Even without Jae-Gyun Hwang, the White Sox have a lot of different ways to try to plug the abyss at third base. Hwang just happened to be one of the more intriguing options.
The breakout, bat-flippin' star infielder of the Korean Baseball Organization was expected to be posted by the Lotte Giants since he'll be free to sign after next season. Instead, Lotte announced that it will post his teammate Ah-Seop Son, an OBP-oriented left-handed-hitting outfielder, even though he has a full two years of control remaining.
Hwang is not completely out of the running. If the Giants post Son but a deal fails to materialize -- whether because teams fall short of the posting goal, or they can't strike a deal after the posting -- then Lotte has the option to post Hwang. That seems like a longshot, because I imagine they're going out of order for a reason (Son has the longer, better track record). Count out Hwang until he's officially back in.
The news deals a blow for a handful of our White Sox offseason plans. Hwang was one of the more popular options for third base, as he offered the possibility of a reasonable, entertaining third baseman with upside beyond what he should command, even if he may not be quite the steal that Jung Ho Kang was.
The good news? There are still a ton of candidates left.
One of the chief goals of the South Side Sox Offseason Plan Project is to hammer away at needs from as many angles as possible, and the SSSers delivered. This best sums it up: I was going through the spreadsheet set up by mikecws91 -- thank you for saving me a ton of time, Mike -- and had to add eight plans that he hadn't yet accounted for.
Eight plans, eight different starting third baseman.
All in all, the 70something (and counting) offseason plans dredged up 23 (and counting?) third basemen, although Hwang isn't the only one who is unattainable. Here's how they break down by fields.
In-house options (2 plans)
Mike Olt (GreekSox23)
- Tyler Saladino (Armchair GM)
The former was the result of investments elsewhere (although the free-agent contracts were light). The latter is remarkable considering Armchair GM blew out his budget to $170 million. The least popular category, and for good reason, as even Rick Hahn isn't floating Saladino as a third baseman, even considering his strong defense there.
Free agents (20 plans)
- David Freese (AHerguth, Bfow24, Eagle Bones, EMod88, JofpGallagher, mikecws91, mjarney89, soxfan50, soxsanta)
Jae-Gyun Hwang(chisox100, GrinnellSteve, Lil Jimmy, WhiteSoxThought)
- Ben Zobrist (gnix, pdfitz12)
- Asdrubal Cabrera (JoseValentin, Kevin Chambers)
- Juan Uribe (IslandSox, MadManx)
- Daniel Murphy (Jasmits12)
David Freese isn't the best third baseman, but he's the most starting-third-basemany third baseman of them all, as that's the only position he's known, and he plays it well enough on both sides of the ball. Uribe also counts, although his time as a starter has fluctuated more. The others are infielders who have logged rather small amounts of MLB playing time at the position.
Murphy's best defensive position is third base, as that was his primary job in the minors. However, this was the first MLB season where he saw serious time there, as David Wright's back injury opened up the position for 42 games.
For all of Zobrist's versatility, he's only played eight games (44 innings) at third base over his 10-year career. That's more than Cabrera, who has been at third for all of four outs, one of which he recorded via assist.
Uribe needs no introduction. Believe it or not, there is no one plan that includes Uribe, A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle.
High-priced targets (19 plans)
- Nolan Arenado (AlbertBelleFan, ARhyno17, Captain Wookie, ChiSoxCharlie, jdubs847, Kyle321N, rl_boiler, SouthSideShaft, thehitlesswonder, whitesoxmatt, WolcottPorch)
- Evan Longoria (ObsidianXIII, walterfan34, DaBears05)
Corey Seager (forGoodnessSakeTakeAPitch)
Javier Baez ( , PittJr11)
- Jake Lamb (Da bears-bulls-sox, Shoeless_Joe_)
I had the idea that Arenado could be made available after the Rockies traded Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. Arenado wasn't happy, he was having a good-not-great season, and he's a Boras client. But then he exploded in September and ended up leading the National League in homers and RBIs, which, when paired with Gold Glove defense, means he's a star.
None of the trade packages included Carlos Rodon, who is the one non-Condor player who might get the Sox a lot of the way there. Jose Quintana was in a few, but here it's not quite the same, as I can't imagine the Rockies would be as high on a pitcher so dependent on a curve. Credit to Kyle for emptying out the entire farm system and AlbertBelleFan for engineering a three-team trade with Houston.
Longoria's offseason could be fascinating. He signed that 15-year, $144.5 million contract with the Rays, which has been an incredible bargain for the Rays, but not so much for the team theoretically acquiring the seven years and $110.5 million left on his deal. If he were on the free agent market, he'd get a higher annual salary than that, but maybe a year or two shorter. The Tulowitzki trade sets a precedent, as he has a similar amount remaining on the long-term contract he signed with Colorado.
Baez and Lamb aren't unattainable, as both are in organizations with crowded infields, but either one might cost a lot for a short MLB track record and/or undermining shortcomings. I think we can agree Seager can't be had.
Could (should?) be shopped (25 plans)
- Todd Frazier (BestKosherPolish, KenWo4LiFe, larry, MikeyBarrett'sSadRightHook, SoxFinFan, Steve_Bidochka)
- Trevor Plouffe (Chisoxfan83, normanje13, ParisSox, pnoles, shanahan, _sophist, Sox2727)
Hanley Ramirez (Gibby32, karkovice squad, striker, Trooper Galactus)
Martin Prado (beautox, HeyImLouie, Mizzkill7, slydernelson,
- Brett Lawrie (Munizzi23, WSBill)
- Pablo Sandoval (asinwreck)
- Justin Turner (whitesoxsavant)
This seems like the sweet spot, with a range of players who might put a dent in the farm system, but would spare the foundation of the organization's depth charts. Frazier, Plouffe and Prado are productive players whose times with their current organization appear to be running short. Ramirez was miscast as a left fielder in Boston, while Sandoval was misshapen as a third baseman (plus he stopped switch hitting, which is a problem). There's a discussion going on about Lawrie in a FanPost about Oakland third basemen.
Turner's a name we haven't yet discussed. He could be available depending on how the Dodgers infield shakes out, especially since 2016 is his final arbitration year, but he's been immensely valuable for them in a utility role.
Modest goals (4 plans)
- Luis Valbuena (Mr Teeny, smittywhitesox05)
Nick Castellanos (DutchySox)
Christian Villanueva (PolishPrince34)
Valbuena enters his final arbitration year with a streak of three significant home run increases (he's gone from four to 12 to 16 to 25). He can also work a walk, which helps compensate for his low average. He's below-average with the glove and would be most effective in a platoon situation.
Disregarding the relative rarity of intradivision trades (this also goes for Plouffe), Castellanos has been a disappointment for the Tigers, but he's 23, and a strong second half might be the first indication that he's ready to be better than replacement level. Villanueva is even more blocked than Baez, and since 2016 will be his age-25 season, he's also an old man by Cubs infielder standards. A starting assignment seems ambitious, given his shaky track record and so-so season in his second try at Triple-A.
There you go -- 23 potential third baseman. Rick Hahn may still prove the project wrong, but he's going to have to work for it.