The Chicago White Sox locked up one corner outfield spot last offseason, signing left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a five-year deal.
Right field is a question this offseason. And designated hitter might be added to that list.
Eloy Jiménez, who was the team’s primary DH and also played 14 games in right field in 2023, has been mentioned in trade speculation. The slugger appeared in more than 100 games (120) for just the second time in his career. He played in 122 games as a rookie in 2019, with injuries hampering him in 2021 and 2022.
Jiménez hit .272 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs in 2023. He missed most of May after undergoing an appendectomy.
“I made it very clear that the White Sox are willing to listen on any of our players,” general manager Chris Getz said during a video conference call Nov. 17. “When it comes to Eloy, we just had a visit with him in the Dominican Republic as a check-in, and he’s off and running with his offseason program. He looks really good. He looks motivated and determined.
“He needs to maintain that. But Eloy’s potential with his bat, it’s just been lack of consistency mainly because of missed time. Teams are interested. It just has to make sense on both sides.”
As the discussion continues pertaining to Jiménez’s future and the team’s plan at DH, here are three questions to monitor this offseason for the Sox outfield.
1. Where does Luis Robert Jr. have room to improve?
The center fielder became the first player in Sox history to have at least 35 doubles (36), 35 home runs (38), 80 RBIs (80), 90 runs (90) and 20 stolen bases (20) in a season.
Robert earned All-Star and Silver Slugger honors for the first time in his career and set career highs in doubles, home runs, RBIs, steals, at-bats (546) and games (145).
“You look at what he provided on both sides of the ball, he was one of the top players in the game,” Getz said at the GM meetings on Nov. 7.
Robert, 26, said there is “room to improve.”
“One of the keys for me for the success I had, I was able to recognize pitches in the strike zone,” Robert said through an interpreter during a Nov. 9 video conference call.
“I think I can really improve with my offense, especially being more disciplined in the strike zone. That’s my goal. And improving on just playing daily.”
2. What should be expected of Andrew Benintendi in his second season with the Sox?
The Sox are hoping an offseason not spent on the mend will benefit Benintendi.
When the five-year, $75 million contract was announced last January, Benintendi had been bouncing back from a broken hook of the hamate bone in his right hand suffered that September with the New York Yankees.
“He had a tough offseason because he had that surgery,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said near the end of the 2023 season. “(I’m) actually looking forward to watching him come in spring training really, really strong and doing what he’s capable of doing.”
Benintendi played through some right hand soreness in ‘23, slashing .262/.326/.356 with five homers and 45 RBIs in 151 games.
“His bat-to-ball skills are very good,” Getz said on Nov. 7. “He can put together a quality at-bat against both righties and lefties. He’s focused on getting stronger and more athletic to help him on the defensive side. Certainly that will bode well for him.
“He was excited to get to the finish line this season and get rolling into his offseason program because he’s determined to be an impactful major-league player, and I believe he has the ability to do that.”
3. What’s the plan for Oscar Colás?
Colás earned a spot on the opening-day roster out of spring training as the projected starting right fielder.
But the rookie ended the season in the minors after slashing .216/.257/.314 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 75 games.
He made 59 starts for the Sox in right — second on the team to Gavin Sheets’ 61 — and is likely in line for more development at Triple-A Charlotte.
“Obviously the talent remains. Everyone has seen the tools and what he’s capable of doing,” Getz said on Nov. 7. “He’s got to find a way to play more under control, understand how pitchers are attacking him.
“He’s probably best fit in the minor leagues for the time being and using the experience he had at the major-league level to help him in the future. But we certainly haven’t given up on Oscar, just because you don’t give up on talent like that.”
So the Sox are pondering the best fit in right field for 2024.