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The José Abreu Era coming to an end on the South Side.
Unlike the last time Abreu was a free agent, when the player and the team spent an entire season gushing about how much they’d love a reunion, there was no such talk this time around. And whether it was because Abreu did not fit into the White Sox’ budget or because they want to get Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jiménez out of the outfield, the franchise icon will be wearing an Astros uniform in 2023.
But with other needs to fill, have we really seen the last of Vaughn or Jiménez in the outfield?
As is his way, Rick Hahn seemed to leave all options open when talking with reporters at the GM meetings. But he was also forceful in his declaration that Vaughn is a first baseman and one of a few White Sox players who would be better served by playing their natural position. Hahn acknowledged that Vaughn’s time in the outfield – not exactly drawn up by the White Sox in either of the last two seasons but a result of significant injuries to Jiménez – affected him physically and that less time exhausting his legs could help his offensive production, as well.
With Abreu gone, Vaughn is the everyday first baseman, that seems pretty clear.
But what about Jiménez? The White Sox have long expressed the positives of using the DH spot to get players off their feet while simultaneously keeping their bats in the lineup, whether that applied to Abreu or Yasmani Grandal, the latter of whom could potentially require some DH time in 2023. What would that mean for Jiménez, who flourished as the team’s primary DH in the second half of last season?
It might mean he’d spend some time in the outfield, if not ticketed for everyday duty in left field. Acting manager Miguel Cairo pegged Jiménez as someone who, when healthy, would be able to play the field a few times a week in future seasons. If that’s the accurate assessment, Jiménez might not be so much the everyday DH, swinging there in 150-plus games a year, but someone who’s there most of the time, allowing the DH spot to be used on other players throughout the year.
That’s just one outcome, of course, and Jiménez’s distaste for DH’ing stood in stark contrast to the production he delivered there in 2022 when he was one of baseball’s top hitters in the second half.
We’ll see how it all shakes out. But with injuries affecting Grandal’s ability to move behind the plate, perhaps splitting the DH spot will be more of a necessity for the White Sox, meaning maybe we haven’t seen the last of Jiménez in the outfield.
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