On Friday, the Chicago White Sox acquired 3B/1B Conor Gillaspie from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitching prospect Jeff Soptic. The White Sox have been in the market for a left-handed utitlity man/corner infielder this offseason, and it appears Gillaspie fits the mold. Gillaspie, 25, comes to Chicago as a former first round pick (37th overall) that has failed to live up to his potential. Despite being a lifetime .287 minor league hitter, Gillaspie has barely played in the majors during his five seasons of professional ball. He lacks the type of power you would like to see from a corner infielder (career high 14 homers), but gets on base enough (.389 on-base percentage in 2011) to help offensively at the major league level. Defensively, Gillaspie provides flexibility by being able to play both third and first base.
General Manager Rick Hahn discussed the reasons behind acquiring Gillaspie:
“He conceivably fits in nicely on the roster, which we’ll decide more about toward the end of next month. But we see him having a solid hit tool, above-average awareness of the strike zone, solid defensively. He gives us a little versatility in his ability to play third base as well as first. He gives (manager) Robin (Ventura) some options potentially.”
Based on those comments, Gillaspie will have an opportunity to win a utility role with the White Sox this spring while competing against infielders Brent Morel and Angel Sanchez. Gillaspie is out of minor league options, so the White Sox will have to break camp with him on the roster to keep him off waivers. Considering the White Sox gave up a young pitching prospect to make the deal, Gillaspie should have an upper-hand.
Morel was considered one of the Sox best prospects prior to the injury, and they will likely give him another chance in the future. But, unless Morel can prove his back is fully healed and plays extremely well, expect him to begin the year in the minors to play every day while getting as many at-bats as possible.
Sanchez has a chance to make the team as well. With his versatility to play second base and shortstop, the White Sox may choose to keep both Sanchez and Gillaspie. By doing so, the Sox would have to take only outfielder to occupy the bench, or go with an 11-man pitching staff instead of twelve. When the White Sox break camp at the end of March, I expect Gillaspie and Sanchez to be headed to Chicago, while Morel goes to AAA Charlotte.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the White Sox have designated first baseman Lars Anderson for assignment.
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