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Addressing the White Sox' secondary needs

The White Sox stand to improve the most by finding a new starter in right field, but there's other places they could continue to upgrade on the cheap.

The Sox might want to find an insurance policy for this.
The Sox might want to find an insurance policy for this.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While the baseball world anxiously waits for the remaining premium free agents to sign, let's take a look at what the White Sox should be thinking about to flesh out their roster besides finding themselves a new corner outfielder.

Here's how the White Sox' 25-man roster looks after the moves they've made so far:

Starting Lineup

Obviously, the order and which catcher is the "starter" are subject to debate, but it's something like:

  1. Adam Eaton - CF
  2. Jose Abreu - 1B
  3. Melky Cabrera - LF
  4. Todd Frazier - 3B
  5. Avisail Garcia - RF
  6. Adam LaRoche - DH
  7. Brett Lawrie - 2B
  8. Alex Avila - C
  9. Tyler Saladino - SS
  • Dioner Navarro - C
  • Carlos Sanchez - INF
  • J.B. Shuck - OF
  • Mike Olt - 3B/1B, or Jerry Sands - OF
Starting Rotation:
  • Chris Sale - LHP
  • Jose Quintana - LHP
  • Carlos Rodon - LHP
  • John Danks - LHP
  • Erik Johnson - RHP
Bullpen (probably some room for debate here as well)
  • David Robertson - RHP
  • Nate Jones - RHP
  • Zach Duke - LHP
  • Zach Putnam - RHP
  • Jake Petricka - RHP
  • Dan Jennings - LHP
  • Jacob Turner - RHP
There are other pressing issues here besides an allegedly competitive team with Avisail Garcia first on the right field depth chart, and the White Sox are more likely than not going to have to live with some of them. Nonetheless, there's certainly some room for inexpensive fixes even after they address their corner outfield problem. Let's take a look at a few of these issues:

No. 1: Tyler Saladino is most likely not a starting major league shortstop

There's plenty of hope that Saladino could give the White Sox what they need on defense, but the bat simply doesn't play as a fixture in a major league lineup.  There's little reason to believe that the .225/.267/.335 you saw last year wasn't the real Saladino, and even with the generous positional adjustment for shortstops, that won't cut it.

However, it's looking more and more like of all the issues on the roster, this might be the one the Sox are content to live with. Aside from bringing back Alexei Ramirez (which is possible), the free agent market doesn't have much to offer within the Sox' price range and there don't appear to be any obvious trade candidates that would constitute a substantial upgrade. The most realistic one I can think of is Zack Cozart, but that's two years of an average, cost-controlled shortstop. He wouldn't be cheap.

If the Sox do roll with Saladino, they might do so hoping that Tim Anderson can show enough at Charlotte to take over the job later in the season. Failing that, they could look to upgrade the position via trade if they're in the hunt. Given the situation, that's not an unreasonable plan.

No. 2: Erik Johnson will be asked to throw a lot of innings without much of a safety net

Johnson's thrown almost 170 innings two times in his professional career, including last season. Even if we think his arm is stretched out enough to handle the innings, the concern with Johnson is staying healthy. The ostensible backup plan for Johnson is Jacob Turner, a talented reclamation project who hasn't put it all together yet on the big stage and missed nearly all of last season with a flexor strain and a bone bruise. Turner has upside, particularly with Don Cooper around to help him out, but if the overly hittable dumpster fire version from 2014 shows up, we'll be pining for the days when John Danks was the fifth starter.

The Sox might see this rotation slot as a possible place to de-risk themselves. A Johnson trade is still possible, and if that happens, there's some cheap free agents options for the Sox to consider, such as Doug Fister or Mark Buehrle (if he doesn't retire). Mat Latos is around as an upside play, though given his reputation for being a clubhouse headache, he could be a dicey proposition. If they don't trade Johnson, they could try to snatch a veteran whose stock is lower on a minor league deal, such as Aaron Harang, Wandy Rodriguez, or Alfredo Simon.

No. 3: Carlos Sanchez is a weird fit on this roster

Sanchez has shown that he can play a good second base. However, his range isn't good at shortstop and the last time he played third base with any regularity was 2010. He might prove to be fine at third, and carrying another bench player that can play there could alleviate that concern, but it's fair to question just what his utility is to this team. He's not a great baserunner, he's not particularly strong against either righties or lefties, and he's probably a below-average defensive shortstop. Frazier and Saladino are better than Sanchez at their respective positions, so his primary use looks to be as a defensive replacement for Lawrie. That's fairly limited.

I've wondered since the Frazier acquisition whether the Sox would be best-served to trade Sanchez and turn to Leury Garcia (or another acquisition) to take the backup infielder job, figuring that Garcia's positional flexibility and strong baserunning plus whatever Sanchez helped the Sox to acquire would be worth it.

No. 4: Adam LaRoche might be cooked

As currently constructed, the White Sox don't have anyone to step in and hit competently at the major league level in the reasonably probable event that Adam LaRoche is truly finished as a major league contributor. The White Sox would stand to improve by picking up a right-handed bat that could act as LaRoche's platoon partner. If the Sox need to cut LaRoche loose, though, they'd need such a player that could either hold their own without the platoon advantage or provide strong enough defense to justify sending Melky Cabrera to DH against righties. Which brings us to....

No. 5: What the heck is going on with that fourth bench slot?

As it stands, Mike Olt or Jerry Sands would figure to make the 25-man roster. Sands would be a better fit as LaRoche's platoon partner due to his small-sample success against left-handed pitching, but the limited track record combined with a decidedly sub-Mantle defensive skillset makes him a tenuous bet. It wouldn't be hard to find an upgrade here.

I've mildly advocated for Steve Pearce as a possibility, as he's a guy who could stick it to lefties and has the potential to get hot enough to justify playing him as an everyday guy.  However, he's not the only reasonable right-handed possibility out here. Other options the Sox could acquire on the cheap include Marlon Byrd or ::gulp:: Ryan Raburn. If the Sox choose the latter, they'll have to hope that his Sox-killing doesn't take on a whole new meaning.