Crede gloves one-year deal

Crede gloves one-year deal

CHICAGO -- Following Joe Crede's postseason heroics during the White Sox run to their first World Series title since 1917, it seemed almost unimaginable to picture the talented third baseman as part of any team other than the South Side organization.

But there's a chance that particular situation with Crede could come to fruition down the line, after the White Sox agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.675 million contract late Monday night. The deal, which represents a significant raise from the $400,000 Crede earned last year, avoided arbitration and left the White Sox without any remaining arbitration-eligible players.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, right-handed pitcher Jon Garland and utility infielder Rob Mackowiak, acquired from Pittsburgh for Damaso Marte during this current offseason, all previously agreed to multiyear deals. Despite Crede's stock clearly on the rise as one of the most underrated players in the American League, the White Sox simply were concerned with a one-year deal during these most recent negotiations.

"Our focus at the start with this one was a one-year deal," said White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn, mentioning that the team still has control over Crede through 2008. "We certainly could revisit something in the future."

Crede, 27, made his presence known with a career-high 22 home runs and 62 RBIs in 129 games during the 2005 campaign. Crede also ranked third among American League third basemen with a .971 fielding percentage.

After being sidelined with a fracture in the tip of his index finger following a hit-by-pitch situation on a bunt attempt in late August in Minnesota, Crede played his best baseball of the season during the final six weeks, including the playoffs. Crede hit .289 (13-for-45) with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBIs in 12 postseason contests, along with his usual stellar defense.

It was Crede who followed the controversial trapped third strike call on Pierzynski with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship series with a game-winning double to left off Kelvim Escobar, scoring pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna. It also was Crede's single that drove in Aaron Rowand with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the deciding Game 5 of the ALCS, which coupled with his airtight defense at the hot corner, made him a Most Valuable Player candidate for the series.

But even as a player who appears to have found a comfort zone as a burgeoning star, there are still some questions remaining. He played much of the 2005 campaign with two herniated discs in his lower back, a condition that both Hahn and general manager Ken Williams have mentioned Crede has to be diligent in watching, but Hahn added Tuesday that Crede "enters Spring Training without restriction."

Josh Fields, the organization's first-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, also has progressed nicely in the Minor Leagues and presents himself as a viable future alternative to Crede at third base. That replacement scenario playing out depends on Crede's continued development and health and the White Sox future negotiations with Scott Boras, Crede's agent, a situation that has often been acrimonious in the past.

Dennis Gilbert, the former super agent and current special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf, handled the talks with Boras in this instance.

"It was pretty much what we expected," said Hahn of Crede's contract, which also includes $200,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, according to The Associated Press. "It came down close to the wire, but there was some give and take along the way and both sides eventually compromised."

The White Sox have not had an arbitration case since reliever Keith Foulke in 2001. Hahn also mentioned that there is nothing to report regarding residual soreness in Mark Buehrle's pitching arm, aside from normal end-of-the-season fatigue during the World Series. Getting married was the only offseason development for Buehrle.

"He had a lot of innings, and all of the pitchers were up to their innings pitched threshold," Hahn said. "But there's no concern about Buehrle entering Spring Training."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.