Vaughn next up to take swing as Chicago White Sox designated hitter?
Hoping to counter the Twins' Nelson Cruz as they prepared to make the move up in the AL Central this season, the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year contract on Jan. 9.
Like Cruz, Encarnacion is a veteran right-handed designated hitter.
Among active leaders heading into the season, the 37-year-old Encarnacion ranked No. 3 overall with 414 career home runs.
The 40-year-old Cruz -- who helped power Minnesota to first place in the Central in 2019 -- was No. 4 with 401 homers.
Encarnacion did hit 10 home runs in 45 games with the Sox this year, but there is nothing else to see here.
The DH posted a miserable .157/.250/.377 hitting line and was limited to one start and 2 at-bats in the playoffs.
The White Sox hold a $12 million option on Encarnacion for 2021, a figure they likely wouldn't pick up in a normal off-season. The financial uncertainties caused by COVID-19 make the decision to find a new designated hitter a slam dunk.
Cruz, who finished tied for fourth in the AL with 16 homers this season, is eligible for free agency. So are other DH candidates like Marcell Ozuna and possibly J.D. Martinez and Ryan Braun.
It would be a big surprise if the Sox made a significant investment in a new designated hitter.
"The bummer is that we're not immune, unfortunately, to the reality of what's going on around us," general manager Rick Hahn said last week in his season wrapup with reporters. "And these aren't White Sox issues, these are macro baseball issues, macro economic issues. As an industry, I know MLB is going to wind up losing in the vicinity of $3 billion this year and we aren't certain what next season's going to look like yet. No one is, unfortunately.
"No one in the business world knows exactly, from an economic standpoint, what the world is going to look like next spring. Hopefully, people get their act together and we have a solution for this pandemic and there's a vaccine, or some sort of solution, and we're able to have 100% capacity and a 162-game season. But no one knows that.
"We are dealing with the reality of business losses, we are dealing with the reality of business uncertainty going forward."
The Sox already are thinking about handing designated hitter duties over to Andrew Vaughn.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft after hitting 50 home runs in 160 games at Cal-Berkeley, Vaughn is a natural first baseman being blocked by Jose Abreu, the AL's likely Most Valuable Player this year.
With no minor-league baseball this season, Vaughn had to settle for getting needed development at the White Sox's summer training camp in Schaumburg.
Vaughn also was cheduled to be a partial participant in the White Sox's Arizona instructional league this month.
Assuming spring training opens on time in February, Vaughn should have a legitimate shot at filling the DH slot.
"I think if Andrew had had daily competition outside of what we're able to do in Schaumburg, it would have been evident to everyone that he was ready for next year, if not sooner," Hahn said. "That was just sort of a mild casualty of the pandemic. But the skills are there, the tools continue to grow. He's a remarkable hitter, real solid makeup and a guy we envision being part of this thing in the not too distant future."