White Sox offseason: 5 most pivotal players

Rich Schultz

Alejandro De Aza's trade value is beige-hot, and other guesses about the swap market

Throughout the offseason, SB Nation's MLB blogs take one question and apply it to their teams in a feature called "The Rotation."

This week, we're asked about the players who best embody five categories. We may have talked a lot about some of these players, but this gives us an opportunity to look at the names the other bloggers kick around, which may reveal some under-considered players worth mulling over. Under the rules of "Take A Penny Give A Penny," I'm throwing in my two five cents.

Must Keep: Avisail Garcia

Rick Hahn hauled home Garcia, a big project arm in Francellis Montas, and two other throw-in prospects for a high-priced pitcher who would've been under "Should Trade" or "Must Get Rid Of" in the offseason. There isn't a trade he could make now that would offer the same upside profit.

Should Keep: Chris Sale

He's a "must-keep" to a lot of people, but the Sox could technically field offers that would contain intriguing combinations of players worth considering for a few seconds. But good teams are good because they have players whose performances that outpace their salaries by a large margin, and Sale's the only guy on this roster who's proven capable of delivering that kind of value across multiple seasons.

Neutral: Alejandro De Aza

You can see reasons to keep him (a respectable left-handed bat who can handle leadoff duties). You can see reasons to deal him (his vacation to Lapse-land last year). The Sox could do better. The Sox could do worse. He's the Switzerland of the hot stove season.

Should Trade: Conor Gillaspie

"Half the team" would technically be a correct answer, but I'm taking it more in the spirit of "could trade." Gillaspie is out of options, and a potentially crowded corner situation could force him out of the picture when spring rolls around. That's how the Sox got him from the Giants, and Jeff Soptic wasn't a high price to pay. If they deal him before the numbers game is clear, a possible result is an effective upgrade on Soptic.

I considered Hector Santiago, because his grip on a rotation spot appears to be the shakiest. But he'll have a spot somewhere on the club no matter how the rotation rolls out, so it's not pressing.

Must Get Rid Of: First baseman/basemen.

"Half the team" would technically be a correct answer, again, but the biggest trouble spots -- catcher, third and second -- can be overwritten. Nobody currently on the roster has staked his claim to any of those positions, so Hahn can shoot first and clean up the remnants later.

Now if Adam Dunn were Alex Rios and the Sox could deal him for somebody halfway interesting while swallowing just a small sum of money, that'd be a "must-trade" case. But if it takes at least half his salary, that's when the returns diminish -- especially since Dunn isn't blocking anybody who could use the playing time in that capacity.

Even that doesn't really matter, though. If they ate $10 million or $12 million, it's hard to get all that upset, since he plummeted back below replacement value last year and has no future value on the team. Plus, it's not my money. But if the Sox were to unload Dunn with extreme prejudice, the whole point would be to spread those plate appearances around to players who could use the reps. It doesn't get the money back, but there are some opportunity benefits that offset the pure financial loss.

But Paul Konerko would not be a good use of those reps, because then it's like paying Konerko Dunn's salary for 2014, and he was even further away from earning that kind of money. I really only like Dunn around because he makes Konerko an odd fit, which is kinda like paying premiums for elephant protection in Chicago -- it's not really a waste of money if you think a stampede would break out as soon as you canceled it.

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