Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How will the White Sox solve their logjam at third base?

Just over two weeks from now, pitchers and catchers will report to White Sox camp. So, it isn't too early to talk about some of the storylines we'll be following during spring training.

First and foremost in my mind will be the situation at third base, where the Sox all of a sudden have quite a logjam. Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie got the overwhelming majority of the starts at the position last year, and both are still on the 40-man roster. The Sox also acquired 22-year-old Matt Davidson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for closer Addison Reed in an offseason trade.

There's no question the Sox hope Davidson is the long-term answer at the position. New hitting coach Todd Steverson has been working with Davidson on hitting the ball to all fields. The Sox seem ready to accept that Davidson will strike out quite a bit, but the belief is his extra-base power will translate against major league pitching.

That said, it's an open question whether Davidson will be the starting third baseman when the Sox open the season March 31 against the Minnesota Twins. I'll be interested to see how he hits in spring. My guess is Davidson will need to have a good March in order to make the 25-man roster, because there isn't room enough for all three of Keppinger, Gillaspie and Davidson.

Of the three, Davidson is the only one you're going to send back to the minors for more seasoning. Certainly, he is not going to sit on the bench at the big-league level.

Ideally, the Sox would trade Keppinger (pictured), but that could be a tall order now because the veteran is coming off a career-worst .253/.283/.317 season. He also has two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. The same reasons White Sox fans want him gone are the same reasons another team might not be willing to take him.

There are a couple things to like about Gillaspie: First, he's a left-handed hitter, and second, he has a short swing, which makes it a little easier to stay sharp if he's asked to fill a part-time role. Gillaspie showed improvement defensively last season, and I think the Sox were happy about that.

Still, Gillaspie is the odd man out if Davidson proves he's ready to handle the position full time and Keppinger's contract proves to be unmovable.

The ideal scenario is Davidson wins the everyday job, Keppinger gets traded and Gillaspie fills a bench role. But finding a way to unload Keppinger is the key.

Another distinct possibility is Davidson goes back the minors, the Sox play Keppinger at third base every day in hopes of rebuilding his trade value, and Gillaspie fills a bench role. Under that scenario, you pray Keppinger plays well enough that he can be moved midseason, and then Davidson comes up to take the full-time job at third base in July.

This logjam could be solved in multiple ways. We'll see how the Sox handle it.


  1. Nobody in the payroll department will want to hear it, but the easy way to fix the logjam is to DFA Keppinger and eat the contract.

    As it happens, Gillaspie is probably still the odd man out if Davidson tears it up this spring. His roster spot probably already went to Konerko, since unlike Keppinger, it doesn't even seem like anyone wants to even pretend he can play anywhere but third or first base.

  2. This is true. They could DFA Keppinger. I just automatically assume they won't because, well, when do the Sox ever just DFA a player and eat the contract?

  3. That might be worth some research to figure out the biggest contract they've dumped. I can think of all sorts of guys they've let go near the end of the line career-wise -- Esteban Loaiza, Mike Jackson, Ken Hill. But those sort of guys weren't making any money, just getting the old veteran look-see-if-he-can-help-us.

    Royce Clayton was released in the last year of a four-year, $19 million contract, but the Sox waited until September to give him the heave-ho.

    They did send along money in trades to help cover the end of contracts for Scott Linebrink, Ray Durham, Jim Thome and Jose Contreras, but that's a little different.

    It never came to it because they found a sucker in Milwaukee, but I imagine if they hadn't been able to trade away the last year of Jaime Navarro's four-year, $20 million deal for Jose Valentin and Cal Eldred, they'd have bitten the bullet and DFAed him for performance and attitude reasons.

    Could the remainder of the $1 million left on Carlton Fisk's contract when he was released in 1993 really be the biggest contract the Sox have swallowed?

  4. I can't recall them ever swallowing a contract bigger than Fisk's. I certainly cannot recall them swallowing a contract that had two years remaining on it, as Keppinger's does.

    Even when they do give a player the heave-ho, it's usually at the end of the season. I do think they gave Dewayne Wise the boot in August last year. They said it was so he would "have a chance to catch on with another team for the playoffs."

    Yeah, right.

    But again, that's a player who wasn't making much of a dent in the payroll, and had an expiring contract at season's end.

  5. I did find Mike MacDougal. The Sox released him a month into his final year, in which he made $3 million including the buyout of his option for the following year. Still can't think of anyone with multiple years left. Maybe now with Keppinger there's a first time for everything.

  6. IIRC, MacDougal was pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last season. As Earl Weaver would say, that guy is lucky he's still in ****ing baseball.

    At least the Sox only gave up Tyler Lumsden and Dan Cortes to get him.