White Sox Need Help at Third

The Chicago White Sox are one of baseball’s biggest surprises. While the team didn’t have high expectations entering the season, they currently have a .5 game lead in the AL Central. And with the Detroit Tigers currently struggling, the White Sox could find themselves buyers at the trade deadline. If they hope to stay in the playoff race, they might want to look at upgrading third base.

Though many of the players on the White Sox are off to surprising starts, third base has been a huge problem. The team has produced just -0.9 WAR at the position, the worst mark in all of baseball. Due to the team’s refusal to define themselves this off-season, the team entered the year with Brent Morel as the starter.

Morel’s performance as a rookie was underwhelming, but some analysts hoped that a strong September was a sign that he had figured things out. That hasn’t been the case. Before injuring his back, Morel was one of the worst offensive players in the league. Morel looked absolutely lost at the plate, striking out 31.2% of the time. Behind that terrible strikeout rate, Morel hit just .177/.225/.195 in 125 plate appearances.

When Eduardo Escobar failed to impress in 56 plate appearances, the team signed Orlando Hudson to replace Morel. Hudson — who was cut by the San Diego Padres in May — hasn’t been much better. Hudson has done little to show that he’s the answer at third this season, hitting just .182/.274/.309 with the White Sox. But unlike Morel, Hudson no longer provides solid defense.

For a team in the race, their lack of production at third base could be their undoing. The Cleveland Indians are just .5 games out of first, so every win is crucial. Upgrading at third could be the difference between making the playoffs, and watching them from the couch. Since the White Sox have no legitimate replacements in the farm system, they will likely be scouring the trade market for available third basemen.

It’s still early enough in the season where few teams are in full-on selling mode, so it’s unclear who might be available next month. That said, there are many people who belief Kevin Youkilis could be on the block. With Will Middlebrooks holding his own in the majors, and Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz first and DH, the Red Sox don’t have a need for Youkilis. And while he’s struggled this season — hitting just .231/.314/.372 — he would be a major improvement over the White Sox current options. Trading for Youkilis also comes with some risks. He’s 33-years-old, injury prone and a poor defender at third. If he fails to reach his previous levels of offense, he’ll be nothing more than a $6 million drain on the payroll. But Kenny Williams is no stranger to taking risks.

The real question is whether the White Sox have anything to offer. The team has one of the worst farm systems and baseball, and few players with favorable contracts. While pitching has been the strength of the team for the past few seasons, the White Sox find themselves very thin in the rotation. John Danks and Gavin Floyd have both regressed, and Phil Humber’s spot is in jeopardy. The White Sox could consider dealing one of their relievers, but the bullpen has been below-average this season. Unless Hector Santiago can turn things around, the team might be stretched if they deal away Matt Thornton or Jesse Crain.

Offensively, the team has little to offer. They’ll want to keep most of their starters, and the other players on their roster just aren’t desirable. The team could try and dangle former first round pick Jared Mitchell — who is having a solid season after injuries hampered his development — but it would be foolish to deal years of control of Mitchell away for just a half-season of Youkilis. And since the team has so few impact players in the minors, they may want to hold Mitchell now that he’s finally producing.

But that’s never stopped Kenny Williams in the past. Even though it looks like the White Sox don’t have a lot of tradable assets, Williams has routinely surprised analysts at the trade deadline. And more than any other general manager, Williams is willing to take significant risks for a shot at the playoffs. Even if Youkilis isn’t the answer for the White Sox, you can bet Williams won’t stand pat at the deadline.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


34 Responses to “White Sox Need Help at Third”

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  1. Vinnie says:

    I never thought I’d be missing Omar Vizquel. Then again, I never thought the Sox would be giving me reason to care. Take the good with the bad, I guess.

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  2. U-God says:

    Morel’s spike in strikeout rate was likely due to his back injury. He couldn’t cover the outside half of the plate at all.

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  3. Misfit says:

    It should be noted, the White Sox would be getting a half season of Youkilis plus an option year at $13 million for 2013 (with a million dollar buyout). If Youkilis returns to something resembling the offensive player he’s been in the past, that $13 million is a solid deal. Even with Youkilis struggling at the plate, the big issue is still his defense at third which has not been good and I’m sure the White Sox would be concerned about his body holding up if asked to play third every day.

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  4. Joewho112 says:

    Why would they have to give up anything? If Youk isn’t worth the money to the Red Sox, wouldn’t it be a straight salary dump? Just send some scrub

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    • chuckb says:

      Why would the Red Sox, a team likely to be battling for a playoff spot, give up a player who might be valuable down the stretch and receive nothing but salary relief in return? That may make some sense in the offseason when the Sox can use the $13 M on some other free agent but those free agents aren’t available in the summer. If the Sox are going to trade Youkilis, they’re going to have to get something they can use in return. I’m sure they’d eat salary to do it but the Red Sox aren’t going to become sellers simply because Kenny Williams wants them to.

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      • pnoles says:

        Because acquiring players mid-season costs money too.

        If Middlebrooks makes Youkilis redundant, it’s sensible to get salary relief now so that if the Red Sox are really in the thick of it come mid-July, they can use that money to acquire someone else’s salary dump in an area of need.

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      • Joewho112 says:

        If Middlebrooks is the starter, $6M is more valuable to the Red Sox than Youk. That can buy a reliever another team is looking to dump or maybe even a starter. Toronto got Edwin Jackson in exchange for eating Mark Teahan’s salary and some scrubs. Dumping Youk gives them the capacity to eat this year’s Teahan in a trade.

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  5. yo-yo says:

    I’m sick of hearing people slam Youkilis’s defense at third. He’s really pretty average over their. Average and experienced. Just check his defensive ratings.

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  6. Uncle Randy says:

    if he isn’t officially available, David Freese should be trade bait.

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  7. Metsox says:

    How about Chase Headley?

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    • Joewho112 says:

      Since he’s not old and expensive, he’d probably cost more in terms of prospects than the White Sox can afford

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      • Otter says:

        Youkilis has had a nice career, but why would anyone trade anything substantial for him considering he’s pretty much a FA at the end of the year and not hitting at all? Headley makes much more sense for the White Sox (and I think you trade Mitchell for him).

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    • James says:

      I think he would be a good long-term fit, but I don’t know who they could give up to get him… If Mitchell is the cost, I’d rather have Headley than Youkilis.

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    • Spike says:

      I doubt Headley would take a lot to acquire, but something… and as many have said, the WhiteSox don’t appear to have much to deal.

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  8. striker says:

    What about the Angels? Don’t they have depth at 3rd?

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  9. monkey business says:

    I’ll bet Danny Valencia is available in exchange for some bats.

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  10. Pg says:

    Like U-God mentioned above, Morel’s back issues are more than likely the cause of his horrid start, at least in terms of contact rate. He has never struggled to make contact, but with his back the way it is he had lost the ability to get full hip rotation and was swinging all arms it looked like. I like the idea of Youkilis so long as Reinsdorf is willing to take on salary and minimize the amount of talent the team surrenders.

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    • BT says:

      So you’ll take him as long as you don’t have to give anything up for him? Magnanimous.

      It’s possible that back issues caused Morel’s strikeout problems. But it’s also possible that he isn’t a very good hitter. Even with a great September last year, he was a pretty bad hitter when all was said and done.

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      • Pg says:

        I didn’t say give up nothing, just to keep the talent surrendered to a minimum, instead taking on salary. Basic stuff.

        And there is absolutely the possibility that he isn’t a very good hitter, but the enormous spike in his strikeout rate – when he’s been a contact hitter his entire professional career – certainly raises some flags. Seeing as he’s facing the possibility of back surgery, the injury is starting to look more serious than initially thought.

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  11. The Youk says:

    Paul Konerko should play third; I’ll play first. And, you know what? We’ll still play better infield defense than Detroit.

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  12. Brett says:

    Alfonso Soriano to the Southside. He plays 2B and move Beckham to 3B. The Cubs would cover the cost and Soriano wants to play for a contender.

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  13. Mark Himmelstein says:

    There’s actually a decent third baseman who isn’t very expensive that, at the very least, should be available, that no one is talking about: Daniel Murphy. The reason he should be available is because the only position where he becomes a decent every day player is third base. He’s not a second baseman, doesn’t hit enough for first base, can’t play the outfield, and the Mets obviously can’t leverage him at third base, so he’s basically a super utility player functioning as a 0-1 win second baseman. So why not move him? He should have decent trade value, he’s earning close to the league minimum this year and has three years of arb control coming.

    One possibility with the White Sox I was already thinking about was what about a straight swap of Murphy for Gordon Beckham? They’re both in the same situation in terms of service time–final pre arb season. The White Sox could shift Hudson over to second base, where he still could provide some defensive value, and Murphy’s bat projects better than Beckhams and might be a defensive upgrade over Hudson at third. The Mets at least get a scratch defender at second in Beckham and a right handed bat with some pop, and even if he’s a reclamation project, he probably still has more overall upside than Murphy.

    It wouldn’t be a massive upgrade for the Sox, but it would be an upgrade, and for the Mets there’s little downside there either. At worst Beckham is still a ~1 win second baseman, and he’s the kind of reclamation project that might be worth a gamble to try and turn a team that’s overachieved thus far into something more closely resembling a legit contender.

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    • Spike says:

      good idea MHimmel. You are correct that Murphy is good fit for ChiSox and maybe a couple of other teams as well (Tribe, Giants, Dodgers). I would even consider the straight swap you suggested. As you said, the White Sox system is thin and trying to find a match in the system isn’t easy.

      Even though Murph hasn’t hit for any power this year, the ChiSox lineup could use the contact bat from the left side.

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    • Otter says:

      That creates a hole at second for the Sox though… I’m very lukewarm on Beckham, but he’s their only option at second right now.

      The Sox don’t have much depth in the majors and next to nothing in the minors… so they can’t move anyone off their major league roster and then call up someone to fill the hole.

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    • Tom says:

      No way can you move Beckham right now because you have no one to replace him with. You mention moving Hudson to 2nd, but you’d be losing out both offesively and defensively with that. Beckham is a stud defensive player at 2nd. Konerko has great hands and gets anything that is near him, but he has very limited range and Beckham helps cover for that. I know Hudson used to be an excellent 2nd baseman, but those days are long gone. He is doing ok defensively at 3rd right now because he doesn’t need to cover so much ground right to left. Offensively Beckham seems to be figuring it out. During the last month or so he is hitting .287, 6HR, 16RBI’s, 17R and only 10 strikeouts. The numbers don’t tell the whole story either. If you watch him at the plate he looks like a good MLB hitter, taking close pitches and not swinging at pitches out of the zone. His average is deceiving over this time period as well (and .287 aint’ bad) as he’s been making a lot of line drive outs. The stat that is most encouraging is how low his strikeout rate has been lately. He was striking out at an alarming rate last season and early this year for someone who doesn’t posses huge power. Not saying he is going to turn out to be the perennial all-star many thought when he came into the league, but he is no longer looking like someone who is overmatched.
      I just think the combination of where these guys would need to play and what they bring to the table offensively (you have to include where Hudson plays and his offensive numbers as well) you’d actually end up on the losing end if you are the White Sox and were to trade Beckham for Murphy.

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  14. Nivra says:

    Conor Gillespie!

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  15. spacebong says:

    aiming for something cheap…

    jack hannahan (coming off dl w/ nowhere to play in cleveland)
    jamey carroll
    jayson nix
    will rhymes
    juan uribe
    brandon inge
    adam kennedy
    matt downs
    greg dobbs

    also, espn has jesus guzman listed as chase headley’s backup… i see nothing else suggesting he can play 3b, but if so, he’d be up near the top of the list…

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  16. Indiana Bob says:

    Trade A’s for Eric Sogard. He can play 2B/SS/3B and he actually has plate discipline.

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