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White Sox offseason plan roundup: Designated hitter

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The majority of 41 winter road maps from the South Side Sox community would rather see resources spent elsewhere

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

When I posted the White Sox offseason plan template, I expected to maybe see 15 or 20 FanPosts. I didn't expect to see 41(!), the large majority of which were cromulent, even if a few took liberties with the guidelines. And it was also cool to get a number of new names, so thanks to everybody who took the time. I spend 330ish days a year telling you what I think, and so I enjoyed the opportunity to sit back and read what you think.

For those who put together cohesive rosters within reason, Chet rewarded you by ranking its projected output and pound-for-pound value, which was really swell of him. Some of the rosters didn't make enough sense to compute, but the feasibility of entire picture was a secondary objective of the project.

The first? Harvesting ideas, names and configurations. It's not easy to juggle micro and macro, especially in a fairly wide-open exercise, and you might screw up your forest by zeroing in too much on one tree. But maybe you'll end up nailing the hell out of that tree, and you'll still have something to brag about at the end of the winter.

Moreover, with 41 plans, we can get an idea of how the SSS community prioritizes the uncertain positions. A number of spots saw a lot of variance, and I'm starting with the DH spot, because it underscores just how disastrous the Adam Dunn contract was, and how much it may have shaken belief systems.

Had Dunn never existed, I think we'd see a lot more people taking a gung-ho approach to finding a hitter. Four wasted years and a shift from run creation to run prevention later, the SSS community was relatively conservative. With those fresh scars and realistic budget constraints, it was difficult to make it a priority without sacrificing upgrade potential elsewhere. A couple plans didn't even identify a DH (although one was foiled by a likely retirement, and no, it wasn't Dunn's).

This is one of the big philosophical questions Rick Hahn may encounter: Does he pretend Dunn is an aberration and 30something bats can hold up better if they aren't so rooted in a Three True Outcomes approach? By and large, our project would rather choose a different route.

Going for it (7 plans)

  • Victor Martinez (JofpGallagher, Chet Lemonhead, e-gus, chisoxfan83, WhiteSoxNews, smitthwhitesox05
  • Nelson Cruz (normanje13)
  • Melky Cabrera (gibby32)
  • Edwin Encarnacion (Ken)

Serious investments, and while Cruz popped up elsewhere, the normanje13 plan was the only one that had Cruz as a primary DH.

Regarding the free agents, if Martinez could be signed for a three-year deal (which four of the five plans with contract figures estimated), I think the Sox would have to do it. His power might be a One Huge Year mirage like Joe Mauer or Jacoby Ellsbury, but his switch-hitting ability makes him incredibly difficult to attack regardless. With a three-year deal, you hope for two good years, and a backup plan for the third, and that strikes me as realistic.

That's why I think he's going to get four years from somebody (Chet had him at 4/$56M), and that territory makes one take account of a bigger picture. If the Sox signed him for a four-year deal, I'd hope they had serious conviction to contend within the first two years, because they'd need to make hay during the magic hour of his career to cover a possible steep decline. He might be a complete hitter, but so was Paul Konerko.

(Of course, if the Tigers are hellbent on keeping him, the Sox may as well offer four years. Anibal Sanchez used the Cubs to drive up his asking price, and Detroit complied.)

For Cruz, bump the reluctance threshold up a year. I don't think there's a bad two-year deal, but three years is courting trouble. He hit 40 homers for Baltimore this past season, but he also disappeared for three months, hitting .214/.283/.398 from June through August.

Melky Cabrera seems like a higher floor for a three-year deal, as he's hit for each of his last three teams, before and after failing a PED test, as long as he didn't have a tumor on his spine.

Encarnacion is working on what's effectively a two-year, $20 million contract. Ken floated a package of Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Danish and Courtney Hawkins, but I think they'd need a MLB-ready contributor on offense to make that happen -- like a package starting with Avisail Garcia.

Sizable investments, some defensive utility (8 plans)

  • Nick Markakis (Rhubarb*, Lil Jimmy, DutchySox, illinifey
  • Adam LaRoche (Kevin Chambers, Warren Newson for Prez, ChiSox1023, Mogster22)

Two left-handed bats whom the SSS community placed on the same salary scale ($10-12M), but with Markakis getting four years, and LaRoche two. Making them the primary DH risks shorting oneself on the investment, though.

With Markakis, he does a little of everything well enough, and one of those things is playing a corner spot. Take that away from him in the first year of a four-year deal, and that trajectory makes me nervous.

With LaRoche, he needs a platoon partner at DH, and he's a good first baseman, so a team would want his glove out there. A team would probably want him there over Jose Abreu. However, I don't think I'd want to take field time away from Abreu in his second year of American baseball, because further improvement is not out of the question.

(*See the next grouping for elaboration on Markakis in the Rhubarb plan.)

Smaller investments, primary DH (8 plans)

  • Billy Butler (gnix, Mad Manx, JoseValentin)
  • Mike Morse (perikson7, Mike Seaver and Boner)
  • Kendrys Morales (Baseballnut23, blackoutsox)
  • Domonic Brown (Anthony Joshi-Palovic)
  • Andrew Lambo (Rhubarb*)

All five of these players are in the same boat -- the upside is an .800 OPS bat, and the downside is that these guys might be close to done (or in Lambo's case, can't get started).

Of the four known entities, Morales is the most intriguing. He gave the Twins and Mariners nothing in 2014, but his 2014 started in June. He and Scott Boras turned down a qualifying offer last winter with the idea they'd get better deals in the open market. Instead, nobody wanted to surrender a first-round pick, and Minnesota signed him after the draft. He performed like a guy who was thrown cold into the middle of a major league season, and he hit just .218/.274/.338 over 98 games.

If the contract situation led to a lost year, and Boras is up for one of those value-boosting one-year deals he often recommends for his clients, that might be the best buy here. For two years, Butler, Morse and Morales all run the risk of Pat Burrelling it, although they probably wouldn't hog the big chunk of payroll like Burrell did with the Rays.

Brown went from a breakout season in 2013 (.272/.324/.494, 2.1 bWAR) to being one of baseball's worst regulars. AJP suggested a change-of-scenery deal by trading Dayan Viciedo for Philadelphia's Brown, which is about right. They're the same age and have similar skill sets, but Brown bats lefty.

Lambo is a power-hitting 26-year-old outfielder who is blocked in Pittsburgh's stacked system. He also seems to need a fresh start, and without a firm idea of his MLB abilities, Rhubarb had Markakis and Lambo as possibilities for left and DH.

One more possibility nobody named: Adam Lind, who could be on the move from Toronto shortly after the World Series if the Blue Jays don't want to pick up his $7.5 million option themselves. He seems pretty well-defined at age 31 after a lot of ups and downs -- he can hit righties for average and power, but he can't hit lefties and shouldn't be in the field if it can be helped. He also has an $8 million team option for 2016.

Internal solutions (15 plans)

These ones don't need to be itemized, because they're all squishy. Basically, three plans were up for letting Viciedo DH and see if the lack of defensive responsibilities boosts that bat, and the rest involved Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien, and a host of others. You could also slide a guy like Lambo (or Jesus Montero) in this group.

That's not the most exciting of ideas, but there is value in leaving DH open if other weaker areas (left field, third base) are addressed. If somebody like Micah Johnson or Matt Davidson forces the issue down in Triple-A, there's a way to get them involved. If nobody stakes his claim to those at-bats and the Sox are contending, a DH can be acquired midseason.

Actually, I'll single out one internal outlier: Soulign1, who slotted Avisail Garcia in the DH spot after signing Markakis and trading for Carlos Gonzalez. That could very well be one future of the DH if Garcia's defense doesn't improve. With his top-end speed and arm, you can see the ingredients for an acceptable corner outfielder, but that hasn't been evident in his playmaking abilities ... yet.

He played multiple positions for two teams in 2013, and the labrum injury spoiled his 2014, so I'd like to see him healthy and in right field for one solid season before making up my mind. Still, in a more aggressive offseason overhaul, Garcia's defensive role shouldn't be considered a birthright.