The 2012 season for the Chicago White Sox ended in disappointment. A compelling season that kept the fans interested ended in a 2nd place finish. The Sox finished 85-77, which was far above what most media and publications predicted. With 16 games left and a 3 game lead, the Sox went 5-11 and picked a terrible time to struggle. With the end of the 2012 season, the planning of the 2013 season begins. The Sox have a lot of questions marks facing them as they prepare to build their 2013 squad.
Rumors have been circulating that current GM Ken Williams will be elevated to team President. Current Assistant GM Rick Hahn will be elevated to GM. Williams and Hahn will have some decision to make about what to do with this team. Jake Peavy, Kevin Youkilis, and Gavin Floyd all have team options. Peavy is owed $22 million, Youkilis $13 million, and Floyd $9.5 million. Also, catcher AJ Pierzynski will be a free agent. The Sox are expected to decline options of Peavy and Youkilis. Williams though has made it public that he would like to negotiate with both players and bring them back under different deals. Peavy (11-12 3.37 ERA) had a better season then the numbers showed. This will likely be Jake's last pay day, but he has made it known he would like to return to Chicago. Youkilis filled a gaping hole for the Sox. A two year $12 million dollar contract would be likely what the Sox would offer. The market will determine the value of both players, but the Sox would likely want a hometown discount to retain.
AJ Pierzynski has been in this situation before. In 2011, he was moments from becoming a Dodger before a last minute offer to return to the White Sox. Pierzynski had his best year offensively, setting career highs in HR's (27) and RBI's (77). Tyler Flowers was Pierzynski's backup this season. Any departure by Pierzynski would likely lead to the Sox turning the starters job over to Flowers. Pierzynksi has reiterated though he wants to be in Chicago. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is fond of Pierzynski. The market though for AJ could out price the Sox. AJ could be looking at getting a three year deal worth around $18 million dollars. The Sox would like to get AJ for two years with a option or buyout for the third year. The $6 million dollar salary is likely a fair offer.
Gavin Floyd (12-11 4.29 ERA) is due $9.5 million dollars in the final year of his contract. Floyd had two stints on the DL this season for elbow soreness. Floyd has tremendous talent, but has never fully mastered it. He is, however, a more than reliable 3 or 4 on a pitching staff. Depending on negotiations with Peavy and the rehab of John Danks, Floyd's situation could be fluid. I believe the Sox will likely pick up the option. The Sox could always trade Floyd later depending on the staffs health or emergence of a young talent.
The Sox saw a lot of growth from young players in 2012. The plan is that 2013 will only show more improvement and lead to more wins. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Nate Jones, and Addison Reed all gained valuable experience in this year's pennant race. The Sox are set at a lot of positions, but Williams/Hahn will not shy away to improve the team. In the infield, I expect Konerko, Beckham, and Ramirez back. Third base will be a hole if Youkilis is not brought back. The only in house options for third base would be Brent Morel or Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez is still not Major League ready and Morel struggled in his time with the club. Adam Dunn will be the DH again, and hopefully provide similar numbers offensively. The White Sox do have a lot of young outfielders developing in the minors. Jordan Danks, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson, Keenyn Walker, and Courtney Hawkins will all try to earn a job in Spring. The Sox were satisfied with Viciedo (.255 25HR 78 RBI) in his rookie campaign and would not likely trade him. Rios was the team MVP and had a comeback year. The Sox could sell high on him if they're not sold on his resurgence. The issue is replacing the offensive numbers and defense Rios (.305 25HR 91 RBI) provides you. De Aza was a catalyst at the top of the lineup all season. I see all three likely returning and possibly a trade happening later in the season if a young talent in the minors is ready. The Sox will likely part ways with Orlando Hudson and Jose Lopez. DeWayne Wise would be a great fourth outfielder on this team. The question really comes down to what type of offer Wise will get in the off season and if he wants a starting job. Dan Johnson could be on the team next year after spending most of the year in Charlotte. The issue is Johnson only really plays 1B and some OF so there isn't much room for him defensively off the bench. Every team needs a good left handed bat off the bench though, so he is a option.
On the pitching side the only locks are Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks (if healthy). As I mentioned earlier, the team will likely try to re-sign Jake Peavy and have to decide on Floyd's option. While Philip Humber's time on the Southside is likely over, I expect Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod to get a chance to contend for a starting role. Nestor Molina and Charlie Leesman are likely still not Major League ready, so they will be in the minors. Jose Quintana will have to improve on his fielding in Spring Training as he develops. The Sox have some options out of the pen. Addison Reed and Nate Jones should provide a nice back end and will be stronger next year. Donnie Veal has earned himself a look as being a left-handed specialist. Brian Omogrosso could fill the role as a long reliever. Veterans Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton should return. However, expect to hear Thornton's name in trade rumors over the off season. Brett Myers option did not vest for $10 million dollars. Myers could also be another bargaining chip for Williams/Hahn.
All the moves though will be solely affected by the payroll for next season. The Sox struggled attendance wise again this year. They did not reach 2 million fans and ranked 24th in attendance in Major League Baseball. Since the Sox did not make the playoffs, they also lost out on extra revenue that could of been solely invested back into the team. Williams acknowledged at the end of the season the Sox have to find a way to draw more fans to the park. 2013 season ticket pre sales will likely affect how much the Sox will be looking to spend. The simple equation is fans in the seats means more revenue. If the projection is low, the Sox may be forced to cut back again.
2012 was a entertaining season for the fans and the players. As Williams said, "The team gave it all, but ultimately did not reach the goal." Everyone knows Williams is ultra competitive and wants to bring another World Series Championship to the Southside. William's and Hahn will look once again in 2013 to retool this roster to achieve that goal. There are many questions to be answered surrounding this White Sox team. 2012 was fun, but I'm hoping 2013 is playoff bound.
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