Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?


  1. I'd like the Sox to consider another infielder instead of having the last spot be part of the 1B/OF pool. Frazier can handle first base when Abreu needs a day off. Saladino is probably already going to see a lot of reps if the Sox try to keep Rollins fresh. If Lawrie hits but still struggles a little at second base defensively, he'd be a good candidate to play DH once or twice a week so the Sox can get glove gains.

    Lots of people think Morneau is a good fit. I'm no so sure. Besides his health issues, he was a bad player for three years before going to Colorado. Then he was only a good hitter because of the .335 batting average on balls in play he registered there, well above the .295 he had for the rest of his career. Without the big fields in Colorado and the NL West, I don't know that enough hits fall in to mask that he doesn't hit for great power and as a result can't control the strike zone to get on base as well.

    If the price is right I guess it's worth a shot. I'd just prefer a guy who can do more than be OK with the bat.

  2. Sanchez is the guy if they are going to take another infielder. I wonder if they see him as a potential starting player over the long haul, or just a utility guy. That would enter into the decision-making on him, too. If they don't think he's any more than a utility player, then there's no harm in putting him in that role on the big club now. If they think he is going to be the starting 2B at some point, maybe he's better off playing every day in Charlotte. Or maybe I should have included Steve Lombardozzi on my list?

    1. Lombardozzi doesn't belong on any list.