White Sox Should Opt for Center Field-less Lineup

A majority of this post was written while watching the Texas Finale Sunday night

So I'm not exactly able to recap Sunday's game in a timely manner. But as I'm sitting here watching John Danks struggle with his location and lamenting a lineup full of 2007-esque roster-fodder, I wonder if trying something crazy might be the Sox best option in center field. And by crazy I mean Jayson Nix.

First let me say I wouldn't even bring up such a crazy suggestion if the Sox hadn't already backed themselves in the first place. I'm sure you're already aware of the circumstances, but allow me to review (I'm bored):

  • They entered spring training with three players who should have been competing for bench spots in a 3-way race for the starting center field position.
  • They traded away 4 center fielders – or 4 players much more capable of playing a major league CF than their spring training options – in the last 4 off-seasons.
  • When spring was over, they waived Jerry Owens, handed the incomprehensibly-linked CF/Leadoff duties to Dewayne Wise, who posted a sub-.300 OBP in his breakout '08 season, and went with Brian Andersonas the primary backup at all 3 outfield positions.
  • They carried Brent Lillibridge, who, despite drawing an inexplicable number of walks in his first 20 at-bats, is woefully unprepared to hit major league pitching. Lillibridge, who played CF at the University of Washington was their de facto 5th outfielder.
  • They failed to stash a journeyman AAAA Cfer (or much of anything else) at AAA Charlotte.
  • Jerry Owens, gone for good. Scott Podsednik, back for more of the same, which, and I'm sure you're aware, isn't good.

So that's how we got into this unpleasant situation. There were other factors as well. It's not like the Sox front office didn't realize they were thin at CF. The economic climate and the significant talent/opportunity cost of a trade had the Sox hoping rather than believing that one of their in-house candidates would step up his game to become a below-average major league player.

But Jayson Nix in CF? He's never played a single professional game at the position. Note: I wrote that Sunday night. Monday night he saw his first ever action in the outfield as a professional.

I'm not denying that it sounds like a bad idea. But that's kind of the point, the Sox only have bad options at CF. Why not give Nix an opportunity to prove he's a worse option than the ones we already know are bad, namely Scott Podsednik and Brent Lillibridge?

Obviously, I would prefer a seasoned outfielder in center field, but without spending talent and or money there just isn't a palatable in-house option.

Now if you remember the first week of spring training, I carried a not-so-subtle anti-Nix bias. I felt like I had to provide a counter-opinion to the beat writers who were ready to hand Nix the starting 2B job after 2 games. And as I touched on at the time and in the Statisctical Prospect series, Getz had the best minor league track record of the 2B candidates.

But a funny thing happened after I got to see Nix play a couple of games. I actually liked his approach at the plate. I couldn't be sure that what I was seeing wasn't just a hot streak, but I was impressed by his swing. Injuries shortened his spring and stopped me from making a full-throated endorsement, unless you count my more pointed criticisms of Lillibridge as an endorsement. But I'll say it now, after one two major league game(s) in a Sox uniform and maybe 3 or 4 spring training contests; Jayson Nix can play some baseball. Nix can be that below average center fielder the White Sox so desperately need right now, maybe more.

Why not move Alexei or Getz?

Nix is not a permanent solution, and might not even be an upgrade on the bad options the Sox are already running out to CF. So for the two weeks, or one month, or whatever time the Sox are without their replacement-level options I'd put Nix out there instead.

Alexei Ramirez was the opening day center fielder for the '08 Sox, why not move him? The truth is I might. I'd certainly think about it. He's made some great plays at SS, but he once again seems to be a little deficient on rangy plays to his right.

More than his defensive abilities, however, his contract status and my confidence in Gordon Beckham (in the long term) and Nix (in the short term) at SS should determine the decision. I've never heard any confirmation or denial on whether Ramirez would become a free agent at the end of his 4-year deal. If he is a free agent in just 3 years, I'm moving him to CF. If not, I'm more reluctant. I might move Getz instead.

In simpler terms, if Alexei's not sticking around too long, open up the SS position to be filled when Gordon Beckham is ready. If he is sticking around for a while, move the lower-upside yet still productive Chris Getz and clear 2B for your top prospect.

I know all of this sounds as if it's predicated on a group of rather inexperienced middle-infielders can step right in and play a major league center field. But I don't expect any of them to actually be a plus defender in CF. When the current options are Podsednik and Lillibridge, it's not like the Sox have much to lose by giving Nix a shot.

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