GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox added a left-handed hitter and a third baseman on Friday morning in acquiring Conor Gillaspie from the Giants in exchange for hard-throwing Minor League right-hander Jeff Soptic.
Now the question to be answered by manager Robin Ventura -- and, more important, the players themselves -- is, how does Gillaspie fit into the third-base equation?
"You bring him in and see how he competes, really, and it opens up options," said Ventura. "Even looking at Brent [Morel], the way he's playing this year and the way he's moving around, he's still in the hunt. He just competes for a job like everybody else."
"He conceivably fits in nicely on the roster, which we'll obviously decide more about toward the end of next month," said general manager Rick Hahn after the trade was announced on Friday. "But we see him having a solid hit tool, above-average awareness of the strike zone, [he's] solid defensively. He gives us a little versatility in his ability to play third base as well as first. He gives Robin some options, potentially."
Gillaspie, 25, played 448 Minor League games at third base, 29 at first and two in left field. He was blocked at third base by All-Star and World Series Most Valuable Player Pablo Sandoval with the Giants but appears to have a better shot at making a significant contribution to the White Sox.
Free-agent signee Jeff Keppinger stands as the front-runner at third base, although the team might prefer to use him across the infield. Keppinger will be held out of Saturday's Cactus League opener, against the Dodgers, partly because of soreness in his right shoulder, but primarily because he hasn't thrown a whole lot, according to Ventura.
Keppinger admitted upon arriving at camp that his arm strength was delayed because he couldn't push off his back leg and throw due to his recovery from a broken right fibula, an injury sustained during the offseason. Morel, on the other hand, has looked extremely healthy through the early stages of Spring Training, after telling MLB.com in late November that his balky back felt as good as it has in a year. The White Sox once seemed inclined to have Morel play in Triple-A Charlotte for an extended period of time to make sure the back bounces back from day-to-day game activity, but Ventura said on Friday that there's enough time to make a judgment in Arizona.
"Again, just watching him now, he's different," said Ventura of Morel. "He looks healthier. He's moving around better. And that's what playing down here for an extended period of time will help us with. You see him play a lot more instead of just for three or four games. You will see him longer than that."
At the very least, Gillaspie looks in the mix to break camp with the team. Dewayne Wise and Hector Gimenez are locks for the bench, with the ability of Rule 5 Draftee infielder Angel Sanchez to play shortstop giving him the edge at the utility infield spot.
Those permutations leave Gillaspie, Morel, Jordan Danks and any other Spring Training surprises battling for the 25th spot. Gillaspie spent the majority of the 2012 season with Triple-A Fresno, hitting .281 with 14 home runs, 49 RBIs and a .345 on-base percentage in 108 games. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder appeared in six games with the Giants last season, finishing 3-for-20 with two RBIs.
Selected by the Giants with a sandwich pick (37th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Wichita State University, Gillaspie made his Major League debut on Sept. 6 vs. the D-backs, just 96 days following his Draft date. He became the first member of the 2008 Draft class to reach the Major Leagues and was the quickest player in Giants history to reach the Majors, surpassing pitcher Jeff Robinson's mark of 306 days.
MLB.com, which ranked Gillaspie 13th on the list of the Giants' Top 20 prospects, had the following to say of his ability.
"He's a decent hitter, quick through the strike zone, who has a pretty good approach at the plate," read the analysis of Gillaspie, who is a career .287 hitter with 37 homers, 259 RBIs and a .358 on-base percentage in 514 games over five Minor League seasons. He also has 44 big league at-bats in 29 games played over the 2008, 2011 and 2012 seasons.
"He has good plate discipline and has shown a little more extra-base pop of late, though not enough to necessarily profile as a third baseman. He is a solid defender there, but it will be his bat, and how much it can produce, that will determine whether he can ever be an everyday guy at the hot corner."
To make room on the 40-man roster for Gillaspie, who is out of options, the White Sox designated infielder Lars Anderson for assignment.
"It was important for us to get [Gillaspie] now and have him in camp with us for four-plus weeks and get to know him and how he fits," Hahn said. "It's one thing to see him on video and see the scouting reports and talk to people who know him. It's another thing to have him in the clubhouse and see how all the pieces fit together. So we wanted to have him sooner rather than later."
"You listen to what the scouts were saying, and he's above-average everything," Ventura said. "Rick is looking to get guys in here that are quality guys and can play. You are always happy that he's looking to do that."