Third base a priority as Winter Meetings near
Trade market likely best option for White Sox to pursue upgrade at hot corner
CHICAGO -- During a recent interview conducted at U.S. Cellular Field, Ken Williams decided to have a little bit of fun with the assembled media.
The White Sox executive vice president was humorously asked if he could let down his guard and simply list the five or six players the team was pursuing during the offseason Hot Stove period. He smiled, answered "Yes," but then didn't say a word.
"Oh, you want me to say them out loud?" said Williams with a laugh.
General manager Rick Hahn, Williams and the White Sox have a plan as they approach this year's Winter Meetings, beginning Monday in Nashville, Tenn. They actually have two or three plans, depending on how the market and their particular targets move and adjust, but much like a skilled poker player, the team has been keeping its moves close to the vest.
Hard-throwing right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle already has been added via a trade with the Rockies, and the White Sox brought in veteran left-handed-hitting catcher Alex Avila via free agency. After not tendering Tyler Flowers a contract for 2016, the club will have to find a backup catcher. During a recent conference call, Hahn spoke of looking forward "to making more moves in the coming weeks" and of the great deal of conversations with other teams he has had since last month's General Managers Meetings.
"Things may very well start coming together in the coming weeks," Hahn said. "And when they do, we will be ready to roll."
Hahn is committed to continuing the organization's reshaping, with a focus on strengthening the core to win for a number of years instead of just a one-and-done situation. That plan seems possible with a strong pitching staff led by ace Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, power-hitting Jose Abreu and leadoff man Adam Eaton already in place. But the team needs help offensively.
Third base stands as a prime White Sox need. That change could come through free agency with a player such as David Freese or via trade with talk of Todd Frazier or Trevor Plouffe potentially being available. With last year's results taken into consideration, after the aggressive and productive previous offseason quickly raised hopes that were just as quickly dashed in-season, very few untouchables exist on the White Sox roster.
The White Sox are willing to spend when the player fits the team's overall plan, even if it takes them over their projected budget: see Abreu, the offer made to Masahiro Tanaka and the free-agent addition of Melky Cabrera. But don't look for the White Sox to get into the big-ticket players in the free-agent market -- especially those who have received qualifying offers, which would cost the club a Draft pick.
There's already close to $90 million committed to 10 players on the roster, so the trade route seems more likely than free agency. Could those trades involve Quintana or even Sale, bold moves that would bring back a major return? Could it involve Avisail Garcia, who had an uneven first full big league season? The White Sox have an idea, but they are keeping quiet.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.