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White Sox offseason plan roundup: Third base

Conor Gillaspie showed improvement offensively and defensively, but upgrades are available

Chase Headley
Chase Headley
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, an unexpected surplus of playing time fell into Conor Gillaspie's lap after the White Sox's original plan fell through. He had stretches of respectability, although diluted by slumps, an inability to hit lefties and a lack of polish defensively.

In 2014, an unexpected surplus of playing fell into Gillaspie's lap after the White Sox's original plan fell through. He improved offensively and defensively, although a weak last two months of the season helped keep future expectations in check.

In 2015 ... Gillaspie still might receive an unexpected surplus of playing time, even if the Sox think they can do better. He's the Sox's rebound guy -- there for them last year when Matt Davidson ended up being just a beautiful head of hair, and he could be around if the Sox aim high and miss out on upgrades this winter.

The survey of South Side Sox offseason plans suggests Rick Hahn can truly go big or go home here. There are a few attractive free agents who stand a good chance at living up to a large payday, but if the market gets out of control, he has Gillaspie waiting for him. Maybe Gillaspie deserves better, but he has to believe he deserves better first.

OK, let's end this metaphor now.

Big-ticket free agent (24 plans)

  • Chase Headley (mjarney89, karkoVICE SQUAD, e-gus, illinifey, forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch, pdfitz12, larry, striker, AJP, pnoles, Daggins, Mad Manx, Kevin Chambers)
  • Pablo Sandoval (Mogster, Baseballnut23, Mike Seaver and Boner, MATT DAVID, ms22, williamseward930, Fornelli, Josh Nelson)
  • Hanley Ramirez (smclean09, Trooper Galactus, Rhubarb)

Headley checks off all the boxes for a sensible fit for the Sox: left-handed, knows the strike zone, and brings an above-average glove to the hot corner. The Yankees can't throw a qualifying offer at him either, so he comes with no draft picks attached. The Yankees might want to retain him, and the Red Sox are circling, so he'll be properly appreciated in the market. The consensus contract is something like four years and $48-54 million

Sandoval earned his third World Series ring with an incredible postseason, and the Giants get the first crack at keeping him. He's the real deal, but his performance and weight have fluctuated enough to make a lengthy commitment worrisome. Brian Sabean's efforts to retain Sandoval might be a canary, because they can afford to pay him, they have no internal replacements at the ready, and they know him better than anybody else. If Sandoval reaches free agency and the Giants are hanging back with their (post-qualifying) offer, maybe they don't have the utmost confidence in his ability to hold up.

Somehow, Ramirez is the fragile one here. He hits when he's healthy, but the last time he played 130 games in a season is 2010. That should suppress his price, as will a qualifying offer if the Dodgers extend one his way. But the other question is whether he's willing to play third base. He's done it in the past, but he's been exclusively a shortstop in LA, and even though his defense is below average enough, he's still considered the top shortstop in the market by far.

Trade (4 plans)

  • Pedro Alvarez (Chet Lemonhead)
  • Todd Frazier (Warren Newson for Prez)
  • Martin Prado (JofpGallagher)
  • Adrian Beltre (blackoutsox)

Given multiple sensible solutions in the open market, the trade block didn't get a whole lot of attention. Then again, the trade market doesn't have a lot of great fits that present a true upgrade on the Sox's somewhat high floor at the position. Alvarez's power dipped last year, which puts even more stress on his shaky glovework. Putting third base in his hands would require an awful lot of faith in scouting if the Sox truly are counting on contending.

Beltre is tons of fun, but he's on a one-year deal for $18M (with a $16M vesting option for 2016), and the Rangers don't need infielders. The timing and talent doesn't seem to line up there. Frazier is too good. That leaves Prado, a reasonable target for two years and $22 million ... if the Yankees can't use him at one of a few undefined positions for themselves.

Other trade ideas: Trevor Plouffe could be a highly plausible target if he were in any other division, as he isn't a free agent until 2018. Will Middlebrooks has just about run out of time in Boston, but he just might be always hurt, or he might just not be any good.  Brett Lawrie has the bad face. The Diamondbacks have a logjam of young left-side infielders, although trading Prado to the Yankees loosened it up a little.

Also, the Angels played Gordon Beckman Beckham at third late last year. He looked like he could pick it there a little. He's a former (high) first-round pick, so it might be worth seeing if he's got a higher ceiling than people think.

Internal solutions (14 plans)

  • Conor Gillaspie (perikson7, JoseValentin, Soulign1, ERM, WhiteSoxNews, smittywhitesox05, DutchySox, KenWo, gnix)
  • Marcus Semien (Normanje13)
  • Gillaspie/Semien platoon (ChiSox1023, chisoxfan83, Lil Jimmy)
  • Gillaspie/Davidson platoon (gibby32)

And we're back to Gillaspie, or ideas prominently featuring him. Let's just take a moment to appreciate the Sox's improved standing here. In past years, the Sox would've killed for a 1.5 WAR season out of a pre-arb third baseman. Now, we're exploring ways to upgrade beyond that. And it's not ridiculous, especially if one prioritizes run prevention over Gillaspie's strengths.

(Another note: Only Gibby remains remotely confident in Davidson's immediately big-league prospects. Hell, Davidson didn't even carry the day in the MATT DAVID offseason plan. See if he gets another "World's Best Dad" mug.)

Hahn said the Sox are "fully comfortable" with Gillaspie as the starting third baseman next year, but after Hahn ripped out hearts by letting the Royals claim Gillaspie's buddy-cop partner Moises Sierra, any player might need a stronger case then "he seems OK" to stay in his current role ... or current team. If that's the mindset of the front office, maybe being taken for granted isn't so bad.