MLB Free Agency: 3B Options for Chicago White Sox If Kevin Youkilis Leaves

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 8, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 3B Options for Chicago White Sox If Kevin Youkilis Leaves

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    Barring an extraordinary turn of events, it seems likely the Chicago White Sox will part ways with third baseman Kevin Youkilis. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is fortunate, though. He has options if Youkilis signs elsewhere.

    The free-agent market for third basemen is very thin this year, but there are players available that could make sense. Nothing long term, but a serviceable replacement for Youkilis.

    There may also be an opportunity to acquire a third baseman through a trade.

    Along those lines, White Sox Insider Dan Hayes wrote Monday that, because of his contract and productivity, Gavin Floyd is “a strong candidate for a trade.” As such, he will be the baseline component in all potential trade scenarios presented here.

    If those options fail, the White Sox may have to turn to a familiar face.

    Here are eight players who seem to offer the best fits and are grouped by category.



8. Dan Johnson

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    For some reason, Dan Johnson is not in the conversation at third. He should be.

    First off, he provides a clean eye with power from the left side of the plate. The White Sox will need that should A.J. Pierzynski leave via free agency.

    Second, Johnson has experience at third. White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin pointed out during spring training that “Johnson has played 62 Minor League games at third base and part of the 2009 season in Japan at the same position.”

    Recognizing the need for depth at third, the White Sox played Johnson at the hot corner 15 times while at Triple-A last season.

    Now, he is hardly a Rawlings Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, but is that what the Sox are looking for? No, they need offense and Johnson (.267, 28 home runs, 85 RBI and an .880 OPS at Triple-A) can provide that.

7. Eric Chavez

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    Eric Chavez is coming off of a serviceable year with the New York Yankees. The free agent hit .281 with 16 home runs and 37 RBI in 278 trips to the plate in 2012. Not great, but not bad.

    His contract with the Yankees in 2012 called for a base salary of $900,000 and was laden with incentives. That number fits perfectly into Hahn’s desire to keep payroll in line with last season's.

    He is a little slower than the White Sox would like, but is far more affordable than—and as productive as—Youkilis. It would be a win-win signing for Hahn.

    Now, (MLBTR) noted that Chavez has considered retirement each of the past two seasons.

    He may, however, sign a one-year deal to play for a contender and the White Sox would fit that need.

6. Jeff Keppinger

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    Jeff Keppinger had a very nice year for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. He hit .325, knocked 9 long balls and collected 40 RBI while slugging .439. 

    Keppinger is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and, after earning $1.53 million in 2012, would be in line for a nice pay raise. MLBTR suggested that the contract Jamey Carrol (two years, $6 million) received may set the bar for Keppinger on the free-agent market.

    His contract number may be a bit high, but his production is real.

    MLBTR noted in the same article that he was particularly good against left-handed pitchers, which means he struggles against righties.

    Situational struggles aside, he may actually be an offensive and defensive upgrade over Youkilis.

    Keppinger would look great as the No. 2 hitter.

5. Maicer Izturis

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    Switch-hitting Maicer Izturis is a much better hitter from the left side. As a left-handed hitter, Izturis had a .265 batting average compared to .231 from the right side.

    That is a positive as the AL Central is stocked with dominant right handers.

    Another positive is that he hit 81 percentage points higher on the road last season with the LA Angels. Being able to adjust to new surroundings is a must for a player on the move, and Izturis seems to have that ability.

    One drawback is that Izturis kicks the ball around a bit at third (.912 fielding percentage in 2012), which isn’t a terribly big deal, but with minimal power numbers (two home runs in 2012), poor defense makes him a bit less attractive.

    He made just over $3 million last season, so he would probably have to take a pay cut to come to the White Sox.

4. Jed Lowrie

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    Houston Astros shortstop/second baseman/third baseman Jed Lowrie is a man in need of a permanent position after playing the last two weeks in a leg brace. He only hit .244 last season, but did hit 16 home runs, 18 doubles and drove in 42 while finishing with an OPS of .769.

    With their shift to the AL West, the Astros have specific needs. Most noticeably, they need to improve their outfield and pitching staff. The White Sox have both.

    One potential trade scenario would send Floyd and cash, or one of the minor-league outfielders at Double-A Birmingham, to the Astros for Lowrie.

    The Astros are also deep at catcher position in the minors, so including Single-A backstop Jobduan Morales might balance the trade a bit. Morales, acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Miami Marlins last season, has a bright future.

    Using Floyd and Lowrie as centerpieces in a trade, along with some smaller pieces or cash, would make sense for both teams

3. Chris Nelson

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    The Colorado Rockies have two third baseman, Juan Pacheco and Chris Nelson, who are young and productive.

    Pacheco is too good for the Rockies to part ways with, but Nelson, who hit .301 with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 345 plate appearances, would be a nice fit on the South Side.

    Much like the White Sox having too many starters, the Rockies have too many infielders, so they may be open to a trade. And, like the Astros, the Rockies need starting pitching.

    One potential trade scenario sends Floyd and cash to the Rockies in exchange for Nelson. An alternative to make the trade work would be including a minor-league starter like Nestor Molina or Andre Rienzo instead of cash considerations.

    Nelson is eligible for arbitration after next season, while Pacheco will not be until the 2015 season, so the Rockies may like this trade from a financial standpoint.

2. Chase Headley

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    Chase Headley had a beastly second half last season for the San Diego Padres and would look great in a White Sox uniform. On the year, Headley hit .286 with 31 dingers, 115 RBI and a .875 OPS.

    He also owns a career .965 fielding percentage at third, so he is a well-rounded player who may be available.

    Two things need to be taken into consideration here:

    First, the Padres have one of the best third base prospects in all of baseball waiting at Triple-A Tucson. Jedd Gyorko (.328/.380/.588) is ready for the big leagues and Headley may be holding him up.

    Second, MLBTR noted Wednesday that while the Padres are happy with their offense, "they will look to bolster their pitching this offseason." That could make Floyd attractive.

    Now, Hayes tweeted that it would "take more than one year of Floyd to get Headley." He is right. The White Sox would have to include at least one more pitcher, which they have in the farm system, so a deal could be reached. 

    If the White Sox can acquire Headley, Hahn would be best served to find it in the budget to lock him up long term.

1. Mike Moustakas

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    Mike Moustakas, from the Kansas City Royals, is another potential trade target Hahn could pursue. Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Robert Knapel discussed the rumored trade and he made sense.

    Citing AJ Mass from ESPN as the source for the rumor, Knapel suggested Floyd and another piece may sweeten the pot enough for the Royals to part ways with their third baseman as they drive for the playoffs in 2013.

    Moustakas hit .242 with 20 home runs, 34 doubles and 73 RBI for the Royals last season.

    If Hahn can get Moustakas in a White Sox uniform next season, they would be set for some time. He does not hit free agency until 2018.