The White Sox top brass spent the last weekend in organizational meetings, where they presumably spent some time pondering how to address a possible transition at the catcher position, an aging offense, and a soul-sucking hole at 3rd base…all while keeping in mind that they are already on pace to pay about $107 million on the 2013 club as presently constructed.
Spending their way out of each problem might be the most immediately exciting solution, and provide the most clarity about what the goal of the 2013 season is supposed to be, but probably would not make the White Sox division favorites either. Until they can build up that kind of organizational strength, or simply crawl out from under eight-figure contracts to 30-somethings, it looks like a yearly pursuit of creative roster solutions paired up against robust, but not exactly aggressive spending.
From that mindset comes this idea:
"While saying he had been involved with trade talks Wednesday on the first full day of general manager meetings in the California desert…"
Ooh, trade talks!
"…Hahn also just came from organizational meetings where the names of hot-shot prospect Carlos Sanchez and left fielder Dayan Viciedo came up as third base possibilities.Sanchez has been setting the Arizona Fall League on fire, including Tuesday night, when he collected five hits and scored five runs. He also led the Fall League with 10 stolen bases."
Early on, Sanchez struggled a bit in the AFL, providing some chance that the hyperspeed schedule he’s been on since the beginning of 2012 would slow down a bit, and he would be given a chance to re-establish his success at a high-level of competition again before being handed the ultimate test. He’s since upped his Fall batting line to .323/.413/.415, which even in the Mary Todd Lincoln-crazy Arizona Fall League, is a 127 wRC+ from a middle infielder.
So much for caution.
"“Coming out of organizational meetings, there’s a lot of excitement about this kid,” Hahn said Wednesday. “There’s excitement given his defensive possibilities at short, second and third. I don’t think we’re going to enter the 2013 season necessarily limiting him to one spot because he does have value at multiple positions and does give us flexibility.”Hahn said he expects the 20-year-old Venezuelan to start next season at Triple-A Charlotte, but “we’ve had a history of taking the best 25 guys out of spring training, and he’s certainly going to be at the top of a lot of guys’ minds, given his flexibility.”Hahn also said if Viciedo were moved back to third base, where he has played extensively, it would be done before spring training began."
My objection to Sanchez being pushed toward being the starting 3rd basemen is without nuance–they’re rushing him. Of course, they’re rushing him because it’s typical White Sox practice for any prospect they’re keen on to get handed new challenges rapid-fire until he stalls out, or gives them a reason to pause.
But rushing Sanchez is objectionable for reasons that extend beyond the wisdom of this policy. Comparisons to Gordon Beckham will fly if Sanchez makes the team, but he’s not Gordon Beckham. He’s two years younger than Beckham was at the time, lacks the elite skills that were supposed to carry Beckham through the difficult early adjustment, and still has less plate appearances above A-ball than Beckham had. His professional resume is thin for a major league promotion, let alone one that requires a position change.
For Dayan Viciedo, there’s a bit more nuance. A move to 3rd would definitely make production like what Viciedo produced in 2012 more tolerable, but there’s a reason he was moved off of the position, and it wasn’t just for Brent Morel.
Just last season, Robin Ventura was dismissive of the notion of Viciedo at 3rd, even when there weren’t any other viable alternatives at the time. While the arm strength is undeniable, his range cannot be anything but poor, and his stints at 3rd with the organization have been error prone. Concerns about the discomfort of a position switch affecting development at the plate are accepted here too.
Viciedo is also the presumed Opening Day left fielder, so a switch opens a hole at a position the Sox badly need offensive production from. Trayce Thompson is probably less ready for the MLB than Carlos Sanchez is, and the people who like recent trade acquisition Blake Tekotte are under the impression he’s being used as a reserve.
Free agency could offer a short-term outfield solution, but nothing about this very debate’s existence suggests the Sox are looking to break the bank to fix this problem.
They probably should, though. In both scenarios, be it trusting Sanchez’s bat and development or Vicedo’s glove, the White Sox would risking pretty profound failure at the position, for the sake of saving money otherwise thrown at Kevin Youkilis.
If 2013 is indeed about competing, that cost-savings would need to be spread out to other problems on the roster. I assume it must be, because otherwise this treatment of Sanchez and Viciedo’s development is just odd for the hell of it.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan