All spring long the White Sox were auditioning No. 2 hitters. First we heard that it was going to be slow-footed A.J. Pierzynski. However, that no longer worked out because manager Robin Ventura decided he wanted to bat Adam Dunn third, meaning he needed a right-handed hitter batting second to separate a pair of lefties.
So, in steps Brent Morel.
Morel is getting the nod as the White Sox’s No. 2 hitter on Opening Day, even though he hit .245/.287/.366 in 413 at-bats last season. He didn’t exactly earn the role this spring either, as he walked all of once in 66 at-bats and finished with a .299 OBP.
Meanwhile, Alexei Ramirez seems to have been dismissed as an afterthought since day one, even though he appeared in 100 games as a No. 2 hitter last year and hit a solid .294/.351/.424. AL No. 2 hitters as a whole batted .268/.331/.414 last year, so Ramirez was well above average there. Yet Ramirez is batting seventh on Opening Day, right behind a fellow right-handed hitter in Alex Rios who hit .227/.265/.348 last year.
Ramirez isn’t spectacular, but he was the White Sox’s third best hitter last year behind Paul Konerko and the departed Carlos Quentin and he’s a good bet to rank right around there again this year (my projections have him with the team’s third highest OPS behind Konerko and Dunn). It really doesn’t make much sense that he’s hitting seventh to start.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.