The White Sox have acquired third baseman and potential pyromaniac Brett Lawrie from the Oakland Athletics for minor league pitchers J.B. Wenkeldon and Zack Erwin. Lawrie, who hit .260/.299/.407 (94 wRC+) in 602 PAs with Oakland last year, looks to slot in the White Sox as-good-as vacant 3B hole, hopefully solidifying a position that has been in flux for the last decade.
The Sox did not seem to give up much of consequence to acquire Lawrie. Wendelken, a soon-to-be 23-year-old RHP acquired in the Jake Peavy trade, transitioned to relief in 2015 and saw some success pitching mostly at Double-A Birmingham. Erwin, a left hander from Park Ridge, Ill., was the White Sox’ 4th round draft pick out of Clemson in 2015. He features a low 90s fastball with some sink and fringy secondary pitches, relying more on control than stuff to get outs.
Lawrie certainly comes with a few limitations, notably on-base skills (he turned in a sub-.300 OBP in 2015) and staying on the field (2015 was his first year of at least 130 games played). Even so, Lawrie represents a monumental upgrade over the White Sox present options at 3B, a unit that had a league worst 64 wRC+ in 2015. If Lawrie can even hit to his career norms (102 wRC+) he will be a very welcome addition to the White Sox lineup.
Lawrie also possesses a bit of tantalizing upside, even if it is unlikely he reaches it in his fifth full big league season. Once a top prospect who stormed the league in 43 Trayce Thompson-esque games of .293/.373/.580 hitting in 2011 with the Blue Jays, there may be some hope remaining that he finds himself in his age-26 season. Even if that is highly unlikely, that it’s possible, and that even a median outcome would be a solid MLB 3B, makes this acquisition look really nifty for the White Sox right now.
Lawrie may indeed be the Sox second baseman . Sox pursuit of Reds Todd Frazier should continue . Rick Hahn -We are not done adding offense— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 10, 2015
The question that remains is, of course, where the White Sox go from here. Lawrie is definitely an upgrade, but the Sox are more than one average-ish player from being a contender in 2016. An impact bat is likely still needed, whether that comes via a free agent or a trade. While the Sox have not been linked to any directly, the big FA outfielders (Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Dexter Fowler, or the exceptionally dreamy Jason Heyward) seem to make sense if ownership is willing to expand payroll for 2015; otherwise, it seems they will continue to work on the trade front. Reds 3B Todd Frazier’s name has been thrown around of late (his acquisition would likely move Lawrie back to his original home of 2B), and Bruce Levine reports that the White Sox are not out on him even after the Lawrie acquisition.
No matter what happens, it is a bit comforting to know that there should be one fewer hole on the 2016 White Sox’ roster. Let’s just hope Lawrie’s use of excessive use fire emojis doesn’t burn open another one.