaps a wait-and-see approach isn't the worst thing.

Hahn said at the outset of spring camp that he expected to have the resources to make any necessary addition at the trade deadline in July. At the time, that seemed to be a potential way to improve the White Sox starting pitching staff should they find themselves in need of another arm for a hoped-for run to the World Series. Now, attention in the year's seventh month could turn to replacing the big bat that Jiménez's injury removes from what was the most powerful lineup in the American League last season.

And that could mean a much more reliable player than any of the free agents available at the moment.

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