With a vacancy at third base and no easy solution, theres no doubt the budget-conscious White Sox are tempted to promote prospect Carlos Sanchez to the majors.
The Venezuelan-born middle infielder is the franchises most buzzworthy prospect after he sped through the farm system last season. Sanchez, 20, followed it with a stellar Arizona Fall League performance.
How strong was his showing? Enough for the White Sox -- who are already near or past their 97-100 million budgeted payroll for 2013 -- to at least consider the second basemanshortstop as an option at third if they cant sign free agent Kevin Youkilis or someone else even though Sanchez has only 158 at-bats above Single-A.
But for now the White Sox plan to ward off those temptations, discover a different solution and leave the 20-year-old alone.
Hes the kind of kid who can deal with any kind of adversity, assistant general manager Buddy Bell said by phone Wednesday. The track he was on is very quick. He has tremendous makeup. He knows how to play and how to survive.
But I dont think theres any question about (delaying his arrival).
But boy is a promotion tempting.
With only 10 players under contract, the White Sox have already spent 89.95 million for 2013. That leaves general manager Rick Hahn with very little wiggle room as he expects payroll to be similar to last season, when the White Sox boasted an opening day figure of 97.7 million.
The top free agent at third, Youkilis might be difficult to fit into the budget.
Sanchez -- who was 17 when the White Sox signed him in May 2009 -- has done just about everything to put himself squarely in the conversation. Bell admits freely the White Sox have discussed the possibility of a move to third for Sanchez.
When youre as talented as this kid you would have to consider it, Bell said.
But the team likely prefers to keep Sanchez up the middle.
In a recent Baseball America write up, Single-A Kannapolis manager Tommy Thompson is quoted as calling Sanchez one of the best defensive players he has ever seen.
After he hit a combined .281 in 2011, Sanchezs bat improved significantly in 2012. He hit a combined .323.378.403 with a homer, 56 RBIs and 26 steals in a season that started at Single-A Winston-Salem, included a stop at Double-A Birmingham and ended at Triple-A Charlotte.
As if that werent enough, Sanchez has White Sox decision-makers drooling after he hit .299 in the Fall League and finished with 12 runs, 16 RBIs and 11 steals in 22 games.
Hes a good little player, Hahn recently said. Hes (on the radar) for good reason. Were very enthusiastic about his future, but at the same time we have to resist the temptation to rush him. He has been swinging it real well. Hes a solid contact hitter with good plate awareness and can drive the ball, good line-drive stroke. The glove is pretty good. The first go-around (Kannapolis) was defensively, but all he has done since then is hit. Hes a very well-rounded player.
Baseball America has Sanchez rated as the No. 3 prospect in the organization, a noteworthy jump from 2011 when the publication didnt have him listed among the White Sox top 30 minor-leaguers.
He kind of came from out of nowhere, Bell said.
Though Sanchez isnt on the 40-man roster -- he doesnt have to be protected until next November -- an invite to big league camp sounds like a strong possibility. At the GM meetings in California earlier this month, Hahn noted the White Sox have a history of bringing the best players with them to Chicago when they leave spring training.
At the same time, the White Sox must continue to remind themselves Sanchez has only 1,151 plate appearances in four professional seasons.
I dont think were at the point of talking big leagues yet, Bell said.