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After Melky Cabrera signing, White Sox can look for reinforcements

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Biggest roster holes are filled after latest signing, but Rick Hahn can bolster a few spots in the lineup

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox entered the offseason needing a starting pitcher, a high-leverage reliever, a lefty reliever, a left-handed hitter or two, and a corner outfielder. Could the White Sox do better elsewhere? Sure, but they couldn't afford to do worse in those specific areas.

Two weeks into December: Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

Melky Cabrera crossed the last item off the list, reportedly signing with the White Sox for three years and $42 million. He's not a perfect player -- his defense deteriorated in left field with Toronto, and he was caught up in one of the more ludicrous PED dramas -- but assuming he's not a future suspension risk, the assets outweigh the liabilities.

Here's what he's done the last four years:

Year Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+ (b/f)WAR
2011 KCR 155 706 201 44 5 18 87 35 94 .305 .339 .470 121 4.4/3.7
2012 SFG 113 501 159 25 10 11 60 36 63 .346 .390 .516 157 4.7/4.5
2013 TOR 88 372 96 15 2 3 30 23 47 .279 .322 .360 88 -0.3/-0.9
2014 TOR 139 621 171 35 3 16 73 43 67 .301 .351 .458 126 3.1/2.6

495 2200 627 119 20 48 250 41 19 .309 .351 .458 124 11.9/9.9

What doesn't show up in those lines:

*He missed almost all of September 2014 after breaking his finger diving into first base while getting picked off.

*He missed all of September 2013 after having a benign tumor removed from his spine. He went on the DL with an ankle injury before that on Aug. 1, but it seems like the Blue Jays just called it an ankle problem until they could figure out what was causing him to move like an old man.

*He missed all of September 2012 due to the PED suspension, which wouldn't have been all that memorable if he and his associates hadn't tried creating a fake website for a nonexistent product to explain a spike in testosterone. He played his last game on Aug. 14, and the Giants didn't put him on any playoff roster during their World Series run.

Cabrera's hit when he's healthy, before and after he got busted, in both leagues,and from both sides of the plate. He's shown virtually no platoon split over the last four years:

  • vs. LHP: .308/.350/.477
  • vs. RHP: .309/.352/.451

And that will allow Robin Ventura to play him everyday, presumably in the second spot, which is where he hit for the Blue Jays almost all of last season.

Theoretically, the White Sox could contend with this lineup if it all hangs together:

  1. Adam Eaton CF
  2. Melky Cabrera LF
  3. Jose Abreu 1B
  4. Adam LaRoche DH
  5. Avisail Garcia RF
  6. Conor Gillaspie 3B
  7. Alexei Ramirez SS
  8. Tyler Flowers C
  9. Carlos Sanchez 2B

There's always the chance that any of the guys with established track records can get hurt and/or randomly crap the bed, but beyond the general risk associated with relying on mortals, there are a few specific areas of concern.

Right field

Garcia has almost has a full season of MLB games to his record, and it's underwhelming:

G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS+
141 497 126 15 3 14 63 26 113 .272 .314 .408 98

But he's also 23, and the labrum injury gave him a legitimate excuse for depressed numbers in 2014. His physical tools and scouting reports suggest an upswing is in store, and this is a risk the Sox have to take, for this season and future ones.

That said, an outfield with Garcia in right and Cabrera in left means that a defensively gifted outfielder is a necessity for the bench -- not just because Garcia and Cabrera are both below-average until proven otherwise, but also because neither of them can handle center field.

Jordan Danks ain't dead yet, but the Sox might want to give him some competition beyond Trayce Thompson.

Third base

If Gillaspie's 2014 resembled a reputable base line, there'd probably be no need to consider an upgrade. But 2014 could very well be the best he can do offensively -- regression certainly whupped him the last two months -- and his defense hampers his value further. That's why Chase Headley has been a popular name here, but it seems like the Cabrera signing made such an investment financially impossible. Unless it didn't.

Semien would've been an excellent right-handed caddy, at least assuming that one could attribute the errors there to a lack of reps. With Semien in Oakland, there isn't a complement to Gillaspie on the roster unless you believe in Matt Davidson after his disastrous 2014. There isn't one in free agency, either. A trade would be required to fill that gap.

Second base

Sanchez now holds the inside track, and after hitting .250/.269/.300 with three walks to 25 strikeouts over 104 plate appearances, he has the weakest bat of the bunch. However, his glove looks like the real deal at second, and given the possible liabilities in the corners, it might not be the worst idea to have a defensive specialist batting ninth, and it'd be an easy chance to take if he were the worst projected infielder of the bunch by a comfortable margin.

He isn't the only in-house option, either -- he just happens to the surest at this point. Tyler Saladino was due to join Sanchez as a late-season call-up before Tommy John surgery ended his season. He'll be back for spring training, but it could disrupt his development. Micah Johnson's health also puts some clouds on his ceiling. He offers more excitement, but he needs to get his legs back first.

Normally, that would be enough to run with considering reasonable payroll constrictions. But with solutions on the open market (Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera) and trade candidates elsewhere (Ben Zobrist), it's not unreasonable to aim higher.

Catcher

This one's often listed as a weakness, but it's hard to do better than Flowers without sacrificing prospects or a lot more cash. It's easier to do better than anybody who's backed him up in his life, and yet somehow Rob Brantly doesn't clear that bar.