NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The price was right and there’s enough upside that the White Sox went to overtime to finalize a deal for infielder Brett Lawrie on Wednesday night.
About 20 hours after it was first close to finished, and with a few bumps along the way, the White Sox completed a trade for Lawrie at the Winter Meetings by sending minor league pitchers J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin to the Oakland A’s.
Lawrie, who doesn’t turn 26 until next month and is two seasons away from free agency, hit .260/.299/.407 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs in 2015. One of four third baseman pursued by the White Sox this week, Lawrie ultimately made the most sense to general manager Rick Hahn.
“The kid has a world of talent and diverse skill set,” Hahn said. “The ability to help us both offensively and defensively. And certainly at age 26, it’s reasonable to believe his best days may well be ahead of him. If for whatever reason, his performance maintains from what we’ve seen over the last few years with a little more consistency, he certainly is going to be able to help us.”
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The White Sox need any and all assistance they can find on offense, especially at third base. While Hahn wouldn’t commit to Lawrie playing the hot corner, he’s the current leader in the clubhouse tasked with improving upon the .611 OPS produced by White Sox third baseman in 2015.
Lawrie — acquired last offseason by Oakland in a deal that sent Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays — said he had been on alert since Monday that a trade might be coming. Not only has he previously performed well at U.S. Cellular Field (he has an .876 OPS in 40 plate appearances), Lawrie also has familiarity with some of his new teammates, namely Melky Cabrera and Dioner Navarro. Even if his position isn’t yet determined (he could also play second base), Lawrie said he’s excited to join the White Sox.
But the trade didn’t go off without a hitch, which left Lawrie wondering where he might end up. Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the teams were close to a deal for Lawrie. By early afternoon however, nothing was close and both teams explored other options. In an attempt to satisfy a long-standing revolving door at third, the White Sox pursued three other third baseman, including the Cincinnati Reds Todd Frazier.
Sometime around 5 p.m. however, the teams re-engaged and Lawrie had a resolution three hours later.
“There has been some stuff up in the air, so it was obviously a waiting game and I think the biggest thing was trying to wait it out,” Lawrie said on a conference call. “That was the biggest thing, and not knowing when it would happen. It’s all over now, and we can get ready for spring training and get ready to do this thing so I’m excited.”
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Hahn is, too.
In Lawrie, the White Sox receive a third baseman who was the 16th overall pick of the 2008 draft. Lawrie has a career .263/.316/.420 slash line and averaged two Wins Above Replacement from 2011-14, according to fangraphs.com. A high-energy guy whose enthusiasm has gotten him into a few sticky situations — “we don’t see anything wrong with adding more guys to the club that have a little bit of extra fire and a little bit of edge to them,” Hahn said — Lawrie also produced 34 Defensive Runs Saved in his first two seasons and is considered a good defender.
Whereas the asking price for Frazier first began with top prospect Tim Anderson, the White Sox found Lawrie more affordable. The team surrendered Wendelken, who possibly profiles as a setup man, and Erwin, who had been drafted in the fourth round only six months ago. While Erwin has potential to be a major league starting pitcher in a few years, the White Sox were more than pleased to add Lawrie at the price they paid.
“Age, upside, control, acquisition cost, the ability to do other things after acquiring him,” Hahn said. “Those are sort of more macro issues. But again, specific to Brett, we like the energy, defensive ability and the offensive upside.
“There’s definitely still upside there.”