If no Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, one national writer says of A.J. Pollock: ‘The best fit clearly is the White Sox'


The White Sox — and, perhaps more so, their fans — are hoping for a huge splash this offseason in the form of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado coming to the South Side.

But Machado supposedly prefers the New York Yankees. The Los Angeles Dodgers are angling for a run at Harper. There's continued talk about Harper potentially returning to the Washington Nationals. And what about those "spend-stupid" Philadelphia Phillies?

The point is none of those teams are the White Sox, and while there are new twists and turns in these ongoing sagas every couple of hours, it's obviously possible the South Siders aren't the final choice of either of the two biggest names on the free-agent market.

So then what? What's Plan B? Move on to the next-best free agent, right?

Well, that's not necessarily the case. It's seemed for a while like the White Sox foray into free agency, no matter how aggressive, at this stage in their rebuilding process could result in either Harper, Machado or nothing of great significance. General manager Rick Hahn has often talked about capitalizing on opportunities, no matter when they come along, and Harper and Machado represent the kind of unique players who warrant a year-early spending spree. There aren't many other players, if any, on the market right now who share that distinction.

However, that didn't stop ESPN's Jeff Passan for making a case that should the White Sox miss out on Harper or Machado, the next-best free-agent position player would be a solid fit. Describing former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, Passan wrote Wednesday that "the best fit clearly is the White Sox," pointing mostly to the team's current outfield situation, and it's hard to argue that Pollock wouldn't be an upgrade in the White Sox outfield.

With the organization's top-ranked prospect, Eloy Jimenez, likely ticketed for left field at some point in the opening weeks of the 2019 campaign, the other two spots are way less solid. Adam Engel's played Gold Glove type defense in center field but has struggled to find success at the plate, and right field is a real head-scratcher after the non-tendering of Avisail Garcia. Daniel Palka, I guess?

So is Pollock actually a great fit for the White Sox?

Well, while he's shown promise in the past and at 31 years old could certainly fit into the team's long-term plans if they thought highly enough of him, there are some pretty glaring red flags when it comes to Pollock. Chiefly, it's injuries. He had a sensational 2015 season, slashing .315/.367/.498 with 20 homers, 39 doubles and 39 stolen bases. He was an All Star, won a Gold Glove and finished 14th in NL MVP voting for a D-backs team that finished four games under .500. But in the three seasons since, he's played in only 237 games. That's 79 games a season, a number dragged down significantly by the just 12 he played in in 2016, but he got into only 112 games in 2017 and 113 last season. And with that has come a big dip in production, with a combined .261/.323/.473 slash line over the last three seasons. It's worth noting, though, that he hit a career-high 21 home runs in those 113 games in 2018.

Had he been a free agent coming off that 2015 season as a 27-year-old, Pollock would've been the hottest commodity around. Three injury-filled seasons later, not so much. Does a 31-year-old outfielder with persistent health issues make sense when the White Sox have Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe and Blake Rutherford on the way?

Let's just say it doesn't make as much sense as Harper or Machado.

And that's kind of the point. The White Sox aren't making serious runs at Harper and Machado because they need them to turn the 2019 team into a playoff contender. It's rather likely adding one of those guys wouldn't even accomplish that. The White Sox are going after one of these 26-year-old superstars for what they can do for the team in the long term, to combine them with Jimenez and Robert and Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease and build a perennial contender for years to come. And if they can't do that with Harper or Machado, then they have the flexibility to look ahead to next winter's loaded free-agent class or spend some prospect capital on a trade down the road or simply watch Jimenez blossom into the type of superstar they think he can be.

Pollock doesn't accomplish those long-term goals like Harper and Machado would. It's not to say he can't, with health, rediscover some of that 2015 magic. And the longer free agency drags on, there could be quite a deal to be had as spring training nears.

But the White Sox aren't in a position where Harper heading to Los Angeles and Machado heading to New York will send them scrambling for a consolation prize. In a sense, there are many Plan Bs. In another, more immediate sense, there are none and there don't need to be.

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