Let’s take a look a potential free agent target for the White Sox, A.J. Pollock. AJ is a 31 year old center fielder who has played the entirety of his career in Arizona. He has had a career that has been marred by injuries that has seen his star fall a bit off the top tier of this 2018 free agent class. His best (and healthiest) year was 2015, he played 157 games and put up a 6.8 WAR and a 131 wRC+ and 20 home runs, showing that he can be an MVP candidate. However since then he missed almost all of the 2016 with a broken elbow, and parts of 2017 with a groin strain, and 2018 with a broken thumb. He has failed to reach 500 plate appearances in every year but the aforementioned 2015 campaign.
Kiley McDaniel from Fangraphs predicts that Pollock will get a 3 year deal worth 54 million dollars, getting 18 million dollar annually. One thing that will slow Pollock finding a team is the qualifying offer that was extended to him by Arizona, meaning that the team that signs AJ will have to give up a first or second round pick, if their first round pick is top ten. He played a very good center field last season, being worth six outs above average, and making 90 percent of the catches he is seen to have a chance at. Looking at his directional outs above average he is best coming in and toward left, which could help cover some of the ground that Eloy can’t cover (below).
So does AJ Pollock fit with the White Sox? If he gets Kiley’s projected three year deal timewise he does, Luis Robert seems to be the center fielder in waiting but he still hasn’t played double A baseball and does not project to be MLB ready until late 2020. If there is some overlap Robert seems to be able to play all three outfield positions, as does Pollock. Pollock had similar power numbers when the Diamondbacks added the humidor to their stadium after the 2017 season, with a .484 slugging percentage in 2018 and a .471 slugging percentage in 2017. Concerning though is his raise in strikeouts due to a drop in contact (above chart).
I would offer Pollock a contract, I would try to get him at a two year deal, or a three year deal with a team or vesting option especially when it comes to health. This team is clearly ready to start turning the corner and start winning and Pollock can help usher that in, playing a good to competent center field, with the MVP upside. If he does get hurt there is enough enough outfield depth to fill in.
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