How to tweak the White Sox, and on the cheap too!

How to tweak the White Sox, and on the cheap too!
Well, DUH // Christian Petersen, Getty Images

Tweak, not fix.

If the White Sox were a car, they wouldn't be considered broken, or stalled out on the side of the road.  It's more that the engine has been making odd noises for the last 90 miles and it's incapable of any kind of real acceleration.  It needs improvements, and it will probably be in the shop all weekend, but it's not totaled.  And if you broke in at night and stole it, you'd probably make it home.

As a White Sox blogger, I grant myself the opportunity to disapprove of moves the front office makes pretty much all of the time.  Now, as the Sox stand at the All-Star break staring at the cliff they're trying to assess the height of, I feel I should say my piece on how I think the team should proceed.  At least that way when the White Sox actual plan fails, and events occur that show my plan wouldn't have worked out either, we fail together--stupid team, and stupid fan--together.

1. DFA Brent Lillibridge (aka Thrillibridge), Recall Alejandro De Aza

White Sox management seems fond of Juan Pierre for intangible reasons, I'm fond of Brent Lillibridge for intangible reasons (blatant heroisim, hilarious power/size ratio), but I'm willing to DFA my grinder-crush.  White Sox Observer makes the hard hypothetical decisions.

I'm conceding that Pierre is an unmovable object in this exercise, otherwise I'd wait out his hot streak and sell high to some team that bows at the Altar of Traditional Leadoff Hitters.

Lillibridge has been great in all areas, but his bat is disappearing (.238/.304/.328 and strikeouts in 1/3 of his PA's since June 1st), and I'm confident  his other skills can be reasonably replace while checking out how much of Alejandro De Aza's .380 wOBA in Triple-A is BABIP-based.  De Aza can play center too, leaving the option of making Alex Rios a part-time player as is seen fit.

This isn't real fair to Brent.  He's played great on the whole, is still very well-suited to his bench role, and doesn't deserve to get cut.  But when the high-paid starters are unmovable and sub-replacement, there's no room for bench players.  The White Sox need someone shockingly cheap who can play the majority of the time.  It stinks to boot someone who's contributed so many great moments already this season, but Jayson Nix totally won a game versus Tampa in May 2010 with a Grand Slam, and no one waxes poetic about him anymore.  (I notice that the domain name www.bringbacktheshetlandpony.com is still unpurchased)

Maybe Lillibridge has enough buzz left to fetch an organizational arm in a trade, but probably it's only enough for him to get claimed on waivers.  Wait, did I just make a roster move that wasn't calling up Dayan Viciedo?  Whoops!

2. Option Brent Morel to Triple-A Charlotte, Recall Dayan Viciedo

Brent Morel isn't hitting, Mark Teahen isn't hitting.

Brent Morel is fielding, Mark Teahen is doing something that looks a lot like fielding, and may just be fielding itself.

Mark Teahen is also walking, and Brent Morel is most certainly not walking.

Mark Teahen--like a tree that is standing upon the water--shall not be moved, Brent Morel can be moved, though he'll probably be less than thrilled about it.  Whatever.  Suck it up, Brent.  We still like you, it's just not the right time.

Teahen wasn't an option at the beginning of the year because he flat-out couldn't field 3rd base last year.  Now, for whatever reason he's capable, and has distinctly outperformed Morel at the plate despite hitting well below career-norms in limited playing time.  Even if I assumed Teahen and Morel were equal players and the latter didn't look sorely in need of more seasoning at the plate, one is mobile and the other is not, and we're trying to finagle a way to get a masher on board.

Viciedo is recalled, is given as many starts in the corner outfield spots as Ozzie is willing to give, DH starts versus left-handed starters, and every loose plate appearance that can be found.

3. A 5-man rotation + Jake Peavy

When John Danks returns from the DL, it will give the White Sox 5 healthy, capable starters.  What it will take from the White Sox is any conceivable reason to push a Jake Peavy start ahead, or pitch Peavy on schedule even after he had a bad bullpen session, or pitch him on schedule after he feels tightness after a start, or pitch on schedule when he's maxing out at 90mph, etc.  This arrangement allows for the maximum deployment of kid gloves, and the Sox should choose to take advantage for once.

It hasn't quite reached the point where the Sox would be better off from a pure win-value perspective offering Peavy out of the bullpen, but if he keeps getting rushed into ill-advised starts, it might get easier to justify.

What am I saying?  Peavy pitching every other day?  That sounds like a disaster.

4. Stop running

It's to some degree pointless to say the Sox should stop doing every disagreeable thing Ozzie calls for (Ex: Ozzie should stop so much faith in his starters!  Because they stink!), but he has shown some willingness to honestly assess the baserunning plight this season.  Additionally, if Lillibridge leaves, De Aza's 68% steal rate this season in Charlotte shouldn't be a reason to release the hounds.

5. Brian Bruney is not a right-handed specialist

If Bruney is going to remain on hand while Tony Pena rides off into the sunset (while team representatives lead him out of town at gunpoint), the Sox might want get definitive about what his role is.  And by get definitive, I mean change it from whatever it is right now.

With Sergio Santos, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton,  and Chris Sale, the White Sox bullpen is way too talented to be handing anymore tie games over to Bruney after the 7th inning.  While Ozzie has been on the record stating he'd rather have another right-hander he could depend on, he can't let the handedness of Sale and Thornton get in the way of noticing the dropoff in skill level after them.

Both Thornton and Sale have had noticeable platoon splits this season after being almost neutral for their careers, but they're still both under 4.00 xFIP against righties for the year, abhorrent starts included.  Brian Bruney has walked over 6 per 9 innings for his career, is walking over 6 batters per 9 innings now, and is even worse in a tiny sample against righties in 2011.  There's really no situation where that's trustworthy, and it certainly no reason to talk yourself out of using elite arms.

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This isn't foolproof (my roster does have five outfielders), if for no other reason than that the 2011 White Sox aren't a great baseball team.  They've had good stretches, and they're certainly within arms length of contention, but it certainly doesn't feel like an elite world-beater is looming within.  They're 'All In', but this isn't the strongest hand in the history of the franchise.

If there's anything to the Beachy for Quentin rumors, that would indicate a strong leaning toward getting younger and stocking assets.  Hey, stocking assets could be great, and Lord knows it's been a while.  If the White Sox wanted to try to stave off the seemingly inevitable disaster of an aging roster and a barren farm system, that wouldn't be a dumb decision at all.

But if 2011 is still the ultimate goal, it'd be awfully frustrating for the organization to gain a new shyness for bold and aggressive moods when there are so many craters in the lineup.

It won't take much, because man is this division ever bad.

 

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