NASHVILLE -- They don’t yet have the solution, but the White Sox think much-needed improvement at third base is there to be had.
Hours after they were linked to free agent Asdrubal Cabrera and Oakland A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Monday the team has identified some potential solutions for a position that has plagued them for nearly a decade.
Whether it was Conor Gillaspie, Mike Olt, Tyler Saladino or Gordon Beckham, four of the 22 different starting third baseman used since Joe Crede’s last game in 2008, the hot corner was ice cold at the plate in 2015. The group combined for a .611 OPS, which ranked dead last in the majors, 328 points behind the league-leading Toronto Blue Jays. While Hahn didn’t discuss specifics from his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, he did sound confident the White Sox could find the help needed to improve on that woeful performance.
“We think there are some avenues to go down to get better at third base,” Hahn said. “It’s obviously a position of need and any freely available talent that could potentially help us, we have checked it.”
Hahn’s ideal answer would be a long-term third base the team could build around. They haven’t identified one of those since Crede, who last played on Sept. 2, 2008.
But the reality is the type of player he’d love to find isn’t available and Hahn is willing to adapt to the market if needed, meaning he’d sign or trade for a shorter-term option.
While Cabrera -- a .267/.329/.412 career hitter who had 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 136 games for Tampa Bay last season -- has been a shortstop for his entire career, the White Sox see him as a possible third baseman.
They also are one of three teams the San Francisco Chronicle said has interest in Lawrie, who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018. With Danny Valencia on the roster, Jed Lowrie signed and Marcus Semien at shortstop, the A’s have a surplus of infielders and are determined to trade one.
Lawrie, who hit .260/.299/.407 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs last season, is the likeliest option, though Hahn wouldn’t address any rumors. What he would confirm is the White Sox have scoured every nook and cranny and looked at every possible candidate, which presumably includes Will Middlebrooks, David Freese, Juan Uribe and Todd Frazier, with a host of others. Though he seems pleased with what the White Sox know about the market, Hahn probably won’t be overconfident until the club has a solution.
“It’s kind of binary for me,” Hahn said. “We’ve either addressed it or we haven’t and as of right now we haven’t. But we’re working on it.”
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As for the other spot on the left side, Hahn sounds as if he’s content to try Saladino if needed. Though Saladino struggled to hit last season (he had a .602 OPS), Hahn cited how he has traditionally improved in his second season at each level. He also likes the way Saladino defends, as do many in the organization. The White Sox see Saladino as a major league shortstop from a defensive standpoint, and if they can find enough offense around him, they wouldn’t shy away from using the second-year player.
“For a while now we felt real good about how he plays as a defensive player,” Hahn said. “The fact is he can help us defensively at three different positions with short possibly being his bestposition. It’s just a matter of figuring out what we’re surrounding him with and what we can reasonably expect from him offensively and how that fits into the whole.”