Wednesday, January 29, 2014
How will the White Sox solve their logjam at third base?
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.