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Got a List? Add Hawpe To It

by Mike DePilla
Thursday, January 28, 2010

It can't all be doom and gloom around here.

Yes, the Sox have done little to improve a below-average offense, and are not in anyone outside of Ozzie Guillen's good graces with their rotating bench player DH plan. All of that has prompted a cornucopia of protest posts which, as of now at least, are falling on deaf ears.

But there are still ways for things to go right.

A day after giving us 4 reasons to be optimistic about the Sox chances this season, JJ over at White Sox Examiner takes a look at 5 potential bats Kenny Williams might look to add come July when he realizes his DH platoon is going over as well as Jay Leno in prime time.

There is one name I'd like to add to JJ's list (Well, two if you count the Adrian Gonzalez pie in the sky). It's a name I've brought up a few times before to little fanfare: Brad Hawpe.

Hawpe's numbers on the whole look pretty great from 2009: .285/.384/.519 with 23 HRs, 42 doubles and a surprisingly-outstanding .903 OPS. There are two caveats to those stats however: First, he plays half his games in numbers-inflating Coors Field, which does for Rockies' hitters what BALCO did for the A's.

And second, he pulled a modified Jermaine Dye in the second half, hitting only .240 with 9 HRs and an .813 OPS after the All-Star break. (Compare that to a gaudy .320 average with 16 HRs and a Frank Thomas-like .973 OPS through mid July, which earned him an All Star selection.)

So he's not a slam dunk. For those of you that like the clarity of bullet points:

The pros:
  • He's an on-base machine
  • He hits for a good average, unlike other OBP merchants (like Dunn, Swisher and Thome)
  • He's a doubles machine
  • He absolutely mashes right-hand pitching (career .908 OPS vs RH; .959 in '09)
  • He has an affordable contract
  • He can play LF, RF, 1B or DH (hey! versatility!)

The cons:

  • Coors Field may inflate his production
  • He tailed off significantly in the second half of '09
  • He's a butcher in the outfield
  • He'll cost a good chunk of prospects in a trade
To me, the pros outweigh the cons. First of all, a quick look at his home/away splits reveals that Hawpe is basically the same player away from Coors as he is in it. Just take a look at that link--there's a slight drop in power but otherwise it is an indistinguishable difference. In fact, there are years that he performed even better on the road. The lefty could bring a much need infusion of high OBP to a line up that sorely lacks it, and he'd fit right in with the Gordon Beckham/Alex Rios/Mark Teahen doubles show.

His poor defense could be covered up by this new concept in the AL called the "designated hitter", a position in which an elite batter does not have to take the field (Someone run and tell Ozzie!) As for his second half slump in '09? That's a concern, but I view it as an outlier in an otherwise consistent career.

(Projection fans, check here. Bill James likes him better than CHONE, obviously, but neither sees a significant drop in his productivity in his age 31 season.)

How could the Sox acquire him? Well apparently not easily. Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd denied that he was looking or even willing to trade Hawpe this offseason, citing his veteran leadership and affordable contract.

I wasn't buying it, however, considering the Rockies already have a set, young, inexpensive outfield (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs) and their manager, Jim Tracy, all but left Hawpe for dead in October when he was benched for the Rockies' final three playoff games, Nick Swisher-style (minus the attitude).

Even with an affordable $7.5 million contract in '10, why wouldn't the Rockies move him to bring in some prospects and shed a little salary in an area of depth?

Well, either O'Dowd wasn't bluffing all along or he never received an offer to his liking because, as of January 28, Hawpe is still a Rockie. But there's always hope for the future. If the Rox fall out of the race this season, or realize they have a crowded outfield, maybe things will change.

A lefty stick for the middle of the line up that is a sure thing in the OBP department, will be among the league leaders in doubles (if not dingers), has proven his production is not ballpark-dependent and is not an all-or-nothing slugger. Outside of the biggest blockbusters, Hawpe is the best, most-well rounded package the Sox could hope for.

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