Texas Rangers: Re-visiting the Nomar Mazara trade
By Seth Carlson
Outfielder Nomar Mazara was traded to the White Sox a year ago today. How has the deal worked out for both sides since then?
Current free-agent outfielder Nomar Mazara was once a top Texas Rangers prospect oozing with potential.
An international free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic in July 2011, Mazara made his big league debut for Texas in 2016, playing an integral role on a Rangers team that would go on to clinch an AL West division title and the best record in the American League at 95-67.
For that season, Mazara hit .266 with a .739 OPS and a 93 OPS+ over 516 at-bats. He also swatted 20 home runs and reached base at a 32% clip as he placed fifth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2016.
Despite those statistics qualifying as slightly below average for a major league hitter, Mazara showed Rangers fans and the organization why he could become a part of the future in Arlington that season.
Mazara reached the 20-home run plateau in each of his next two seasons, and hit 19 in 2019. While his power tool remained consistent, the former Ranger increased his OPS metric gradually over the course of his tenure in Texas, reaching its apex in 2019 with a .786 mark.
Though Mazara has never been much of a defender, he was generally seen as an ascending talent prior to being traded.
At last year’s Winter Meetings (one year ago on this date, to be exact), then-GM Jon Daniels dealt the longtime Ranger to the Chicago White Sox for outfield prospect Steele Walker.
The move was seen as a shock at first, given that Mazara was young (just 24 years old at the time) and still had years of relatively cheap team control remaining. He had proven his worth as a hitter, though not as much with his glove.
Still, the industry consensus was that Chicago had received a rising talent as they geared up to make a run at the playoffs in 2020, surrendering just one prospect in the deal.
The trade didn’t exactly go as planned for the White Sox.
As the above sub-header suggests, the deal was not a great success for the South Siders.
Mazara struggled mightily in 2020 for the White Sox, posting a -0.3 bWAR, a paltry .589 OPS and a measly 64 OPS+ over 136 at-bats.
For a player labeled as an ascending talent heading into 2020, the trade ended up being a massive disappointment for Chicago, as Mazara regressed with the bat and continued his defensive struggles.
Despite the rough season, Mazara managed to make the White Sox’ playoff roster for the 2020 Wild Card Round against the Oakland A’s.
He performed well in the best-of-three series, going three-for-six with a double and two runs batted in over the two games played as Oakland defeated Chicago to advance to the ALDS.
Alas, that short glimmer of hope wouldn’t be enough, as the White Sox non-tendered Mazara at the 2020 tender deadline, curtailing what proved to be massively underwhelming trade for the team.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on the Rangers’ return.
On the flip side of this trade, the Texas Rangers received outfield prospect Steele Walker from the White Sox.
Walker, a second round selection by Chicago out of the University of Oklahoma in 2018, is only a year younger than Mazara.
Currently ranked as the Rangers’ 13th-best prospect by MLB.com, Walker spent the most recent minor league season (2019) in Single-A, where he tore up his league with a .284 batting average, .361 OBP and a .451 slugging percentage.
Walker seems to have a similar profile to Mazara, a player a with a strong hit tool but weaker with the glove. However, scouts believe Walker has the ability to become a more well-rounded player than Mazara.
The former Oklahoma Sooner has showcased speed and tremendous hand-eye coordination in his minors development. Those attributes might enable the Walker to truly reach the level of potential that Mazara never quite did.
Walker is projected to begin 2021 in Double-A, with a chance to make his big-league debut for the Rangers as early as next year.
Until Walker makes his debut, though, it wouldn’t be fair to declare an apparent victor from this trade.
Considering Mazara is no longer employed by the team that traded for him, however, the Texas Rangers appear to have gotten the upper hand in this deal.