In the immediate reaction to Friday’s trade for third basemen Conor Gillaspie, our friend Matt Adams stuck to the best formula for gauging the worth of an incoming player–find an intelligent voice that covers the player’s old team, and examine their level of regret.
In this case, that voice was Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles, who was simultaneously relieved that the Giants would actually be getting something for a player who seemed doomed for the waiver wire, and amused to be passing on a player whose defense could be described as what is shown below to another team.
“…His fielding is pretty rough. And by “rough”, I think the phrase that we settled on was ‘he throws like Johnny Damon wearing boxing gloves’, and it’s not like he showed off soft hands in his brief appearances.”
That’s certainly troubling and limiting, but let’s take a moment to consider the trade from the White Sox perspective.
First, they traded right-handed pitcher Jeff Soptic, who’s firmly outside the top 20 in a very poor farm system, but is a live arm that any organization in the league would be convinced they could transform into a useful reliever. That’s barely a prospect, but it’s a prospect, which is more than one usually yields for a player they intend to waive at the end of spring yraining.
Therefore, Conor Gillaspie should be assumed to have as legitimate shot as anyone to soak up the last positional spot on the Opening Day roster, and CSN’s Dan Hayes (and I have it on good authority that Nick Schaefer agrees) says that his left-handed bat makes him an intriguing partner for the notoriously platoon-restricted Jeff Keppinger.
Second, this should throw a bit of cold water on the excitement that’s been lent to Brent Morel. Everyone can be pleased about his range of movement and effort levels, but the Sox trading for someone to come challenge him for a roster spot is a more tangible statement on the team’s belief in his ability than any press statement. It also pushes dreams of Morel reclaiming a starting job and turning Keppinger into a utility player or a motivational device for Gordon Beckham farther into the stratosphere.
Finally, maybe Gillaspie’s not awful? Nick was quick to send me the Baseball America profile for him from last year, which included this portion:
“He always has had supreme contact and pitch-recognition skills, along with the ability to turn around quality fastballs. He hits for average with some gap power and a healthy amount of walks, using a short, line-drive stroke that requires little maintenance. At worst, he projected as a valuable left-handed bat off the bench.”
He’s far from a fiend like Keppinger, but Gillaspie can make contact if he can do nothing else on a diamond, sporting just a 13.1% career strikeout rate in the minors. He’s no impact player, but contact and plate discipline makes it a bit harder for him to fall on his face.
Just a bit. Like, he’ll be able to put his hands out first.
The lack of a platoon split in his consistent minor league mediocrity limits his use as a bench partner, but if he could actually punish right-handed pitching, he wouldn’t be getting dumped in spring training to forestall a DFA.
When in doubt, trust Morel having a minor league option left to carry the day, and for Gillaspie, to wind up being that left-handed bat off the bench that we heard so much about.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan