Alejandro De Aza has been one of the focal points of White Sox fan criticism on social media and talk radio over the last seven months.
He struck out too much for his critics in 2013. His defense wasn’t up to par, either. And the base running was at times abhorrent.
Even White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used the word frustration at the GM meetings in Orlando on Wednesday to describe how the club felt at times. But as rough as some numbers were, Hahn knows he must balance them against the positives De Aza offers as he determines the outfielder’s future.
De Aza, who had a .264/.323/.405 line with 17 homers, 62 RBIs and 20 steals, is arbitration eligible and expected to receive a bump to $4.4 million this season, per MLB Trade Rumors. He could very well be traded and Hahn wants to make sure the negative don’t force him into a bad decision.
“When he makes a mistake on the base paths, which were far too numerous last year, those tend to stand out in more your mind,” Hahn said. “That’s almost an unfairly subjective way to evaluate the player. We’re talking about a left-handed hitter who can run, who has some pop, who can get on base at a decent clip, who has in the past played solid defense in center field. That player is valuable and it can be frustrating at times and frustrating in a very public and loud way. But you need to sort of look at the entire player when evaluating how he fits and what role.”
The White Sox would be open to De Aza’s return were they guaranteed he’d match the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when he posted Wins Above Replacement ratings of 2.5 and 2.3, per Baseball Reference. But De Aza finished with a -0.3 rating in 2013.
How he reached the negative rating was difficult to watch.
De Aza struck out 147 times, which Hahn thinks was a result of being a “little too power focused.” He also committed eight errors and saw his Ultimate Zone Rating drop from 8.9 in 2011 to -2.5 last season.
Finally, De Aza made 26 outs on the bases. Had he simply instead not reached base those 26 times, De Aza’s on-base percentage would have slipped 39 points to .284. Running into outs didn’t help a team that scored its fifth fewest runs per game since the pitcher’s mound was lowered in 1968.
“The way our offense sputtered last year, every base was sacred and we made far too many outs on the bases,” Hahn said. “That’s an issue we need to address regardless of who is here in 2014. It was really aggravating to all of us and Robin (Ventura) and his staff and at the same time you need to evaluate the positives along with those negatives when evaluating the player.”
There’s no guarantee he’s one with the White Sox in 2014, but without hesitation, Hahn said he sees De Aza as a starting outfielder.
“He’s an everyday guy,” Hahn said. “If you really good and have a big payroll you could have him as a fourth guy, I think you’d be pretty psyched about that. He’s left-handed, versatile and can run. Whole teams starting from scratch he can be an everyday guy, absolutely.”