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Tuesday November 24, 2009 7:55 pm

Early birds getting the worms

Mark TeahenIn the mayhem that is sure to come with the sheer volume of free agents available this winter, some teams have taken a proactive approach to filling holes and adjusting to new strategies. In an interesting “swap” between two AL Central teams – the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox – each addressed a need regarding third base. Mark Teahen was traded by the Royals to Chicago on Nov. 6 for second baseman Chris Getz and corner infielder Josh Fields. Almost a week later on Nov. 12, the Royals signed former White Sox three-bagger Wilson Betemit to a minor-league contract.

Current Chicago third-baseman Gordon Beckham will be moved to second in order to make space for Teahen, who will have a consistent position assigned to him for the first time in his career. In 2009 alone with the Royals, he played 107 games at third, three at second, 11 at first, and 32 in right field. In total, he committed just 12 errors. At the plate, he hit .269 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI with 34 doubles.

While the Royals’ third baseman situation isn’t as solid as the White Sox’s, the addition of Fields and Betemit provides some options to Kansas’ future. Betemit is a career .258 hitter from both sides of the plate that can play any base on the infield, while Fields is exactly the kind of player you’d expect to see playing in Kansas. He’s a placeholder to replace the lost Teahen until somebody better is ready to take the reins. Until further notice, the job belongs to Fields.

With over 170 free agents available, teams will be in no hurry to sign players. There will be good players on the market for months. However, the game of musical chairs will start to get heated soon, as more and more teams speak with agents and the high-valued players start to disappear. Once that happens, expect a flurry of activity to follow. While teams do not expect to get all of the best talent, nobody will want to be stuck with the worst. In getting Teahen, The White Sox have already proven that.

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