Deep Dive: Free agent first baseman and designated hitters

Sox upgrade: J.D. Martinez would look pretty good in a White Sox uniform. (@baseball_ref)


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

José Abreu led the American League in RBIs in 2019, but what if the White Sox don’t re-sign him, for some strange reason? The White Sox designated hitters in 2019 were among the worst in the nearly 50 years of that position, so they are definitely in need of an upgrade. From an experience standpoint at the very least, Zack Collins may not be ready to fill that role.

Below is a list of free-agent first basemen ranked by bWAR, followed by a list of available designated hitters. Although there are exceptions like J.D. Martinez and Hunter Pence, the majority of DHs would actually play first base compared to other outfield or infield positions, due to their lack of defensive ability and/or versatility.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


First basemen

Anthony Rizzo
Chicago Cubs
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: 3.9
Stats: .293/.405/.520, 512 AB, 29 2B, 27 HR, 94 RBI, 5 SB, 71 BB, 86 K
Age: 30

The Cubs have a $14.5 million club option on Rizzo that could be bought out for $2 million. It’s unlikely that will happen.

Howie Kendrick
Washington Nationals
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 2.6
Stats: .344/.395/.572, 334 AB, 23 2B, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 2 SB, 27 BB, 49 K
Other positions played: Second base, Third base
Age: 36

José Abreu
Chicago White Sox
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 2.4
Stats: .284/.330/.503, 634 AB, 38 2B, 33 HR, 123 RBI, 2 SB, 36 BB, 152 K
Age: 33

Eric Thames
Milwaukee Brewers
B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: 1.6
Stats: .247/.346/.505, 396 AB, 23 2B, 25 HR, 61 RBI, 3 SB, 51 BB, 140 K
Other positions played: Right field
Age: 33

The Brewers have a $7.5 million club option on Thames that can be bought out for $1 million — a very unlikely turn, it would seem.

David Freese
Los Angeles Dodgers
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 1.4
Stats: .315/.403/.599, 162 AB, 13 2B, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB, 23 BB, 44 K
Other positions played: Third base
Age: 36

Mitch Moreland
Boston Red Sox
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: 1.3
Stats: .252/.328/.507, 298 AB, 17 2B, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 1 SB, 34 BB, 74 K
Age: 34

Neil Walker
Miami Marlins
B/T: S/R
2019 bWAR: 0.7
Stats: .261/.344/.395, 337 AB, 19 2B, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 3 SB, 42 BB, 77 K
Age: 34

Justin Smoak
Toronto Blue Jays
B/T: S/L
2019 bWAR: 0.6
Stats: .208/.342/.406, 414 AB, 16 2B, 22 HR, 61 RBI, 0 SB, 79 BB, 106 K
Age: 33

Matt Adams
Washington Nationals
B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: .226/.276/.465, 310 AB, 14 2B, 20 HR, 56 RBI, 20 BB, 115 K
Age: 31

Logan Morrison
Philadelphia Phillies
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: -0.2
Stats: .200/.263/.400, 35 AB, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 3 BB, 10 K
Age: 32

Logan Forsythe
Texas Rangers
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.2
Stats: .227/.325/.353, 317 AB, 17 2B, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB, 44 BB, 100 K
Other positions played: Third base, Shortstop, Second base
Age: 33

Ryan Zimmerman
Washington Nationals
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.2
Stats: .257/.321/.415, 171 AB, 9 2B, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB, 17 BB, 39 K
Age: 35

The Nationals have an $18 million club option that can be bought out for $2 million.

Steve Pearce
Boston Red Sox
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.6
Stats: .180/.245/.258, 89 AB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 7 BB, 31 K
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 36

Yonder Alonso
Colorado Rockies
B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: -0.8
Stats: .199/.296/.346, 292 AB, 6 2B, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB, 39 BB, 70 K
Age: 32

Sure, let’s have a reunion … what could go wrong?

Lucas Duda
Kansas City Royals
B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: -0.8
Stats: .171/.252/.324, 105 AB, 4 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, 11 BB, 32 K
Age: 34

Mark Reynolds
Colorado Rockies
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -1.0
Stats: .170/.290/.311, 135 AB, 7 2B, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 2 SB, 22 BB, 57 K
Age: 36


Designated hitters

Nelson Cruz
Minnesota Twins
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 4.3
Stats: .311/.392/.639, 454 AB, 26 2B, 41 HR, 108 RBI, 0 SB, 56 BB, 131 K
Age: 39

The Twins have a $12 million club option on Cruz that they are currently thanking their lucky stars they have, so don’t count on a $300,000 buyout.

J.D. Martinez
Boston Red Sox
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 3.3
Stats: .304/.383/.557, 575 AB, 33 2B, 36 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB, 72 BB, 138 K
Positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 32

Can opt out of remaining three years, $62.5 million remaining on contract, and if he does, Martinez becomes the top White Sox free agent target.

Edwin Encarnación
New York Yankees
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 2.7
Stats: .244/.344/.531, 418 AB, 18 2B, 34 HR, 86 RBI, 0 SB, 58 BB, 103 K
Positions played: First base
Age: 37

Hunter Pence
Texas Rangers
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 1.7
Stats: .297/.358/.552, 286 AB, 17 2B, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 6 SB, 26 BB, 69 K
Positions played: Left field, Right field
Age: 36

Mark Trumbo
Baltimore Orioles
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.3
Stats: .172/.226/.276, 29 AB, 3 2B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 2 BB, 5 K
Age: 34

Kendrys Morales
New York Yankees
B/T: S/R
2019 bWAR: -0.8
Stats: .194/.313/.253, 170 AB, 2 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 26 BB, 26 K
Positions played: First base
Age: 36


Gamethread: White Sox at Twins

Archaeologists claim this is a Pompeii man who made a poor decision about trying to catch a souvenir from Vesuvius, not the White Sox last night. Fans may disagree.

One of the nice things about being crushed in a sporting contest, as opposed to, say, a volcanic eruption, is that you get to start all over again the next game. That’s a lucky thing for the Chicago White Sox.

The Sox go with their best for today’s nooner in Minnesota, as Lucas Giolito tries for win number 14. Giolito’s prior starts against the Twins have both been -ful … one master-, the other aw-.

On June 30, Cool Hand Lucas tossed five innings of one-hit, no run, no walk, four-K ball, getting the win in a 4-3 Sox victory. But on July 25, Chevy Gio was as crushed as the gentleman from Pompeii above, giving up seven earned in five innings, including three homers (in just five innings, mind you) to Nelson Cruz and another to Max Kepler. Giolito has had all very fine starts since then, so there’s good reason to expect it will be Cool Hand in the hot sun this afternoon.

Giolito will be facing another 13-game winner, righty Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi dominated the Sox the only time he’s faced them this year, matching Gio’s first time vs. the Twinkies, going 5 1/3 inning of one hit, one walk, nine-K ball. He was an out short of a quality start against Texas last time out, but hasn’t had a bad game since getting pummeled by the Yankees July 24.

Since neither team needed to use its good relievers in last night’s debacle, we’ll probably see the best of the pens once the starters leave. That should mean a low-scoring game, but, hey — this is baseball. And the last two games have shown that anything squirrely can happen.

Matt Skole moves up in the Sox lineup.

Oddly enough, Cruz will bat third for the Twins.

First pitch is at 12:10 CDT on an absolutely perfect day for baseball in Minneapolis, 73 degrees and no chance of rain (or snow). NBC Sports on the idiot box, WGN 720 on the boombox.