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White Sox Tue Dec 17 2013

White Sox Acquire Another Big League-Ready Bat

Sox_200.pngDid the Sox just receive a top third base prospect for a relief pitcher? Rick Hahn has been working some magic this winter.

To be fair, we're not talking about the Sox giving up J.C. Romero or something. They traded Addison Reed, the team's young fireball closer, to Arizona for third baseman Matt Davidson. This was yet another big move for a Sox team that has been wheeling and dealing since July.

Reed had good numbers last year for the Sox, with a 9.1 K/9 ratio, 1.11 WHIP, 3.79 ERA and 40 saves in 68 games. Reed can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and has a nice slider to go along with it. He turns 25 in a few weeks and was under team control through the 2017 season.

As talented as he is and as much potential as he has, this was a genius move for Hahn and the White Sox. Here in the days of the smart baseball fan, we see that saves and the closer position are overrated. Over the last 15 years, how many closers truly mattered? Maybe just Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Everyone else is replaceable. Take the cases of Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour, two of the best closers in 2013. Both guys are in their mid-30s and both have bounced around on different teams with different roles before finding success as closer. Pitchers like this are out there and easier to acquire than, say, everyday third basemen.

Add to that, the Sox project to be a bad team (or at least not a playoff team) over the next few seasons. Reed has little value for the Sox in this regard, because why would a 72-win team need a lights-out closer? As good as Reed could be, the Sox had many more important needs to fill.

Like third base. Last year Conor Gillaspie played 113 games at third. Though he had a nice first month, his production ultimately dipped and he ended 2013 as a 0.4 win player. That's not going to get it done. Hence the need to land Davidson, who made the Baseball America top-100 prospect list last spring, will turn 23 next March, and won't become a free agent until 2020.

Davidson had some solid numbers in the minors. He had an OPS over .800 each season over the last four years. At first glance he looks like someone who will strike out a lot but who will also hit for power. He's a righty, and though he's average on defense he has a smooth swing (according to ESPN's Keith Law) and could be a middle of the order bat for the Sox for years to come. The Sox haven't had a third baseman with this much promise since Robin Ventura.

Davidson joins Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia as part of the core of this new look Sox team. Give Hahn a lot of credit - he was able to turn some middling value MLB players into some long-term assets. The Abreu signing seemed questionable at first (to me, at least) but now with the context of the rest of these transactions, plus the transactions that are still to come, it seems that the Sox have a plan moving forward. One step is to acquire major league-ready prospects. Another step, apparently, is to trade with the Diamondbacks, a team that might just be winging it, as much as possible.

With Reed out, who's next? Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo might fetch something small in a trade. Same with Alejandro De Aza. It's doubtful that teams will go after John Danks without significant financial compensation. Maybe a team that needs power will take one year of Adam Dunn.

Of course the big one is Chris Sale. He's already a spectacular pitcher, he's still young and he's signed to a team-friendly contract for the rest of the decade. Keeping him would of course be a good decision. But with Reed gone and an emphasis on adding young impact talent, expect the Sale trade talks to heat up... or don't be surprised if he's suddenly dealt one day without warning, like Reed was.

The Sox surely hope that Hahn works magic with whatever he chooses to do with Sale as well.

 
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