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Shopping For A CF

When the White Sox named Dewayne Wise their center fielder and leadoff hitter, laughter and high-fiving could be heard for miles away in Cleveland and Minnesota. Wise, he of the career .277 wOBA, isn’t exactly the kind of player you want at the top of your line-up if you’re trying to win. And, presumably, the White Sox are trying to win this year.

It didn’t take them long to realize that Wise wasn’t cut out for the job, though. After two games (where Wise went 0 for 8 and struck out four times), they’ve replaced him at the top of the order with rookie second baseman Chris Getz, and are actively shopping for his replacement. Let’s help GM Kenny Williams out and point him in a few directions he might want to look.

Marlon Byrd, Texas

The Rangers have a surplus of outfielders on the roster, and could replace Byrd without taking a significant hit to their team. The 31-year-old is coming off a career best season where he posted a .370 wOBA and was worth 3.6 wins above replacement. He won’t repeat those numbers, but CHONE has him projected as an above average hitter and he’s consistently been rated as average or above defensively in center field. Offering a .340ish wOBA and a defensive upgrade from Wise, adding Byrd to the team could net two to three wins for the White Sox.

Melky Cabrera, New York Yankees

Cabrera is where Byrd was in 2005 – a promising young player coming off a lousy major league season with a questionable future in his current organization. He was essentially a replacement level major leaguer last year, but he’s only 24 and has a strong minor league track record. A switch-hitter and a decent runner to boot, he’s more of a classic leadoff type than Byrd is, and he offers more long term upside. He might only add one or two wins over Wise in 2009, but he’d also be a potential answer in CF in 2010 and beyond.

Ryan Spilborghs, Colorado

The overachieving Spilborghs has gotten the most out of his tools during the last three years, exceeding expectations and earning a right to play regularly for the Rockies. Even adjusting for Coors Field, his offense has been worth +13.7 runs above an average hitter in his 779 major league plate appearances. For a guy with enough range to get by in center, that’s a pretty useful player. However, with Dexter Fowler breathing down his neck, the Rockies already have his replacement in place, and could afford to part with Spilborghs.

The White Sox need a real center fielder, and there are players who should be available and would represent a real upgrade for the team. If Williams is serious about contending this year, he needs to make a move sooner than later.