The GM meetings got underway on Wednesday in California and new White Sox GM Rick Hahn expects to be a popular guy to talk to when the trade winds start to swirl. His top two priorities this off-season though appear to be the positional holes at catcher and third base. Most signs seem to point towards the Sox letting AJ Pierzynski walk in free agency and going into next year with Tyler Flowers as the man behind the plate. The situation at third base, though, is not quite as obvious.
The White Sox have no obvious internal solution at third base as they do at catcher…or do they? Word out of the White Sox organizational meetings is that they are considering Carlos Sanchez and Dayan Viciedo as possibilities at third base. Sigh. While I know it is early in the off-season and nothing is set in stone, the mere fact that this is being discussed internally is pretty disappointing.
Let’s start with Carlos Sanchez. For those who are unfamiliar with him he is a 20 year old Venezuelan middle infield prospect. The bulk of his playing time in the minors has come at second base and shortstop. Last year he played at three different levels of the minors, making it to AAA Charlotte at the end of the year and played 11 games with the Knights. He hit .323 with 25 doubles, 56 RBI and stole 26 bases in the minors last year. He is currently playing third base in the Arizona Fall League where he is hitting .323 with 10 stolen bases and 12 RBI.
Sanchez is one of the Sox’ top prospects, but he is still just that. He has played in only 41 games above the Single-A level so far. Rushing him up to the majors to start at third base next year, a position where he has only played 50 professional games, seems like a reach. No doubt the White Sox like his versatility and ability to play multiple infield positions, and his speed is something that has to be attractive for a slow and aging offense.
The concern I have is that he comes to the majors and struggles, big time, and never recovers. Remember that Gordon Beckham was two years older than Sanchez when he was thrust into a starting role and even though he didn’t spend much time in the minors, Beckham still had more at bats at AA and AAA than Sanchez does now. I think Sanchez can be a part of the Sox future, I just don’t think it’s next year.
As for Viciedo moving back to third base, the thought makes me cringe. Sure his offensive production would be more of what you would expect from a corner infielder but his defense would kill the White Sox. He would make Miguel Cabrera look like Brooks Robinson. The reason the White Sox moved him to the outfield wasn’t to clear the way for some up and coming third base prospect, it was because he is a bad fielder. Sure he still has the arm strength to play third, but his range would be nothing and his hands are less than great as well.
“Tank” had a better defensive year than I expected in left field, that is to say he wasn’t awful. He played 131 games in left field, made just 2 errors and had 13 assists. He didn’t cover a lot of ground but he covered enough. I can live with him in left field. At third base, he becomes a lot harder to hide, not to mention the possible regression at the plate as he deals with yet another position switch.
In the end I believe that the White Sox will be forced to sign a veteran free agent to play third base, but if these conversations mean anything, it is probably a sign that they aren’t planning to spend very much money on a free agent solution. There is still a possibility of acquiring someone via a trade, something that we will have to keep an eye on when the winter meetings approach.