Throughout last season, I often noted how the White Sox have burned through 24 third basemen since a back injury cut Joe Crede's career short in 2007.
Quality players at the critical corner infield position are very difficult to find, and the Sox actually had a five-year gap between current manager Robin Ventura's final season as a standout third baseman and Crede's arrival in 2003.
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On Monday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn took a hopeful step toward filling the hole by acquiring Matt Davidson in a trade with the Diamondbacks. Davidson didn't come cheap, as the Sox sent closer Addison Reed to Arizona to complete the deal.
"It was important for us to find a way to address some of our more pressing needs, and certainly third base has been one over the last few years," Hahn said. "While it's certainly never easy to trade players, homegrown players like (Hector) Santiago or Addison Reed, we did feel it was imperative to start addressing some of these position-player issues that we have and do so in a way that not only could potentially help us in 2014, but help us for the long haul. We feel we've gotten a good start on doing that over the last five months."
Only 22 years old, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Davidson spent most of last season with Class AAA Reno, batting .280 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs, 74 RBI, 55 runs scored, a .350 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage in 115 games.
Davidson was named MVP in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York after hitting a go-ahead, 2-run homer for the United States.
Davidson also played in 31 games for the Diamondbacks last season, batting .237 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI.
He was Arizona's supplemental pick (35th overall) in the 2009 draft out of Yucaipa (Calif.) High School. Davidson has been ranked among Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects each of the last three seasons: 88th in 2013, 97th in 2012 and 99th in 2011.
On the negative side, the right-handed hitter struck out 616 times in 2,200 minor-league at-bats the past five seasons and also committed 86 errors in 431 games.
Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie split the majority of time at third base for the White Sox last season, and both players struggled. Does that mean Davidson already has locked up the starting job for 2014?
"We feel he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for a long time," Hahn said. "Whether that starts on Opening Day 2104 or soon thereafter, we'll have to figure that out over the coming weeks and months as we get to know him and see him ourselves.
"He obviously was young for the Triple-A level last year at age 22, and although he has a good approach at the plate and the ball jumps off the bat, there's still a little refinement that can take place and we'll decide whether it's best for that to take place at Triple-A (Charlotte) or at the big-league level.
"I do feel when he does get here, he's going to be here for a long time."
Whether he arrives soon or later, Davidson is viewed as one of the Sox' new core moving forward. Right fielder Avisail Garcia came over in a three-way trade from Detroit in July, slugging first baseman Jose Abreu agreed to a six-year contract in October, and center fielder Adam Eaton -- Davidson's teammate in Arizona -- was acquired in another three-way deal last week, with Santiago going from the White Sox to the Angels.
"We do realize it is a process and there are going to be some growing pains along the way, whether it's from playing in a new country or playing in a new league or getting your real first extended taste of big-league opportunity," Hahn said.
"The development path is not going to be linear. But when this thing gets right, when the development is complete and we have these players coming along on the same path, it's really what we've been striving for for a while here."