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Who’s on third?

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Moving Yoán Moncada to third base is a crafty move by White Sox management — but perhaps not for the reason you think

Chicago White Sox v St Louis Cardinals
Line, fed: Moncada, “concentrating more” at the hot corner.
Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Perhaps you’ve heard, maybe, that the Chicago White Sox acquired a third baseman on Monday.

No, not that guy.

Another one, a guy we already had on the team: Yoán Moncada.

Every beat had takes on the somewhat shocking news, capped by the chilled-out manner in which manager Ricky Renteria delivered it. The best, though paywalled, came from James Fegan, thorough and with a delightful end note evoking none other than Allen Iverson.

Not a lot of need to go in to the mechanics of the move, which we’ll doubtlessly be discussing all day down below, anyway.

A summary: Moncada started his career in Boston as a third baseman.

Why?

Well, back then, Dustin Pedroia played second base — a pretty good one — for the Red Sox, and no greenhorn was going to come in and bump a former MVP and “Nation” beloved munchkin like Pedroia off of second.

But the second sack was and is Moncada’s preferred position. He has the range and quickness to be, minimum, an average second baseman.

We hear all the time that 2018 first-rounder Nick Madrigal is just a tissue sneeze away from MLB stardom, but lemme cold water you on this one and say there are no guarantees for a pop-gun All-America, least not any for a 5´7´´pop-gunner. Let’s keep the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers in the humidor for at least one more season.

On the face of it, this move — and it’s being posited as a move, not an experiment or contingency plan — is dumbassery. (After all, Renteria bravura’d up a little “don’t be surprised if you see him there on Opening Day” spice to the announcement ...) Yolmer Sánchez is a better third baseman than Moncada, for starters.

[And this silliness about needing to concentrate more at third base than second? ¿Que es esto? Maybe if we’re talking about not getting brained by a line shot down the third-base line, OK ... but second base is one of the more challenging defensive positions, and certainly demands as much or more concentration than third, with backing up throws, covering second on steals, cutoffs, covering on bunts, rundowns. If you’re getting “lackadaisical” (Ricky’s word) at second base, you’re not doing it right — playing, or coaching.]

Of course, it’s not the worst dumbassery the White Sox could come up with this spring training; it’s definitely no better than second behind “Eloy needs defensive work.” And, friends, I must remind you that spring training is still young; much dumbassery could still come.

But the announcement — the “move” — is pretty brilliant.


The White Sox know that the offseason has been a disaster to date. Some of that is their fault (er, James McCann?), some not at all (Hot Stove gone cold).

But what Rick Hahn knows is that the White Sox are losing the offseason. All winter, pressure has been building. Fan surprise that the White Sox were “at the table” on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper turned to a sort of tickled delight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once there was no Machado or Harper under the tree, however, delight segued to demand. At this point, we’ve practically got fans vowing to burn Machado White Sox jerseys that have yet to be stitched or sold.

Now, “moving” Moncada to third base had been planned all offseason, anyway; Moncada would have been getting game reps at least by late 2019, presuming the season was another near-three figure defeat disaster and Madrigal was slapping singles to right till the Charlotte cows come home in September. Madrigal as the Opening Day starter in 2020 or 2021, with Moncada at third, was always a best-case scenario for the White Sox.

But the timing of the announcement about Moncada has given the White Sox a necessary bridge over the roiling waters below, with Jon Heyman setting boats on fire with his meaningless tweetbait, heretofore-unheard-of “insiders” saying TODAY’S THE DAY Machado signs with Team X, “thought pieces” from even more respected writers than Heyman dredging up the possibility of short-term deals and basically begging Mannypleasepleasepleaseplease sign with Yankees.

In this long, dry week connecting first workouts to first games, the White Sox have given the beats and fans something to talk about and debate with this “move.” Even for a day, perhaps all week, they have distracted us from the issue at hand: A gaping hole in the lineup where currently somewhere between $25 and $30 million sits, gaudy in its excess but sure as hell unable to slap a screaming line drive homer into the bullpen or dive far right to make a throw to first on its knees.

In an offseason that’s been off the rails almost as soon as the WELCOME BRYCE HARPER sign was strung up in the United Center, the White Sox have started to seize back the narrative.

If Machado ends up signing in the KBO for a year, the White Sox are covered.

And if San Diego outbids the White Sox for Machado, well, management was going to get scalded by fans, anyway.

This Moncada move, with all its defiance and illogic, has bought everyone a week of peace. Or, at least, a different sort of disharmony.