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Finding the White Sox a designated hitter

Filling the DH spot from within versus looking to the market

MLB: FEB 27 Spring Training - Rays at Phillies
Is Casey Gillaspie the rightful heir to the DH spot?
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you look at the projected White Sox starting lineup for 2018, there’s one big hole left.

C – Welington Castillo
1B – Jose Abreu
2B – Yoan Moncada
3B – Yolmer Sanchez
SS – Tim Anderson
LF – Nicky Delmonico
CF – Leury Garcia
RF – Avisail Garcia
DH – ????

You can quibble with Leury being the presumptive center fielder, given the presence of Charlie Tilson, Adam Engel, Ryan Cordell, etc., but otherwise this lineup is mostly set going into the season, barring injury. Designated hitter is the one exception, and there are three ways the Sox can choose to address it:

1. Pick a player to assign to the DH spot (or left field).

There are plenty of position players looking to get a crack at the 25-man roster, and the last spot in the lineup could come down to whom the Sox believe has the most potential to mash. You’d think that Matt Davidson would fall into the spot by default, but given how terrible he was in the second half, you’d hope that he would be displaced by the end of Spring Training.

Casey Gillaspie is a player who could legitimately be a DH if he shows enough in Glendale. Delmonico could also move from left field to DH if an outfielder with more defensive utility (e.g., Cordell) forces his way into the lineup. However, it’s likely the Sox would want to give Delmonico every chance to show some defensive utility himself.

2. Use a true rotating DH.

To that end, the Sox could easily just pick the best remaining hitter currently on the roster and sort out the defensive positions on a game-to-game basis. If neither Gillaspie nor Davidson is the answer, maybe Tilson gets thrown into the mix and he rotates through DH with Delmonico and the Garcias. It’s Ozzie Guillen’s greatest fantasy.

On a rebuilding team, the DH can be an extra spot in the lineup to increase young players’ exposure and sort out which ones have the most promise. That means that this exercise has to be about looking for upside, so no Tyler Saladino please.

3. Sign a veteran to DH.

Of course, you could also forego that extra spot and bring in the classic DH candidate: an older player who can still hit, but who’s become a defensive liability. According to Jon Heyman, the Sox are exploring the market, although he explicitly notes that the team is not interested in Matt Kemp. The Dodgers are currently on the hook for $32 million over 2 years, and it’s doubtful the Sox would take on a dead duck like Kemp other than to buy a prospect.

There are still some bat-first free agents available. Carlos Gonzalez and Lucas Duda could be one-year rebound candidates, or Logan Morrison could attempt to replicate his output from 2017. Morrison would likely require a longer commitment (MLBTR predicted 3 years, $36 million), but if he finds his market lacking he could be a decent value play.

Of course, signing a free agent DH would mean the Sox think that the value of adding a new player and hoping he plays well enough to be traded is higher than the value of having the spot open for internal candidates. That would have to mean that this new DH is interesting enough to plug up a roster spot, so we’re probably not going to see Jose Bautista or a Melky Cabrera reunion. But with a cheap contract and a reasonable chance of success, this path could be an option, especially considering how many free agents are still sitting unsigned.