Bat dance: In a curious move, the White Sox dealt promising minor-league talent for a stalled major leaguer. (@NomarMzra26)
Late Tuesday night came word of the first White Sox trade of the Winter Meetings: Texas Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara to Chicago for High-A outfielder Steele Walker.
The move sends the fastest-rising outfield prospect in the system to Texas for a relatively expensive option to plug into right field (Mazara arguably could have found himself nontendered in the current climate).
But while it’s easy to lament the loss of Walker, the truth is the former Oklahoma Sooner is just a year younger than Mazara, already a veteran of four full big league seasons.
What’s more curious is that Mazara was acquired with several free agent, nontendered and trade prospects still on the board. A few days after being underwhelmed to learn the RF target for the White Sox was Marcell Ozuna, now White Sox fans are digesting an even more limited player in Mazara as their possible full-time RF in 2020.
If Mazara has his customary season in his White Sox debut, expect around 20 homers and a high-700s OPS, with no speed or defense to speak of. The left-handed Mazara has had considerably greater success against righthanders in his career, so in a platoon situation he could see his contact rate improve and OPS push higher than .800.
“At just 24 years old, Nomar provides us with a left-handed hitting right fielder who fits into our current team’s development arc and who still has untapped potential, said Rick Hahn in a team statement. “Nomar adds yet another young, exciting bat with upside to our lineup.”
Perhaps Hahn sees something many others do not. After all, Mazara had the longest home run (505 feet) in the majors last year, on June 21 vs. the White Sox, and hit two of the six longest homers in baseball in 2019.
Mazara won’t come cheap, as MLBTR estimates his arbitration settlement at $5.7 million in arbitration for 2020.
The White Sox lose Walker, their second round draft choice in 2018. The lefty is a good two years away from the big leagues, likely getting his feet wet for Texas in High-A after putting up just a .771 OPS at High-A Winston-Salem in the second half of 2019. Walker’s solid overall season, as many other top OF prospects slumped, put him in position to become the club’s top outfielder prospect with Luis Robert’s matriculation to the majors.
The trade pushes Chicago’s 40-man roster to 38.