The centerpiece, or at least I assuming its the centerpiece based on all the cash involved, of the White Sox '2011 or bust' off-season is a double-barreled infusion to the offense that finished 10th in MLB in runs scored last season. Adam Dunn is already in tow, and Paul Konerko's signing is either an eventuality, or a 50/50 shot at this point, depending on who you follow on Twitter.
If we go ahead and assume that the White Sox land Konerko, that's set to put them at around $120 million--which is a lot--with much of the bullpen unresolved.
The Sox don't have much of a history of splurging on the bullpen, and there's a notable time where they did and it went horribly. It's a good approach. Top-end closers and set-up men tend to be overvalued, and the team has proven that very effective relievers can be pulled off the scrap heap (Jenks), provided you're willing to work on their control (Thornton), and simplify their approach (Cotts).
As it stands now though, the Sox have a lot of holes in the bullpen, and a farm system that's not pre-disposed to patching them.....well....what are they gonna do?
Sale pretty much has to be a reliever at this point
Unless something drastic and new happens, the Sox have four set starters and Jake Peavy's tattered remains. Until the Jakester returns in whatever form in late-May, early-June, the Sox would like to have someone with actual promise in the 5th slot like Sale, but with only Thornton, Santos, and Pena locked up in the pen, that seems like a luxury that can't be afforded. Either fill the 5th spot with Tony Pena for a while or (gulp) do something along the lines of bringing back Freddy Garcia (or good God, even Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Suppan, Ian Snell, or someone of that ilk) ; a cheap veteran that it won't be a big thing to push aside in a month or so.
Now that proven-quantity J.J. Putz is out to Arizona for the next two years, there's a question of whether the Sox will shill out significant cash for any reliever there's a competitive market for. There's certainly no telling exactly what the budget is at this point, as its long since left the stratosphere of reasonability, and now we have to figure out how unreasonable things are going to get. Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain, Kevin Gregg, are all out there, and that's the top-level that I can imagine the team pursuing, because after the Dunn signing, it's unlikely they'll pursue another Type A free agent like Rafael Soriano.
For whatever reason, after complaining about the way he was treated in the press and by the fans at points this season, Bobby Jenks mysteriously has fond feelings toward Chicago, and would be open to returning. As a closer, Jenks is injury-prone and drastically overpaid at the upwards of $9 million he was going to go up to in 2011 under arbitration. As a free agent reliever, he's coming off a season where he's bound to get paid less than his 10.42 K/9 rate and 2.59 FIP deserve. This option only works if Jenks is willing to return as something other than a closer, for less pay, and if the front office isn't already fed up with him. That's a lot of unlikely things coming together.
What we should be used to by now
The White Sox already, and especially if they sign Paul Konerko, have extended themselves financially in ways previously thought impossible. As J.J. of White Sox Examiner elucidated* earlier today, if the team moves Sale to the bullpen and promotes a few of their less-than-promising prospects to low leverage roles, they'd really only need to add one solid arm to round things out. In that case, sitting back, and waiting to see which veteran is possibly poised for a bounce-back year and willing to sign for $3 million or less feels like the likely play.
Not a mind-blowing strategy, but seeing as the plan is to hit 250 home runs, win the World Series, and spend the next three seasons paying dearly for it, it's not a surprise we're hoping to run our few quality bullpen arms into the ground.
*There's a White Sox Observer, and a White Sox Examiner, will no one step up and start a White Sox Elucidator blog? Should it be a joint project? White Sox Elucidator: An Insightful, yet Needlessly Pretentious, White Sox blog