Hannahan To Start Year On DL
No big surprise here, as we talked about this last week, but Geoff Baker reports on Twitter that Jack Hannahan won’t be healthy enough to start the year on the team. That leaves the M’s with a few options:
1. Go with either Tui or Josh Wilson as the utility infielder until Hannahan is healthy enough to return. There are problems with both, as Tui can’t play shortstop in any reasonable fashion that resembles a major leaguer, and Josh Wilson can’t hit while also just being okay defensively. Given Jack Wilson’s lack of durability, the M’s would have to be willing to start these guys at least once a week and probably more until Hannahan was healthy, and so you’d be essentially going with a replacement level SS when Wilson isn’t in the line-up.
This also would essentially eliminate any chance Wak would ever pinch hit for Wilson, as the defensive downgrade caused by removing him from the game would probably outweigh any offensive gain by subbing in a bench bat in any inning besides the 9th. Wak is already a bit shy about pinch-hitting, but not having a legitimate backup SS on the roster would basically rule out pinch hitting for Wilson as a strategy. That may prove frustrating.
2. Make a trade. I advocated for this last week, and I still think it’s the best idea. Hannahan lost his entire spring training opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that he could play short, and I don’t know that Wak is going to want to just throw him out there at a position he’s rarely played during the season. I just don’t see the M’s being willing to take a gamble on his defense at a position they haven’t seen him play more than a handful of innings at. Fair or not, this injury may have torpedoed Hannahan’s shot at being the sole reserve 3B/SS/2B. There’s no one else in the organization capable of handling that role at an acceptable level for a contender. So, the M’s need to go get someone who can.
And, to throw an extra wrinkle into the mix, it would be great if that guy could play the outfield too. Given that the team will now probably end up carrying 12 pitchers to start the season, Langerhans is probably off the team as well. Especially if they lose him on waivers, outfield depth in the reserve role becomes a bit of a problem (you don’t want Saunders serving as a defensive replacement in the big leagues). So, now, not only do the M’s need a utility infielder who can play short, they probably need that guy to be able to at least fake it in left field from time to time.
23 players in MLB played at least one game at SS/3B/OF last year, and besides Ben Zobrist, it’s a pretty uninspiring list. As expected, it’s mostly a bunch of no-bat scrubs who wouldn’t be any kind of real improvement over either Tui or Wilson. The guys who do hold some appeal, such as Jerry Hairston Jr or Omar Infante, aren’t available.
There is one interesting guy on the list who you may be able to get – Jayson Nix. He’s fighting Brent Lillibridge for the 25th roster spot on the White Sox, and he’s not Ozzie Guillen’s kind of player at all, but he’s got his uses. He’s got power for a little guy, can run a bit, experience all over the field, and wouldn’t embarrass himself defensively. Just 27 and cheap, he’s kind of like a right-handed Hannahan, just without the terrific 3B defense.
If the M’s could pick him up relatively cheap, much like they did with Hannahan and Langerhans a year ago, he could be a useful stopgap and part time player until they figure out how the roster is going to shake out once everyone’s healthy. This team isn’t currently built to withstand a whole bunch of injuries, and adding a guy like Nix could help them make it through April with a four man bench.
If the White Sox asking price is outrageous, it may not be worth it, but it’s a tire worth kicking. I wouldn’t settle for either Tui or Josh Wilson unless I absolutely had to.