Ten years ago, the Chicago White Sox were still celebrating the franchise’s first World Series title in 88 years following a 1-0 win in the series clincher the night before. At that time, the last thing on people’s minds was the future of the hot corner over the next decade. Joe Crede was a clubhouse leader, a defensive stalwart, a clutch hitter, and still in the prime of his career, having turned just 27 early in that magical 2005 season. However, Crede’s health became an issue for him and never played more than 97 games in a season following the 2006 campaign with the Southsiders. His lone all-star selection came in 2008, and the White Sox have been looking for a third baseman since his departure following that season, as a bulky back became too much of a liability for the organization. Josh Fields looked like the immediate successor, but following a monster second half of 2007, he never found the consistency the club was hoping for when he replaced Crede. Since Fields’ departure, the White Sox have trotted out Mark Teahen, Brent Morel, Jeff Keppinger, and Conor Gillaspie as Opening Day third basemen, none of whom have stuck. So wondering what is next for this team at that position is a very worthwhile discussion.
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Bleacher Report recently released their predictions for each franchise’s biggest off-season move. For the folks at 35th and Shields in Chicago, columnist Joel Reuter selected the signing of a new third baseman, David Freese. Freese, a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since 2014, had an OPS of .743 with 14 home runs and 56 runs batted in a year ago. Reuter suggests a 3-yr/$30-million contract for the 32-year old veteran. Freese would certainly give manager Robin Ventura a clear answer at his position from his playing days, but for how long? Teahen and Keppinger were both brought aboard on three year deals, albeit for about half that money, and both flamed out within a year or two. Teahen was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays midway through his second year with the team and Keppinger played the 2013 season before suffering an injury and failed to appear again in a White Sox uniform. The difference here could be that Freese has been a longtime third baseman whereas the other two were utility men with third base experience. The latter also applies to incumbent Tyler Saladino who was essentially learning the position at the major league level (although he did one heck of a job doing so). Saladino is in play to be the shortstop for this team next year, as outlined by our own Brian Draus here.
Much like Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets who I outlined as a potential target last week, Freese would be a significant offensive upgrade. The former Saint Louis Cardinals and Angels third baseman is a career .276 hitter, although those numbers have dipped since moving from the Gateway City to Southern California. (Maybe a move back to the Midwest would help straighten that out.) Whats more is his defense has improved over the last several years. In 2012 he committed 18 errors in 134 games, as opposed to 8 each of the last two years where he has averaged 117 games. Unless he was going to make ten errors in those 17 games he missed, his defense has clearly gotten better as he has gotten older. One intangible with him is that he was part of a winning clubhouse for most of his career. The 2011 World Series MVP with the Cardinals has been on a team that went to the playoffs for 5 of his 7 major league seasons. Freese would be an immediate clubhouse leader on a team that seems to lack leadership. That, combined with his ability to hit and field, would be a welcome addition to the Pale Hose and hopefully stop the carousel that is third base for the Chicago White Sox.