Friday, October 5, 2012

Your White Sox Winter Forecast

Well, Sox fans, the season is over. Finally. While the team played above the expectations of most and actually gave us a reason to stay interested all summer -- and not just to see what kind of prospects we'd get in trades -- the final month was one long death march to the finish line.

September 2012 will forever be remembered as one of my least favorite times in White Sox history. While I never had delusions involving a World Series title, I did get my hopes up about some postseason baseball.

An occurrence all too rare around here.

But it's over now. The team that surprised and then disappointed is gone forever. We're now presented with different options.

We can either sit here and remain angry about the past or we can look toward the future.

I'm choosing the future, no matter how unclear it is.

As I mentioned when the news that Rick Hahn would be taking over general manager duties first leaked, I fully expect a rebuild is coming our way. It's why Kenny is willing to give up the seat, and why he nearly gave it up last winter.

The Sox wanted to rebuild but couldn't. First they had to clear out all the rubble of overpriced veterans.

They can do that now, and while I can't be certain what this team will do -- fast forward to Josh Hamilton and James Shields standing next to Hahn holding up White Sox jerseys -- I have an inkling as to what they might do.

What they should do.

First of all, if you haven't already, say goodbye to both A.J. Pierzynski and Jake Peavy. Unless both want to take severe paycuts neither will be back on the south side.

Peavy performed admirably in 2012, but a pitcher with his injury history just isn't worth $22 million to a team with so many holes to fill and too many players on the wrong side of 30.

Then there's Pierzynski. A player whom I hated just as much as I loved. For all his faults as a player -- his lack of patience at the plate, his defensive deficiencies -- there will always be a soft spot in my heart for him just because of the way he affected the opponent and for that 2005 run.

That said, it's time for him to go. Tyler Flowers didn't have the kind of breakout season I'd hoped for as Piezynski went into his contract year, but he did pick it up offensively after A.J. missed some time due to injury and Tyler started getting regular at bats.

He'll never be a great hitter, but as a catcher he could be good enough with ample power to justify his existence. I mean, if we could get by for years after Carlton Fisk with Ron Karkovice -- who was essentially Flowers with an assault rifle for an arm -- then Flowers is good enough for at least 2013.

Just by saying goodbye to Peavy and Pierzynski the Sox have cut $24 million from the payroll.

Kevin Youkilis will be gone too, but the Sox weren't footing that bill so the financial aspect of his departure doesn't mean much.

Now we get to the players that aren't free agents, but will still hit the trading block this winter. Gavin Floyd could finally be on his way out of Chicago after spending roughly the last two years in one trade rumor or another. The only question is whether Gavin would be traded or if the Sox would decline his $9.5 million option for 2013.

My guess is that no matter what happens the team picks up Floyd's option. They still might try and trade him after, but they're not going to just let him walk away for nothing.

Matt Thornton will also be dangled, but I have a hard time seeing a team biting on that contract, so I expect Matt Thornton to be back in Chicago come April.

The trade I could see happening that most fans I talk to haven't considered is Paul Konerko. The Captain will enter the final year of his contract in 2013 and after the way he finished out 2012 it's safe to assume it would be his last in a Sox uniform.

And that's why the Sox will and should try to move him this winter. If the rebuild is coming than as far as baseball is concerned, Konerko no longer serves a purpose. If you look at defensive metrics, Adam Dunn was actually a better first baseman this season.

Moving Konerko would not only give the Sox more financial flexibility, but more with their lineup as well. By allowing Dunn more time at first base you free up the DH spot.

Considering that the majority of prospects in the Sox system are outfielders, is it really a bad idea to give Dayan Viciedo -- Dayan's deal is up too, but he'll be re-signed -- more time at DH to open up an outfield spot?

Now I'm not saying Konerko will be traded. After all, he would have to approve any deal that the White Sox made. Aside from that, it takes two to tango and there may not be much of a market for him and that contract. But the Sox will find out what that market is if it exists, so don't be surprised if you hear rumblings

If the Sox do trade Konerko, don't fool yourself into thinking they'll get anything of value in return. It would only be a move to free money, not replenish a farm system.

Another trade chip the Sox have is Alex Rios. Rios just finished 2012 as the best player on the team, but the question now becomes whether or not he can match that. I don't know if he can and you don't either, so don't pretend you do.

The only thing we know is that if there's one player the Sox can trade that might bring back something real in return, it's Alex Rios. Especially in a season where the free agent market for outfielders consists of Josh Hamilton -- who comes with a whole list of potential issues -- Melky Cabrera -- steroids! -- and not a whole lot else. The truth is, with worries about Hamilton's demons and Cabrera's needles, Rios might be the best value of the bunch, even with a contract the entire world deemed an albatross only seven months ago.

Like Konerko, I can't guarantee Rios will be traded, but his name will come up. The difference is it will take more to pry away Rios. There are complications to trading Rios, though. If he's traded his salary bumps up an extra $500,000 a year so instead of being on the hook for $25 million over the next two seasons, his new team would have to pay him $26 million.

Not a huge bump considering what's already being paid, but it will definitely be a factor. All that said, I don't think Rios leaves unless the Sox are blown away by an offer, and I just don't see that offer being made.

Maybe next winter if he has a repeat performance in 2013.

So it looks as though the most likely players on their way out the door are Peavy, Pierzynski, Youkilis, Gavin Floyd and Konerko. Right there the Sox have saved $53 million -- and that includes the payments for the buyouts -- worth of salary in 2013, and that doesn't even include what it would take to pay Pierzynski if he were to return.

That's $53 million to reinvest in the pitching staff and to fill other holes. The problem here is that there really aren't any impact type of free agents this winter. Yeah, the Sox could use that money on Josh Hamilton, but adding Hamilton would be filling a hole that isn't there and leaving the other ones wide open.

You could also get your hopes up on Zack Greinke, but why in the world would Greinke want to pitch in a park where he has a career ERA of 5.73 and a record of 2-7?

No, odds are that if the Sox are going to spend money in free agency this winter they'll be thinking small. Maybe they take a run at somebody like Mike Napoli if a down season in 2012 brings his price down. Not only could he platoon at catcher with Tyler Flowers, but he can give Dunn at day off at first once in a while too.

As far as third basemen are concerned, there's not much out there. David Wright is a pipe dream in all likelihood, and the only other options under 32 years old who are available are Maicer Izturis, Jose Lopez and Mark Reynolds.

Could you imagine a lineup with Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds and Dayan Viciedo in it? AL Central pitchers would set strikeout records.

As far as pitching is concerned, I think names like Anibal Sanchez, Shawn Marcum, Brandon McCarthy and maybe even Edwin Jackson are more likely to be in play here than Greinke and James Shields. None of them are top starters, but that's not what the Sox will be looking for.

They've already paid John Danks to be that guy, and they'll be looking to Chris Sale -- who may find himself getting some of that $53 million this winter -- to improve in 2013. In other words, the Sox will want a three and a four, and those names work just fine in those spots.

Or it's possible the Sox don't hit the free agent market at all, and just stash that money for the future.

All I know is it's a lot easier to figure out who is going rather than who is coming.

It's going to be a long winter, but it'll end.

1 comment:

  1. The idea that Rios could be traded occurred to me last night and I did not like it one bit.

    I do think only one of Konerko and Dunn will be around April 1. I'd rather have PKs high 0.200 average and LH power hitters are a commodity.


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