The Chicago White Sox acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers early Wednesday morning, in exchange for minor league outfielder Steele Walker. This isn’t the biggest news of the day by a longshot — Gerrit Cole is now a very rich man, if you haven’t heard — and frankly, it’s not even that big of a deal for the White Sox. Chicago had already shelled out big money for Yasmani Grandal this offseason, and were previously in pursuit of both Zack Wheeler and Marcell Ozuna.
More interesting (and relevant) to us is that the Detroit Tigers were also involved in the Mazara sweepstakes, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. This, coupled with general manager Al Avila’s assertion that the Tigers are done tearing down their roster, is a good sign.
Before you get too upset about the deal itself, let’s talk about Mazara. The 24-year-old outfielder already has four full MLB seasons under his belt, and just barely missed out on his fourth consecutive 20-homer season in 2019. He has plenty of raw power from the left side, and was previously considered one of the Rangers’ top prospects.
However, he has yet to put everything together. Through 2,189 plate appearances, Mazara has hit just .261/.320/.435, a .754 OPS. He has finished each of his four seasons as a below-average hitter according to both OPS+ and wRC+, and has played below-average defense in right field. With over 500 career games under his belt, Mazara has yet to eclipse 2 WAR. And while he is still very young, he only has two years of club control remaining before free agency.
In other words, this is a minor move made bigger because Mazara is someone you have heard of before (his .885 career OPS against the Tigers doesn’t hurt either).
The real news here is simply that the Tigers were involved in the negotiations (to some extent). While Mazara himself isn’t a huge prize — that the Rangers are willing to give him up at just 24 years old is also concerning — we haven’t gotten these types of reports about the Tigers for a couple of years now.
And through two days of the Winter Meetings, the message is clear; the Tigers will be involved in more of these negotiations going forward.
“The mindset here is to move forward and build back up,” said Avila, after he finished the first day of activity at the Winter Meetings. “We’ve made a lot of trades. We’ve traded everyone we needed to trade and we’re at the point where this team is very young and we need to build it back up.”
This doesn’t mean that the Tigers will be involved in the Anthony Rendon sweepstakes, or even a potential Carlos Correa trade. Nor do they seem poised to hand out multi-year deals, instead preferring to stick to one-year contracts and other shorter commitments (as far as we know).
But their interest in Mazara — and others, like catcher Robinson Chirinos — is encouraging. They can find similar value to help bolster their outfield elsewhere, and would benefit from adding more talent to the pipeline, no matter the position.