By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made clear at SoxFest that his team isn’t yet done making moves this offseason as the start of spring training awaits in the third week of February.
“Frankly, in our opinion, we are not quite yet done making over this roster,” Hahn said. “I continue to believe we are going to have some other additions. I never feel like we are finished. Do know that we are always interested in guys that can make us better.”
The White Sox are notably in need of an outfielder, ideally one who hits from the left side. With that in mind, they may have stumbled upon someone who fits that bill: Andre Ethier.
The White Sox have talked to the Dodgers about acquiring Ethier, according to sources.
Set to turn 34 in April, Ethier’s a lifetime .286 lifetime hitter who would fit nicely into a platoon or fourth outfielder role, relieving Avisail Garcia of some of the pressure and responsibility to produce over 162 games. Ethier could also serve as insurance for the team’s designated hitter slot, should Adam LaRoche struggle again after hitting a career-worst .207 with a .634 OPS in 2015. LaRoche will be on a short leash to retain the DH job as he finishes off the final season of a two-year, $25-million deal.
The truth is the White Sox have no other viable backup DH on the 40-man roster; infielder-outfielder Mike Olt has some potential, but his big strikeout numbers are holding him back. Chicago also has a thin bench in the outfield after the capable-but-powerless J.B. Schuck.
Garcia, Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera make up the White Sox’ starting outfield as it sits now.
The Dodgers are trying to compete but also have a mandate to cut back on what was the largest payroll ever in baseball history during 2015 — around $270 million on Opening Day and $310 million by the time more acquisitions were made and the luxury tax factored in by season’s end. Ethier is owed $18 million in 2016 and $17.5 million in 2017. An option kicks in for 2018 at $17.5 million in 2018 if he makes 550-plus plate appearances in 2017.
Those dollar amount don’t fit for the White Sox without some sizable contract relief from the Dodgers. Los Angeles eating at least half of the $35.5 million owed to Ethier over the next two years would probably get the sides on the same page.
Of course, the Dodgers will want a viable player or two back in the trade. Chicago has already moved five farm system players in trades this offseason to acquire All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier and infielder Brett Lawrie.
The Dodgers’ starting outfielder is set with Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford. Also in the picture is Trayce Thompson, who was acquired from the White Sox in the three-way trade in which the Reds sent Frazier to the South Side. Thompson will push the three for significant playing time, and Scott Van Slyke backs up both corner outfield spots. This all makes Ethier easily expendable.
Ehtier hit .294 with 14 home runs, 53 RBIs and an .852 OPS in 445 plate appearances in 2015. He has a lifetime .359 on-base percentage, and he can play any outfielder spot, which makes him more appealing.
Ethier will garner 10-and-5 rights — 10 years of service in the big leagues and five consecutive with the same team — on April 21 and could then veto any trade after that point.
The White Sox have talked to free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler and were involved in the pursuit of Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes on the open market before they signed to remain with their previous teams.
The White Sox also had interest in the Rockies’ glut of lefty-swinging outfielders, though that dynamic appears to have change after Colorado shipped Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay last week in exchange for reliever Jake McGee.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.