Just before the jazz hands. // Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the White Sox have just been honoring the natural pace of the offseason, waiting for this week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando to really get cracking with re-shaping their roster, while the rest of the league hops around like demented cretins that think nothing of history nor tradition.
Or maybe getting intriguing value for the major league pieces they have to offer required them to wait until the free agent market became more bare and the timing just worked out this way. Despite signing Jose Abreu, Ronald Belisario and the Paul Konerko saga, there’s a lingering impression that the Sox have been relatively languid in the adjustments they have made to a 99-loss team, compared to the furor taking place across the league
But just this weekend has seen them linked to discussions around a couple of third basemen. The Sun-Times Daryl Van Schouwen threw out an array of names that the Sox were pursuing in his Friday article, but one that caught attention was Padres third basemen Chase Headley, a 29 year-old with a career .293/.366/.453 batting line when removed from the open range of Petco Park. Dan Hayes fleshed out a picture of the negotiations as a question of whether the Sox were willing to part with Jose Quintana, or whether they could build a compelling package around Hector Santiago.
Then there was this little morsel from the West Coast:
These two are improbably lumped together because they are curious for the same reason. Headley will turn 30 next May and will be a free agent after 2014, while Juan Uribe is 34. As much his name brings instantaneous delight to anyone who remembers his Chicago tenure, his burst back into the national consciousness last season was actually odd for Dodgers fans, among whom he was a pariah for posting sub-.600 OPS’ the previous two years. A look over his career shows a player who has been mostly abysmal at the plate with some random spikes. 2013 was probably his last one.
He’s a fun complimentary player, and Headley is a huge instant upgrade, but how they fit in for a team that don’t have a lot of instant ambitions is a hard to figure. And the notion of surrendering five years of team control of Jose Quintana for Headley’s over-30 years is downright galling. Headley could be signed to an extension, but there’s only so much that type of exclusive negotiating window is worth, and Mike DePilla’s proposed package of Santiago, Andre Rienzo and Carlos Sanchez is more tolerable.
And while the Sox need impact bats wherever they can fit them, third base is an odd place to look for them unless there’s a specific need (easier to find a corner outfielder) and the short-term situation at third isn’t particularly disastrous. Conor Gillaspie hit a perfectly league average .261/.324/.414 against right-handed pitching last season, and Jeff Keppinger is a career .318/.362/.467 hitter against left-handers. He showed little of that ability last season, but the .204 batting average on balls in play he had in those situations is likely to rebound. It’s not a sexy platoon, but it’s not a festering wound worth cashing out the biggest trade chit to patch for a year.
Outrighting Mike McDade and Blake Tekotte from the 40-man roster to push their total back down to 37 gives the Sox room to work with heading into Orlando, and with 2014 not a particularly all-in year, it would be preferable to see them swing for the fences with something big and expensive to use their still-present budget room on than plug specific holes. Something in the vein of Jose Abreu is ultimately more important for the organization than making the catching situation in 2014 less awful.
Van Schouwen’s mention of Shin-Soo Choo seems far-fetched given the Boras connection, but Matt Kemp’s agent professing his belief that his client will be traded is the most interesting item looming over the meetings. Even with the concerns Kemp presents, franchise talents don’t just come available, and since the Sox are loath to produce one on offense, it’s the type of trade that could be more meaningful for their rebuilding then conservatively drafting and developing.
Which is not to say that I won’t immediately pivot and claim that slowly rebuilding is what their focus should be if these meetings slip by without incident. Because I will.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan